Pokemon Black and White Version 2 Review
Any review of a third Pokemon sequel is going to boil down to a list of new features, so maybe it's a shame Black and White 2's list is a little too short.
If I was lazy enough to write one-word reviews, I would probably have an easy time with the Pokémon franchise. Although I’ve never disliked a main series Pokémon game, the games are very iterative; they build on the previous installments in very shallow ways, but when you consider that every Pokémon game has a very solid core, that’s not really a problem. Such is the case with Pokémon Black/White Version 2. I mean, they couldn’t even come up with a different color!
Unlike the previous same-generation sequels (Crystal, Emerald, ect.), where the story was basically the same thing, Black and White’s story is a direct sequel to its predecessor. You play as a new trainer that, much like every other male playable character, is named ‘Mike’, curiously enough…at least in my playthrough.
Said trainer runs into a team of impressionable people led by an oddly charismatic fashion nightmare who wants to harness a super-powerful Pokémon. Along the way, he/she uses his/her mini-army to steal baubles from people in very elaborate houses. Yes, the exact plot from every main Pokémon game is back, down to the letter. Except you get the Master Ball earlier, and it’s easier to get a second one.
Also returning (in more ways than one) is the same team of impressionable people, Team Plasma. Their goal of freeing all the Pokémon hasn’t changed, but the way the game handles them has. Every NPC in the game constantly talks about how great Pokémon are in order to keep players from thinking about whether Team Plasma has a legitimate point, and the Plasma Grunts are far more obvious about how they treat the Pokémon they battle with. It’s a shame, because the game actually has the smartest dialogue I’ve ever seen out of this franchise. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean the dialogue is actually ‘smart’, though. When compared to other mainstream games, it’s ‘stock’ at best.
The battle system is exactly the same, and there isn’t a single new Pokémon to be found. Many of those really cool scripted moments from the first Black/White that showed off what the DS could do when pushed to its limits are back. The gym leaders are mostly the same, and the cities/towns are also unchanged. So there’s a lot of the same old stuff, and said old stuff is still pretty fantastic, but there’s got to be something to justify the new price, right?
Kind of. Your starting area is different, and there are a few new areas to discover. Instead of focusing on Triple or Rotation Battles, depending on which version you got, there are a fair amount of both. You can get a greater variety of Pokémon earlier, which allowed me to basically start with a well-rounded team. And the Gym puzzles are new, with varied results.
As for post-game content, there’s a new mini-game mode called ‘Pokéstar Studios’, where you essentially make B-movies. After the first movie, there’s definitely a sense of diminishing returns on the whole thing. There’s also a World Tournament, which is essentially the Battle Tower but with gym leaders from previous regions. If you love the battle system as much as I do, and you have some nostalgia for the previous games, there’s definitely something here. And it’s just enough to keep the game in my 3DS, but only just.
However, there’s also a new Trophy/Achievement-esque system called ‘Medals’. You can earn most of them just by playing the game normally, but you’ll have to go wireless to get the rest. It’s certainly a neat addition, and might provide the extra incentive the rest of the post-game distractions lack.
If it seems like I’m just listing new features and other new things, it’s because that’s really all a Pokémon same-gen sequel boils down to. The core gameplay is terrifyingly addicting, and it’s an excuse to go out and buy a Pokémon game, which I’m always looking for. And it’s perfectly acceptable if you’re looking for a jumping-on point. But, on the other hand, I doubt you’ll find a more iterative game released this year. If you own last year’s game, then Pokémon Black/White Version 2 isn’t for you unless you’re a die-hard Pokéfan.
(Note: I know Lucy was supposed to do this review. Due to a scheduling conflict, I’m handling it instead. I played the Black version.- Mike)