A new coat of Black and White paint
When it comes to iteration in gaming, Pokemon games are identical in an almost comforting way. While new mechanics and monsters may dot each individual entry into the franchise, each game revolves around the same ideals of catching, battling, and training Pokemon. With Black and White, the newest entries into the series' canon, developer Game Freak looks to shake things up for a change, claiming to have overhauled tired tropes to produce a truly innovative product. Could these monochromatic entries into a tired franchise really give them the refresh they deserve?
For what it's worth, Pokemon Black and White take definite steps towards moving the franchise forward. Game Freak has built a world full of brand new Pokemon, not including past monsters initially. While some of the designs may look a little strange or feel a little lazy, it's a commendable change, and one that should be expected in future games. Furthermore, I got the impression that each Pokemon had a distinct role to play in any team, another welcome change to the franchise. I never felt punished having chosen a Pokemon that I liked, a feeling series veterans may know all too well.
I also found myself impressed by a few more sublime changes to the game's formula. Music changes as a battle progresses, adding a little dramatic flair to any tough encounters. TM's, items used to teach Pokemon new moves, no longer disappear after a single use, supplying a change that I didn't know I wanted, but definitely appreciate. And while I'm loath to speak in detail about the end of the main storyline, I found it leaps and bounds ahead of past Pokemon games, culminating in one of the best battles in the series' history.
While the game takes some promising steps towards actual innovation, change seems to come at a slow pace. With an entirely new cast of Pokemon, several feel as if they're inclusion is meant solely to fill a certain archetype. Pokemon Black and White may not have any Zubats, Geodudes or Machops, but it sure does have Woobats, Roggenrolas, and Timburrs. It would have been nice to see a new list of Pokemon without any the franchise's former tropes, but it's ultimately a minor complaint.
Pokemon Black and White are good games, but they're good because they're still using a very very well tested formula. Don't expect Black and White to change the way you see the franchise, but instead look forward to an incredibly solid Pokemon game, easily the most solid in years.