Pokémon (Black and White versions)


And so another Pocket Monsters adventure begins. These two new versions are the fifth generation of this most-beloved gaming franchise to materialise since the release of Red and Blue in 1998.

The idea, as always, is to catch ‘em all. Once again you don your red and white baseball cap as you start the journey as a Pokémon trainer. To begin with, you choose one Pokémon out of a choice of three. From then on, you not only grow your initial monster by letting it get into scraps, but you also begin the process of catching as many Pokémon – a total of 150 available – as you possibly can throughout your adventure.

The road ahead is fraught with danger, with random strangers and Pokémon wanting to test your battling mettle.

For anyone who has played any of the previous games in the franchise, this is familiar territory indeed. And although there’s a warm glow in one sense regarding its familiarity, you also feel that the series is starting to tread water.

The fact that it’s termed a ‘fifth generation’ title is a little misleading. When using the term ‘generation’ where technology is concerned, it implies a leap on a fairly wide scale from previous versions. With Pokémon however, it’s more of a hop than a leap. In truth, each addition to the series could be better described as an ‘improved reiteration’.

The irony is of course, that a series famed for its focus on constantly evolving the Pokémon in your care into mighty mutants, hasn’t evolved much itself since its inception in ’98. There are a few tweaks under its bonnet, but nothing substantial. For instance, there’s the inclusion of seasons; each season brings with it different weather and Pokémon. Unfortunately we finished the game in one cycle of Autumn. This leads to another bugbear.

boom reviews - Pokemon Black and White image
I don't know about you Gerald, but sometimes I could just settle for a hug.

Having played a few previous titles, this version seemed a lot easier. This may be down to the initial choice of Pokémon to start with, but on more than one occasion we defeated an entire gym of opposition with just the one monster. In fact we found getting all 8 gym badges a veritable breeze when compared to previous versions.

The only time we encountered any serious resistance was in the final rounds of battles at the end of the game; unfortunately we found the Pokémon we were using to be below par to face their opponents, so we spent rather too much time wondering around in an attempt to level up as much as possible. Overall, it felt like there was a serious lack of balance throughout.

The graphics also don’t appear to have progressed much. The series doesn’t rely on them, but it would have been nice to see more done with them. Having said that, arriving at an area that suddenly transformed into pseudo 3D was definitely a nice touch.

With the release of the 3DS this month, it’s difficult to understand why this title wasn’t produced in 3D as a launch title. The franchise is crying out for innovation, and a 3DS version is just the thing it needed. No doubt there’s one in the pipeline, but it’s certainly a missed opportunity.

Not that this title will struggle to sell. The gaming series has built up a loyal following over the years, and they have already shown their support for the title by buying it by the bucket load. It’s a shame then that Nintendo repay this loyalty by essentially producing the same game, over and over again.

The Pokémon franchise is in desperate need of a re-boot. But as far as Ninty are concerned, you can have your Pokémon in any colour you want, as long as it’s beige.

If you’ve never played any of the series before, then this entry is as good a starting point as any. But if you’ve been holding your Pikachu’s hand from the beginning, the overwhelming sense of déjŕ vu may prompt you to reconsider fighting the same old Pokémon fight again.

three out of five