It is one of the most popular franchises across the world, and now fans have yet another reason to celebrate. Pokemon has returned to the Nintendo DS with two new installments: Black and White. With a new adventure, new Pokemon, and exclusives to each version, there are plenty of things going for the new release. The biggest reason of all, however, is the fact that the game simply rocks!
Before I get into the review for Pokemon: Black I just want to put this out there from the start: This is my first Pokemon game. That's right! I haven't played any of the other installments prior to Black. I was a little too old when the whole Pokemon thing hit and beyond knowing the basic premise of the franchise and a few key characters, I've never bothered with it. Please keep that in mind if you're looking for references to past events or the franchise in this review. They simply aren't here. Instead, I'm approaching Black with a clean slate and no bias one way or the other.
In Pokemon: Black players take on the role of a young adventurer from a quaint village in the Unova region. Early on players are charged with completing the Pokedex (a catalog of the kinds of Pokemon in the world) by capturing and fighting them in the wild. Eventually, as players branch out and explore new towns and areas of the game, it becomes clear that a group known as Team Plasma is up to no good. They are part of a Pokemon liberation movement and seek to take Pokemon away from trainers in order to restore the world to the way it once was. The game throws the morality of the franchise's concept into question, and it's a tongue-in-cheek way of being self-referential. Ultimately the story isn't very involving and the characters aren't engaging, but there is a sense of progression that comes from frequent encounters.
In case you're one of those who has a lack of knowledge of the franchise or game mechanics, Pokemon: Black really eases players into the world. It's been a while since another traditional Pokemon title was released and Black has been produced with consideration to the fact that there may be new players. The early parts of the game are simple enough and each feature of the game is given a tutorial that shows players how things work on the fly. Both the early and latter sections of the game do a solid job of integrating concepts and new things into the fold so that players never feel lost.