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July 29, 2016

Pokémon White (Part 5)

(Today is my birthday, but Planned All Along rarely takes a break ;) )

Go read the parts you may have missed:
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

Team Plasma is out of the way, the Elite 4 has been vanquished… now it’s time to discover everything else this game has to offer – namely, many Routes and towns you couldn’t go to just yet.

First off, as soon as you get the Surf HM and use it on a Pokémon, you can go back to previous routes and surf on some water sections. Route 1 has a path that leads to Route 17, which is all water. There, you can find a lot of interesting items and also many Trainers to battle. This leads to Route 18, an island where you can get a Larvesta egg. The mighty power of the Volcarona will be yours in a few thousand steps and 58 levels!

Next is Mistralton Cave. One of the legendary trios this Generation is a group of Pokémon based on the Three Musketeers. The first one you can find is Cobalion, at Level 42, in Mistralton Cave (on Route 6). After getting Cobalion, you can go look for Virizion in Pinwheel Forest and Terrakion in the Trial Chamber of Victory Road. Then you could also get Keldeo, back when they were giving away Pokémon for the fifth Generation.

I can Angrish too, you know.
In most of the newly-opened areas, you can find Pokémon in the wild at Level 50, and not only Pokémon from the Unova dex; Pokémon from all five generations. That’s really great! Although, as you may guess you’d still need to trade a lot with the older generations of games in order to get every species. More floors of the Relic Castle are open, allowing you to visit every part of it. There’s a Level 70 Volcarona that can be caught down there if you’re willing to take the challenge instead of raising a Larvesta from Level 1.

But of course, just because you’ve defeated Ghetsis doesn’t mean you’re done with the story! You see, after Ghetsis was arrested, the other six Sages took off to hide in other parts of Unova. When you start the game after beating the Elite 4 a first time, you’ll meet Looker, an Interpol-like agent who wants to catch all of these wanted Sages and trusts that you’ll be able to deal with them. You’re also given an amazing fishing rod so that you can fish as you please. The Sages are, for the most part, hidden in places where you’ve already been, like the Cold Storage, so be sure to revisit every location to find them. It doesn’t really reward you anything… but hey, when you’re a hero, you want to finish the job, right? You know what they say: Gotta catch 'em all!

Bravo, Looker. Now pack that Sage out of the Cold Storage
and question him. Hopefulyl, he won't leave us...
*puts on sunglasses* the cold.

Moving past Opelucid City, we can go on Route 11, then see the Village Bridge, then Route 12, then Lacunosa Town. By talking to people, you can learn a legend about the town; one day, long ago, a meteor crashed near it, and a mysterious creature appeared. If you’re interested, a Level 75 Kyurem can be caught there. However, be ready to face very powerful Pokémon in the cave that surrounds the area. You can get there through Route 13 and into the Giant Chasm. Past Route 13 is Undella Town, a vacation town near the sea where you can find many rich families during their break. Sinnoh Champion Cynthia can also be met there and fought. Next to Undella is a bay, and beyond that bay there’s the undersea ruins of a castle in which you can find tons and tons of interesting treasure. It’s like the Great Cave Offensive all over again! The ruins also contain the then-17 Plates needed to change Arceus’ type. In Undella Town, it’s also possible to battle a whole family of rich people with increasingly strong Pokémon teams, with the possibility to make a very nice amount of money when you defeat them all.

You can also catch three more Legendary Pokémon, the Forces of Nature: Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus. Tornadus and Thundurus are version-exclusives, and they start roaming Unova after you speak to someone. Look for the stroms! Once you’ve caught the version-exclusive one and traded to get the other, you can go into Route 14, enter the Abundant Shrine, where Landorus will appear if you have the other two in your party. Be sure to catch it! Damn, there are so many Legendary Pokémon in this region… I mean, it’s not as bad as Sinnoh, which had one new Legendary for every 7 new normal Pokémon...

They look way too much the same. They got new, more
creative forms, in Black 2 and White 2.

Next up are White Forest and Black City, a feature that differs for each version; you battle Trainers in Black City, and catch Pokémon in White City, and both sides are improved when using the Entralink feature, given that you didn’t reach the place too late in the game; personally, I never got to enjoy these two places due to not being able to exchange about it with my friend the Pokémon fan. In the end, this is another thing thought up by Game Freak that will have happened in only one Generation, and it’s probably better that way. It seems that players thought this mechanic was poorly executed. Past the Black City/White Forest is Route 15 and then the Marvelous Bridge.

Each subway brings you to a new type of battle.
Try not to get lost.
From Castelia City, on some hours you can board a cruise ship that will allow you to battle Trainers, meet people, gain prizes… good fun. The last place to visit is the Challenger’s Cave on Route 9. And of course, that’s not over! There are many additional fights that can be found around Unova, like Bianca (who’s staying with Prof Juniper now), Cheren (who’s battling in Victory Road to become stronger, though now I hope he has a point for his strength), Shigeki Morimoto in the Game Freak offices in Castelia City… There’s also the Subway Battles in Nimbasa City, a nice challenge if you’re up to the task. Then, you can also rematch the Elite 4, who will have much stronger Pokémon. At the end of the Elite 4, Alder awaits, with a full team of high power – and four Bug-type Pokémon, so if you know how to deal with these, you should do fine.

Zen Mode Darmanitan.
Then there’s the Dream World, which made use of the DS’s wi-fi connectivity in order to communicate with Internet and give access to a lot of Pokémon. It was very enjoyable because the Pokémon available would have their Dream World ability, often giving them an edge that made them even more useful than before. A Ditto that transforms immediately when appearing in-battle, instead of having to use Transform? Where do I sign? These, called Hidden Abilities, are extremely difficult to acquire from wild Pokémon, only showing up under very particular circumstances. In Black and White, only two Pokémon can be caught in the wild with their Hidden Ability: A Musharna in the Dream Yard, and a Darmanitan in the Desert Resort. Pokémon with Hidden Abilities are thus very valuable. Even in Gen 6, these abilities are really rare.

What else can I think of that I still haven’t said about this Generation? …Tough question… I could talk about the C-Gear, but I never could use it… the Global Link, which I couldn’t use for this one but managed to use in Gen 6, and I love that feature. It’s alright I guess, but it had some failings when you were trying to, say, trade a Cofagrigus or either Nosepass or Probopass, due to name censors. They mostly corrected it over time, but not in Gen 5! Um… this was also the first time Pokémon battle sprites were animated? I guess that’s pretty cool! I think I got ecstatic when I realized Pokémon put to sleep actually closed their eyes! Um… this is the first game where TMs, like HMs, are infinitely reusable! Now that was a breakthrough! And, um… I think that’s it?

Gosh, what a fantastic game. The updates on the Pokémon franchise were great ideas. Each Generation gets better than the last in many ways, and Gen 5 saw many upgrades to the series that are really great. Really, it would be quicker for me to say what wasn’t working as well, but some of these points are in the previous paragraph. Since there are things I haven’t tried, namely anything related to the wi-fi connection, I can’t pass judgment on those. That includes the Dream World...

Let’s see. The Black City and White Forest seemed like good ideas on paper but their execution was sloppy. To take full advantage of that section, you have to access it in less than a week after you’ve started playing! And you’re likely not to find out about it until after that week has passed! Not to mention it requires the Entralink, and a copy of the opposite game… all so much trouble. In Generation 5, the Experience system is horrible. You need to get into very difficult fights if you want to have any noticeable amount of experience, which is impractical for those who like to stay a few levels ahead, forcing even more tedious level grinding. Thanks, Audino, for existing! (Of course, Audino could also be strong enough to be your doom.) While I'm at it, now that we've seen the menus of Gen 6, those in this game feel really slow, and it's tedious as all Hell to move around 600+ Pokémon in the PC.

I also believe these games really went overboard with rival battles. You can't go from a gym to the other without battling either Cheren, Bianca, or N. Bianca has an interesting character arc and N is the villain, so battles with him are justified; the game also justifies his attitude through his backstory. However, while Cheren is fairly well set up as a character from the get-go, he quickly becomes annoying as he seems to have only one thing to say: "Gotta be stronger! Gotta be stronger!" And even after he has some sense knocked into him by Alder, he's still an annoyance that fights you just because he can. Pokémon X and Y had more rivals, but they were varied and had more interesting personalities.

However, for everything else, I don’t have much of a reason to complain. The designs of some Pokémon? I can live with that. I particularly enjoy how the types seem to be spread evenly over the Dex, allowing you to meet many Pokémon of different types very early on, and letting you thus build a varied team before the second Gym even comes around. And unless I’m mistaken, this is also the first Generation where Pokémon in the regional Dex were placed pretty much in the order you encounter them in the wild, starting in Nuvema Town. The new touches in battle are very nice too, from how Pokémon are now animated to how things like weather effects appear on the bottom screen instead of the game reminding the player about them every turn.

But truly, Pokémon Black and White shine by their story, which takes more risks than the usual Pokémon plot. Instead of having villains who try to use unstoppable forces of nature to destroy the world, Team Plasma represents a moral dilemma for Pokémon owners. Not that big of a dilemma since it’s pretty clear most Trainers are actually decent people and Pokémon battles are a regulated competition that forbids anything openly cruel, anything that goes beyond the loser fainting. Team Plasma marks the first time in the main series game where the villains a) haven’t already taken control of the place (unlike in Orre), b) aren’t planning to use Legendary Pokémon to cause large-scale damage to the world (à la Teams Aqua, Magma, Galactic and, to some extent, Flare since Xerneas or Yveltal were required to activate the ancient superweapon), and c) are actually trying to pass off as good guys following some kind of ideals, thus actually trying to speak with the public and expose their view. They’re also the first time where the Team leader hid behind someone else while they schemed in the shadows. This entire story is basically Game Freak acknowledging the backlash to their formula and actually showing in which ways the complainers are mistaken. Team Plasma does, however, manage to convince some people during the story, and some of the grunts bring up valid arguments. When they're not hypocritically attacking Pokémon behind people's backs, that is.

I should note that after the original Team Plasma disbands at the end of Black and White, we find them split in two factions in Black 2 and White 2: One that tries to reform and honestly liberate Pokémon, and the other that fully embraces the terrorism the Team ended up using. It’s another interesting spin on the usual Pokémon formula. On the other hand it does make you wonder which Plasma grunts in the original Black and White were honest about their goals and which ones knew about the hypocrisy and went along because they wanted Ghetsis to rule.

All of the characters are well-developed, and this, as soon as they appear. Cheren and his obsession with strength (as annoying as he may be); Bianca and her uncertainties; N and his extreme friendliness despite being a villain and, ultimately, being revealed as nothing more than a pawn; Alder, who shows more personality in his first appearance than some other Pokémon villains have in the entire game where they’re featured; and Ghetsis, who excels at manipulation by pretending to be a reasonable figure, that is, until he turns out to be the megalomaniacal “Take Over The World” type of guy. As far as Pokémon stories go, this is pretty much perfect on every side. The Gym Leaders get their moment, the Champion is given more spotlight, and the villains are great… All in all, this is a very interesting story.

Should you be put off by not being able to use Pokémon outside of Gen 5 until you beat the Elite? No. It means you need to be able to use Pokémon you’re not used to have, but it’s a nice change of pace. And for the four or five Pokémon designs you don’t like, there are 40, 50 really cool Pokémon designs! Honestly? I recommend these games. There’s nothing else I can say. Pokémon is Pokémon; it’s a guaranteed seal of quality. The games may not be equal in how good they are, but you can be guaranteed that they’re good.

Alright then, I think this round of review has been long enough. This concludes the third anniversary on Planned All Along. I was kinda hoping to do something special for it, but then I realized I didn’t have time… but I’ll find other things to do to make up for that. Next week, a Top 12; then I’ll probably do a Wii game review immediately afterwards. Then I’ll finish looking at the Kirby games in Kirby’s Dream Collection…

Alright then! See you next week!