Pokemon Black/White
| Pokemon Black / White

Remember when the Pokemon slogan was 'Gotta catch 'em all'? Five generations on and we now have a hard time remembering all of their names, let alone catching them.

Of course, it helps that Pokemon has barely changed over the years. Almost every element of the RPG formula has remained intact, from the battling to the exploration.

While this has mainly worked in the series' favour up to now, latest releases Black and White emphasise how tired the concept has become.

That's not to say it's not fun any more - we found ourselves glued to our Nintendo DS from start to finish. But there's a constant nagging feeling that we'd already played it several times before.

Out with the old

Pokemon Black and White represents a first for the series. This is the first release since Red and Blue that has focused primarily on the new batch of creatures, rather than mixing them in with the old cast.

For at least the first 15 hours of play, you won't encounter a single Pokemon from the old titles. Over 150 new species have been injected into the Pokemon world, and you're forced to learn the ins and outs of these new critters rather than relying on past knowledge.

It's only after you've completed the game and gained access to the eastern part of the Unova region that the old faithfuls start to emerge.

This is the huge ace up Black and White's sleeve. Discovering these new creatures is genuinely exciting, and it's the first time since Gold and Silver that we've actively experimented with the latest additions, rather than shying away from them and sticking to what we know.

Being forced to experiment with the new Pokemon feels a little like playing the game for the first time.

A number of new modes and features also breathe new life into the series. Perhaps the most notable are the triple and rotation battles, both of which provide insanely chaotic fights, the likes of which we've never seen before.

The introduction of seasons is also rather interesting, with certain areas only available during different times of the year (each season equates to a month of real time), and specific Pokemon popping up during summer, winter, etc.

I choose you, Socialite!

The social and multiplayer features are also the best we've seen in a Pokemon game to date. The touchscreen displays the 'C-Gear', which is broken up into three sections - Online, Infrared, and Wireless.

At any time, players can access the online features, checking online tournaments, and trading and battling with people from around the world.

It's also possible to use the Xtranciever to do video chat with friends, a feature that hasn't been present in past Pokemon games.

The interface is fresh and simple, and has a wonderfully futuristic feel. The game is constantly on the lookout for other people in your vicinity who are also available for a battle.

Not All Black and White

But while all these new additions are cleverly integrated into the Pokemon experience, they don't do enough to change to formula.

You are a Pokemon trainer, on a journey around the region to collect and fight Pokemon, gather together eight gym battles, and then defeat the Elite Four.

Sound familiar? How about battling to save the Pokemon world from the evil Team Plasma, while bumping into your rivals every now and again who challenge you to Pokemon battles?

If it's not broken, they say, don't fix it, but throughout we kept wishing for a sidestep in the storyline, or at least something a little different that could distinguish this game's plot from the other releases.

Black and White are also the most linear Pokemon titles in the series. More recent releases forced you down a set path, but allowed you every now and again to perhaps skip a gym battle and come back to it later.

No such privileges here, as you'll be scolded by various NPCs for trying to move on without reaching your full potential in each city.

Looking its age

Graphically, Black and White are a little hit and miss. The new 3D environments sometimes looks really wonderful, and give a great sense of depth to the world.

However, they also work negatively to emphasise just how horrible the Pokemon illustrations and animations are. Jagged edges and awful attack sequences look like something you might find in a Game Boy Advance title.

But through all this, the latest Pokemon retains the series' insanely addictive qualities. We've already plugged over 20 hours into play, and it's likely that we'll spend three times as long with the title before we eventually put it down.

Pokemon Black and White is the monster battling action that we've come to know and love, and fans of the series will enjoy every second of it.

With the final Pokemon release for the Nintendo DS now out of the way, we're just hoping that the first 3DS Pokemon will play with the tried and tested formula a little bit more.

Pokemon Black/White

Pokemon Black and White doesn't mess too much with the tried and tested formula, providing an experience we know and love
Mike Rose
Mike Rose
An expert in the indie games scene, Mike comes to Pocket Gamer as our handheld gaming correspondent. He is the author of 250 Indie Games You Must Play.