Pokémon White Version
Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Role Playing Game
March 6th, 2011
Those of you who can remember the first Pokémon games on Gameboy back in 1998, may not be surprised to see the game in its 5th generation. The franchise's longevity is a testament to the video game market's desire for classic style RPGs. But how does Pokémon White Version stand up to other games in its genre, or even to its predecessors? Let’s find out!
As in previous versions, players will take on the role of a young trainer, making your way through the new Unova region on the journey of a lifetime, along with your two childhood friends.
The Unova region, a secluded land far from the other regions of previous games, is plagued by the insidious Team Plasma; an organization with one goal: to separate people from Pokémon the world over. As the young trainer, you will battle them alongside your friends and allies, as well as testing your strength against other trainers, rivals, gym leaders, and even the legendary champion and his elite four.
As in previous games, the challenge of the Pokédex makes its return. Having to fill its pages, with now 648 different Pokémon, is more than a challenge for any would-be trainer.
Pokémon White Version retains its classic sprite-based graphics that the game franchise is known for. However, the game takes a few new strides forward in implementing a far more 3-dimensional feel in both the battle screen and the overworld, something completely new this time around.
The player's first trip over Skyarrow Bridge gives you a perfect taste of the cinematic increase in these games as the camera moves in, out, and around, giving you a perfect taste of the bridge and eventually the Castelia City skyline. Other moments in the two games, give you a more dynamic view of the world- like constantly changing seasons (one season for every 30 days based on the DS's internal clock) making the graphical content much more dynamic and appealing than before.
In addition the sprites, all Pokémon now move constantly in battle, something never done before in the franchise as well. Even letting the battle screen idle for a few seconds will make the screen pan, making long decisions easier on the eyes.
Similar to other games in its genre, Pokémon White Version has default themes for battles and boss fights, as well as overworld music in towns and several of the main routes of travel. A unique treat, however, are the addition of NPCs in towns that when talked to, add an "instrument" or two to the theme, allowing you to tailor a few of the game’s songs to your liking. Certain battle themes also change when one of your Pokémon reaches 1/4 health, or when fighting a gym leader's final Pokémon, but otherwise the game's music and sound effects are pretty standard, and don't offer much more than expected.
As in previous games in the franchise, many of the underlying mechanics remain unchanged. To the uninitiated, it’s a simple concept, and one that is a staple in the RPG genre. Each Pokémon can have up to four moves, each bearing a different element (one of 17). Some types are stronger or weaker than others and playing the elemental chart in your favor, can help you greatly in the long run. In battles, these moves ultimately damage the opposing Pokémon’s HP, bringing it to 0, of course, results in that Pokémon fainting. Teams can consist of a max of 6 Pokémon and the combination of Pokémon and moves they can learn make the game a very unique experience. Battles won will result in experience points, allowing your teams to level up, grow stronger, learn new moves, and even evolve into upgraded forms.
Battles can happen in several formats, being the normal single, double, or even new triple battle format. In addition, an optional marathon battle challenge, known as the Battle Subway, is available to those seeking a little extra challenge.
The game follows a linear story path, and features some very minor questing elements and puzzle solving, though the former, is optional. Thankfully these puzzles fall on the fun side, as opposed to tedious, and are meant to give the normal flow of the game a little something to change things up from the normal random battle cycle that can be a pitfall to other RPGs.
However, anyone who has played a previous game in this franchise can automatically notice the differences in this game. White Version (as well as Black Version) is the first game, since the original, to not feature any Pokémon from previous generations. This lack of familiarity was intended to give players, new and old, an even playing field during the course of the game and create an air of discovery not felt, since the original games.
White Version also adds several other firsts to the franchise. The first is a built-in infrared port that (unlike HeartGold and SoulSilver) is used to communicate with other Black and White Versions to trade, battle,, and exchange friend codes, in a way that’s easy on your battery life.
Another first is the number of gym leaders. Though there are normally eight gym leaders, this game features 11, although you only fight eight through the course of the game. The first gym has three leaders and the one you fight is based on the starter Pokémon you choose. The last gym has two leaders and White Version players will get to battle Iris while Black version gets to battle Drayden.
Also new is the C-Gear. Obtained after progressing past the first gym, the C-Gear takes up the bottom screen and, when on, can maintain a constant wireless connection to other local Pokémon Black and White Version users or the Pokémon Global Link. Using the C-gear gives you several options. Journeying to the Intranet through the C-Gear's wireless connection allows you to journey with other local players through Unova to complete various side quests and challenges. The Dreamworld is another function of the C-Gear that allows you to upload a Pokémon to a special website, using a Wi-Fi connection. Once uploaded, you can visit www.pokemon-gl.com
to use your Pokémon to play mini-games and meet other Pokémon, much like the Pokéwalker accessory from the HeartGold and SoulSilver games*. Last but not least the C-Gear gives you access to the Pokémon Global Link over which you can upload your game save, or battle other players through your in-game friend list or in random battle rooms.
The C-Gear also carries the Xtranciever, capable of using the DSi camera and mic to make video calls to people on your in game friend list. While this sounds like a very cool use of the new DSi (and 3DS) cameras I can't help but think it has the possibility of becoming quite creepy, if not controlled properly.
Rounding out the game play experience is the Pokémon Musical and Rotation Battles. The Pokémon Musical, a battle-less competition mode in which you dress up and compete in mini-games alongside other NPCs. This mode is very similar to the Pokémon Super Contests from previous games. Rotation Battles are a new element, a form of battle in which you never quite know what opposing Pokémon you will be facing. The mode is fairly confusing and along with Pokémon Musical is completely optional.
Of course being one of the two versions, White Version itself has a few features exclusive to its counterpart. As usual, several Pokémon are exclusive to White, as well as the city White Forest. White Forest itself is a unique location, with its design and number of NPCs, depending entirely on how long it takes the player to reach it. White Forest is also unique to Black Version’s Black City in that it is a city that also supports many patches of grass and puddles ideal for catching wild Pokémon.
Although the games replay value isn't very high, after the main story line is finished the player still has many options to pursue. Several new routes and areas open up, and the player's Pokédex is upgraded to national mode, finally allowing Pokémon from previous version to be transferred to White Version. This is done via the Poké Transfer tool (requiring two DS handhelds and a previous Pokémon game to transfer from) and is a one way trip only. Games compatible in this way are Pokémon HeartGold, Pokémon SoulSilver, Pokémon Diamond, Pokémon Pearl, and Pokémon Platinum.
In addition the player can also choose to search the world for special characters to battle, including a few Team Plasma escapees and several powerful trainers (some from previous games) as an added challenge. The Royal Unova, a cruise ship docked in Castelia City, also becomes available and players can take a cruise once per day to battle other trainers for rare prizes.
Of course the lasting worth of this game is entirely at the discretion of the player. Completing the Pokédex is a lofty but gratifying goal to many while raising new teams of Pokémon and challenging others through Wi-Fi or local battles is more important to others. The Entralink and Dreamworld modes mentioned earlier also continue on, adding a cooperative mode to the list of post game options. Essentially any person who loves going that extra mile in an RPG will find plenty more to do even after those credits roll.
All in all Pokémon White Version definitely makes playing the newest incarnation of this beloved franchise fun and exciting. With few pitfalls, and many minor improvements this game definitely has what it takes to hold its own with some of the best RPGs on the DS.
*As of 4/9/11 The Pokémon Global Link is still not online, delay due to the Japan earthquake and tsunami. An update on www.pokemon-gl.com
stating the site would be up on 4/11/11 was removed only hours after being posted, leaving the date of site’s launch still up in the air.