Welcome to Diary Entry 2 of our in-depth coverage of Pokémon Black/White. The aim of this series of weekly articles is to allow readers to understand what new features and changes they can expect to see from Pokémon Black/White without spoiling the experience for them. We hope you enjoy giving these a read!
Oh, gyms… how I have missed thee. The first gym in Pokémon Black/White is in Sanyou City. It’s an introductory gym, so the puzzle — if you could call it that –- that you need to solve before entering isn’t very hard. The gym battle itself, however, is another matter.
There are three different gym leaders in the Sanyou gym; the one who challenges you is the one that has an advantage over your starter.
For example, if you start with Mijumaru (the water otter Pokémon), you get to fight the gym leader with the grass monkey, Yanapp. With my own team around level 5 or so, I had a lot of trouble taking on the level 14 monkey. This is probably the hardest first gym I’ve faced in a Pokémon game.
Of course, Pokémon Black allows you a lifeline to fall back on, but you need to look for it. Once I’d explored a little, I found a monkey with an element type that was strong against the gym leader’s monkey I was going to fight (in short, your monkey can spank his monkey). Similarly, if the gym leader is going to use Yanapp, you’ll be given Baopp, the fire monkey.
Some of the wild Pokémon in Black/White are really tough in general. The Otamaro (tadpole Pokémon) have extremely high Special Attack and could easily decimate your team even if you’re at a higher level. The experience reward for taking them on really isn’t worth the hassle. On the other hand, Dageki and Nageki, both fighting Pokémon, are tough, but also give you generous amounts of EXP.
Overall, the Unova region’s Pokémon are definitely different from what I’m used to. My Minezumi learned Crunch, an 80-power move, at level 16. Fun to fight with, horrible to fight against.
Another feature new to Black/White is the darker grass, where there are higher-level Pokémon that either appear alone or in pairs. Yes, wild Pokémon can also appear in pairs. These made for great training grounds for an EXP-Share low-level Pokémon later on in the game.
In addition, there are times when the (normal) grass will rustle. These are rare encounters; the one that I found in the grass led me to the healing Pokémon, Dabunné, who gives extra EXP like Chansey did in the previous games.
During short expeditions in the caves, I’ve found overturned dirt that seems to serve that same purpose, although I’ve received both rare items and found rare Pokémon in it. I’ve also come spotted a small black lump appear in the water on occasion, which I couldn’t get to as I didn’t have Surf at the time.
Speaking of TMs, Pokémon Black/White make it so you can re-use them; a concept I’m very much in favor of. After the first gym battle, I got one for a move that would increase both Attack and Special Attack. Handy move, so you can imagine how I liberally spread the TM among my party. Oh, imagine the possibilities when you start getting TMs for Earthquake and Sludge Bomb…
Black/White also introduce changes to EXP distribution. At one point in a battle, I switched a Pokémon out and replaced it with a higher level one. After defeating the opponent, I realized that the lower-levelled Pokémon gained more EXP than the higher level one. This makes for some quick levelling later on, I’d imagine, but I can also see how it would backfire once you get to the higher levels.
Now that I’ve fought more battles, I find that I enjoy the tweaks made to the system immensely, thanks to some very convenient streamlining. If you press the A button during the battle, the dialogue actually moves along quicker. There’s no waiting at all. If you disable the animations, I’d imagine a fight would be over quickly. At times, the health bar doesn’t even gradually deplete like you’re used to… it just disappears. This is a very welcome change from the much slower-paced battles of past games in the series.
Another interesting addition that makes the game more convenient is what I call portable Pokémon Centers. These are nurses and doctors who, after you battle and win against them, heal your Pokémon if you talk to them at any time.
If you missed previous entries in our Pokémon Black/White Diary, you can catch up on them below: