I realized that I’ve reviewed all the main series Pokemon games here on the blog since Diamond and Pearl in 2006. So why break that tradition now? Let’s review the latest Pokemon games, Black 2 and White 2…
Just a heads up, as of now I’ve played through the main storyline of Black 2 (beaten the Elite Four and have explored most of the post-game Unova region). As with my anime reviews, my review here will be spoiler-filled.
Unlike previews generations of Pokemon games, Black 2 and White 2 are the first to be direct sequels to their predecessors, taking place two years after the storyline of Black and White. And as far as that storyline goes, while I don’t think it’s as good as its prequel, it’s still one of the better Pokemon games in terms of story (though my favorite is probably the story in Platinum). It continues the rather surprising theme from its prequel games of questioning the morality of the human-pokemon relationship in terms of battles and pokeballs, something that the animal rights group PETA suddenly decided to make a stink about (why they didn’t do that years ago when Pokemon was at the height of its popularity and the games and anime were actually more morally questionable than they are now, I don’t know). I already wrote about the whole Pokemon versus animal fighting thing, so no need to go into that here. But what made the story of the previous games so good for me was the focus on N and the mixed feelings he had about how to treat his Pokemon. Black 2 and White 2 carry on that theme, but N is a minor character this time and the main conflict of Team Plasma and Ghetsis trying to make a comeback only to be defeated again wasn’t that interesting. The side conflict of Hugh trying to get his sister’s Purrloin back was nice, but I felt it should have gotten a bit more screentime…actually I think I would have preferred backstory on how Iris became the Champion XD
However, what I especially liked about the storyline in Black 2 and White 2 is how it really feels like a sequel: it has enough novelty in terms of replacing some of the Unova gym leaders, but not all, and updating the look and maps of the gyms, cities, and routes, again not drastically but enough to feel like two years really have passed since the events of Black and White. You encounter most of the main characters from the previous games, including Bianca and Cheren, who have rightfully grown-up somewhat since the last games. Speaking of which, I also love how the dialogue of a lot of the NPCs reflects the events of the previous games. Actually, in general I love the dialogue that the Pokemon games give their NPCs, whether crucial to the game or not: there’s just a lot of great, uplifting moral messages to be found in the concise yet to-the-point dialogue and I personally try to read all the NPC comments I can in Pokemon games ;) In addition, if you use the games’ Memory Link feature to connect to a copy of Black or White, you can further the sequel feel by having the NPCs actually mention your character from Black or White by name and can trigger flashbacks from the previous storyline. The Memory Link also let’s you capture the pokemon N released in the previous games and you can battle with Bianca and Cheren. In short, Game Freak did a great job in making these games true sequels =)
In terms of graphics, Black 2 and White 2 are on par with their prequels with one slight upgrade – while it was a radical improvement in Black and White for the pokemon sprites to be constantly moving throughout battles, Black 2 and White 2 also has its trainer sprites move a bit at the beginning of battles. It’s nothing that makes a difference in gameplay, but in terms of aesthetics, its a nice upgrade. The 3D graphics seen in Black and White for the overworld bridge scenes and cutscenes all look just as impressive in these sequels. Unfortunately I don’t have a 3DS so I don’t know if there’s any graphical difference for the games to note on that.
When it comes to gameplay quality, Black 2 and White 2 have the same quality their prequels had to offer, with a few notable improvements. One thing is the fact that a lot of the NPC trainers you can battle use Triple and Rotation battles. While these types of battles were introduced in Black and White, they were barely seen in-game. That’s different with Black 2 and White 2 as a lot of the trainers engage your character in these battles and you never know which one will, that unpredictability making the battles more fun. Another thing is that the puzzles in all of the gyms were changed, and I enjoyed figuring them out once again. There’s also more Move Tutors in these games and it doesn’t seem as difficult the get the shards you need for the moves as in previous games. Oh, and the new breeding mechanics for passing on natures (guaranteed now if holding the Everstone) and abilities (higher chance if the mother has it) is just awesome~
For new features, there’s the Pokestar Studios side-game, but like the Pokemon Contests and Musicals of the past games, I don’t care to get into it. An interesting feature in Black 2 and White 2 is the ability to unlock a harder (Black 2) or easier (White 2) version of the game once you beat it, and you can then transfer those versions to other games. But since each game can only have one save file, I can’t imagine using it unless I want to restart my game (unlikely) or buy another game card. Personally I prefer a “normal” level of difficulty for my games, which the Pokemon games have always had for me ;) The Pokemon World Tournament is the big new feature in Black 2 and White 2, and from the little I’ve played of it so far, it seems like great fun. I look forward to downloading and unlocking all the different tournament cups =D There are a bunch of other new features too such as Medals, the Dream Radar (for the 3DS), Join Avenue, Hidden Grottos…some I could take and some I could leave =P
To conclude, Black 2 and White 2 are great sequels to Black and White. While I didn’t think the storyline was as good, is has plenty of new tweaks and features to make it a must-have for any Pokemon fan =)