|Pokémon Black and White|
|Publisher(s)||Nintendo, The Pokémon Company|
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Pokémon Black Version and White Version (ポケットモンスターブラック・ホワイト, Poketto Monsutā Burakku Howaito?, "Pocket Monsters: Black & White") are role-playing games developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS. They are the first installments in the fifth generation of the Pokémon series of role-playing games. First released in Japan on September 18, 2010, they were later released in Europe on March 4, 2011, in North America on March 6, 2011 and Australia on March 10, 2011.
Similar to previous installments of the series, the two games follow the journey of a young Pokémon trainer through the region of Unova, as they train Pokémon used to compete against other trainers, while thwarting the schemes of the criminal organization Team Plasma. Black and White introduce over 150 brand-new Pokémon to the franchise, as well as many new features, including a seasonal cycle, fully animated Pokémon sprites and triple battles. Both titles are independent of each other, but feature largely the same plot, and while both can be played separately, trading Pokémon between both of the games is necessary in order to complete the games' Pokédex.
Upon their release, Black and White received positive reviews; critics praised the advancements in gameplay, as well as several of the new Pokémon introduced. Reviews, however, were divided on some of the character designs, and some critics felt that the games did not innovate as much as expected. Nevertheless, the games were commercial successes; prior to the games' Japanese release, Black and White sold one million consumer pre-orders and sold five million copies as of January 2011, making it one of the best selling DS games to date. Sequels to Pokémon Black and White, named Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 are set for a release in Japan for the Nintendo DS in June 2012, with third quarter releases in North America and Europe.
Pokémon Black and White are role-playing video games with adventure elements, presented in a third-person, overhead perspective. There are three basic screens: an overworld, in which the player navigates the main character; a battle screen; and the menu, in which the player configures their party, items, or gameplay settings. The player begins the game with a single Pokémon, and is able to capture more using Poké Balls.
When the player encounters a wild Pokémon or is challenged by a trainer to a battle, the screen switches to a turn-based battle screen where the Pokémon fight. During battle, the player may fight, use an item, switch the active Pokémon, or flee (however the player is not permitted to flee a battle against another trainer). All Pokémon have hit points (HP); when a Pokémon's HP is reduced to zero, it faints and cannot battle until it is revived. If an opposing Pokémon faints, then all of the player's Pokémon who participated in defeating it receive experience points. After accumulating enough experience points, it may level up. A Pokémon's level affects its battle statistics, and some Pokémon will evolve upon reaching a certain level threshold.
Black and White are set in the Unova region, a continental mass located far away from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh. Unlike the previous regions which were based on locations in Japan, Unova is modeled after New York City, an idea developed by game director Junichi Masuda when he visited the city for the launch of Diamond and Pearl. One particular example of this is Castelia City, which served as the region's central metropolis and had such inspirations as its "Brooklyn Bridge-style suspension bridge" and its "huge skyscrapers". Masuda also wanted to convey a "feeling of communities" in Castelia's streets. Unova is host to large urban areas, a harbor, an airport, an amusement park, several bridges, and several mountain ranges. In addition to a diversity of new landscapes, the Unova region is also home to a diversity of people who vary in skin tone and occupation. The region's Japanese name "Isshu" (イッシュ?) is derived from the Japanese words tashu (多種?, meaning "many kinds") and isshu (一種?, meaning "one kind"); the many kinds of people and Pokémon seen up close look like only one kind of life from afar.
Like previous Pokémon games, Black and White's gameplay is linear; the main events occur in a fixed order. The protagonist of Pokémon Black and White is a teenager who sets out on a journey through Unova to become the Pokémon master. At the beginning of the games, the player chooses either Snivy, Tepig, or Oshawott as their starter Pokémon as a gift from Professor Juniper. The protagonist's friends, Cheren and Bianca, are also rival Pokémon Trainers who occasionally battle the player. The player's primary goal is to obtain the eight Gym Badges of Unova and ultimately challenge the Elite Four of the Pokémon League, and its Champion, to win the game.
In addition to the standard gameplay, the player will also have to defeat the games' main antagonist force, Team Plasma, a Knights Templar-esque group who claims that Pokémon are oppressed by mankind and seeks for a means to liberate them. Team Plasma is led by "N", a young man who was brought up alongside Pokémon and sees them as friends rather than tools for sport. Throughout the game, the player has some encounters with N, who claims that by capturing one of the legendary Dragon Pokémon of Unova and defeating the Pokémon Champion Alder, he will be recognized as Unova's hero and will be able to convince the humans to part with their Pokémon. Depending on the game version, N will capture the Deep Black Pokémon Zekrom in Black or the Vast White Pokémon Reshiram in White. After the player defeats the Elite Four and enters the Champion's chamber, he or she finds that N has defeated Alder and has become the newest Pokémon Champion. Soon after, he summons a large castle that surrounds the Pokémon League, challenging the player to find him to take part in one final battle. When the player finally reaches him, Reshiram in Black or Zekrom in White appears before the player, and the player must capture the legendary Pokémon before challenging N. After his defeat, N laments the possibility that his ideals are mistaken, as Ghetsis intrudes and angrily reveals that his true intentions were to use N to ensure that only he would be the only human left with control over Pokémon and use them to rule the world. In his rage, Ghetsis challenges the player to battle. After Ghetsis's defeat, he is arrested, allowing Alder to resume his position as the Pokémon Champion of the Unova region. N then thanks the player for helping realize his mistake about the nature of the relationship between people and their Pokémon before leaving the castle on his captured Dragon Pokémon to a far-off land.
After Team Plasma's defeat, Looker arrives in Unova and tasks the player with finding the remaining Sages of Team Plasma, so they can be brought to justice. The player can also challenge the Elite Four once again, and challenge Alder, ultimately becoming the Unova region's new Pokémon Champion. The player also gains access to the eastern portion of Unova, which contains Pokémon from the previous games in the series, as well as access to an area unique to each game version: the ultra-metropolitan Black City, home to powerful Pokémon trainers; and the White Forest, home to humans and Pokémon living in harmony. Cynthia, a former Champion of the Sinnoh region, is also found in this area of the game and can be challenged. A non-player character named after Shigeki Morimoto, a Game Freak programmer, creature designer, and the director of the HeartGold and SoulSilver games, can also be found and battled in the game.
On January 29, 2010, the Pokémon Company announced that a new game was in development for the Nintendo DS to be released later that year. Director Junichi Masuda stated that several aspects of the series were being revamped for the new generation. On April 9, 2010, the Japanese website updated with the titles of the versions as Pokémon Black and White, and announced a Q3 2010 release date. The games feature an improved visual style from other Pokémon games, with an increased use of 3D computer graphics than any other of the handheld series. It also has a special feature that allows the user to upload their saved game to the Internet, allowing them to do certain things on an official website.
On August 3, 2010, Masuda announced on his blog that the Black and White game versions will initially only contain brand-new Pokémon to evoke a feeling of it being a brand-new game, like when the original Pokémon games were first released. In all of the games following the first generation, there were a series of new Pokémon introduced interspersed with Pokémon from the previous generations. For example, Pikachu was introduced in Red and Green, and was obtainable in Blue, Yellow, and all subsequent main series games; however, Pikachu will not be obtainable in Black and White from the start of the game. It was later confirmed that Black and White are region locked on the Nintendo DSi.
Game director Junichi Masuda stated that to keep the games fresh, he looks at every previous element to decide what to adapt to the new game, stating "people may not like what they like in the past, trend wise". He explained the new battle styles, stating that while triple battles take more strategy, rotation battles take more luck to win. Masuda stated that their goal when making the games was to make it fun for new players, but they also wanted to get players who haven't played the series in a while to come back. He said that it was hard to find that balance to satisfy both kinds of players. For the new players, there is good explanation in how to play, while for old players, they incorporated the C-Gear, which makes the ability to trade and battle easier. When asked about the decision to introduce over 150 new species of Pokémon, Masuda stated that they did this so old players would not be able to know what is a good Pokémon to use, and it would level the playing ground for new players.