Pokémon Black and White Review Pokémon Black and White represents the series biggest step forward since the original Gold and Silver introduced the internal clock, held items and breeding . A brand-new region, more dynamic battles and a significant expansion of the online game are just three reasons why Pokémon feels fresher than it has for a while. Pokémon Black and White really are the best Pokémon games ever.
Not that you'll really be able to tell during your first few hours in Unova. Everything feels perhaps just a touch too familiar. Even the objective is identical: become Pokémon champion by collecting eight gym badges, tackle the Elite Four and then finally beat the current champ.
Things immediately settle into that old recognisable rhythm, as you step into the tall grass and start battling Pokémon. Every one of the 150-odd new Pokémon is brand-new, but that's not to say your synapses won't feel a gentle fizz of familiarity as Patrat, Lillipup and Pidove introduce themselves as, essentially, the new Bidoof, Rattata and Pidgey.
You're teased with these safe, slightly boring designs, before things get more interesting and you're soon chucking Ultra Balls at a twin-scoop ice cream with two faces, being poisoned by an overflowing sack of rubbish, or - much later on - desperately trying to keep your last team member alive as the rest are decimated by a three-headed dragon. Everyone will have a new favourite, and the sense of discovery is back.
Battles are much more exciting visually, with a roving camera that pans left to right past the combatants if you leave it idle while choosing your options. Select an attack and you'll see it carried out in a much more impressive and physical way than ever before. The camera zooms in to follow projectiles, pans outwards to reveal the full extent of area attacks, and overall there's a far greater sense that you are actually making contact with your opponent.
Sound effects are far meatier, and the battle music is superb, adjusting the pace to add to the drama when your Pokémon is low on health or your opposite number is down to their last monster.
The visual improvements don't end there. Towns and cities are no longer just arrangements of boxy buildings, offering much greater graphical variety, while monthly changes of season add to the sense of place. Interiors are still a little plain, but the gyms are much more inventive, ranging from a space-age rollercoaster ride to a series of cannons that shoot the player through hoops.
Path To Glory
What's striking about Unova is how linear the layout seems. There are plenty of opportunities to wander off the beaten track, but a map is hardly required to get through the eight gyms. With little opportunity to get lost, it's easy to recall where you were when you last played, and the faster pace of the combat - status updates and special abilities used are relayed instantly rather than in the text commentary at the bottom of the screen - make it better-suited for shorter play sessions.
Unova isn't as large as Johto and Kanto combined, but it's still pretty huge with plenty left to do once you've seen the credits roll, as older Pokémon arrive from other regions, ready for you to capture all over again. You'll also pick up more in the Dream World, where you connect your DS to a PC and send a Pokémon to explore as they slumber. It's like an expanded version of HeartGold and SoulSilver's Pokéwalker and it feels more substantial.