19
Oct
2012
Pokemon Black/White 2
Hardly a Sequel, Hardly a Bad Game
Jhaan
Developer: Game Freak

Did you know that Pokemon Black & White had a mature storyline? Neither did half of the fanbase playing it"¦and let's be honest, I'm rounding down and saying "half" of the fanbase to make myself feel better that I'm a 23 year old playing a 10 year old's game.

Regardless of embarrassment, Pokemon Black & White tried to recapture some of the magic of the original games. They did this by cutting out all 493 of the past Pokemon (at first), and replacing them w/ 151 entirely new ones. Gamefreak also paid homage to their fans from the beginning of Pokemon's inception by referencing Red/Blue and maturing the storyline to gel well with the old fan's current age. Gone was the "Mwahaha take over the world!!" plotline that drove villainous teams like Team Rocket. Instead, we were treated w/ Team Plasma, a group dedicated to the liberation of Pokemon from trainers, since uh, Pokemon is KIND OF gladiatorial slavery. Sure, in Team Plasma there was Ghetsis, who did have villainous intentions, but there was also N, a character who questioned the morality of trainers and challenged the player to really think: was what they were doing wrong? Should they REALLY want to be the very best, thus injuring and enslaving THOUSANDS of Pokemon along the way??

This thought left such an intriguing dilemma within the player that's never been experienced before in Pokemon. When you finally defeated N, you could legitimately argue that you were the villain in the videogame. "He wanted to save innocent creatures! And you're the dick that stopped him!!" This was incredibly exciting, because it looked like Gamefreak was finally setting up Pokemon to be a game that WOULDN'T be a total nightmare if you're over 10 and your friends discovered you playing it. It looked like the series was maturing.

And with the series first "true" sequel on the horizon, you'd think that mature tone would continue into further games. Sadly though, the "Mwahaha take over the world!!" villains are back, and the moral ambiguity of Pokemon is never touched upon in Black & White 2. In fact, Black & White 2 feels less like a sequel and more like an expansion, with hardly any new gameplay elements and the only thing really carrying over from the previous game's storyline being the characters reshuffled into new roles.

However, despite these disappointing developments, Pokemon Black & White 2 is a solid game that continues the series working formula while eliminating some of the kinks and annoyances in the previous games.

To start, all 9238745293a4675 Pokemon are available from the get-go (I think the actual number is 649). While running into entirely new Pokemon everywhere in Black & White was refreshing, it was great to see the occasional Psyduck or Rattata pop up in Black & White 2. And while the Rattata don't infest the entire world as it did in Red & Blue, seeing familiar faces pop up now and then strikes just the right amount of nostalgia.

Secondly, the game makes strides to appeal to all players. Areas have slight changes and Gyms feature different leaders and puzzles. There's now an "Easy Mode" for PokeScrubs and "Challenge Mode" for vets of the series. A new feature called "Memory Link" shows scenes from the previous game to clue in players who haven't played the original Black & White. Little changes to User Interface like a prompt asking if you'd like to use another Repel after it wears off are also welcome additions.

Finally, in what's perhaps the coolest addition to Black & White 2 (which harkens back to the overall storyline) is the Pokemon World Tournament, in which players face off against well-known trainers in a bracket-style event to determine who is the Pokemon World Champion. It's challenging, and the rules differ depending on what type of tourney you choose. But the real draw of this is that almost EVERY trainer from the entire series competes: you can face the very first gym leader in the entire Pokemon series, Brock, the villainous leader of Team Rocket, Giovanni, or the Pokemon Champion of the Sinnoh region, the sexy mistress Cynthia (yeah, I said it. She's sexy. Sue me). Each famous trainer even comes with their original battle themes remixed. It provides a real sense of a Pokemon world community, something other games only vaguely touch upon.

There's a couple of missteps for the game, like the Unova Link feature which tediously requires both versions of the game, or the lame PokeStars studio addition, which you can get all Michael Bay up in "˜dis biddy by placing your Pokemon in films (someone remind me to patent a Michael Bay live action Pokemon movie. Pikachu used EXPLOSION!!!!!!). These features serve as little more than meaningless fluff, and their resources could've easily gone to expanding other important assets of the game.

In short, while the story took a disappointing step backwards, Pokemon Black & White 2 is a good experience which still has that solid Pokemon gameplay that's been working for over a decade. If you can get over the lack of new content, and have enjoyed Pokemon games for the past few years, Black & White 2 is a must-have addition to your collection.

Grade: B

Stray Thoughts:

*This game is hardly a sequel. Most follow-up games of the same Pokemon region have a title that's a synonymous color or element (Pokemon Yellow followed Pokemon Red & Blue). So that being said"¦why wasn't this game called Pokemon Gray?

*There's a competitive Pokemon Online battling community called Smogon University that dissects the rather intricate battle strategies behind Pokemon. While it's cool to see Pokemon developing into a chess-like mind game, does anyone miss the good old days when all we had to remember was "Water beats Fire"?

*That World Tournament is kind of addicting. Now if Gamefreak was smart, they'd make the World Tournament feature a Wifi feature, and hold weekly/month Wifi Pokemon Tournaments among players. More online features, and a better interface for developing an online Pokemon playerbase is really the final frontier for the series

*Really disappointed in how Gamefreak handled N. The coolest character to come out of Pokemon since Gary Muthafuckin' Oak has been reduced to an ally trainer to the player who loves his Pokemon"¦just like every. Other. Character. In the series.

*PIKACHU USED EXPLOSION!!!!!


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