They’ve been out in Japan for a few months, but Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 have finally appeared in North America. The first ever pair of Poke-sequels have been waited upon with bated breath, but do the games change up enough to warrant that ‘2‘ at the end of their title?
For the most part, yes, they manage to provide fans with more content and features than their predecessors, but there’s still a little bit too much deja vu experienced within the titles to call them true follow ups.
Anyone who’s already familiar with the Pokemon formula probably didn’t expect it to change, and it’s safe to say that Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 stay true to the series’ roots. Trainers will start their journey in a small town with either a Fire, Water, or Grass type pocket monster, and they then set off on a journey to become the greatest Pokemon Master of all time. Anyone who’s played a game in the franchise should be familiar with this plot, and the turn-based RPG gameplay that fills it.
Despite the fact that the events in these games once again take place in the same region as Pokemon Black and White, there have been some serious changes to Unova since players last visited. Two years have gone by since the events in the original games, and in that time new towns and old Pokemon have begun to appear across the region. Gyms have also been given a complete overhaul, and look completely different than they did in the past. Three new gym leaders are present throughout both versions, and the other gym leaders that trainers faced off against in the originals have been given an entirely new gym and a different team of monsters — the latter of which comes courtesy of the updated Pokedex.
Fans who were disappointed by the fact that only 5th generation Pokemon could be captured in Black/White, until the main story was completed, will be happy to know that numerous creatures from the past four generations can be found running about Unova during their second visit. Anything from Growlithe and Riolu to Trapinch and Mareep can be added to a player’s team during the main story, and there are more options than ever before when it comes to constructing the quintessential dream team. Having so many new creatures inhabiting the place does a great job at making the experience feel fresh, albeit overly familiar.
While a number of old Pokemon help to make the setting feel new again, the developers at Game Freak have also been busy adding a number of news features that act as a great distraction from the standard badge collecting quests. The most significant addition that long-time fans of the series will love is the new Pokemon World Tournament, which pits players against well-known Pokemon trainers from throughout the franchise’s illustrious history. Brock, Misty, Blue, and Giovanni are but a few of the recognizable characters that can be battled, and even more well-known trainers will be added via Nintendo Wi-Fi connection in the coming months — the top players from the recent Pokemon World Championships included.
PokeStar Studios is another new outlet that gamers can dedicate time to in Pokemon Black 2 and White 2, and it’s a fun feature that’s comparable to the Pokemon Musical that was introduced in the original Black and White. Trainers act out scenes of a movie with a Pokemon they’ve selected, and they’re instructed to follow a script as best they can. After players have finished a scene, it’s shown to a test audience to gauge the reaction. The Hollywood-inspired PokeStar Studios is a fun little distraction from the core experience, and it’ll give fame-hungry gamers something to do when they get bored of trying to catch ‘em all.
If that weren’t already enough, then hardcore players may be happy to know that items called ‘Keys’ can be unlocked – which can either increase or decrease the difficulty of the game. Defeating the Pokemon League Champion in Black 2 will give players the ‘Challenge Mode’ key, while completing the same task in White 2 will give them ‘Easy Mode’ key. Each key can then be transferred to other copies of the game, allowing those just beginning their journey to start at a harder or easier difficulty. This feature benefits newcomers and veterans to the series alike, and it’s the perfect solution for anyone who thought the Pokemon games were too intimidating for younger players or too easy for experienced ones.
Anyone who enjoys the thrill of collecting achievements/trophies can now find added benefit in playing a Pokemon title. Game Freak has added a new item called the Medal Box, and it will store medals that players earn throughout their time spent in Pokemon Black 2/White 2. As players earn more medals, they’ll unlock hints as to what tasks they must accomplish in order to unlock more, and this trend follows for quite some time. This new feature provides completionists with even more things to do, and it’s easy to see how a legitimate achievements system would work in future Pocket Monster titles — that is, if Nintendo were to add that functionality to the 3DS.
Despite being a DS game, B2 and W2 have some of the best multiplayer options out of any portable title ever conceived. Whether you’re in the same room with friends, walking by strangers on the street, or using the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, there’s no excuse to not interact with other players. Players can still hook up with friends in the same room and trade/battle them, or exchange Friend Codes and do the same from each other’s respective homes. The Global Trade Service is also alive and well this time around, but there’s one new addition in particular that fans will enjoy. A new area called ‘Join Avenue’ uses a StreetPass-like function to add other players to your game, and they’ll in turn open up shops or give business to the stores that have already been opened. Pokemon has never felt this connected to the world surrounding it, and the level of player interaction is admirable when compared to past installments.
There’s no question that Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 provide gamers with the most complete Pokemon title yet, but the few updates it has received just don’t feel as substantial as the ones that a brand new version would incorporate. There’s just too much of the same thing for these games to feel like anything more than an upgraded version of Black and White; fortunately, those were both great games, so fans should be far from disappointed. At this point, gamers should know whether or not they like the rock-paper-scissors gameplay that makes the series so accessible to a wide array of age groups, and these games won’t change the minds of those that didn’t already like the franchise to begin with.
Now that the Nintendo 3DS has finally begun to find its legs amongst the masses, the first set of Pokemon games that arrive on the portable should mix things up significantly, and they’ll provide fans with a wider array of new features, upgraded visuals, and more. In the meantime, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 will act as a great distraction though, and anyone who opted out of the last pair of games will be pleasantly surprised by how far the series has come.
Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon White 2 are available right now for the Nintendo DS.
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