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Video Game of the Week – Pokémon Black and White

Pokémon Black and White are the first installments in the fifth generation of the Pokémon series of role-playing games. Both titles are independent of each other but largely feature the same plot.

The player follows the journey of a Pokémon trainer through the region of Unova as they train Pokémon to compete against other trainers. The ultimate goal is to become Champion of the region by defeating a group of trainers known as the Elite Four. Unova is a mix of urban and natural landscapes in which players are just as likely to encounter skyscrapers and bridges as they are to walk alongside mountains and seascapes.

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 battle mode and this is where the real fun starts. The engrossing battle system makes fighting and catching Pokémon incredibly addictive. Strategy also plays a big part: you need to choose your battle team wisely and make sure each fighter matches up well against the competition.

Black and White are essentially the same game, using the same storylines, battle systems, and game modes. The main difference is the number and type of Pokémon introduced by each game and how often they appear. There are also some minor scene differences. For example, there’s a place in Pokémon White called White Forest, while in Pokémon Black the exact same place becomes Black City.

Black and White introduce 156 brand new Pokémon to the franchise, bringing the total to 649. The Pokédex, an in-game index of all Pokémon species, can be completed by obtaining all 649 Pokémon. However, certain Pokémon are independent to each game and the Pokédex can only be completed by trading Pokémon between the two games.

Pokémon Black and White feature significant improvements over the graphics used in previous Pokémon games, and varied and surprising camera angles always keep the screens interesting. Sadly, the audio hasn’t received the same upgrade, and uninspiring blips and zaps hardly do justice to the battle scenes.

Parents should also know that Black and White include online modes, where you can connect to other DS owners via Wi-Fi, allowing players to battle, trade, and check each other’s stats. As well as playing with or against friends, this can also include contact with complete strangers if their devices happen to be nearby. Although that sounds alarming, it amounts to little more than a random opportunity to add to your Pokémon collection.

Although some may think that Pokémon Black and White aren’t sufficiently different from previous Pokémon games, others will find them irresistible. For most Pokémon fans, it’s almost impossible to have too much of a good thing!

Pokémon Black and White are rated “E” for Everyone (comic mischief, mild cartoon violence) by the ESRB. Check out the ESRB video game ratings and content descriptors at ESRB.org

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo DS

Genre: Role-playing

RRP: $34.99 each

Release Date: March 6, 2011

ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone

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