Pokemon Black Version First Look

We didn't catch them all, but we did meet a few new faces in the upcoming Pokemon game.


You may have already caught them all, but that doesn't really matter in Pokemon Black and White. Legendary pokemon Reshiram and Zekrom are the mascots in the Black version and White version, respectively. And to level the playing field, Game Freak has decided that you can't import your previous-generation pokemon into the game--not until you've completed it at least. This encourages (well, forces) players to become acquainted with the 150-plus fresh new faces and gives newcomers a chance to play with experienced pokemon trainers without too much of a disadvantage. Everyone's going to have to try to track them all down and learn their new abilities, as well as find out how they evolve. We recently went over to Nintendo's office in Redwood City to see what the game has to offer.

New pokemon to play with.
New pokemon to play with.

Our demo was the Black version the core gameplay mechanic remains the same as you wander the Unova region in search of exotic pokemon. In Pokemon Black and White, the main antagonist is Team Plasma, a group of Pokemon trainers that seeks to liberate the pokemon from captivity (by using pokemon of its own.) Regardless of how you feel about the state of pokemon, there are several new features added to the game to enhance the overall experience. One of the major changes is that seasons now come into play. Each calendar month represents a new season, so you'll be able to access certain areas and encounter different pokemon depending on the season. In the winter, snow drifts will cover certain parts of the town where you'll be able to climb over and explore new areas. The once-inaccessible pond will also become ice, so you can slide across to see what's on the other side.

Fans of the series will notice a huge improvement when they head to the flagship city of Castelia. While this is not the case with all areas of the game, as you're walking around Castelia, the dynamic camera pans out to give you the feeling that you're walking through a bustling 3D city. There are plenty of happy little people milling about to give you a sense that you're in the big city. The high-rises tower over you so that you feel like you're lost in Manhattan. Even as you cross the Skyarrow Bridge, the camera pushes back to give you a nice view of the skyline. It makes the metropolitan area feel and look much bigger, giving you some variety as you head from town to town.

You'll become acquainted with the new pokemon as time goes on, but you begin your adventure with the reptilian grass-type Snivy, the water-otter Oshawott, and the fire-pig Tepig as your starters. One thing you'll notice is that the pokemon are now lightly animated in battle, so they're no longer static images. Turn-based combat remains the same, but Black and White introduces a system called triple battle. You can now have three pokemon out, but they can only attack an opponent that is directly across and one over from them. This means that you'll need to stick your buffest pokemon in the center because it can take a beating from all three enemies. The other two on the side are good for support.

On your touch screen below, you have access to your new C-gear. The C-gear lets you easily access your wireless, Wi-Fi, and infrared features immediately. Menus have been streamlined and friend codes can be exchanged via infrared so you don't have to punch in your friend code manually. Another new addition is the ability to have random battles over Wi-Fi with anyone in the world. Your info is synced with the Pokemon Global Link website (which will launch when the game ships) that will give you access to minigames and items, as well as let you earn worldwide ratings. You can even enter the Pokemon Dream world online that lets you customize your pokemon's home and befriend other pokemon. It looks like this version is focused on getting the community to band together to share and play. If you have a DSi, there's also the ability to do a video chat with up to four players locally and with another player via Wi-Fi. If you don't have a DSi, it will be audio-only, but you can record messages and send them to your friends.

Check out that view!
Check out that view!

While you're playing locally, you can seek out other players in the area and see what they are doing. If you want to give them a helping hand, there is the ability to give your friends a boost in experience or heal their pokemon. In tag mode, you can share info with other pokemon players that will unlock new items for you in game. Like previous games, the two versions come with their own unique pokemon so you will need to work with others to trade if you want to collect them all. In the Black and White versions, however, there are areas that don't exist in the other version. For example, White Forest is only in the White version, and Black City is only in the Black version. You will need to buy both versions if you want to experience all the new areas.

There's more to Pokemon Black and White, but that was all that was revealed to us in our demo. In the meantime, stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates leading up to the game's release on March 6.

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