File size: 100.8MB
Console: Nintendo DS (NDS)
Genre: Role Playing
Question. When playing through an immersive RPG, would you rather: A) take in the world at your own pace and forge a personalized quest that allows you to decide how you want to explore; B) hold your hand the entire campaign until its number then cub choose notes? If you answered B, congratulations, Pokemon Black ROM and White are likely going to be some of your favorite handheld games of all time.
Despite rabid portions of the fanbase arguing otherwise, this series has in fact never been the most open of RPGs. There are certainly times where you can switch things up or take a detour during your quest. But when it comes right down to it, in order to accommodate their story and ensure the players don't get too ahead of themselves, intentional boundaries and blockages show up in every region, no matter how big or small.
Unfortunately, as a trade-off for receiving the franchise's richest story yet, Black and White sense of choice is all but removed. Of course, there are a few occasions sprinkled throughout, where you can tackle a side quest, make things easier for yourself down the road by battling trainers, but for the most part, your journey was decided for you the second you picked your starter.
The game will reveal itself to you beat by beat, eliminating almost all chances to explore the world at your own leisure. Once again, this is nothing new and due to its target demographic, no Pokemon game is going to play like the original Legend of Zelda or offer the style of freedom that a more robust RPGs such as Chrono Trigger may enable.
The problem with these particular incarnations stems from the constant hand-holding and immediate explanations that are forced upon the player with little to no leeway. Virtually every time you enter a new route, exit a gym, discover a secret or dispose of an enemy, some event or character will pop up that informs you exactly where to go next and what to do when you get there.
However, as previously stated, the reason for this style of forceful hand-holding is because Game Freak aspired to do more with its storytelling. And for every exemplary moment of character growth or cinematic triumph were given a repetitive text dump or grinding stoppage as a result. So at the end, you've got to ask yourself if the greater emphasis on world building and a more robust story was a worthy trade-off for more access to in game choice.
Moving on to another gripe by far, I think it's a shame that Game Freak felt the need to wrap up the storyline with such a neat bow. All of the burning questions Black and White asked are ultimately left hanging in favor of a clear-cut ending. Although this is obviously another byproduct of being designed with children in mind, this was a bit of a misstep.
Moving on to something more universally accepted, I'd like to take a moment to address the small steps back the series took with Black and White. When it came to the various battling alternatives found across Unova. Tell me who thought musicals were a good replacement for pokemon contests? I'm aware that in all likelihood, the addition of musicals was an afterthought by the team, considering the amount of time and effort they were pouring into the story and presentation.
Next on the docket we have the often glossed over battle subway. This one's a bit of a mixed bag as well. Considering that there was no grey version, it's kind of a miracle we even got something for the die-hard competitive fans out there. Do I get bonus points for thematically tying its design into the overall regions look where it falters is in its variety and in something even more unfortunate? Despite the appearance of many different trains to do battle, on gone are the days of creative and troublesome challenges like the battle art kick. Instead, you can compete in single, double mixed and Wi-Fi battles as well as the super versions of those first three types once the originals are beaten.
And that's it. There's only two frontier brains, and amazingly, there aren't even trains for triple or rotation battles, no matter how far you progress in the game. But the really unfortunate part is that there's a lot of imbalance when it comes to Gen 5s battling as a whole. Those of you who played competitively during this time and likely remember how broken and chaotic some of these battles could be. It's especially made difficult when facing an equally strong opponent and not in a satisfying sort of way.
So in the end, after finally overcoming Alder, these games turned out to be just as good as the life-changing masterpieces that I conjured up in my mind after my first playthrough many years ago. Well, although I wouldn't use the word masterpiece to describe them. I do still feel they're every bit as engaging and refreshing as I remember. Pokemon Black and White ROM may not be for everybody and that's okay. But they're beyond special to me and aside from a few remakes I still feel like they're my personal favorite entry games of any generation.
Sometimes certain products have a way of transcending every assumption of what we thought they could be, and with the most substantial story we've ever gotten in a Pokemon title. As well as some of the best sprite work and cinematic presentation in a 2-d game period, I sincerely believe that these contributions to the franchise possess this special sort of influence.
Many of the Pokemon designs are hit and miss, and the sheer amount of story progression and accompanying dialogue all but removed the player sense of freedom throughout the main campaign. However, it's my personal stance that these are side effects of aspiring to overcome and surpass familiar traditions and mechanics of the series. Do they have faults? Indisputably! And I believe that in their search for accessibility Game Freak's stopped short of truly making these games something iconic.
However, in the end, I'm so happy that rather than just resting on their laurels and waiting to simply just modernize past generations on the 3ds, we receive something that clearly had an overwhelming amount of both thought and ambition poured into them. Without these efforts, we may have never known how grounded and conflicting a Pokemon game could be. And for still holding up and being the most refreshing in the entire series Pokemon Black ROM and White receive an A+.
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