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Archive for March, 2011

Review #397

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Pokémon Black and White
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 03/04/2011 (Europe)/03/06/2011 (North America)

I still remember the phone call pretty clearly. Of course I was half asleep and my ability to decipher Japanese wasn’t fully turned on, so when some from across the Pacific from within the organization called and exclaimed, “アルカード! ファミ通! スコア 完全!” it didn’t quite translate at first. But then when I shook the grogginess from my brain I realized what was being said. アルカード is one of the two most common ways in Japanese that people say my name. The other is ルカリオ, which diehard Pokémon fans should instantly recognize and be amused by. ファミ通 is Famitsu, which is the most popular and respected gaming publication in Japan. スコア 完全 is basically, “Perfect Score.” This was big. After all, only fourteen games had ever received a perfect score from Famitsu in the past TWENTY-FIVE years. Now there were fifteen, with the newest recipient of this honour being Pokémon Black and White. We chatted for a bit complete with jokes about me being the unwitting recipient of Pokémon furry slash art and fiction but the conversation revolved around, “Pokémon Black and White? Really? Not the original Gold and Silver or their remakes? Not Diamond and Pearl? Black and White scored higher? REALLY?”

I would have similar conversations for the next few days with a lot of us who pulled a paycheck from the Pokémon franchise in some way, be it Game Freak, Creatures Inc., or TPC. It was an odd mix of pride and confusion. Basically it boiled down to the fact Black and White wasn’t expected to be as liked as the Johto or Sinnoh generations. Generation V was considered to be an easier game than the previous four. The new Pokémon weren’t considered as toyetic or aesthetically pleasing as in previous generations. Some were considered downright ugly or stupid by people(Poor living vanilla ice cream monster…). Some people believed the core audience (and reviewers) would be sick of five straight games with the same Starter Type choices and the, “You’re a little kid. Go capture monsters, train them to cock fight, get eight badges, become champion, catch ‘em all.” motif was starting to wear thing. These weren’t the majority of opinions nor were there ever outright thoughts the game was bad. This is just an example of random people close to the process nitpicking about the end product. Everyone in the industry does it about their baby. However, the feeling was that the game would be looked upon as a dip in quality the same way Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire was considered the weakest of the previous four generations. Looks like all those fears and worries were for naught, eh? At the end of the day, maybe they were all just too close to the product coupled with the bing-bing-bing releases of Platinum, HGSS and then Black and White (The fastest turnaround of Pokémon games EVER), it was more a fear of maybe pushing out the games too quickly or a bit of burnout.

So now here we are with the official North American and European release of the games. The game has broken Japanese sales records and received nearly universal praise over there. However, the West is not the East and Pokémon has this strange stigma of being “kiddee” with the more insecure and embarrassing gamers since god forbid, it’s all ages and has a cartoon series attached to it. That being said, even after playing in Unova/Isshu for nearly a year now, it’s still my least favorite generation of the core Pokémon RPGs. Does that make the game a bad one? No. It’s actually a very good game. I just happen to prefer the Johto titles for numerous reasons. So shall we see what’s good and bad about Pokémon Black and White? One thing is for sure – it won’t be getting a perfect score from me. ;-)

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