A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version are nearly identical games with the exception of one exclusive character and one world-area in each. There is a morally challenging plot, in which one side argues that Pokemon monsters should be liberated from their human owners and the other argues that the creatures are better off and happier with their human friends. But most importantly, parents need to be aware that there is an online component to the game, which allows players to compete with random players (but without chatting with them). For those using a DSi, it also allows video chat among up to four people, though only with registered friends.
What's it about?
The plot to POKEMON BLACK VERSION (and POKEMON WHITE VERSION) is more morally ambiguous than most (in a thought-provoking way). This time, there's a group called Team Plasma that wants to liberate the Pokemon creatures from what they call human oppression. You play on the side of the Pokemon trainers, who believe in building loving relationships between humans and Pokemon creatures. But rather than simply state their case, Team Plasma starts using dirty tactics to “win” people's Pokemon away from them. In addition to the long story mode, kids can play online battles, chat with registered friends, and trade Pokemon with online friends.
Is it any good?
Pokemon Black Version/White Version is possibly the deepest, most feature-filled Pokemon game to date. In addition to its intriguing storyline, it also introduces changing seasons (with different monsters that appear in each), three-way battles, and a slew of modes for online or wireless multiplayer action. There are over 150 never-before-seen Pokemon in the game, and those new species are the only ones you'll encounter until you've finished the main story – making Black/White much more appealing to veterans of the Pokemon franchise. But you can also download your Pokemon from previous games into Black or White. And newcomers can easily slide into the game with nice clear tutorials that are neatly inserted into the story. This newest Pokemon is not just a retread, but a nice build upon the series.
Online interaction: While kids don't need to play this game online, there is a heavy online component offered. Players can battle against online friends, or, for the first time, random players from around the world. If they have a DSi with a camera, they can engage in video chat as well, though only with registered friends. Still, Common Sense Media recommends caution for any game involving live chat. Kids can connect wirelessly to trade Pokemon, and they can also enter an online Dreamworld to play special mini-games and meet (and copy the save files of) other players’ Pokemon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the issues brought up in the game’s storyline. Even if you agree with the animal-liberation goal of Team Plasma, do you agree with their tactics? In what ways can a person support a good cause in a bad way? What do you think would be better ways for Team Plasma to go about its mission?
Parents can also use this game as a entry point for talking about online safety. Who should and should not qualify as a person you would register as an online “friend?” What are the possible problems with live chat, especially video chat? How can kids safeguard themselves against these problems?
For kids who love adventure and fantasy in their games
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.