Review: Pokémon Black/White Version 2 for Nintendo DS
Pokémon has had a very specific, set formula for about a decade or so. Step 1: Release a smash-hit game with two versions to collect and trade between. Step 2: Later, release a third version in a new color with added tweaks and features which is compatible with the originals.
As the series grew, a third step was added: Go back and remake an older game in the series to the modern Pokémon game standard of the time. This would see releases such as FireRed and LeafGreen to the original Red and Blue (Japan got a third version, Green, the first time out, hence the change), and HeartGold and SoulSilver to the original Gold and Silver.
Following the release of Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version, fans of the series reasonably expected this to continue with a speculative Pokémon Grey Version. Instead, developer GameFreak took everyone by surprise when they pulled back the curtain on Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2— the first-ever direct numbered sequels in the mainline Pokémon series.
Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2 (henceforth known as PokémonBW2) is set two years after their predecessor, and takes place in the same region. However, quite a bit has happened in those two years, with new towns springing up where forest once existed, and familiar character taking on new roles.
As a result of this, you’ll find yourself treading some familiar ground, though there are new areas to explore. In fact, you begin in a different town, where you’ll run across one of the original rivals/buddies, Bianca, who helps you get started on your journey. Now working for Professor Juniper, she gives you your new Pokémon and trains you in the basics on-location.
Just as older characters are now in new roles, so too have some of the areas changed. Familiar locales may have new geography, different trainers waiting to ambush you while talking about shorts, and even different Pokémon in the wild. Simply put: What’s old is new again.
PokémonBW2 boasts the biggest roster of Pokémon yet, and unlike the original PokémonBW, you don’t have to conquer the new guys before being able to engage some of the classics. Instead, the old and the new mingle throughout, meaning that you can be reunited with an old favorite before long. What’s more, some which were absent from the last game have returned to the newly-opened areas.
That is, unless you choose to import your Pokémon from the first game, making things move that much more quickly.
The battles themselves, and much of the game, feel like what players have come to know and love over the years. You go around and use your Pokémon in a turn-based RPG style to challenge other trainers and capture new Pokémon in the wild, all while stopping a fiendish organization from doing unspeakable things to the world. In this case, a humiliated Team Plasma is up to their old tricks, though they don’t seem as well-organized this time out.
Even with so much familiar, there are new things to do and try as well. One of the more heavily promoted aspects seems to be PokéStar Studios, where you get to make your own movies. These basically play out as Pokémon battles cast against a green screen where you follow a script and can even choose dialogue at points. Once shooting wraps, it goes to post-production and they add in all sorts of cheesy effects and things, and then it’s off to the big screen.
Truth be told, though, I have mixed feelings on this part. You’re urged to follow the script closely and choose the best dialogue for the situation, but your costars don’t always follow the script. This can result in, for example, the villain winning and audiences tanking the film– and it has nothing to do with what you did.
Making the movies is kind of fun, but beyond that, your success is up to a dice roll of how cooperative your costars are. Then again, I guess that’s show business for you– there are probably plenty of actual movies which have gone the same way, so at least they get points for realism.
Those seeking out new challenges will find themselves with plenty to do. Right up front, you’re given a case for collecting medals, which are sort of an in-game Achievement and ranking system you can show off to friends. They can be earned from catching certain Pokémon or completing certain tasks, with the one you’re most proud of affixed to your Trainer card with your current rank.
Then there is the Pokémon World Tournament, where you pit your best against the best in the Pokémon world. Trainers from past installments are out in full force for an encore appearance, including the likes of Gym Leaders such as Brock and Misty and Champions such as Cynthia and Lance.
Still not enough? Then you might wish to check out the new Black Tower and White Treehollow, where you’ll have to test your skills against ten floors of random Trainers with random Pokémon on each as you attempt to find each level’s gatekeeper by following clues. Oh, and there are no healing items; instead, you must defeat certain trainers for the privilege of being healed on the way up.
Further challenges and rewards await those who download the supplemental Pokémon AR Searcher and Pokémon Dream Radar programs, as Pokémon found in those games can be imported for use in this game as well.
In terms of graphics and sound, the mainline Pokémon games have never been state-of-the-art, but they have nonetheless been solid offerings. While the pixel art might seem a little dated, they still retain a charm (though it would be nice if they smoothed out the close-ups during battles), and the backgrounds are quite lovely as well. And relatively few games can match the Pokémon series for catchy, memorable tunes, especially the battle themes.
Simply put: If you like Pokémon, and you really enjoyed the original Pokémon Black and White versions, then this game offers you more of what you love with some new twists. Some of the content may be recycled, true, but with the passage of time and new twists, that’s not the worst thing. Pokémon is a series which doesn’t fix what isn’t broken, but still manages to trick things out just a bit more each time, and PokémonBW2 continues in that tradition.
Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2 were released for the Nintendo DS for $34.99 each on October 7th, 2012. A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada. Pokémon White Version 2 was the version played for this review.