Nintendo DS

Pokémon Black/White Diary Entry 5: Winter Sets In


Welcome to Diary Entry 5 of our in-depth coverage of Pokémon Black/White (Japanese version). 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 them!


Five gyms down, and we’re finally at Fukiyose, which is, first and foremost, home to the Move Deleter and Relearner, both under a single roof.


The Relearner still uses Heart Scales, which are still as rare as ever in Pokémon Black/White. I’ve found a few thus far in the game, but I’m not sure if there’s a reliable way to consistently acquire them just yet.


Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do in the city yet, since the Gym Leader’s busy, so off to the next route it is. There are some funny little ledges scattered over the grass, which you can walk or even run over, but if you stay still for too long you’ll fall right off. Their primary purpose is to allow you to avoid battles in the grass, but at this point the wild Pokémon are only one or two levels lower than the trainers’, so the EXP is worth making the effort for.


Further up north is the Tower of Heaven, which is kind of like the Pokémon Graveyard in Lavender Town way back when. There’re lots and lots of trainers with a fondness for (surprise, surprise) Ghost and Psychic Pokémon, so everyone on my team with Dark attacks had a blast leveling up. Once you reach the top and meet the Gym Leader there, away it is again and down to the gym.


The sixth gym is a fun area designed with cannons and acrobat rings. Naturally, you use these to launch yourself to the Gym Leader. It’s hard to predict exactly where you have to go, but the cannons are pretty versatile. I love that the way you approach a cannon determines which way you go flying, and…well, it should probably be obvious by now that I love the gym designs in Pokémon Black/White in general.


This was the first gym I found myself stuck in for a bit, but that was righted quickly by some creative cannon-work.  There isn’t much to say about the gym battle itself, though, since a Flying-type gym is no news by now. There’s lots of trainers in here — six, in fact, which is more than many other gyms previously encountered in the series. Plenty of time to raise your team to a good level and maybe even over-level for the Leader again.


After winning the badge, it’s back to the route and then off to the other branch in the fork, leading to Neji Yama (Spiral Mountain). After a battle with Cheren (and here I was hopeful we could skip it, since N had just wanted to talk the last time I saw him…), the Gym Leader gives me Surf without further ado. Cheren’s a bit naïve in an aggressive way, contemplating what exactly it means to be a “strong Pokémon trainer” and being angry that I keep on defeating him. Poor guy. I’m not sure whether I prefer his role in the game to Belle’s role, though, since she’s just as hesitant.


Once you’re in the mountain, you’ll find an investment in Max Repels to pay off. The inner maze is huge and mind-boggling, so the high encounter rate is likely to drive anyone crazy. Twenty or so of those lovely items should help greatly. The Doctor, who is located smack-dab in the middle of the mountain is helpful too, considering the number of trainers running amuck. There were some items that were irritatingly out of reach, even though they made me run through the mountain again and again for fear of having missed a route, but to no avail.


It turns out that once it’s winter, a huge part of the maze is just skipped over and the items become reachable due to the huge snow banks. This was the first area, I think, where there was a huge effect caused by the weather to the actual environment.


Traverse Neji Yama successfully, and you’ll find yourself at Sekka City. Out of all the cities, Sekka is the most rural thus far. Actually, it’s not much of a city so much as a few buildings located over some marsh puddles over the ground that have wild Pokémon in them if isn’t winter. Sekka really drives home the sensation that each locale in Black/White has its own unique personality, which really helps give the places you travel to a more interesting feel.


It wasn’t quite as obvious in previous games since the various towns were mostly just different arrangements of buildings and trees, sometimes with a ledge placed here or there. However, Sekka is a marshy, wet area with few houses and heavy winters, and there are always four people dancing outside of the gym, as though to celebrate something.


Again, the area changes heavily in the winter. There’s a ledge up to the north that is now reachable with the newly-formed snow bank, and the entire area is filled with slippery ice now that the wild Pokémon have vacated. The entire area is also covered in a film of fluttering snowflakes.


The Gym seems to celebrate the winter spirit as well, housing Ice Pokémon in abundance. The requires you to step on switches that pinball you across from on snowy platform to another in order to reach the Gym Leader. This is where I discovered another effect Pokémon Black/White had subtly had on me.


I didn’t really feel a connection with this Gym Leader. After thinking about it, I realized it was probably because hadn’t I fought him before his “event,” unlike the others, whom I’d met at least once before. It’s strange how I expect the Gym Leaders to be actively involved in story events now, whereas in previous games, they were just background noise.