It has been some time since Pokemon Black and White were released. Many gamers were expecting Nintendo to go the route of a third game that would be some color related to the original, ala gray. To the surprise of most, a direct sequel to the original two games were released for the Nintendo DS. The question is how does a Pokemon sequel shape up?
For those unfamiliar with the series, players capture, battle, level, and can trade their Pokemon in order to progress through the eight gyms in the game and ultimately become the Pokemon Champion. Pokemon all have a type (or two) that dictates their strengths and weaknesses against other Pokemon or varying types when battling it out. The core gameplay remains unchanged and players will find themselves walking through caves and grass to battle and catch wild Pokemon to build a team for victory.
Even though the formula for the game has not changed, each new version of Pokemon introduces new elements to the game that spice things up. Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 adds several new elements and tweaks that veterans of the series will approve of.
The game begins two years after the original games with players taking control of a new Pokemon trainer. Unova Region has changed quite a bit since the original games from the paths taken to the Pokemon that are present to the gyms and their leaders. Team Plasma has also returned but are much more diabolical this time around and are not dealing with the same moral questions that were presented in the first game. This time around the moral question asked is ‘can you accept or forgive someone despite their past deeds?’
The Memory Link feature, which allows gamers to transfer their information from Black and White over, allows gamers to view events that link this game with its predecessor and see what brought forth changes in many characters. With each move forward, Pokemon games are reaching a point that they are able to still follow their formula for the game but still tell a story with a strong theme.
In terms of graphics, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 have not changed in graphics and maintains the same visuals that were present in the game’s predecessor. This means that the landscapes are still 3D with 2D sprites and the flashy areas still have the flare and feel from the previous games. Battles are still 2D with animations with sprites that are not as sharp as those in the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl generation of games. The game sticks to the style setup in the original, which works well for the game, but makes you wonder how much better the game could have looked if on the more powerful 3DS.
The sound for the game remains the same and that is not a bad thing. Music is catchy and during important battles the music can get you into a battle with a gym leader that has only one Pokemon left to defeat. The sound effects maintain their simplicity and much more shouldn’t be expected since this is still a DS game and it gets the job done.
In regards to gameplay, the most impressive thing that many veterans will notice at the start of the game is the large variety of Pokemon that can be caught by players early on in the game. I found myself with a team of various types that would match something I would end up building through out the game before reaching the Elite Four.
Speaking of catching, the game has introduced a new capture ability called Critical Capture. Critical Capture allows those that catch many Pokemon have the opportunity of not having to wait for a Pokeball to shake three times but to capture the Pokemon with only one shake.
Several new side activities have been added to go alongside the beauty contests introduced in previous Pokemon games. My personal favorite is Pokestar Studios that gives games a chance to act out in short films featuring Pokemon that can either be provided or are part of the player’s party. Players will have access to the Pokemon World Tournament that has players taking on trainers from previous games and allows DLC trainers to be accessed to battle against such as real life World Champions.
Another activity added is Join Avenue that allows NPCs passing through to be talked to and allowed residency for a corner of Unova customized by players. This area did not captivate me as much as Pokestar Studios but it was still interesting knowing that there is an area that features shops and NPCs that can be tweaked based on a player’s desire.
The main focus of the game is traveling from Gym to Gym challenging its leader to obtain a badge and get a total of eight badges to challenge the Elite Four. Many Gym leaders from the previous two games reappear as Gym Leaders but there are a few new additions to the bunch to spice things up for veterans of the previous titles. Returning Gyms have been tweaked to give them a fresh feel and it works in making it not seem like old ground is being retread.
Pokemon is a game that focuses on old fashioned turn based RPG battling. The variety of Pokemon types and team combinations lead to unique tactics for each battle and this doesn’t even cover Rotation and Two on Two/Three on Three Battles. Rotation battles allow quick swapping between three Pokemon in a battle until all Pokemon for either trainer is defeated. Two on Two/Three on Three Battles play out similar to battling in RPGs that feature party battling but allows for unique combinations and use of offensive abilities to boost a teammate.
There are areas for those interested in testing their battle capabilities to their fullest. The Battle Subway returns and has players facing off against trainer after trainer on several subway lines to earn points to buy items and prizes. A new addition is the Pokemon World Tournament that allows trainers from past games to be challenged to battle and points can be earned to acquire prizes here as well.
For those into collecting Pokemon, all the trading and multiplayer options from the previous games are still there. Those wanting to trade locally have access to the Union Room that allows gamers near by to hang out, battle, and trade Pokemon. Players can also exchange friend codes to connect online with their friends to battle and trade as well. The Global Trade is still in the game as well that allows players to search for Pokemon they may want or put up some of their Pokemon for trade on the net for any player around the world.
Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 are games that stick close to their formula and tradition of the franchise while providing tons of new content to keep all players occupied. While games may not feature a story that would win a writing award, Black 2 and White 2 tell a tale that can resonate with everyone through its simplicity and underlying themes. The graphics could have seen a boost had the game been released on the Nintendo 3DS but the tried and true gameplay, new features, and overall entertainment provided make up for the minor weaknesses.
Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 brings something for everyone to enjoy, be it new player to the series or a franchise veteran that has been playing since Pokemon Red and Blue on the GameBoy. Those looking for a portable RPG to play on the go will not want to miss these games and the hours upon hours of content to enjoy.
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