Pokémon Black Version 2 and White 2 Version Review (DS)
No more expansion pack, add-on, tweaked releases. Pokémon finally gets a true sequel in the form of Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2. It might be set in the same region but the game has an entirely new story and one that you’ll actually want to play through too. Exciting!
Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 is however, as dumb as it sounds a Pokémon game. You know the formula, you know how it goes and not too much is different here at the core. What’s changed though is everything around that core. As mentioned previously these games are sequels, usual the ‘third’ game in a generation (Crystal, Platinum) would be a simple retelling of what’s come before it with some new features. Now you’ve got a new story, with new locations and a new order to play through the game. It’s a Pokémon sequel and it works brilliantly.
So not only is the story in Pokémon Black Version 2and White Version 2 entirely brand new but it’s also more in-depth and involved – crazy talk, right? A Pokémon game with an intriguing plot. While you play as two new characters, some of the cast you will remember if you’ve played through Black and White before it. They do have some new roles however; as much has changed in two years since the last games. The gym leaders are refreshed and the gyms themselves have a whole new character, it’s no simple walk to the gym leader. Unova is fun to explore again for the second time and even if you haven’t visited previously.
The game starts off at a brisk pace too, there’s no walking back and forward between towns slowly getting the Pokédex, Pokéballs and shoes, most of it is given to you with minimal fuss, you can even avoid the NPC’s explaining everything to you about each of the items as well if you wish. This is a welcome addition for veterans, the start of any Pokémon back before this has been a real grind. You know how the game works, you want to get out and exploring right?
The overarching Pokémon structure is still all here, beat the gym leaders, get the badges, and defeat the Elite 4 and Champion. Battling, trading and exploring – the whole deal. The post-game content has also been improved, you actually have something to do after the game finishes. Something that hasn’t been down well since Pokémon Gold or Silver (and their remakes).
There’s also a ton of things to do away from the main storyline, the game is chock-a-block with things to do and weirdly they’re not all available from within the game world with most of them available outside the game in the main menu. It was a hard to find everything with all the side diversions split between the C-Gear, in game and main menu.
One of the big new ticket items, it’s even on the back of the box, are the PokéStar Studios. As the name suggests you’ll be creating Pokémon films through the magic of Pokémon battles, the better the battle goes the better the film you make. It’s not that simple but that’s how it feels like to me, later ‘levels’ require a bit more to it than simply battling well. It’s a little naff but if you play it right you can make some entertaining content, it’s no ‘movie maker’ though if that’s what you expecting. To be honest it felt a little shoe-horned into the story when it was introduced but it is something you can come back to if you really want to.
Pokémon World Tournaments are also new and allows you to battle teams of Pokémon from trainers of previous generations. No spoilers but some of the biggest names in Pokémon reside here and they’re back in all their glory. It’s a nice way to pump up your team however most of the trainers and tournaments don’t unlock you’ve beaten the game at least once.
Easily, the greatest additions are actually the smaller and more subtle ones. Join Avenue is a cool addition and actually grows and expands depending how many people you connect with. It’s a big empty lane to start with but share and play with people and you’ll find them opening stores offering unique items. The game has been given a pseudo achievement system in the form of medals. These medals are given out like candy but there are hundreds of them from the mundane like riding a bike to completing relevant milestones in the story.
The Unova Link is a new feature that consists of three different types of links and connectivity. There’s the Memory Link for filling in the story between the two games depending on how you went in them. The Key Link unlocks difficulty levels for the game, a first for the Pokémon series. You’ll need to fulfill certain obligations to unlock these but others like the Black City Key or White City key can be unlocked from the get go.
The Habitat List is added to the Pokédex which shows you by route or city where to find Pokémon and what ones are there and which you have left to collect. It’ll make collection of all 301 Pokémon in the game oh so much easier and if you need a Pokémon of a certain type to build your team it’ll make things much easier. It’s almost a play guide in the game.
The last link requires you to be playing on a Nintendo 3DS. It’s what allows you to connect to Pokémon Dream Radar. It’s not necessary to play these ‘Links’ or to play Pokémon Dream Radar but if you want some rare Pokémon or an easier way to fill your squad (especially at the start) then Dream Radar is for you. The game also contains all the feature Black and White introduced such as the Entralink, the Transceiver and the C-Gear.
Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 are not only packed with content they’re graphically polished as much as they could ever be. These are gorgeous looking games despite the low tech nature of the Nintendo DS. This ageing technology doesn’t matter too much as the art direction is just so charming.
The worlds look alive, bright and colourful and the sweeping vistas and open areas like upon the cruise ships show this engine off. Battles too are more visual with more frames of animation not only on Pokémon but also all the trainers now. They’ve even added frames to the trainers who had animation already so everything looks buttery smooth.
Sonically speaking, the game is great, the soundtrack is quintessentially Pokémon but at the same time they’ve remixed and tweaked each track and I found myself rocking my body in time with the music at key moments. A lot of the tracks are similar to what’s in Black and White but there is a lot of new content. The aging Pokémon chirps remain, but I don’t think we’ll see any change on them anytime soon.
Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 use everything the DS has to offer. The games huge, it looks charming, sounds charming and uses all the other periphery technology in the DS and then some. The in-built infrared is back, the game can remain connected to the internet and local wireless at all times thanks to the C-Gear and there’s even video chat on the DSiWare and 3DS included (again). There’s not a part of the DS hardware that goes unused.
Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 are possibly the best games on the Nintendo DS, which isn’t surprising as its one of the last great games. Sure we’ll get a few movie ties in games for the next year but this is it from Nintendo. However we can’t ignore that despite this game being great for the Nintendo DS when the time comes around for another Pokémon game in a couple of years on the 3DS they’ll have to make some big changes. Game Freak will have to impress us again next time around, because for everything new that added here there’s an equal amount of things that haven’t changed.