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Pokemon Black and White, Here We Go Again

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Late last week it was revealed that the 5th generation of Pokemon games will be called Black and White. The games were announced with little detail, leaving fans and bloggers alike to speculate how this new journey will pan out.

 

The only real details given, when the titles were announced, were that the games would be available in Japan in autumn of this year on the DS and that we should expect "every aspect" to be "reborn innovatively". The announcement mentioned that further details would be released on the 15th of April. Frankly, I can't wait that long.

After that initial announcement several things were assumed. Firstly, this edition would once again see a whole bunch of new Pokemon introduced. We had already been given the names of two new Pokemon, Zorua and its evolved form Zoroark, as they will feature in the latest Pokemon movie. It is also being assumed, or at least hoped, that the PokeWalker and the ability for one of your Pokemon to follow you around, recently seen in HeartGold and SoulSilver, would make an appearance in Black and White. It is also being assumed that, while they were announced for the DS, some sort of 3DS capabilities will be added into the game.

Since then an assortment of images have made their way online to give gamers their first glimpse of the Pokemon Black and White universe. The images, while being poor quality, show off one major change in the game, a further implementation of the 3D graphics that exist in recent titles HeartGold, SoulSilver, Diamond, Pearl and Platinum.The improved 3D seems to be aided by a change in camera angle. Prior Pokemon games have used a top-down camera angle. This tended to make characters and backgrounds seem flat and squishy and lack any depth. Slowly the camera has moved to a more eye-level, or what sports games call the TV view, where the camera is side on to the action instead of on top of it. This gives designers a greater depth of field which they can use to put more detail in the game.

For example, one of the images in the game is of a city, and the player character is seen surrounded by a row of towering, imposing skyscrapers. For the first time in Pokemon history, a city actually looks like a city. That is, a bustling hive of activity where skyscrapers tower above and where there are actually cars (one of the images shows the player character walking over a bridge with cars driving underneath).  These small design changes already make the game seem a little bit different. The world now seems closer to something we know in the real world and something closer to what the TV show presents, an advanced modern society which is slightly obsessed with Pokemon.The cities of prior games had a few apartment buildings around the place, some smaller houses, and a few businesses. They seemed haphazardly placed and more like a collection of buildings than a living breathing city. 

While visually it seems like something different I wonder how it will turn out in terms of gameplay. Prior Pokemon games allowed you to enter any building in the game, often rewarding you for your desire to explore in true role-playing genre fashion. The buildings in the city pictured seem less inviting and less interactive than previous additions. Even though they have been designed in 3D they look like flat, un-interactive backgrounds. Will this see an end to the 'open' world of prior Pokemon games?

 

One of the other images released online shows off the 'new' battle screen. So far, to me, the battle screen does not look much different. Apart from zooming the camera out to completely show your Pokemon, it is hard to see any changes. Battling has largely remained the same in Pokemon since the original Red and Blue games. Players travel with a party of up to six Pokemon who can perform up to four different attacks . Finding the right balance between the Pokemon in your party and the abilities you allow them to learn has been one of the most challenging aspects of the Pokemon series. I cannot see them altering this element of the game too much, if at all. They have added elements, like giving your Pokemon special items and double battles, to try and shake things up a bit but it is still largely the same.

It would be wise to assume we'll see them further enhance the battle animations which have become more detailed, and designed the Pokemon to be more realistic as the series gets older. Still, many of the attacks, like flamethrower, are meant to originate from the mouth of the Pokemon but in the battle animation they appear to come from the chest region. Changing small things like this would enhance the look of battling and make it more accurate.

While one of the biggest strategic challenges of the Pokemon series is selecting the right combination of four attacks, things have been complicated by Game Freak expanding on the amount of attacks each Pokemon can perform. It's about time players were given the opportunity to expand their Pokemon's attack capabilities. Even expanding it to six moves would greatly increase the strategic component of the game. If they wanted to, developer Game Freak could set it so players could choose four damage-inducing attacks and two defensive modifiers or status attacks (like sleep or harden) so players can't create completely overpowered Pokemon. Players would then have greater freedom to tailor their Pokemon to their style.

Interestingly the game chooses not to use the DS's stylus and interactive capabilities like some other games. For instance some of the Naruto games require you to blow into the microphone to perform fire attacks and draw certain things to perform a certain attack. This style of interactivity could be applied to the Pokemon series but it's a change I'm not too concerned with. The beauty of Pokemon is the ability to pick it up and play it on the move as it has a rather simple control scheme. Adding in interactive elements may make the controls confusing and battles longer and some of the charm of Pokemon – the ability to pick it up for 30 minutes to catch a few Pokemon and turn it off — may be lost with those sorts of changes.

The Pokemon games are considered an RPG but, unlike other RPGs, they provide little in the way of customization. Your core character cannot really be altered to reflect your style or the actions your trainer takes, like so many other RPGs. It would be nice to see Game Freak allow players to customize their in-game appearance through changing their hair color, clothes, body shape etc. It would allow gamers to feel more like they are a part of the game rather than just tacking their name onto a pre-designed character. 

 

Lastly, the thing that many believe needs work is the story. The basic story from the first games hasn't changed. Players choose a starting Pokemon and seek to 'catch them all' while battling the eight gym leaders and then the final four. That means that for almost 15 years the game has remained largely the same. Side quests, Pokemon Contests, and puzzles are thrown in along the way but they are never as challenging or exciting as the core story. It's a dilemma that Game Freak has found itself in because those who purchased Red and Blue when it first came out have grown up and expect more from the games. Then there are  the new young fans of the series who could pick up the latest game as their first entry.

Making a story and game that can appeal to a diverse range of people is certainly difficult. Producer Junichi Masuda told Official Nintendo Magazine, "I always try to create a game that anybody, including those who have never played before, can enjoy." Meanwhile game designer Shigeki Morimoto said, "I think the games need something familiar combined with new elements." While it looks like the core story (collecting badges) will remain, Game Freak could make this a far more challenging pursuit than simply having a high enough level Pokemon. Having Team Rocket, or some other evil organization, interrupt the battles, requiring you to team up with the gym leader would be interesting and often happens in the show, or you would have to collect a certain Pokemon or item to prove you're worthy of even entering the gym. It would make the gym storylines that extra bit more challenging and memorable.

 

I'm also interested to know why the Pokemon Tournaments, which I find the most exciting part of the TV series, are not included in the games. It would provide another reason for collecting all eight badges and provide another storyline for the game. They could introduce shops and other things, which are only available during a tournament, giving you extra incentive to reach them. Trainers you meet along the way could return as the competitors, especially your rival, or, if the Global Wi-Fi network is improved, trainers from around the world could form the members of the tournament. This would also allow Game Freak to implement environmental effects on battles. In the show, the fields constantly change in the Pokemon Tournaments and give certain Pokemon an advantage or disadvantage. It would provide yet another level of strategy and challenge to battles.  

 

The Pokemon franchise is a billion-dollar one, and we are sure to see many more games in the future. The key to their success will be how they can manipulate the core game in new ways to keep fans coming back for more. Simple Pokemon and graphic upgrades will eventually not be enough and hopefully on April 15th we'll see that Black and White will be taking the series in a slightly new direction.

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About Troy Mayes

  • Gaby

    Oooh! That sounds interesting, the other day I was just thinking about how they should let us customize our character, like let us choose from all the sprites hairs & bodies/clothes and then change the colors, I also really hope Black and White let us walk with the Pokemon. Can’t wait to play it unfortunately I have to wait till 2011~

  • Troy Mayes

    Yea it would seem silly to implement the walking around with your Pokemon in HeartGold and SoulSilver and then take it out for the new ones. Yea i’ve always wanted to make my Pokemon trainer look as bizarre as some of the people you meet in the game, so hopefully we’ll be able to

  • Brandon Bey

    after reading this whole article, i have to say that i agree with you Troy. To be able to customize your character is something me and my friends have talked about since the original gold and silver. It would also be cool if they actually did have a tournament layout, at least before you go against the final four.

  • Troy Mayes

    Thanks Brandon, yea I definetley think something like that, a final preperation before the final four and a final way to prove yourself (like they do in the show pretty much) would be a good idea and add a little bit more to the game. Not long until we are supposed to find out some official details!

  • Troy Mayes

    The official Pokemon japan site has just been updated with proper, high quality versions of the leaked scans. You can head to the website to check them out. I was hoping they would release something more than this but I guess you’ve got to take what you are given.

  • Adis

    You will NOT be able to walk with your pokemon like heartgold or soulsilver. You can change your characters race like black white and i THINK mexican.

  • Aro

    Really? You can change their race? I’m finding that a little hard to believe right now.

  • Ema Nekaf

    Ok the girl seriously reminds me of ke$ha, the boy looks kind of weird.

  • mike

    it sucks thatr you cant walk with pokemon its not fair im not buying the game now

  • Brittany

    Love your idea about the Tournament, never even thought of that. What i think would be fun to would be, along with the Tournament, you could go to all four regins. And about changing the look for the hero another great idea but how about taking it a step futher and changing the way your pokemon look, like the color of there fur, eyes, or dress them up so when they come out of there pokeballs there wearing it, like a top hat, skarf, dress, hair ribbins, ect… :)

  • Brittany

    You can’t change your race but that would be a opening for them to let us change everything about our charicters, right down to changing our outfits. They could even make it to wear we have to unlock the outfits for ourselfs and our pokemon thoughout the game.

  • Anthony

    I’m not sure about you guys, but I would love to see them switch it around just a bit in the future. I mean, I’m going to get Black and White because of the new pokemon and features, but there’s nothing stopping them from making a new storyline the next game. Something like, at the beginning of the game, the main character could be a member of a criminal organization. The main character could realize what he was doing was wrong and tries to free some of the pokemon, but he is caught doing so. They take his pokemon and imprison him, but a friend helps you escape. After escaping, you return to your hometown, which happens to be a metropolitan city. He informs the region’s professor of the situation and he agrees to help him out by giving him a starter. I would flip if they did something like this.

  • cocobutter

    it really seems cool and everything but i hope they did add walking with the pokemon cause that was cool and awsome having them by ur side i enjoyed that game so much and now what they should do is have a friend to come along on ur journey that would be was up so ur not alone make it more real. i always wanted to have a friend to come along my journy

  • milky

    can they still make changes where u can walk with ur pokemon i would appreciate if they did cause then it will be all boring now n i agree to that we should have another human with us on our journey it would make it better to and what another game they should have is where u can juss become a coordinator or whatever i forgot what its called when u go into those contest. you should have a story juss doing that. i think that would be a fun game to play also

  • Gary

    They should make a game in the future where you start off as a regular trainer that lives in a town where there is a gym and you become the gym leader and make your way up to the champion while doing missions with other fellow gym leaders and you have to battle a bunch of other trainers to prove how good you are! That would be my dream game! (:

  • Lexie

    I also think it would be awesome to change your character. I think there should be another rare appearence of pokemon in the wild (like shiny) what I mean is…. um.. remember Sparky? Richie’s pikachu? Yeah whatever, something like that :)

    I agree with Brittany, I think it would be a good idea to be able to put things on your pokemon and they be seen in battle. Maybe not full outfits like dresses(sorry Brittany) but small accessories (like scarfs, bows, etc..)

    I don’t watch the show that much but I know that Meowth had the ability to talk (I know that he learned and because of it he can’t learn pay day or something like that) but I think it would be cool if on a very, very rare occasion you could find pokemon that had the ability to talk, at the cost there is a move that they can’t learn later on. It just seems like a fun thing to me.

    Okay, i’m not a huge fan of May and Dawn but I LOVE the co-ordinator idea. I think it would be cool if you could choose to be either take on the pokmeon league or be a co-ordinator (ribbons can have the same effect as badges) at the beginning of your journey… I see major flaws in that so if that doesn’t happen I think it would be cool to make contests more interesting, more like a tournament like in the show.

    Why is it that there’s only one generation where your dad is in it? The moms in the games are fine but seriously…

    Wow that took a while to think up/type… sorry about my grammar I know it’s awful. If you disagree with my ideas, okay, come up with your own. Of course I know this all could take a TON of work and it probably will never happen but there’s no law against wishing ^_^

  • Lexie

    Oh… I wasn’t insulting anyones creativity in any way in that last sentence, I was talking about pretty much everything in the paragraphs before it.

  • justin

    ya im with troy 100%, it be cool if it would be just like the show in contest too you know and maby more realistic pokemon calls that be auesome!

  • Ralf

    Ya know, I agree with everyone

  • nums

    i really do think it would be great if we can just be co-ordiators and to become the best ever like being the best poke master and have ppl come along

  • beaner

    i think it would be a great idea not only have a pokemon to walk with you but also have another human friend to walk with you and chat during ur missions so that you wont be along n have to journey with no one else that would be great and help each other achieve their goals juss like ash brock, and his lady freinds.. one to cook and the other just to be their and cheer you on

  • JKeyy

    You know what? It would be totally cool if they did a storyline that was like this:
    You live in a city. And You get to get your first starter. Aswell when you get your starter you will battle a rival and it will be your weakness. After defeating your rival in a battle you will meet a girl/Boy that watched your pokémonbattle that also has choosen his/her first starter. She/He will join you in your journey for a while and sometimes you split up and sometimes you be a team again. And when you´re not a team you can send out you Pokémon whenever you want in the game and walk around with it. And you can alse pet the pokémon. Cool huh?

  • Alexander

    I think we should have a partner walk with you,but it could be a real person. Cool,huh?

  • Alexander

    I think they should have contest battles. I also think there could be a better battlefield. There could be attacks banging off each other?

  • Alexander

    Why is it called the kids’ names house

  • Bree

    I hate the sound the pokemon makes in the game if its released from its pokeball or it jumps you in the wild. In the show for example, if pikachu is about to battle, Pikachu says “Pika Pika!” but in the game, it makes the most odd noise! Why can’t the pokemon in the game make the same noises as the pokemon in the show? It would make more sense then having the Pokemon’s cry be its name. Rather then being “uahlheta” hahaha thats how it sounds!

  • ninja

    i think they should really let us walk with our pokemon.

  • Miki

    Yeah I agree its stupid to put having the ability to walk with your pokemon in hg and ss and not put it in black and white I hope they still have it

  • b

    …..