Thursday, March 24, 2011

5 things I really like about Pokemon Black/White

I've talked about all the things in the latest Pokemon versions that grinds my gears, now I'll be taking things in a more positive light, cause it's because of these 5 things below that keep me occupied from the beginning to the end, and it's because of some of these that made me so excited for 5th gen in the first place. Oh, did I mention this is one of the most well-executed Pokemon games ever made? If you don't consider the 'third version' games, of course. Those are always better than the first two, no questions asked.

5) Great Gym Leader/Elite Four challenge, presentation

Some of the Pokemon Gyms in this game, though you don't visit them more than once, are the most creative ones I've seen in the entire history of Pokemon. They're well-designed, don't involve too many mundane puzzles and the later ones actually have more than 3 Gym Trainers in them. Gone are the days where Gym Challenges meant making a beeline straight to the Leader with no obstacles, or going on confusing teleport panels, or stepping on god-forsaken arrow puzzles. A few of them stand out as some of the best. The very first Gym battle with Cress/Chili/Cilan, which for once, teaches you the most important aspect of playing Pokemon (type matchups) in the most effective manner possible! Second battle with Lenora, who hides the Gym in a library behind a totally innocent-looking Museum, and actually has a hidden passageway like all good libraries! (and is also, to my knowledge, the only Gym that doubles as the Leader's actual place of work) Fifth battle with Clay, if only for the super-cool lift descent into the Gym Leader's room! Seventh battle with Brycen, which turns the old 'sliding on ice' puzzle on its head with curves and levers! And above all...that suspense-filled music when the Leader is down to the last Pokemon! Really wish I could hear more of it. As for the Elite Four, besides the unique presentation of each room, is improved by the fact you can go through the four of them in any sequence you want. And notice that this is also the first Pokemon dual games which the E4 has increased levels of their Pokemon after the first set of credits roll! This feature was usually reserved for third versions like Emerald and Platinum, as well as remakes like Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green

4) Improved online/wireless options

Friend Code battles are cumbersome. No, they really are. It's difficult trying to schedule a match with someone halfway across the world if you don't have a laptop and chatbox at hand, which kinda ruins the point. And even then you're not guaranteed a solid connection with one another (hey, I can't see you...did you type my FC correctly? You did? Then it's me? Double check? Arrrgggghhh!) so random matchup is my savior, even if it's just a 3-on-3 which I usually always lose to skilled Japanese players. There's always the thrill of 'can I win this?' whenever I find someone, even if he's way out of my league. GTS is rock-solid as usual, although absurd trades far outnumber the sensible ones. Then there's infrared built into the cart (pirates will forever be left out of this one) which allows lightning-quick trading with a nearby dude anytime, anywhere. No really! If I'm playing with a friend, I can just hook up with him even if I'm in, say, Chargestone Cave, and trade to evolve a Boldore, for example. Quick battles too via infrared. Then there's Global Link. Although it isn't up yet (and god knows when it will, what with the tsunami and all), from my experience with the JP version I can tell you it's a decent amount of fun on the Dream World, and you get exclusive Dream World Pokemon, berries, C-Gear and Pokedex skins!

3) Nicer caves

As much as I liked Mt. Coronet for the giant, complex maze connecting almost every route in Sinnoh and the intense snowy peak, I sigh every time I was obligated to visit it because it always meant I have to scarifice one or two spaces in my Pokemon team to bring a billion HM moves into the cave. Not just Mt. Coronet, every cave. Every stinking one of them. Flash, Strength, Rock Smash, Surf, Waterfall, Rock Climb, even Defog for crying out loud. Sinnoh Victory Road was the worst of the lot when it comes to HM use. To the point where I'm always reluctant to enter caves no matter what great things there may be in there, which there usually isn't. And you know the amount of backtracking we have to do every time we get a new HM. Which is why Unova's dungeon areas are far less of a hassle to visit. Almost no repetition between forests/caves and the wild Pokemon that reside within them (Pinwheel Forest, Chargestone Cave, Giant Chasm and Victory Road, come forth and take a bow), and most importantly, greatly reduced HM usage. Rock Smash is axed from the blacklist of annoying moves, Strength is one use per rock only (compared to the increasingly complex boulder-pushing puzzles over the years), Defog has been burnt to the ground (good riddance), and you spend marginal amounts of time using the rest. Kudos!

2) Greatly improved battle animations and speed

This is what we keep seeing in trailers and gameplay videos. Admit it- you were just as impressed with the moving sprites and the background as I was, even if we all know the core mechanic will always be the same. Every last one of the 647 species of Pokemon have their own jiggles, the background moves back and forth with each attack and battle animation, and the pace has been upped significantly, compared to the laggy battles in Diamond/Pearl. When you've fought a thousand battles in both D/P and compare them to B/W you notice all the little things. In D/P, the HP bar takes ages to move up and down, stat changes meant ten seconds of waiting for the text to slowly scroll, the potion-using animation is twice as slow as in B/W, and there's a really noticeable frame rate drop during double battles, especially when fog is involved. All rectified in the new games. The frame rate stays smooth even during Triple Battles, and all six Pokemon are moving at once!

1) Completely new Pokemon, and good ones at that

You don't know how thankful I was that there were no old Pokemon in Pokemon B/W. Not only did this meant putting an end to the silly 'is this Pokemon a new pre-evolution/new evolution to that Pokemon?' nonsense, it also meant not seeing annoying scum like Tentacool, Geodude, Machop, and above all, Zubat and Golbat. Gone they are and replaced with alternatives. Good alternatives. The Gen 5 Pokemon are wonderful and I have a long list of favorites. Reuniclus, Cinccino, Samurott, Haxorus, Chandelure, Lilligant, Conkeldurr, Klinklang, Volcarona, Swoobat, Whimsicott, Vanniluxe, Escavalier, Leavanny, Electross, Alomomola, Bisharp, Seismitoad, Braviary, Musharna, Beheeyem, Virizion...nearly everything seems good. Only a few duds- Basculin, Stunfisk to be exact. I've said this so many times, but walling off all old Pokemon till you beat the game, as simple a move as it is, brings back the memories of my first Pokemon game, where Pokemon were all weird and wonderful, evolution methods were unknown to those who didn't have a perfect guide at hand, and the adventure feels fresh, for the first time in years.
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