As always, the first games of a generation bring a slew of novelties and changes since the previous games even aside from the obvious (new region/Pokémon/moves/abilities/items/characters). While Diamond and Pearl tinkered with the battle system and core graphic style of the game, Black and White instead focus their attention upon various aesthetic improvements and storyline novelties; however, of course, that doesn't mean it's without other changes, some of them perhaps not immediately noticeable.
Aesthetics and Interface
Cosmetic changes and modifications to the user interface of Black and White compared to HG/SS.
Pokémon Don't Follow You
Unfortunately, much as everyone loved the Pokémon-following-you feature of HG/SS, it was not brought back in Black and White, probably because they were being developed in parallel. Oh, well.
Lacking Touch Screen Interface
Remember how I praised HG/SS's touch screen interface and the way it allowed the whole game to be controlled using only the D-pad and touch screen? Well, unfortunately that's one of the few aspects of Black and White that are actually something of a step backwards: B/W put the awfully useless C Gear on the touch screen permanently, even when it's turned off, and as a result the menu can no longer be brought up without the X button. Likewise, dialogue cannot be advanced nor dialogue options selected on the touch screen anymore, and running can neither be done from the touch screen nor switched on permanently, so you're going to be needing the A and B buttons. It does improve massively on D/P/Pt, however, by placing things like the menu and bag, as well as Pokémon selection screens and the like, on the touch screen once they've been brought up, making it much more tolerable. This would make the menu interface as a whole fall under generally intermediate between D/P/Pt and HG/SS, except...
X Button Exits the Menu
Black and White introduce a massive new convenience in the ability to press the X button, or a little red X now placed at the bottom of almost any menu screen, to immediately exit the menu completely and have control returned to the overworld, instead of navigating back through several menu screens. This feature is wonderful and made me almost completely forgive Game Freak for putting the C Gear on the touch screen. Almost.
Quick Move Info
By holding down the L button while selecting a move in Black and White, you can quickly access the move's information page, normally accessible only through the Pokémon menu. It's not exactly a massive time-saver, but still a thoughtful little addition.
The overworld has technically been 3D all fourth generation. HG/SS even had cool 3D cutscenes for the appearances of Ho-oh and Lugia. But Black and White are the first handheld Pokémon games to really show off the fact they have 3D capabilities, and boy, do they show it off.
Various areas in the overworld now have special showy camera angles, with Skyarrow Bridge perhaps the most triumphant example. Mostly it looks pretty nice, but it does really add to how awkward the resized 4-directional sprites still being used for the characters look as the environment rotates and zooms smoothly around them. Meanwhile, battles zoom in and out as the trainers throw their Pokéballs or attacks are used, and there are several fully-animated 3D cutscenes in each game. It all looks pretty polygonal, of course, but it doesn't look bad by any means and many locations are considerably enhanced by it.
In an extremely surprising move, the developers decided to implement idle animations for all Pokémon, played continuously during battles.
I'll be perfectly frank and say that I think these are brilliantly done. I never, ever expected them to implement something like this, because the way Pokémon animations have been done since Emerald involves only two frames and some awfully lackluster-looking stretch and skew effects that could not possibly look remotely decent as idle animations. A lot of people have whined about this ever since, of course, but I've always had a strong suspicion that Crystal-like multi-frame animations for the ever-growing number of Pokémon with the 16-color palette and larger frames of the third- and fourth-generation games would simply be unrealistic to implement. Black and White, however, solve the problem ingeniously by creating frames for individual body parts as necessary and then making the animations themselves into stretch/skew rules applied to these individual body parts. This allows the Pokémon to look dynamic and move reasonably smoothly without the crazy effort and space that would be required to create equivalent animations frame-by-frame for every single Pokémon.
Furthermore, I'd have expected this to result in an altogether different kind of awkwardness thanks to the general problem with idle animations that don't simply consist of breathing (which wouldn't be properly visible on a Pokémon-sized sprite), namely that the idle loop looks ridiculously hyperactive and unnatural. But they mostly circumvented this problem as well, primarily by making the animations not a single simple movement in a repeating loop, but instead giving each Pokémon a couple of different actions such that the normal loop is broken up by the secondary action every now and then. While they still move a bit more than natural, it mostly succeeds in just making them look alive, and most Pokémon at least don't spend their time on-screen jumping manically back and forth or bouncing on their feet (hello, Colosseum Jumpluff and Vileplume).
I'm not saying the animations are perfect. The pixelation resulting from the stretch and skew effects is ugly as such effects always are, the animations look considerably more awkward if you just watch the Pokémon for a while (as opposed to battling normally, where it isn't really noticeable because you're not paying as much attention to the animation), and some Pokémon definitely look worse than others. But on the whole, I think these are very well executed and they completely surpassed my expectations.
Sprites Indicate Status
While major status effects are still shown with little icons next to the HP bar, they are now additionally shown with extra effects on the Pokémon's sprite:
- Sprite gets a throbbing purple tint.
- Sprite gets a throbbing yellow tint.
- Sprite gets a throbbing red tint.
- Sprite's animation stops and gets a blue tint.
- Sprite's animation slows down and the Pokémon's eyes close, provided it has eyelids.
Additionally, as a Pokémon's HP goes down, its animation will slow down to signify that it's weakened. It adds a bit of flavor to the battle to see your Pokémon visibly tiring, and the eyes closing when asleep and animation stopping when frozen are nice touches as well.
Now, whenever something happens involving abilities, the message will be augmented by the name of the Pokémon's ability coming up on the screen. If the ability is changing for one reason or another, you'll see the old ability's name morph into the name of the new ability. This has a couple of slightly gameplay-relevant effects, such as showing the abilities being swapped when Skill Swap is used, but mostly it's just an aesthetic touch making it more obvious when abilities are taking effect.
Sending out your Pokémon now comes with a weight-dependent tremor and thud, with heavier Pokémon making a bigger thud and even stirring up small clouds of dust as they come out (unless they're flying or levitating, in which case they don't make a tremor or sound at all).
No More All-Caps
Continuing the trend started in the fourth generation, Black and White have uncapitalized Pokémon names, so that instead of PIKACHU the game will now write Pikachu. This happily gets rid of the awkward inconsistency of Pokémon names being the only thing capitalized in the fourth-generation games. Whoo.
Register Multiple Items
Or rather, while you could register two items in HG/SS with one only available through the touch screen, Black and White go about it in a slightly different way. In the bag, items that can be registered for overworld use have a simple checkbox beside them, but so do the individual bags as well as your trainer card, every Pokédex screen, and your Pokémon's stat screens. If you have checked exactly one thing, pressing the Y button will immediately go to that screen or use that item, but if you have multiple things checked, pressing Y will bring up a menu listing all of them that you can then choose from. This is quite handy, though I've personally stuck with having just the Dowsing Machine registered. Speaking of which...
Better Dowsing Machine
The Dowsing Machine now works a little more like actual dowsing: it will show two sticks on the screen that by default point in opposite diagonal directions, but if there is an item on screen they will both turn to point in the direction of the item, and if you're standing on top of it they will turn inwards and you will hear a beep. In other words, the Dowsing Machine can no longer tell you exactly which tile the item is hiding in until you're standing on it, which would be a bummer except that it has now been made unimaginably more useful by not needing you to explicitly use it at all: as long as you have the Dowsing Machine open, it will be on the bottom screen and the sticks will automatically spring into action (with a notifying sound effect) if you come within range of a hidden item. This is glorious; you'll have to close it to bring up the menu and it doesn't automatically come back afterwards, so you need to remember to explicitly bring it up again, but otherwise you'll pretty much tend to have this on your bottom screen at all times. (Beats the C Gear, at least.)
New items now get added at the top of their respective bag instead of the bottom, allowing easier access to them. There is also now a green icon at the bottom of all bag screens that allows you to sort the items in the bag by type and name, which makes it a lot easier to find all those items you know you have around there somewhere.
Multiple Item Use
When you go into the bag to use an item on one of your Pokémon, you will not exit the Pokémon screen after using it once, provided you still have more of the same item left; instead you'll be able to select another Pokémon (or the same one) to use the same item again. Very handy for using, say, two potions to heal a Pokémon, or having to revive multiple team members.
Meanwhile, if you use up your last of the item, you will be shown a message notifying you that you have used up your last Hyper Potion, Revive or whatever before you're taken back to the bag.
Extra Move Learning Cancellation Confirmation
That's a mouthful, but basically, it used to be so that if your Pokémon was trying to learn a move and you said yes but then pressed B, you would get a "Stop learning [move]?" prompt and if you said yes that would be it. Now, however, pressing B after saying yes to learning a new move will bring up the initial "[Pokémon] is trying to learn [move]. Delete a move to make room for [move]?" prompt again, and only after saying no to that will you get the "Cancel learning [move]?" prompt that you used to get immediately. This makes it a bit more idiot-proof, but also slightly annoying, especially when you're used to the old way.
Multi-Target Moves Hit Everyone Simultaneously
When you use a move that targets multiple Pokémon in a multi-battle, they will all be hit at the same time instead of the tedious one-at-a-time way this would happen in the previous games. The battle messages are modified accordingly and will say "It's super effective on [Pokémon]!" and so on for clarification.
Critical Hit After Type Effectiveness
In the previous games, the "It's a critical hit!" would show up just before the "It's super effective!/It's not very effective..." message if a super/not very effective attack was a critical hit. Now they've been switched, so that the type effectiveness message comes first and then the critical hit message.
A select few characters (the player character, your rivals, N, your mom and Professor Juniper) have large artwork built into the game that occasionally allows you to have conversations where you see them close up. They will even blink and move their lips while talking. It's only used a couple of times in the game, though, sadly, and then mostly as an excuse to show off the existence of the Xtransceiver.
When conversing with NPCs, a triangular extension will come out of the speech box to point towards them, creating a sort of speech bubble. This makes it more obvious who is talking than it might otherwise be.
When you're saving during normal gameplay, you're no longer asked to confirm twice that you want to save; it just asks you if you'd like to save and then starts saving immediately, instead of asking if you're sure you'd like to overwrite the existing file first. It makes sense, since unlike when that was first implemented, little sisters can no longer accidentally start a new game and overwrite your old file with it (you still need to specifically delete your save file if you want to be able to save during a new game).
Visible Save Progress
When you're saving, there will be a "progress bar" of sorts at the bottom of the touch screen that provides a visual gauge of how much longer the save will take, rather than just telling you it's "saving a lot of data" or the like.
Extra Percussion when Moving
On many routes, the background music will change subtly when you're walking/running, adding extra percussion to the track. Completely pointless and barely noticeable, but very neat nonetheless. Meanwhile, there is no longer a footstep sound effect unless you're walking through grass/puddles/sand/etc.
There are NPCs in various places playing instruments, and if you talk to them you will hear their instrument blend seamlessly into the background music. Sometimes you can only hear the instrument while you're near the character, while other times it affects the background music the entire time you're in the city in question.
Additionally, one of the guys by the table in the Game Freak office in Castelia City, the composer, will temporarily change the background music to the HG/SS Team Rocket takeover music when you talk to him, which is awesome. Too bad it gets replaced with the normal Castelia City music as soon as you leave that floor.
Critical Battle Music
Remember the alarm sound that used to play over the battle music when your Pokémon's health was in the red? Well, in the fifth generation, the alarm has become a full-fledged alternate battle theme - unfortunately the loop is pretty short and it's pretty much a remix of the old critical health alarm, but it's pretty neat anyway.
When you battle a Gym leader and they're down to their last Pokémon, the music will also change to a more tense theme, a remix of the title screen music from R/B/Y.
Surfing Leaves Froth in Your Wake
When you're surfing, you'll now see a wake behind you as you move. It's pretty neat.
New Gameplay Features
Completely new gameplay aspects, or at least old aspects in a shiny new form.
Contests in Black and White are replaced by "Pokémon Musicals", a new minigame roughly based on the dress-up portion of Super Contests in Diamond and Pearl. It's slightly more high-tech this time, with accessories snapping to body parts where they (vaguely) make sense, but instead the appeals portion that made contests something of an interesting strategic challenge is gone - when you finish dressing up your Pokémon, there's just a silly little scene with them prancing around on a stage in a way that can make the most serious of Pokémon look ridiculous, before you're scored simply on the accessories you placed on the Pokémon plus a possible bonus if you use a chance to appeal using an item. Ultimately, unfortunately, what's left is mostly a silly novelty that you try once or twice but doesn't really have a lot of lasting entertainment value.
B/W's version of the Battle Tower and Battle Frontier of the previous games is the Battle Subway, a subway station in Nimbasa City whose organizers' idea of a pleasant journey apparently involves walking forward through seven subway cars and battling a trainer in each one. Though it looks different, it functions mostly like a Battle Tower - there are no fun novelty facilities like in the Battle Frontier, unfortunately. It does have the added convenience of splitting the basic battle modes (single, double, multi) into normal and "Super" modes, however, so that beating the normal mode once (after a 21-win streak) allows you direct access to the super mode at any time (effectively giving you a "save point"), instead of always having to start over at the easiest difficulty the facility has to offer every time you lose.
The bottom screen in Black and White is taken up by the "C Gear", a PokéGear/Pokétch-like device except that the only functions it serves are to do with communication: it's constantly on the lookout for other B/W games with the C Gear on in the vicinity, allows you to do quick infrared trades/battles, provides access to the wireless Entralink and Xtransceiver, and provides the option to go on Wi-Fi for accessing the Global Link.
Unfortunately, however, putting this of all things on the touch screen is just a terrible design choice, and I'd honestly call it the greatest blunder they made when creating Black and White. In fact, most of the time you'll want to keep the C Gear turned off: while it's on the DS is constantly in wireless mode and consumes battery life faster as a result, and you have no use for it anyway during normal gameplay. This basically means that most of the time you have nothing on the touch screen (well, it shows a clock and a battery indicator, which I guess is something, but my point still stands), which is just achingly wasteful next to HG/SS's awesome permanent touch-screen menu. Even those few times you do want to use the C Gear and have it on, there is no reason for it to be permanently on the touch screen in this manner - what's the loss of having to go through the menu interface those few and far-between times you're going to use these features?
To make it even worse, instead of just saving the fact your C Gear is off, the game will prompt you about it every time you load your save, the default option will always be YES (so you'll probably repeatedy accidentally turn it on when you have no use for it), and if you do select NO, it will needlessly ask you to confirm again that no, you don't want to waste your DS's batteries trying to discover other B/W players in your house at four AM. Yes, I get that it needs to ask you so you can not turn it on if you're on an airplane or elsewhere where wireless communications aren't allowed, but the solution to this should be that it saves whether you've got the C Gear on and then prompts you about it only if you had it on when you saved. There is no need to ask those of us who just don't want it on for confirmation every single bloody time we start up the game. Ugh. And really, exactly who would lose out if you just had to *gasp* press the single button you need to press to turn on the C Gear after starting the game, instead of being able to choose to have it on immediately when you load your save?
This is a wireless minigame thing you can play with friends where you can enter somebody else's "world" and do various missions. I haven't had the opportunity to try this yet so my understanding of it is kind of limited, but at least it sounds neat.
Well, the Entralink is also where you retrieve the Pokémon and items you obtained in the Dream World, for some reason. So there's that too.
One of the C Gear's new features is the Xtransceiver, which allows you to have four-way video chats with people within the range of your DS's wireless function, or two-way chats over Wi-Fi. The wireless part really opens the question of why you need to have video chats if you could just, you know, walk over and talk to each other, but hey. It is also nominally used for conversations with some in-game characters.
On the C Gear, you can at any time (because obviously it is vitally important this function be possible without going to a Pokémon Center, unlike Wi-Fi trading and the like) pick a Pokémon from your PC to tuck into bed and send to the Dream World, provided you've made an account at the Pokémon Global Link website. Subsequently, you can go to the website and enter the Pokémon's dream, playing various minigames to get Pokémon to join you or find items. Finally, you can wake the Pokémon up, get it back onto your game and obtain the Pokémon/items you earned. This is most notable for the ability to obtain Pokémon with hidden abilities (see the Pokémon and Mechanics Changes section below) and grow berries (which are otherwise unavailable in Black and White).
As in the fourth generation, you can migrate Pokémon from the immediately preceding generation to Black and White but not trade anything back. This time it's a little different from the Pal Park by being done with a shooting minigame rather than running around encountering the Pokémon in the "wild" and recapturing them, but generally it's the same gimmick of not just handing the Pokémon straight to you but having you "catch" them again. Blessingly, unlike D/P/Pt's Pal Park, you can transfer any number of Pokémon, with no six-per-day limit; however, you are not allowed to transfer Pokémon that know HM moves or are holding items.
The third generation introduced double battles, and the fifth introduces triple battles. They're pretty much like double battles that happen to have a third Pokémon on each side, with one major exception: Pokémon on opposite sides - that is, one on the left and one on the right - cannot reach one another with most moves. They can still target or be targeted by the Pokémon directly opposite them or in the middle, but only a select few moves can target across to the far side of the arena. Even Earthquake, which you'd intuitively assume hits every Pokémon on the field, only targets the ones directly or diagonally adjacent to the user but not those on the far side. To compensate, if there is ever only one Pokémon left on each side, they are both automatically "moved" to the middle position so that they can target one another.
There are far more triple battles in White than in Black, so if you really love triple battles, that could be a factor in choosing which version to get.
In addition to triple battles, Black and White introduce yet another battle mode, namely rotation battles. Like triple battles, rotation battles have three Pokémon out on each side at a time; however, only the middle Pokémon on each side is active and can make moves, be hurt by poisoning and weather effects, and so on. In addition to the normal options of attacking and switching, rotation battles also let you "rotate" your Pokémon clockwise or counterclockwise, meaning making one of your inactive Pokémon active. This differs from switching in that the new active Pokémon can make a move on the same turn that it is rotated in. Overall it adds a new strategic element (especially since you have to try to predict whether the opponent will rotate) and is quite fun as a niche thing.
While White has more triple battles, Black has far more rotation battles, so if you like them, get Black.
Areas where wild Pokémon can be found will now as you walk around them have a chance of randomly picking out a tile and designating it as a rare Pokémon tile. This causes the tile to make a sound effect to catch your attention as well as looking visually different: grass will shake, bridges will have shadows appear on them, water will show a dark spot, and caves will have dust being stirred up on the floor. If you step on this tile (be warned that a wild Pokémon encounter resets rare tiles, so that you must reach the tile without encountering anything), you will either find an item or encounter a wild Pokémon that usually cannot be found outside of rare tiles.
It's a bit of a shame that for the most part all locations' rare tiles contain the same Pokémon: Audino in grass, Drilbur/Excadrill in caves, Basculin in water, and Ducklett/Swanna on bridges. However, some locations have special extra Pokémon in their rare tiles that can't be found anywhere else, most notably the elemental monkeys in Pinwheel Forest, and Audino are extremely useful for training, thanks to their ridiculous experience yield - they're the Chansey of the fifth generation, with the bonus of not being a 1-4% encounter in some location but actually being the dominant Pokémon under exploitable circumstances. All you need to do is find a patch of grass, run around outside it until one of the grass tiles starts to shake, and then enter the grass tile (possibly after using a Repel to make sure you won't encounter anything on the way). Ta-da, instant (probable) Audino, ready to bring your Pokémon up several levels.
Various routes now have special, extra-thick tall grass in which the Pokémon are higher-leveled and you may occasionally encounter two wild Pokémon at a time in a double battle. (Like in the wild double battles of the fourth generation, encountered only when traveling with a partner during designated sections of the game, you can only try to catch one of the Pokémon after the other has fainted, and then you must select the ball during your first Pokémon's turn, because throwing a ball takes up both turns.) This feature cleverly allows Game Freak to place thick grass on early routes somewhere it is unreachable until you've obtained certain HMs and then put much higher-leveled Pokémon in the thick grass than on the rest of the route, in the knowledge that you won't be encountering them until later in the game. It also just provides you with a way to level up your Pokémon with an optionally raised difficulty that you can avoid if your Pokémon are weak.
Notably, in thick grass, it is much more difficult to capture Pokémon than otherwise, independent of their species and levels, unless you've already filled up most of your Pokédex. See the fifth-generation capture mechanics page for details.
Black and White feature changing seasons, with different Pokémon appearing in some areas depending on the season, Deerling and Sawsbuck changing (aesthetic) forms, several areas accessible only during the winter (or only during the other seasons), some musical changes, and a few other things (e.g. Cynthia will only battle you in Undella Town in the spring). Rather than following the real-life seasons, each season lasts only a single month, to allow you to experience everything in the game within the space of four consecutive months rather than needing almost a full year. Otherwise, the seasonal cycle follows real life: spring is followed by summer which is followed by autumn which is followed by winter which is followed by spring. This means spring is in January, May and September, summer is in February, June and October, autumn is in March, July and November, and winter is in April, August and December.
Black City and White Forest
By encountering other players through the Entralink feature, actual areas in the game can be affected. This connects with another one of Black and White's more noticeable version differences: Black has a city, "Black City", where NPCs will appear to battle you and sell you items when you communicate with other players, and White has a forest, "White Forest", where some exclusive wild Pokémon can be caught and items can be found on the ground. Both places, however, are woefully empty if you don't tend to play wirelessly with friends and don't reach the location before the initial conditions go away.
Pokémon and Mechanics Changes
Modifications to Pokémon, moves, items, abilities and fundamental game mechanics since HG/SS.
No Overworld Poison Damage
The fourth generation changed it so that poisoned Pokémon would no longer faint from poison damage in the overworld, instead making the poisoning automatically heal when the Pokémon would otherwise lose its last HP. In the fifth generation, they took this a step further and removed the poison-damage-outside-of-battle mechanic altogether, so that poisoning now truly functions just like a burn minus the Attack drop.
Every Pokémon except event legendaries (including Phione), Unova's dragon trio (Reshiram, Zekrom and Kyurem), Starly (for some reason), some cocoons or cocoon-like Pokémon (Metapod, Kakuna, Pupitar, Silcoon, Cascoon, Ferroseed and Ferrothorn) and those in a family where at least one member's sole ability is Levitate, Truant, Plus, Minus, Wonder Guard (note: unlike other families of Pokémon with exclusively these abilities, Nincada and Ninjask do have hidden abilities), Color Change, Forecast, Drizzle, Drought, Air Lock, Slow Start, Flower Gift, Mummy, Defeatist, Illusion or Justified (i.e. an ability that is something of an intrinsic part of what it is to be that Pokémon) now has an additional "hidden ability", which will be the ability of any Pokémon of that species you encounter in the Dream World plus a few select in-game encounters.
The hidden ability attribute is static and potentially hereditary (has a probably-50% chance of being passed on from the mother), but not the ability itself: that is, if you have a Pokémon with a hidden ability and it evolves, its ability will turn into the evolution's hidden ability, and if you breed a female with a hidden ability and her offspring inherits it, it will be born with its species' hidden ability rather than hers. In cases where some Pokémon of a species have a hidden ability and others not (e.g. Starly is listed above, but Staravia and Staraptor have Reckless as a hidden ability), the ones that don't technically do have one, but it's the same as their normal ability; they can still have the hidden ability attribute, get their evolution's hidden ability when they evolve, or pass the attribute on to their offspring.
Modified Moves, Abilities and Items
Various modifications have been made to the inner workings of various moves, abilities and items. I can't list them all, but here are a few of the more noteworthy ones (i.e. that aren't simply fixing glitches, making slight tweaks or changing relatively obscure interactions with other moves/abilities/items):
- Tackle's base damage is now 50 rather than 35, and its accuracy is 100% instead of 95%. This means Tackle is now strictly superior to Cut and actually more powerful than Quick Attack, solidifying Cut as useless and royally screwing with the brains of Pokémon players everywhere.
- The ability Pickup now has an in-battle effect in addition to the old picking-up-items-after-battle effect we're all familiar with: if the opponent uses up a held item, a Pokémon with Pickup will afterwards obtain the item for itself, provided it isn't already holding one.
- Feint now no longer fails altogether against enemies that didn't happen to use Protect or Detect on this turn. To compensate, they lowered the base damage from 50 to 30.
- Multi-hit moves such as Double Kick, Fury Attack, Beat Up and so on now have each hit count as a separate attack for most purposes. This includes, for instance, activating most activate-on-hit abilities multiple times and only having the potential to activate the opponent's Focus Sash for the first hit (since a Focus Sash only activates when the user is at full HP before being hit, and after the first hit it is no longer at full health). Color Change, however, only activates after the final hit of such a move, and abilities that make the bearer immune to the multi-hit attack will only be activated once (e.g. since Sap Sipper makes the Pokémon immune to Bullet Seed, it will only have its Attack raised once).
- Beat Up now deals Dark-type damage instead of typeless, has each Pokémon's hit use its own Attack stat against the opponent's Defense, and varies the base damage of each hit according to the base Attack of the attacker's species. Any modifiers that apply to the Attack stat or move power of Beat Up's user will also be applied to the Attack stat and move power of each Pokémon's attack, but not modifiers that apply to the individual Pokémon taking part (so a Dark-type Pokémon using Beat Up means each hit gets STAB, but a non-Dark-type Pokémon using Beat Up won't get STAB even for hits that "belong" to Dark-type Pokémon).
- Jump Kick and Hi Jump Kick's crash damage when they miss is no longer proportional to the damage the attack would have dealt, but instead is always half of the user's max HP.
- Selfdestruct and Explosion have been majorly nerfed: they no longer halve the target's Defense stat when calculating their damage, effectively making them only half as powerful as they were previously.
- The abilities Storm Drain and Lightningrod still attract all Water or Electric-type attacks respectively in a multi-battle, but now they additionally make the bearer immune to these attacks and boost its Special Attack by one stage when it is hit with one.
- There is now such a thing as raising a stat by three whole stages in one go, with the message "[Pokémon]'s [stat] rose drastically!", and the move Tail Glow has been modified to give a three-stage boost to the user's Special Attack instead of two. (The only other move with a three-stage boost is the new Cotton Guard.)
- Future Sight and Doom Desire no longer deal typeless damage calculated in accordance with the Special Defense stat of the Pokémon that was out at the time they were used; they just work like normal Psychic/Steel attacks that happen to have been originally used a couple of turns ago.
- Several moves with effects that used to last 2-5 turns now always last three turns. This includes Encore, Taunt and Uproar. Tailwind, meanwhile, now lasts four turns, and pseudo-trapping moves (Fire Spin and similar) last 4-5 turns.
- Growth now raises both the user's Attack and Special Attack, and if the weather is sunny, it raises them sharply (by two stages each).
- Giga Drain now has a base power of 75 rather than 60.
- Minimize now raises the user's evasion sharply (by two stages).
- Wish now heals by 50% of the user's max HP, rounded up, instead of 50% of the max HP of whichever Pokémon is the recipient of the wish.
- The Simple ability now doubles the actual stat modifiers a Pokémon gains while it has the ability, instead of just doubling the effects of the modifiers. This means if a Pokémon with Simple were to use an attack like Howl, the message will actually say its Attack "sharply rose" to indicate that it actually rose by two stages. If you Baton Pass boosts to a Pokémon with Simple, therefore, the boosts will now stay the same rather than being doubled like they used to - however, if you have a Pokémon with Simple use Baton Pass after that one Howl, the next Pokémon you send out will get the same two-stage Attack boost that the Simple Pokémon got.
- The ability Stench now grants most of the user's attacks a 10% chance of making the opponent flinch, similar to a King's Rock or Razor Fang (with which it cannot stack, unfortunately).
- The ability Sturdy now, in addition to causing OHKO moves to fail altogether, works as an automatic Focus Sash, making the bearer hang on with at least one HP if it was at full health before the attack hit.
Sleep Nerfed Again
The sleep status really has a rough time of it; each successive generation since the third has made it a little bit worse than it was before. This time, after it was brought down to lasting 1-4 turns in the fourth generation, it's been cut down again to 1-3 turns. I really hope this is the last time they decide sleep needs to be powered down. To improve things a little, at least switching out a sleeping Pokémon now causes its sleep counter (i.e. the number of turns it has left to sleep) to be reset to what it was when it originally fell asleep, instead of just being frozen as what it is, so it's now become actually disadvantageous to switch out a sleeping Pokémon.
Erroneous Item Use Is Costly
It used to be no big deal if you were going to use an item in battle and accidentally used it on a Pokémon that didn't need it - it would just tell you it won't have any effect and you could select the right Pokémon. Now, if your finger slips when you're going to Revive one of your party members and you hit one that isn't fainted, it will still tell you it won't have any effect, but instead of letting you correct the mistake, the erroneous item use will consume your turn. I suppose this can be useful if you desperately don't want to use any move or switch, but mostly it just makes you curse at the screen when you're battling the Elite Four and you accidentally choose to Revive your last remaining Pokémon instead of the one that would take down your opponent's last.
No More ???-Type
The ???-type, previously used only as the type of Curse, a mysterious unused Arceus form and pure Flying-type Pokémon that had just used Roost, is now completely gone from the game's code. The Arceus form just doesn't exist anymore, Curse is now a Ghost-type attack, and pure Flying-type Pokémon using Roost will turn into Normal-types for that turn.
Feebas Evolves Without Beauty
Feebas can now additionally evolve by trading while holding a Prism Scale, since contests are no longer in the game and thus there is no way of raising Feebas' Beauty stat. (It still exists in the game data, however, and if you transfer a Feebas with a high enough Beauty stat to evolve from a fourth-generation game, it will evolve if you subsequently level it up in the fifth-gen game.)
Rotom Formes Change Type
In Platinum and HG/SS, Rotom's appliance forms would each learn an attack of a different type, but they'd stay Electric/Ghost types with Levitate, just like the normal Rotom. Now, however, the Ghost-type will be exchanged for the type of the form's signature move, giving it STAB for the move but sadly resulting in generally worse type combinations and making the Levitate ability entirely redundant for a Fan Rotom (which becomes Electric/Flying and is thus immune to Ground moves anyway).
In the fifth generation, TMs, like HMs, only need to be acquired once to be used an infinite number of times on any Pokémon. No more having all your TMs rot in your bag because you don't want to waste them! This does mean that TMs tend to be a little bit more elusive than they used to be - various powerful moves aren't available until the postgame - but still, it's amazingly handy, especially the fact that you can overwrite TM moves temporarily without a worry. (Need Flash for a cave? Just overwrite another TM move one of your Pokémon has, and then overwrite Flash again with the old move when you've gone through the cave.)
New Moves Don't Restore PP
In the previous games, a new move would always have full PP when learned. Now, however, the current PP of the new move becomes equal to the PP of the move it overwrote (or its own maximum PP, whichever is lower). This was most likely done to avoid people getting around the mechanic of PP shortage outside of battle completely by simply repeatedly teaching their Pokémon new TMs, now that they're not a precious resource anymore.
New Experience Formula
Pokémon Black and White completely revamped the experience system, introducing a new formula that not only factors in the opponent's level and base experience but also the proportion between the user's level and the opponent's - a lower-leveled Pokémon now, sensibly enough, gets more experience for defeating the same opponent than a higher-leveled one. This new experience system makes it incredibly convenient to add a new member to your team late-game: all you have to do is give it an Exp. Share, continue on your way and watch it level up with blazing speed until it's all caught up. On the other hand it does make it somewhat inconvenient to level up at high levels, when you have nothing but much lower-leveled Pokémon to fight.
New Capture Mechanics
Captures have now changed in a few important ways. In general capturing has gotten significantly easier; however, a factor has been introduced into it that drastically reduces the chances of catching Pokémon in thick grass unless you've already caught a lot of Pokémon. Meanwhile, a new mechanic, "critical captures", introduces a chance of making any capture easier, again dependent on the number of Pokémon you've already caught and the default chance; in a critical capture the ball will only shake once before capturing or not capturing the Pokémon. By the time you've filled up a good chunk of your Pokédex, catching early-game Pokémon will be a breeze thanks to the now-frequent critical captures. See the capture mechanics page linked earlier for details.
Immediate Effort Recalculation
Now, your Pokémon's stats are recalculated from their current effort values after every battle instead of just when they level up. This means, most prominently, that the stat gains from EV training will be applied immediately instead of only when you gain a level, and even better, Pokémon will merrily continue to gain effort and raise their stats after reaching level 100, without even the box trick being needed.
Other Novelties of Note
Everything else that is notably different about Black and White compared to the previous games.
Fake-Out Climax (SPOILERS)
Thought the Pokémon formula was always about beating the Elite Four and Champion? Think again, because in Black and White, you beat the Elite Four only to find N had beaten you to the Champion. You'll be forced to capture your version's mascot, and finally you have to face both him and Ghetsis. You don't get to battle the actual Champion at all until after the postgame, when the Elite Four's Pokémon have leveled up.
Face the Elite Four in Any Order
Speaking of the Elite Four, there is no longer a set order in which you have to battle the Elite Four; there is a central room from which you can access each of the Elites, and you gain access to the Champion's room when you have beaten all four, no matter what order you did it in. The Elite Four have tweaked dialogue to match, with the final one you fight always being the one to tell you to head on and face the Champion and so on.
Now, when you first start the game, you will see only eight boxes on your PC. Once you've placed at least one Pokémon in each of those eight boxes, you'll get access to eight more boxes, and again when you've put a Pokémon in each of those, for a maximum of 24 boxes. This is handy for not having to unnecessarily scroll past a dozen empty boxes to get to the one you actually want.
We all know the feeling of walking a long way in the game to get to some place only to find that there's a bush or a rock in the way that needs to be cleared using an HM you don't happen to be carrying right now. Cue angry grumbling, backtracking to a Pokémon Center and repeating the entire ordeal.
Well, Game Freak have heard our angry grumbling, because Black and White's use of HMs has been trimmed down considerably from the trend set by the previous games. First of all, there is just plain less in the way of HM-requiring obstacles: in particular, you only see a Cuttable bush once in a blue moon, and most of Unova's water is rendered optional by the convenient bridges in the region. Second, Strength has been modified to require only one use per obstacle: rather than just pushing rocks that mysteriously reappear where they used to be next time you enter the area, Strength is now used to push boulders into convenient square holes, forming a surface to cross the hole and cleanly disposing of the rock for good. This means once you've cleared every boulder in the game, you'll never need Strength again, period. Third, there are only six HMs: Cut, Fly, Surf, Strength, Waterfall and Dive (the last of which is only used to access one optional postgame area). All in all, HMs are much less annoying now.
More Prominent Rivals
Black and White's rivals, Cheren and Bianca, get a lot more time in the spotlight than those of the previous games. Not only do they appear more often during the course of the game, but they also each get a little story arc of their own, and both of them will be ready to battle you with high-level Pokémon after you've finished the game's storyline (Cheren in Victory Road every day, Bianca in Professor Juniper's lab on weekends). Some people find them annoying, but I actually like that you interact more with your friends in these games.
Fresh Water from Gym Guides
The Gym guides that have appeared by the entrance to every Gym since R/B/Y to give you hints about the types used by the Gym and how to beat them now have an added bonus to reward those that bother with talking to them: they will give you a free Fresh Water for the battle. It's a fun little touch.
Nurses and Doctors
There are now trainer classes called Nurse and Doctor, easily recognizable in the overworld, that will battle you like normal trainers but with the added bonus that once you beat them, they will restore all your Pokémon's health to full for free and continue to do so anytime you talk to them after that. Partly this is necessary to make the game's lengthy routes and caves bearable, but it's also simply very convenient, providing a much quicker way to heal when training your Pokémon in an area with a nearby Nurse or Doctor.
Pokémon Centers now function as shops rather than just hospitals, with two clerks standing by the right side of the entrance to every Pokémon Center (the near one sells local specialties ranging from Mail to TMs, while the far one sells the standard trainer supplies we're all used to), while the separate Pokémart buildings have been done away with altogether. We will miss you, blue roofs.
Trading from Boxes
Trading no longer requires you to be carrying the Pokémon you want to trade in your party beforehand; you can trade Pokémon straight from your box.
If you trade one of your Pokémon to a friend and you later trade it back, the message after the trade will actually say "Welcome back, [Pokémon]!" Obscenely minor, but it made me smile when I saw it. On the other end of the trade, the text will say you're "returning" the Pokémon to the other person, rather than just sending like normal.
Inside the gatehouses between routes, there is an electronic bulletin board displaying things like the weather in various locations. More importantly, it shows Pokémon swarms after you've beaten the main storyline, making you no longer need to check with some obscure NPC to find out where Pokémon are swarming.
There are now various NPCs scattered throughout the game who will pay you a very high price for particular items they like. One buys food items (paying you a whopping P25,000 for a Balm Mushroom), one buys rocks and pays you for instance P60,000 for a Comet Shard, and one buys ancient artifacts found in the Abyssal Ruins, paying you up to P300,000 (for a Relic Crown). It's not as if Pokémon was ever a game where money is a problem, but if it were it certainly isn't anymore.
Speed Up Credits with A
You can now speed up the end credits by holding down A rather than B, though the Start button no longer works to skip them altogether.
You can now carry more than ten times more money in-game, with a maximum of P9,999,999 rather than P999,999. Apparently the B/W protagonists really could have bought that bicycle.
Day-Care Man Gets Your Attention
Now, if you walk past the Day-Care when your Pokémon have produced an egg and you have an empty slot in your party, the Day-Care man will give you a shout to alert you of the egg. It's very handy so that you won't either have to check all the time or enter another route so he can call you.
No More Ball Capsules
Black and White do not allow you to decorate your Pokémon's balls with Seals for fancy effects when they enter battle. It was a rather gimmicky feature anyway so I'm not sure I miss it particularly.
Page last modified February 10 2013 at 01:00 GMT