Nintendo's ambitions are blasting off again!
Aberinkulas wrote this review on .
White is the newest iteration, and the changes are once again incremental. However, one of these changes is the ambition, and because of this the game feels fresh and new in ways the series hasn't felt in a long time. These small but deliberate changes such as the lack of old Pokemon in the main quest or the sweeping storyline lend a gravitas the game lacked since its audience was ten years old. Besides the point, the series has never looks nor sounded as good as it does, and it all comes together to make the best Pokemon game since Gold and Silver.
The game's number one focus and failure, however, is in the online department, as it tries to thrust its already perfected multiplayer capabilities into the internet arena. As with all Nintendo attempts as of late, the infrastructure is a nice gesture, but it's not enough to conjure praise. Online battles are easy enough to set up, but the DS' limitations (WEP security only, as always) and the company's still conservative approach to embracing the web has made the game a mess of internet-enabled hogwash. Features fall left and right and are barely explained, and once explored tend to disappoint with limited potential and unrewarding reasons to bother.
Thankfully the game's solid single player and local multiplayer components are stronger than they've ever been. Sure, it's unabashedly the same thing you've played since Blue and Red, but the game never tries to be anything else. What saves this experience is a combination of truly new monsters (some more creative than others) and a higher difficulty curve, resulting in the feeling of unknown. It's been a while since anyone could say this was the case. The game defies expectations throughout in subtle but key ways that make the experience more rewarding and less predictable than previous installments.
The story lends itself to this same principle, as it establishes new ground for a Pokemon game, both in story and in storytelling. As a JRPG the story lacks much substance - it reads like the script for a yet unreleased Pokemon anime movie - but it forces the player forward at a more pressing pace, offers more excuses for battle, and lends a great sense of "epic showdown" that feels surprisingly effective. The story is written well and presented competently, as well as also tying itself into the previous non-sequitur of the Elite Four fight, changing the battle into a tense race against idealist terrorists. Some aspects of the battles make little sense (why are my enemies healing my Pokemon for me?) but by and large it's hard to deny the effort and the produced charm.
The game's mechanics themselves are still solid and by introducing new monsters can finally reach some semblance of balance. Monster types are well sorted and lack the typical deluge of certain elements (such as the throbbing swath of water Pokemon in pretty much any previous game). Meanwhile, the touch interface inherited by Pearl/Diamond and the Gold/Silver remakes make a fine return, aiding the rest of the game in speeding up battles for the better. Turning off the battle animations makes the game lightning fast, which is perfect for the game's pick-up-and-play nature.
Supporting the epic story is the game's graphical engine, which once again sees delightful upgrades. While the sprite characters have seen little improvement, nearly everything else has been polished to a sheen. The 3D graphics are excellent for the DS, and certain bold effects hint at a 3DS re-release down the line. The 2D battles are generally untouched, though new animations and a moving camera make the battles feel faster and more dynamic. It's no Pokemon Stadium, but it still works just fine.
The DS has been a system blessed with so many RPG's it's hard to know what to bother with. Pokemon White is an excellent one, and certainly in the top tier. With its competition, it's hard to argue that innovation can trump nearly all else, but Pokemon manages to outlast by solidifying and tweaking the winning formula. It's hard to argue with the results.