The original Pokemon Black and White promised to revitalize the series. It featured an entirely new area with a complete set of new Pokemon for the first time. Many new features were added, but more importantly, many ageing features were axed.
While both Black and White were considered a step in the right direction, many were still skeptical if the popular role-playing game was fresh enough to be worth a non-Pokefreak’s time.
The question now is whether or not the series’ first ever direct sequel, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2, is worth a casual Pokemon fan’s time. Because let’s be honest, if you’re a hardcore Pokemon fan like myself, you already plan on getting one or both versions.
The short answer is sure—it’s a well-made RPG. The long answer—well, read on.
Story-wise, Black 2 and White 2 pick up two years after the events of their predecessor and cast players as a new preteen boy or girl to become the very best. The vast majority of the Pokemon Black and White cast return, and that’s wonderful. Black and White had some of the best developed characters in a Pokemon game yet, and it’s interesting to see how their lives have changed.
The main Pokemon games have followed the same pattern: release two color themed versions (i.e. Red and Blue), and then follow up with a “director’s cut” of sorts that has a bit of extra content and features (Yellow). Lucky for us, GameFreak opted for throwing in a wealth of new characters, story and a new plot this time around.
Not only are these new areas great—I’m a fan of the Hawaii-like Humilau city—but the returning cities are remixed as well; the ruins north of Castelia city differ depending on the version, and beneath the massive city are now accessible sewers. The gyms are also much more epic in scope. Elesa’s roller-coaster ride, for example, has been replaced with an epic fashion show. Never has a follow up Pokemon title felt so different and improved upon.
The story lacks the same freshness the first Black and White had, however, and that is to be expected. N’s quest to relinquish Pokemon from their trainers’ confining PokeBalls—although misguided—was perhaps the best storyline in any Pokemon media to date. Black 2 and White 2 feature what is essentially an epilogue to the original game.
Much like in Pokemon Gold and Silver, the player is tasked with simply dealing with the remnants of a criminal organization and collecting badges. Sound familiar? It’s getting stale, even for a Pokemon fan such as myself, and tying a nice bow-tie onto the Black and White story doesn’t much help.
What makes or breaks a Pokemon game for many fans—and why I personally cannot stand Generation IV—is the cast of creatures. The Unova 155 return along with another 150 or so from previous generations, thus creating the largest amount of Pokemon available to date. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable features of Black 2 and White 2 stems from stumbling upon some old series favorites like Growlithe and Skarmory, and the sheer amount of Pokemon available make replaying through the game with different teams a very appealing—and viable—idea.
The battle system is much the same as ever, virtually unchanged from the original Black and White, and, let’s be honest, the original Red and Blue. Rotation battles and triple battles are more prevalent in Black 2 and White 2, which allows for some more diversity. The Pokemon World Tournament is also a wonderful addition that can soak up many hours of game time, battling gym leaders from previous generations. All told, the original Pokemon battling is still as enjoyable as ever.
I have always wished for difficulty options in a Pokemon game, and GameFreak has finally delivered. However, they have done so in an annoying and backwards way. If a player defeats the Elite four, they will receive a key to alter the difficultly level depending on the version.
However, if the player is to start a new game, they lose both these keys. Players will have to trade their keys to another player, restart, progress through the story and obtain the ability to connect to other Pokemon games, and have that player trade the keys to them. This subsequently makes it a pain in the ass to finally be able to play Pokemon on a harder difficulty without self imposed rules.
Black 2 and White 2 are an improvement on their previous iterations—albeit a small one. The games are much more like Darwin’s evolving finches and much less like Charmander evolving into Charizard. But that being said, if you’re not already worn out on Pokemon or a self-proclaimed Pokefreak, Black 2 and White 2 may just be an improvement enough to get you back into catching them all.