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General Description

Pokemon Black Version and White Version are the newest entries in the Pokemon series of RPGs, developed by Game Freak and released for the Nintendo DS in March 2011. In it players explore the new region of Unova, catching, raising and battling over 150 new species of Pokemon on their journey to defeat the leaders of each of the 8 Pokemon Gyms and eventually challenge the Pokemon League. On the way players encounter the villainous Team Plasma, a group bent on "freeing" captured Pokemon from their trainers.

While the formula will doubtless be familiar to series veterans, Pokemon Black and White - as usual - add plenty of new features and plenty more polish to the existing mechanics. Many new features would be easy to list on the back of a box - new triple battles, fully animated sprites, dynamic 3D landscapes and a new monthly season change are just a handful - while even more are subtle changes meant to please seasoned players and make this the most accessible Pokemon game yet. The game's world contains only new Pokemon until players finish the main storyline, leveling the field for newcomers and making the game feel particularly fresh.

The game's biggest emphasis is on player creativity. Mechanically the game functions much like a typical Japanese RPG, only here players are free to pick from hundreds of different party members all of which can be raised by the player in any number of ways. With such a huge emphasis placed on raising a complete team of Pokemon and with further emphasis placed on exploring the game's huge world, players of any skill level will find tons of stuff to do.

Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
C+ C
Ratings at a Glance
Creativity: 7 Publisher: Nintendo & The Pokemon Company
Business: 3 Developer: Game Freak
People: 3 Year: 2011
Problem: 4 Genre: Role Playing
Simulation: 0 Strengths: creativity, popularity
Popularity: 9 Platforms: Nintendo DS
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts

Pokemon Black and White rely heavily on mathematics. Pokemon collect experience, their stats go up and they gain levels in order to become more powerful. In endgame and multiplayer content players must have extensive knowledge regarding these various numbers and how to use them to their advantage. Understanding these mechanics thoroughly is not necessary to enjoy the game, but the more players learn about its systems the more options they'll uncover.

Reading is a large part of the game as it contains extensive amounts of dialogue and flavor text. Some sort of common-sense ideas are also involved in the game's combat mechanics; water-type attacks are strong against fire-type Pokemon, for example, and ground-types are immune to electric attacks, though plenty of these type match-ups are much more obscure as well.

Creativity & Imagination

By the Player:

Players assemble teams of Pokemon from the dozens (and eventually hundreds) of species found throughout the world and can raise each individual Pokemon to whatever point they want. Players that pursue more difficult challenges will eventually try to build a balanced team, of which there are a huge number of viable options. Type combinations, equipped items and movesets are all things players need to consider carefully.

Outside of developing a team, players are also free to explore the game's world. As always the player's route takes them through numerous towns, caves and oceans, all of which contain hidden items, battling trainers and blocked pathways.
The range of multiplayer modes, sidequests and exploration that the game offers all dovetail nicely with the development of a team of Pokemon over the course of the game, ensuring that every player has a unique experience.

By the Developer:

Pokemon Black and White offer the biggest graphical overhaul that the series has ever seen. Cameras sweep through 3D areas as players pass through, and every species of Pokemon dances around during battle with its own unique animation. New interface and control options also streamline things considerably.

The game's mechanics have also been changed for the better. Rare Pokemon are now marked by shaking bunches of grass, and a revamped experience system means low-level Pokemon can catch up more quickly. The game's pacing is also the most successful yet, thanks to the addition of two rivals that follow along with the player and a completely new cast of Pokemon that always gives players new abilities and types to experiment with.

It's easy to say that the game is similar to past entries, but a really impressive level of polish and new features like an online matchmaking system make it the best yet in an already lauded series.

Business Skills

Players receive money for winning battles against other Pokemon trainers. This money can be used to buy dozens of different supplies, from healing potions to different kinds of pokeballs used to catch new Pokemon. More expensive items like technical machines used to teach special moves are much more expensive. Players can use certain items to increase the amount of money they earn, and players that scour the game world will find many valuable extras that can be sold at a premium to certain parties.

People Skills

Pokemon was designed from the ground up for multiplayer features. Most famously players can trade Pokemon with their friends in an effort to "collect them all," and players can take these teams online to test their strength against human opponents. At high levels these battles become highly strategic, more tests of players' knowledge of the game and ability to anticipate an opponent's moves than anything else. A new online matchmaking system to be implemented in the near future will take the competitive battling scene to a new level.

In the main game players can't control their interactions with other characters, but the game's themes openly encourage players to act righteously and follow their hearts. Characters frequently encourage the player to chase their dreams and people that treat their Pokemon poorly are always taken down in the end. The game's lighthearted messages seem particularly aimed at children.

Problem Solving

Players need to constantly update their roster of Pokemon. The biggest consideration is often Pokemon typing; there are seventeen Pokemon types that interact with each other in a complex rock-paper-scissors web, and players need to try to assemble a team without any glaring weaknesses. Players need to explore and train their teams carefully, and the game so constantly offers new options to experiment with that players will never run out of stuff to do.

For players that go this far, the main campaign is really a sort of training for the extremely challenging end-game content. A place called the Battle Subway allows players to bring their teams to battles against different teams of trainers, and winning different matches earns players Battle Points that can be used to purchase most of the best items in the game. Things are sure to get even more challenging when the game's online matchmaking system launches in spring 2011.


Pokemon is not a simulation game.


Pokemon Black and White have had the best-selling debut of any Pokemon games - or DS games in general - yet. As usual there are reviews that criticize the game for having dated visuals and failing to change up its basic premise. More numerous are bits of praise for the new Pokemon designs, graphic flourishes, new multiplayer components and general level of polish.

Controls & Options

A few basic audio and visual options are available. Players can also toggle battle animations in order to speed up battles considerably.


Pokemon Black Version and White Version were rated Everyone by the ESRB with descriptors for Comic Mischief and Mild Cartoon Violence.