It’s amazing that once you’ve defeated the Elite Four and all of the subsequent story battles, your journey in Pokémon Black is far from over. There’s a whole other half of the region to visit, where trainers hold Pokémon as high as level 65 and there seem to be far more of them around than any point before the Pokémon League. I had spent hours and hours taking down Audinos, whose sole purpose is really just to help you level up faster. They even HEAL you during the occasional battle. I turned a Level 32 Axew into a dominant Level 72 Haxorus, wiping out every Pokémon in sight with Dragon Claw, Outrage, and Guillotine. I didn’t really want to do it that way. Any time I try to break into a new Pokémon game I always attempt to train my six team members evenly, but this time around I was desperate to teach Haxorus Outrage. As a result, it far outclasses even my Level 57 Gurdurr which, by the way, I’d love to turn into a Conkeldurr.
Although I am practically still getting my feet wet when it comes to this franchise, Black seems to tell one of the more interesting stories that still doesn’t make a lick of sense, at least if applied to the context of how our world operates. Although there are more motives afoot, you go about your journey in an attempt to prove yourself as a trainer, naturally. You’re introduced to the game’s antagonists, Team Plasma, whose goal is to set all of the Pokémon free and eliminate their relationships with human beings. The strange take on this is that from a certain standpoint, Team Plasma would probably be in the right given that Pokémon are used as tools and for the purposes of battling. The game has a few moments where it tries to address these issues from the actual creatures’ point of view through one of the antagonists, N, who communicates with them. Again, there are bigger motives in play, and I do appreciate the issue of how Pokémon tend to bring balance to life. It is definitely one of the better stories in this franchise that I have personally come across.
I have to talk about the music. The music has always been one of the stronger features of the franchise, I think. The main theme that everyone is familiar with plays with such flair when you’ve brought down a gym leader to his or her last Pokémon, and it plays with a gusto that you may as well play Bill Conti’s “Conquest” from the Rocky 3 soundtrack. The Team Plasma battle music has a very tense feel to it, which is almost funny considering most of the battles against them aren’t that difficult. I’ve always loved the feeling of serenity in the tunes you hear when you’re walking along any route to the next town. That serene feeling if taking in the roses brings a nice little marching tune to it once your trainer begins walking. It’s all done so well, and I’d totally buy an orchestral version of the soundtrack if one gets released. Fantastic score.
The visuals themselves are somewhat standard for a Pokémon title. 2D sprites are always fun to look at and admire. One of the things I enjoyed was the liveliness in the battle animations, filled with idle animations, breathing, etc. The standout feature for me was the architecture and the environment design. I’m used to wandering through small suburbs and little towns, but Game Freak went all out and gave us bustling towns and villages — people all over the place strolling, working, having drinks at a café, dancing, etc. A lot of the buildings and bridges get a lot of focus, with a third dimension added to them and they are viewed in such a way as your trainer walks around them or past them that I suspect Nintendo might have had plans for this game to utilize the tech of the new 3DS system in some way. There are a few close-ups and certain shots leave you in awe of the kind of world Unova is in comparison to Johto or perhaps even Sinnoh as well as some of the more majestic features of certain Pokémon.
I have much more work to do in this game, beyond the story, although I would like to go back to Platinum and SoulSilver while I still have this high of feeling good about beating a Pokémon game for the first time in forever.