Developer: Game Freak / Publisher: Nintendo /Played On: DS / Price: $34.99 / ESRB: Everyone
It’s taken 14 years for Nintendo to release a legitimate sequel to the popular Pokemon franchise, but the wait is finally over as Pokemon Black and White Versions 2 are upon us. Rather than release the now standard special edition of the current generation of Pokemon (i.e. Pokemon Platinum being released after Diamond and Pearl), Black 2 and White 2 act as both remake and successor to 2009’s Pokemon Black and White. Catching Pokemon is as fun as ever, but the series is really starting to show its age.
Pokemon Black 2 and White 2’s plot takes place two years after the events of the first Black and White. The land of Unova has moved on quite well from the threatening danger imposed by the dastardly Team Plasma and their leader N, but wouldn’t you know it, those bad guys are up to no good again. They’re still talking about liberating Pokemon from trainers, even after their first attempt at this fell way short, but you’ve got to give them credit for their dedication.
As this game takes place in the same land as the previous games, you’ll run across many familiar faces and places, including your old rival Cheren (who’s been moving on up in life the past two years, as he now runs his very own gym) and the sprawling city of Castelia. Even with the new elements added to the mix, Black 2/White 2 feel very dated. The games follow the exact same formula they’ve followed for years now, and while that isn’t particularly a bad thing as it has been the groundwork for this hugely successful series, getting the feeling of “Been there, done that” happens far too frequently.
Exploring new areas, finding new Pokemon, battling trainer after trainer, and becoming the champion of the region is starting to feel stale so many years after we first did this on the original Game Boy. The fact that this game serves as a sequel to the previous games’ story doesn’t help either, because the joys of exploring a brand new region, and more so discovering brand new Pokemon (of which there are two), are taken away. Though the Pokemon series was never known for any sort of grand narrative, having a plot this thin will leave fans craving a lot more.
The fundamentals of Pokemon have not changed from the original Game Boy games: You are given a pocket sized monster to be your companion and are tasked with not only becoming the greatest Pokemon trainer in the land, but also collecting each and every Pokemon you can find and completing the encyclopedia-like Pokedex. Black 2/White 2 follow the same premise. Wandering through the tall grass, finding a new Pokemon to weaken and catch and further strengthening your team is as fun here as it has ever been thanks to the tried-and-true formula the game has become known for. The rock-paper-scissors elemental attacks each Pokemon uses gives each battle a good amount of strategy, and deciding which stat boosting or health rejuvenating item to give each Pokemon to hold gives an added layer of depth to gameplay. Overall, if you’ve played any past game in the series, and especially if you’ve played Black/White, you’ll feel right at home.
A handful of changes and additions help make this game stand out from its predecessor, albeit in very miniscule ways. The Pokemon World Tournament lets you battle gym leaders and Pokemon Champions from every past game in the series, stretching all the way back to the gym leaders and Elite Four from the original Red/Blue games. Though it’s almost entirely fan service, it is exciting to see trainers from years past make a collective appearance in one game. The Pokestar Studio is a film studio that lets you participate in and create films starring your Pokemon. By syncing the game with your Black or White save data you unlock special flashbacks and dialogue options with characters that appear in both games. Synching the games gives you a better sense of the story but isn’t necessary to understand the plot and only comes as an added bonus and not anything particularly significant. By doing this you can also import your Pokemon team from the original Black/White, thus allowing you to further develop and hone your team’s skills.
As with other games in the series, after completing the main story and progressing through the region, you unlock a handful of new zones to explore as well as the National Pokedex, which allows you to catch Pokemon from past games in this game. The new features are nice extras to the overall game, but don’t add anything significant to the series and come off as mere diversions instead of game changing additions. The game feels too similar to Black/White; running through the same areas and fighting in some of the exact same gyms as the past game are too new to be nostalgic and feel lazy on the developers’ part. Like I said before, the game is starting to feel old in its ways as there is nothing new or noteworthy distinguishing this game from past games beside aesthetic changes and minor tweaks.
Training your team and battling friends is arguably the best aspect of any Pokemon game and Black 2/White 2 have taken strides in the right direction in terms of multiplayer. The C-Gear makes a return (with a sleek new redesigned interface), serving as your connection to wireless and Wi-Fi Pokemon battles. With a friend in the room, linking up and battling is as simple as saving the game and turning on wireless communications and starting up a battle. Playing other trainers via Wi-Fi, however, is a bit more tedious.
To play online you have to follow the same instructions as the past game, meaning you’ll need to register your game save online, add friend codes if you want to battle actual friends online, and jump through more hoops than necessary to simply challenge another player around the world. Though it’s time consuming, playing online is still a fun alternative to simply training your team, as you will find the greatest challengers online. And as with every game in the series, you’ll have to trade Pokemon between the two versions of the game in order to catch ‘em all. The multiplayer portions of the game have remained largely untouched, which isn’t all that bad because the past game got them down very well.
Visuals and Sound
Besides a few tweaks here and there, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 look and sound like Black and White. The sequel does feature some notable enhancements, such as fully animated sprites for each trainer you come across, meaning every Youngster and Pokemon Ranger you fight will move and do a small gesture at the beginning and end of each battle. I know, it’s sad when that is something notable for the series.
The game’s soundtrack is largely made up of remixed tunes from the past games. That being said, I still feel the goose bumps on my neck as the intense music plays during the final battles with the Elite Four, or when you catch each and every new Pokemon. Each new generation of Pokemon usually bring a handful of new changes to the table, but Black 2/White 2 don’t offer much that hasn’t already been experienced two short years ago.
There is nothing wrong with the Pokemon formula: catching wild creatures, improving your team, and becoming the strongest trainer in the land are just as fun and addictive as they were before. But with Pokemon Black 2 and White 2, the game is starting to feel stale. The Pokemon series has been living off its laurels for some time now, and the series is in need of change. For the Poke-Maniacs out there, these two games are easily the definitive versions of this generation, but only because they offer a few added side missions and graphical enhancements. For anyone that played and enjoyed the two games before, Black 2 and White 2 can be skipped without question.
6.5 / 10