Pokémon Black Version review
The Next Installment in the Pokemon Franchise

The good:

The graphics are improved from the fourth generation. The introduction to seasons makes the game much more interesting.

The bad:

You can transfer your old Pokemon from Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum over to black, but you need a second DS to do so. Most of the better graphics are only noticeable in select places like the gyms, around the elite four, on certain bridges, and in Castelia City. Black city is utterly useless if you rush through the game and/or don't have a friend nearby with Pokemon White to go on the Extralink with and fill up your town. The game includes very few National Pokedex Pokemon (and you can't catch them until after beating the game).


Pokemon Black is the one of two new games that have been released as the fifth generation of Pokemon. When you finish the professor introduction and leave your house the first thing you're likely to notice is the graphics. While they're not totally different from Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum, they are better. As I stated above, the graphics truly only shine during certain places, and once you get the Hidden Machine Fly or beat a gym, you'll be seeing a lot less of the graphics. Aside from the core graphics, you'll also notice season changes, which is a new feature. In Pokemon Black not only does the game show what time of day it is, but it also shows what season it is too. Most changes are aesthetic, to show the white snow on the Winter ground or the colored leaves in the Autumn trees. But the seasons also affect what kinds of Pokemon will appear in the wild and in the Winter, the player is able to get to secret locations that normally he or she wouldn't just by climbing on large snowfalls. Luckily, the seasons change once a month in the game. Some graphics have been updated inside battles as well. What's graphically new to the fifth generation of Pokemon comes animated Pokemon and animated battle backgrounds, so now your Pokemon will fidget and wobble back and forth just like in Colosseum or Battle Revolution. Understand one thing though, the backgrounds do move, but their animations aren't obnoxious or distracting, they're subtle like dust clouds moving in the background.

There is also a new types of battles in the fifth generation. While Pokemon Sapphire and Ruby introduced double battles to Pokemon, Black introduces two new types - Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. Triple Battles are just what they sound like. You and your opponent throw out three Pokemon and battle. Each of your Pokemon can attack the opponent's Pokemon but there are limitations. Your Pokemon are lined up 3 in a row, one Pokemon in the middle and two on the sides. The ones on the sides can only attack the opponent's side Pokemon opposite to them. So your left Pokemon can attack the opponent's right Pokemon (it would look like the opponent's left Pokemon) and the right would hit the left. Your middle Pokemon can attack any of the opponent's Pokemon. Rotation Battles are nearly the same as Triple Battles but the main difference is that only one of your Pokemon battles at a time even though three Pokemon are out. But, if your Pokemon is at a disadvantage you can "rotate" your Pokemon around so that you can attack the opponent with a type advantage. This is similar to switching Pokemon in normal battles but, if you rotate your Pokemon you will still be able to attack immediately afterwords. Another new battle mechanic is instant catches in the wild. Every once in a while when you throw any pokeball you'll hear a funny noise before the ball hits the Pokemon. Truly, this is a rare occasion, just like shiny Pokemon. Anyways, if it happens the pokeball will suck up the Pokemon and will only shake once and you'll have the Pokemon. This guarantees capture of any Pokemon with any pokeballs, but again, it's extremely rare.

For those who don't know how Pokemon works, I'll do my best to explain it. Battling is straightforward and from the beginning of the game you'll have at least one Pokemon. And with it, you can do all sorts of things like battle other trainers, search tall grass for wild Pokemon to catch, breed better Pokemon and more. Battling is the main focus of all Pokemon games. A simple battle consists of two Pokemon, one is your opponent's and one is your own. The Pokemon will stand facing each other and will await their trainer command(yours in this case). During a battle you'll have four options to choose from: you can fight, use an item, run away (if you aren't fighting a trainer), or switch out another Pokemon. Whatever you choose will count as your turn so planning is a must. Selecting fight will let you choose between one of four of the moves your Pokemon knows. As a Pokemon levels up and gains experience through winning battles and defeating Pokemon, they'll learn stronger moves.

Note one thing, you can only carry six Pokemon with you at a time. This is called your party. A party needs to be a strong well-balanced team. By that, I'm talking about types. Each Pokemon has it's own type, which is sort-of like its own element (you know: water, fire, earth, air, etc.). Well, there are 17 types in Pokemon currently, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, fire beats grass but rock beats fire. If it's starting to sound like Rock-Paper-Scissors, then good because the type advantages sort-of are. Also note that moves have their own types too. For example, Pikachu is an electric type so it learns mostly electric moves like Thunder Bolt which would be good against water (a super-effective hit or a hit that does massive damage to the other Pokemon). This goes back to having a balanced team. Each Pokemon has a different type or types, in some cases. And each Pokemon can learn different moves and different types of moves. That's why it's important for a trainer to have a Party with many different types of Pokemon, each with different types of moves so their Pokemon can ensure victory in any possible outcome. To teach these Pokemon these moves you could use Technical Machines (TMs) which now don't disappear after usage, but some of the better ones can be hard to find. Or you could level your Pokemon up and let the Pokemon learn a move through experience.

There are other useful items in Pokemon Black. Many are used to evolve Pokemon, and are very rare. But you can also use potions or berries to heal your Pokemon's HP in battles. Speaking of berries, there are many uses for them besides just restoring HP. You can also heal status effects (like waking up your Pokemon) or weakening moves that would be super effective.
To get more Pokemon than what you start out with, you'll have to catch them out in the wild. Catching wild Pokemon isn't hard at all once you've got the hang of it. All you have to do is go to a spot where wild Pokemon are (like tall grass or caves) and walk around until a random battle begins. The best thing to do then is to whittle down the wild Pokemon's Hit Points (HP) by attacking it until the little bar under the opposing Pokemon's name is as low as possible. If you induce it with status affects too like paralysis or sleep the wild Pokemon will be easier to catch. To do so your Pokemon would have to have certain status-infecting moves like Hypnosis, which causes the opponent to fall asleep. Statuses have many effects such as draining HP every turn, making the Pokemon unable to attack, or even hit itself. A trainer should always keep these in mind when selecting what moves to add to a Pokemon's roster.

Once a Pokemon is caught the first place it will go is your party. If your party is full, then the newly caught Pokemon will go to a storage place in the Pokemon Center (PC). The Pokemon will be stored for you in one of many storage boxes inside the computer in the PC.

With all that said, there's still room for error. Between Pokemon Black and White there was a version exclusive town: Black City for Black and White Forest for White. These cities were very special in the sense that your actions prior to reaching the town made the difference in whether it reached its full potential or was virtually a ghost town, and the only way to guarantee that you got a full city was to finish the story with a moderate time and not try to speed through it. If you do speed through it and your Black City ends up a ghost town, the only way to fix it is to link up with a friend who has White and ask people from their White Forest to come to your Black City.

Although, that alone isn't why I gave Pokemon Black the score I gave it. Before you get the National Pokedex, the entire game is full of new Pokemon, which I guess is fine for a change. And once you get your National Pokedex, you'll be able to catch older Pokemon, for example, Drifblim. My complain is for the people who's first game is in this generation. Due to the lack of National Pokedex-Pokemon they'll never complete a Pokedex without some form of outside help whether it be over the GTS or by transferring through generations or trading with friends. I also think there was a lack of Triple and Rotation battles in the game, which really doesn't make a big difference to the entire game either way. I like the fact that there are the instant catches but on the downside, I'm disappointed that the underground feature or the Pokeradar could not have been brought back from the fourth generation, which made it harder to get evolution items and shiny Pokemon.

Black placed itself well in a long line of Pokemon games with a tradition of reoccurring plot lines and the never ending theme "Gotta Catch 'em All". But in my opinion, if you don't have any Pokemon games then you'd be better off getting an older DS one like Platinum first. If you plan to catch them all, then you at least need to give yourself a chance to.

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