Review – Pokemon Black Version 2

[Note: This is a sample review I wrote for Game Podunk, so if you think the formatting’s different from usual (or like my old review style!), now you know.]

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: October 7, 2012 (US)
ESRB: E
Pokemon Black Version 2 reviewed

For being the first Pokemon game to be a direct sequel, Pokemon Black 2 has a lot going for it. Black and White ended up being a breath of fresh air for the series, with some interface upgrades and removing earlier Pokemon from being caught until after the main story is beat. However, it did all that while still having that familiar Pokemon feel, with its mostly unchanged graphics and age old formula of ‘collect eight badges, traverse Victory Road, defeat the Champion, The End’.

So, how does Black 2 stand up to its predecessor? Will it rise to the top of the bunch, or fail and fall to the bottom of the mountain of Pokemon games?

Black 2’s story begins like any other: You’re an aspiring young trainer, about to set off on a journey away from home with your Pokemon to topple the Pokemon League and become the Champion… and maybe even save the world along the way. You’re quickly introduced to your spikey haired rival, who might have had a little too much sugar and holds a fire-y hate for Black/White’s Team Plasma. As Bianca, now Professor Juniper’s assistant, and Cheren, the first Gym Leader, show up you’ll learn a bit about what happened in the two year period between Black/White and its successor, but it’s nothing much that will deter those that haven’t played the first from playing the second.

In fact, it may be for that reason that the story of Black 2 seems a little disconnected from the original. There are plenty of cameos to be had, and without playing the first you might be confused about the ‘heroes’ and legendary Dragon Pokemon, but for the most part there isn’t anything story wise that may confuse those that haven’t finished Black/White’s story. It’s a little disappointing, since Black/White’s was honestly a huge step up for the series.

However, while Black 2 fails in the story, it succeeds in other aspects. Black 2 re-introduces earlier Pokemon into the wild, so you can catch your Growlithes and Marills on top of Unova’s offerings. While Black/White’s approach of ‘Unova Pokemon only’ was a great idea, it would be hard to pull off again, and seeing familiar Pokemon in the wild was welcome. The addition of Trainer animations is also nice, and more little upgrades make the Pokemon experience slightly more hassle-free (“Your Repel wore off! Would you like to use another?”)

Perhaps where Black 2 shines best is in all the extra stuff you can do. Musicals from the previous entry are back, as well as PokeStar Studios, essentially a scripted Pokemon battle which you do (and can alter) to create movies. It’s really a lot of fun and a nice distraction from the story. In addition, there is the Battle Subway (basically the Battle Tower) and the Pokemon World Tournament for your non-story battling needs. After you beat the main story, you can even download extra PWT matches, including bouts with previous generation Champions and Gym Leaders to keep things interesting. Finally, there’s Join Avenue, a place where you can have people you meet and NPCs build shops from anything like raffles to Pokemon training to item shops. The sheer amount of extras to play through, in addition to the usual ‘catch ’em all’ mentality will keep most fans busy until the next Pokemon entry.

Let me take a moment to admire the music in Black 2. There are tracks new and old in this sequel, and they all sound great. Black/White had a pretty good soundtrack in my opinion, and Black 2 does just as well… and maybe even sets the standard a little higher. There are some tracks that are directly from Black/White (namely town themes), some remixed tracks, and even some new songs added in, and they all sound great. Make sure to play this one with the headphones on, especially if you’re going off to battle Team Plasma!

So, what’s the verdict? Well, Black 2 is a Pokemon game, for better or for worse. There’s not much in the way of moving forward in the series aside small upgrades, and does nothing in shaking up the tried and true Pokemon formula. To the hordes of Pokemon fans, however, this entry is still a great continuation to a great series, and while there might be a few missteps, it’s hard to disagree. Here’s to another entry one of Nintendo’s most popular series!

Pros
+ Takes all of the improvements of Black/White and adds even more
+ New Trainer animations minimal, but good looking
+ Music is fantastic
+ All of the additional content adds some value and fun

Cons
– Doesn’t do well as a continuation of Black/White’s story
– Lack of new visuals and assets make a retread of Unova boring at points

Pokemon Black Version 2 might not be the end-all Pokemon entry, but it’s still a solid game that most fans will enjoy.

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