Retro Scope: Pokémon Black and White

A look back at one the strongest Pokémon generations!

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 09/22/2017 22:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Pokemon Black and White Versions Artwork - Monsters 2

I had played every single Pokémon generation up to that point. For some reason, however, I could not find myself all that excited for Pokémon Black and White as their release date approached. Maybe it was fatigue; after all, while I had spent more than a hundred hours each on Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Diamond, neither title had quite managed to excite me the same way the first two generations had. With Diamond, I finished the main game, but didn’t bother to complete the Pokédex, a first for me with this franchise. Fate, however, would put me in Best Buy the day Black and White landed and, like many other times in my life, I displayed a lack of impulse control with money. This time, I did not regret it. Pokémon Black and White proved to be just the refresher I needed to rediscover my love for the franchise.

In Black and White, for the first time ever, players had a “Brock and Misty:” a pair of characters that followed them on their Pokémon journey. The characters were actually named Bianca and Cheren, but they fulfilled the same role Ash’s friends played in the anime, as friends and rivals. Ironically, neither character accompanied Ash on his journey when Black and White were adapted by the anime. Still, X and Y and Sun and Moon would follow-up on this concept, to varying degrees of success.

Cheren and Bianca both played a major role in the narrative of Black and White. Overall, the storyline was much deeper than anything fans had previously seen. The game examined and questioned many of the norms associated with the franchise. While the Pokémon games and cartoons always showed parents enthusiastic about their children departing on their Pokémon journeys, Bianca’s father was far less happy to see his daughter on this particular path. Throughout the game, this became an ongoing storyline for the character. Even more surprising, the twin titles also dug into the morality of Pokémon catching. N and Team Plasma weren’t just thieves, they questioned the entire practice of capturing Pokémon. While it didn’t go too far down that particular rabbit hole, it was clear that Game Freak had made strides to provide fans with a deeper tale.

Perhaps my personal favorite thing about Black and White is that, up until the main quest was cleared, the titles featured no Pokémon from any previous generation. Not even Pikachu, the mascot of the series, could be discovered until after the climactic battle with N. For the first time since the halcyon days of Red and Blue, I ventured into a Pokémon world not knowing what I would encounter. My days of starting a new game, and temporarily adding Pidgeys, Ratattas and Zubats to my roster until I found more powerful Pokémon seemed to finally be at an end. It forced players to find new favorites and truly explore the game’s many new additions. The title also offered up 156 new monsters, the largest number of original creatures introduced in any Pokémon title to date.

Pokémon Black & White artwork for Pidove, Audino and Roggenrola

One of the more interesting additions to Black and White came in the form of changing seasons. Game Freak had toyed with the weather since Gold and Silver, but Black and White took it a step further with full-blown seasons. Seasons changed every month, and nighttime would begin earlier in the winter and later in the summer. It wasn’t a drastic addition to the franchise, but, like the addition of the internal clock in Gold and Silver, it gave the game an interesting way of reflecting the real world. Sadly, Game Freak hasn’t used the feature since.

Pokémon Black and White have carved themselves out a fine legacy. The games were the first in the franchise to receive a full sequel, giving players an opportunity to see how the Unova region changed since the release of the first games. It also gave characters like Cheren and Bianca a chance to continue growing, in a way that few other NPCs have since the original Gym Leaders returned in Pokémon Gold and Silver. The sequel also gave fans the first ever Pokémon fusions, Black Kyurem and White Kyurem, a combination of Kyurem with Zekrom or Reshiram, respectively. While the method appears to be different, fusions appear to be making a return in the upcoming titles Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.

I’ve never missed a Pokémon generation or had any real lapse in my love for the franchise, but Black and White proved to be the perfect reminder of why I fell in love with this series in the first place. It wasn’t just the New York City-inspired Unova region; it was the minor details. It challenged the series in ways that the previous two generations hadn’t, pushing the franchise in unique and interesting ways. It may not get the same degree of love that other entries in the series received, but it’s easily one of my favorite Pokémon generations and still worth taking a look at seven years after its release.

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