I hate to break it to you, but Pokémon Black and White aren’t going to be anything that special. In fact, I'm not even that interested in them. Nintendo released the pair in Japan just a little while ago, but what brought my attention back to the series were a few comments from my favorite Pokémon trainer, freelancer Kat Bailey, made on Active Time Babble 23 a few months ago. She offered that Game Freak may finally be listening to Pokémon fans. In Black and White, they have made battle scenes quicker and less annoying. They've added detail to the world by improving the graphics and have even implemented an online match-making system.
That stuff is great, but I have to disagree with Bailey. Even with all the changes, Black and White are Game Freak's method of stalling. Looking at other upcoming sequels to DS favorites, it seems like the next installment should have been a 3DS title. As an in-house developer, it stands to reason that Game Freak probably had some of the earliest access to 3DS development tools.
I don't know; maybe they wanted to take their time on a 3D version. But putting off production by tossing in more than 150 new Pokémon was not the right way to go about it. If they wanted to impress with an interim title, they should have included a few more features, a new art style, and a story that isn't merely another rehash of Red and Blue's. It could have saved them the trouble of dreaming up a ton of poor-quality pocket monsters.
That said, I’m not too sour about the latest release. It’s smart to stall a little if it means testing out new features…as long as it’s for the good of the next game. If any other series did this, I would be more than upset. But what is so great about Pokémon is that players can always transfer their accomplishments into the newest entry. Having two games every few years is a good way of keeping people interested. But with the next installment, Nintendo needs to seriously "evolve' the formula.
Pokémon 3DS has the potential to bring back fans who've been waiting for a drastic change. The series has always seemed unconcerned with three-dimensional character models, so I don't expect Pokémon 3DS will make use of the system's 3D capabilites. But that's OK. I’ve never complained about graphics because they mean little to me. The 3DS does offer something I do care about, though: connectivity.
Black and White's online matches are a sneak peak at what the folks at Game Freak want to introduce into the game. It also features C Gear, which lets players interact with each other in real time. As 1UP's Jeremy Parish put it on the podcast, "[Nintendo is] learning what everyone else learned ten years ago." Unfortunately, he also points out that Pokémon's release may undermine the 3DS' launch. It would have been great to pair these features with the 3DS’ new Tag Mode, which allows players to exchange info and items even when the system is closed and in standby mode.
On the bright side, it seems like Game Freak is listening to the fans and adding features that we have always wanted: faster gameplay, online match making, and a different approach to the game. Black and White are incremental steps toward the Pokémon game I've always wanted. But when the franchise moves to the 3DS I don't want "steps": I want leaps and bounds. If Game Freak can do that, they will have created their finest Pokémon game ever.