"...this latest monster-catching offering promises changes that move the series forward, while still maintaining the series's signature style."
With less than a month until the domestic release of Pokémon Black and White, anticipation is reaching a fever pitch among the hordes of Pokémon faithful. The exact sales figures for Pokémon titles probably lie somewhere between a gajillion and Sagan's number, but that hasn't stopped Nintendo and Game Freak from continuing to pump out new offerings for RPG players. Even if Black and White promised more of the same as previous titles, that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for the legions of Pokémon faithful. But this latest monster-catching offering promises changes that move the series forward, while still maintaining the series's signature style.
Let's get the most important news out of the way first: Pokémon Black and White will be adding 156 new Pokémon. From new Pokémon like Chiramii (the chinchilla Pokémon) and Meguroku (the desert crocodile Pokémon) to the new Legendary Pokémon Reshiram and Zekrom, there are plenty of new Pokémon for players to capture. In order to capture a feeling of newness, these new Pokémon will be the ONLY Pokémon available to the player at the beginning of the game. Sorry Squirtle fans. But after the completion of the main story, hundreds of classic Pokémon will be released into the game, allowing players to capture and battle their favorites from games past.
Black and White also features a pair of new battle mechanics to spice up gameplay: Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. Both Triple Battles and Rotation Battles allow the player to send out three Pokémon at once. In Triple Battles, all three Pokémon are at risk and can attack another squad of three. In Rotation Battles, one of the group of three Pokémon battles at a time, but the Pokémon can be swapped out for one of the other two in the rotation as needed. This game mechanic is somewhat similar to the Marvel vs. Capcom fighting games, and is sure to be an enjoyable diversion from the typical Pokémon battles that players are used to.
It wouldn't be a DS Pokémon game without a robust wireless system. Pokémon Black and White offers a number of connectivity features, all of which are accessed through the "C-Gear." Players can interact with others using infrared communication, which allows them to battle, trade, or use the new Feeling Check system. Feeling Check tests "compatibility" between two players and rewards players with items. There's also the Pokémon Dream World, which is the player's conduit to the Pokémon Global Link website. Using this, players can get new Pokémon, communicate wirelessly, and battle online. Finally, the Pass By feature allows players to trade information even when not actively playing Pokémon Black and White. All of this adds up to a massive, interconnected web of Pokémon fans and new content.
While the gameplay should be very similar to what Poké-fans are used to, there have been some serious changes to the look, feel, and sound of the games. Graphics have received a sterling upgrade, which you can check out in our gallery. Pokémon are now fully animated throughout battle, and the camera highlights special moments during the battle. In addition, characters now have speech balloons, which allow multiple characters to speak at the same time. And on the topic of sound, the music has been enhanced in the new version. RPGFan's Kyle E. Miller has taken an in-depth look at the soundtrack for the twinned games, which is a bit more complex and "boisterous" than previous Pokémon soundtrack offerings.
The tastemaker of Japanese RPGs, Famitsu Weekly, gave Pokémon Black and White a coveted score of 40 out of 40. Less than 20 games have ever received a perfect score, so it seems obvious that fans of the series have a lot to look forward to. Stay tuned to RPGFan for a review of the game closer to its release. In the meantime, check out our (recently updated) gallery of screenshots, art, and video clips as well as our soundtrack review to get your Pokeé-fix!