By Evan Goldaper
I have a dark, frightening confession to make. Maybe you were aware already, but it’s become a real problem. I, Evan Goldaper, Associate Editor of the Stony Brook Press, am a Pokémaniac. There. I said it. Perhaps you’ve heard the rumors about me. They’re all true. Yes, I do have a giant Pikachu on my desk, a limited-edition Dialga and Palkia DS, and the lyrics to the Pokérap memorized. Yes, I have been wearing gym badges on my coat lapel for weeks now. Yes, I fostered a sequel to Ash Wednesday called Brock Thursday. And yes, I have been standing in line at Roth playing Pokémon games on my DS while everyone else is socializing. It’s all true, and man, it feels good to get it off my chest.
So suffice it to say that very little has made me more excited than the recent release of the fifth duo of Pokémon titles, Pokémon Black and Pokémon White. After rushing to the mall and lining up behind all the super-cool third graders and anti-establishment Japanophile goths (collectively known as my esteemed colleagues), I managed to acquire a copy without attracting too much attention.
Let me tell you: returning to my dorm with a brand-new Pokémon title was like Chanukah and my birthday rolled into one, except with more adorable animals that have elemental powers. Actually, I take that back. I definitely got some Pokémon merchandise for Chanukah last year. But I digress.
Even if you wouldn’t know a wild Swanna from Natalie Portman, Black is a lot of fun. Sure, it’s simple, and not a whole lot has changed. You’re still some random kid from a small town who has to catch 150 some-odd critters and become a Pokémon master, and if you can remember the same basic battle strategies that got you by back when you were one of those wide-eyed third-graders, you’re set. If you’re looking for exciting new innovations in RPG, pick up something else.
That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t differences. For one thing, no old Pokémon make appearances until after you’ve cleared the main storyline. What this means is that for the first time, I found myself having to experiment with an entire party of new characters rather than just rely on old standbys like Gyarados and Alakazam. Of course, this isn’t all good. There are plenty of problems with some of the new characters—I promise you that Roggenrola and Trubbish are as dumb-looking as their names imply—but as a whole, the new guys are pretty clever. Toss in an unprecedented amount of animation and some interesting new locations, and you’ve got a game that will make anyone who fondly remembers the franchise smile.
Still, being a Pokémon fan of my level means that I can’t play this game without noticing some problems. The game is incredibly slow to introduce new characters, resulting in an exceedingly boring beginning. Though the game eventually acquires momentum, there are definitely parts with a lot more repetition than I’d like. And let’s be honest, the vanilla ice cream Pokémon was not really necessary. But at the end of the day, there’s definitely a bizarre charm to Pokémon games that I can’t quite describe. There’s something that makes us all occasionally feel like using BubbleBeam on the bad guys now and then, and Black and White definitely performs that job nicely. Will they make you a Pokémon fan? I can’t say. But don’t pass them by just because you’re older than nine. Play for a little bit, and you might find yourself hooked. And at that point, my user name’s Pippin, and I’ll be accepting challenges online.