Part II: The Chapters of Unova

For the anniversary of the release of Pokémon Black and White, we continue our tribute to the games. Part II focuses on the main storyline and its synthesis of narrative and gameplay.

A Marvelous Return

What more is there to say about Unova that doesn’t simply continue to reinforce its flawless hold on gameplay and narrative? The winding waterfalls of Route 14 continue the fantastic level design consistent throughout the region, hiding away the charming Abundant Shrine while more directly leading the way to the next settlement. Black Version players will find the futuristic Black City, while White Version players will instead enter the more untouched White Forest. This version difference continues pushing the themes of new and old, advancement and tradition, while also encouraging communication between players, further unifying them. Indeed, the population of this area will initially depend on how many days it took for the player to reach it, but can be increased through talking to other players’ inhabitants through Entralink play. The more people move in to the location, the more it grows: Black City gains more and larger skyscrapers while White Forest’s trees extend higher and ponds appear, reflecting how places expand and evolve with their population. There are also practical benefits to a well-populated area, including various wild Pokémon encounters in White Forest and evolution stones for purchase in Black City. The ability to visit the location you don’t have access to through Entralink, combined with additional goodies that are valuable but not game-defining makes Black City and White Forest not only wonderful additions to the Unova region for connectivity and theme-maintaining, but also genuinely meaningful version differences that the Pokémon series otherwise tends to lack.

To the west is Route 15, another mountainous path with an emphasis on verticality. At the very top is the Poké Transfer Lab, run by the appropriately named Professor Park, as this is the Unovan equivalent of Sinnoh’s Pal Park. As the new name implies, this is where players may transfer their Pokémon from previous games. After a quick minigame, players will find their Pokémon have permanently migrated from the fourth generation games into their copy of Black or White. Although the minigame can feel needlessly time-consuming, the lab’s post-game location helps enforce the main playthrough’s focus on all-new encounters. Limiting access to Pokémon transfer until the post-game helps the main game be more controlled and balanced, while still allowing players the option to bring over their old favorites for use in online play, the Battle Subway, Musicals, or to just keep moving them forward in the newest games.

Pressing forward is Marvelous Bridge, the most advanced bridge of the region, and a clever contrast from the more traditional Village Bridge that also rests in Unova’s eastern half. The bridge really lives up to its name, with high-tech lights of soothing blue pulsing through the walkway underfoot. Endlessly stretching waters below give the bridge a surreal appearance, almost as if you’re up in the sky.


But you’re immediately brought back down to earth when the Shadow Triad drops in and surrounds you. “Ghetsis is gone,” one of them says to you, confirming the sinking suspicion you likely had as you sought the rest of the remaining Team Plasma Sages at Looker’s request. “He went off somewhere alone after we rescued him from the castle.”

Another continues, “Also, Ghetsis said to give you this…” He approaches and gives you the Adamant Orb. “As well as this…” says another, stepping forward to give you the Lustrous Orb. “And this, also.” Now all three have you boxed in, having just bestowed upon you the Griseous Orb. They don’t back away, remaining unsettlingly close as they continue to speak, partly to you, partly just musing aloud, “Where did [Ghetsis] find these? What was he planning to do with them?”

After a frightening declaration of how “Ghetsis’s ambitions will never cease,” the Triad assure that you will never meet them again, and bid you a final farewell. With items pertaining to the Pokémon that control time, space, and antimatter itself now in your hands, you’re left to think on just how far Ghetsis’s reach really goes, and if this really will be the last we see of him.

The rest of your visit on the bridge is calm, including more helpful NPCs such a clever reference to the Magikarp scam artist from Kanto. This time around, he turns out to be beneficial as this is the only place players can find Magikarp at all in Unova, unlike Kanto where Magikarp infests every inch of its waters. At the end of the bridge is another one of its unique gates leading back to Route 16 and the Lostlorn Forest. Players may have already found their way into these locations earlier if they chose to explore east from Nimbasa the first time they were there. Regardless, this is where your remarkable journey comes back full circle.

Just as Nimbasa City is where Unova splits, it’s also where it converges back together. But there are still NPCs to find—even in the already-explored western half of the region—and likely still activities to partake in, such as completing your Pokédex or raising a team to use in the Battle Subway. There are even still more new locations open to you, such as visiting Anville Town or exploring the once-inaccessible depths of the Relic Castle. Each Gym Leader even has something new to say to you if you choose to visit them.

Even when the journey is over, it never really ends until you decide it has ended. And now you return to Nimbasa City, where your story really began rolling into motion, wiser and stronger than you’ve ever been before. The feeling is quite marvelous.