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Hey there! As usual, it’s been a long time (half a year, actually) since my last post. Over these six months I have been up to various things, moving workplaces, setting up a new blog, getting married, moving in together, settling in, as well as the usual playing games. In this post, I would like to give a review on the newly released game Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 for Nintendo DS.

I apologise for the delay on updating the review. This review is now finished.

Storyline

Instead of having an enhanced third version like they always had, Game Freak (that is, the developer of Pokémon games) decided to go for a sequel this time with Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, and try to incorporate the enhancements found in the so-called third versions in the sequel. This is an interesting take on a matured and already established franchise, and not to mention that it is a bit risky.

Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 takes place approximately 2 (two) years after the events of the original Pokémon Black and White. Within this 2 years gap, a lot has changed in the Unova region, allowing more Pokémon from other regions (in case you forgot: Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh) to exist alongside the native Pokémon of the Unova region. As a result from this change, the Unova regional Pokédex is updated with up to 300 Pokémon data. In my opinion, it would be interesting to see the effect of this migration on the Unova region Pokémon ecosystem (since they were closed off from other regions in the first games), however I have yet to see anything except from a comment from Bianca regarding the addition of Pokémon.

One of the nice feature of the game, story-wise is the ability to perform memory link to the original games. Depending on your progress in the original games, you will get flashbacks regarding the events in Pokémon Black and White from different perspective. However, if you do not play the original games, Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 did a good job of filling the details in on what happened two years before the story.

Instead of having the antagonists say upfront what they wanted to do, like in the original games, the new Team Plasma now operates in secrecy, at least for the most part. Team Plasma itself is now separated into two factions, one who supported N and trying to atone for their crimes, and the other is the one who still carrying their plans to try to take over the world. There are probably few events where they clashed, but it is good and adds depth to the story. Finally a Pokémon game with some substance to the story.

However, there are also some bad points and shortfalls on the story when I finally finished the main campaign. Without giving too much detail (in respect of being spoiler-free), there are certain points in the game that you feel that the story could have been better, and suddenly it just doesn’t make sense at all, or very shallow. It’s quite annoying to see these story points (although only few of them) that could have been a good climax, but then it’s not actually a climax.

Because of the actually-could-have-been-better approach that the game has actually taken, I’d give it a 7 out of 10.  Don’t get me wrong, the story itself is pretty good in the first couple of hours playing the game, but the further you get into the game, that’s when the story fell short.

Gameplay

Aside from the change in the number of Pokémon available (and the version exclusives, of course), the game also brings new protagonists, as well new rivals. The new protagonists are not as silent as the first games’ protagonists (at the very least, they don’t look that silent and serious), and the new rival is a great addition, because finally you get a rival that helps you to become a better Pokémon trainer by actually supporting you instead of mocking you in a I-know-what-I’m-doing-and-you-don’t and I’m-so-much-better-than-you type of personality. I can’t comment on the antagonists part as I have yet to see them. The game also starts at a different city from the first games, allowing a change in the storyline, as well as introducing new cities, characters, landscape and the opportunity to explore!

The other change is that the game now starts in an entirely different city compared to the original games. This allows a separate, yet interconnected story with the original games, as well as new gyms instead of repurposing the old one with newer newer (like Juan taking Wallace’s gym). The existence of gyms other than the original 8 in a region has existed long in the anime, but it has only been confirmed, as far as I know, with this entry. Some of the cities accessible again in the games received an upgrade to show the progress that had been made during the two-year gap, although the “more natural” theme of White 2 and “more technological” theme of Black 2 can be seen, such as in Route 4.

Not much has changed in terms of the game mechanic, it is still the same-old Pokémon game mechanics, bringing the improvements from the original Black and White versions, while adding a couple of new features. One of the new features are the PokéStar Studios, an alternative to Musicals (which I don’t quite enjoy), in which you can play as an actor for the silver screen. You can go with either your own Pokémon, or a rented one. Using a rented one will automatically pairs you with the most suitable Pokémon, along with the most suitable moveset. Each movies has their own good, bad, and strange endings, depending on what lines and moves that you use, or whether you follow the script or not. The script itself gets trickier over time, since it’ll only give vague hints (such as “Swap items with your enemy”) later in the movie series. Of course, there will be fans rooting for you (and giving you items!).

Aside from PokéStar, there is also the Pokémon World Tournament, taking place in Driftveil City as a replacement for the Cold Storage. This tournament will feature trainers from all over the world, literally. You can download real-world trainers and teams used in real-world Pokémon tournaments. As of this writing, I believe you can get the winner of 2012 tournaments via Nintendo WFC. You can also battle previous gym leaders from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh, on top of Unova’s in the tournament. Be warned though, they are quite tough. This is a really nice addition, and will enable the game to keep the challenge fresh with every downloadable content.

Speaking of battles, there is a new area called Black Tower or Whitetree Hollow (in their respective games), which features a climb-to-the-top similar like Battle Tower, albeit with a slight twist of dungeon maze thrown in it.

Then there is also Join Avenue, in which you can recruit people to open shops. And these shops are quite useful, some featured Pokémon training, such as raising base stats (useful for EV training), or raising a level (I’ve tried to use this to evolve a Pokémon, sadly it didn’t work), other shops provide berries and mulches, or even raise the happiness of a Pokémon. As usual, these kind of shops only works once a day. You can also recruit any nearby players who is currently opening their C-Gear, provided you also open yours.

Black 2 and White 2 also bring a lot of post-game goodies into the mix. There is now a system called Unova Link, in which you can activate “keys” to alter the game experience. The Memory Link mentioned before is part of this Unova Link (and is probably the only one that can be activated before post-game).

There is also what is called as Key Link mode. One of the keys are the “Challenge Mode” key (available in Black 2) and “Easy Mode” key (available in White 2), which if activated, will alter the trainers in the game to have a higher level, or a lower level Pokémon, respectively (not too sure about the AI, but I’m going to assume that it is also altered slightly). Aside from Key Link, there is also Area Keys, which change Black City to White Forest and vice-versa, Ruins Key which made Regirock, Regice, and Registeel available, as well as 3DS Link to link to Dream Radar. You can transfer these keys to another gaming system, if you so desire (thus enabling White Forest in Black 2, for example).

Also, a welcome but not-so-useful addition is the game’s take on achievements, which is achieved (pun intended) through the medal collection. I personally don’t fancy easy achievements (“Starting a New Adventure”, really?), but I guess with all games basically just incorporating it, I don’t have much choice, do I?

For bringing new features, and making easy of some of the previous features (Black City and White Tree, I’m looking at you), I’d give an 8 out of 10.

Audio

GameFreak has done some pretty good job doing the remixes of the battle theme, particularly against gym leaders and Elite Four. One that stuck in my head was Elesa’s theme, Roxie’s band theme, and the new Champion’s theme. They’re cute, while prepping you up to battle them. You can try to YouTube them (apparently there are lots of them over there) and hear them out if you wish. However, just hearing the themes without actually seeing the setting (i.e. the gyms themselves) would just deter the experience, as the songs, I assume, were actually made to complement the gym.

Good job on this one, I’m giving it 8 out of 10.

Graphics

There is much to be ranted about the graphics on the original games, namely the pixelated look. Sadly, although the Pokémon animation is smoother (due to having more frames), it is still sporting the same pixelated look as the original games. Although I fully understand that this might be partially due to the resolution of the Nintendo DS (or 3DS, for that matter), I believe they can improve on this one.

On the positive side, though, there are moments (Elesa’s gym comes to mind, that gym experience is simply… unique, to say the least) that this game truly try to get your attention by showing good graphics, such as during the opening sequence view from Aspertia City. Can’t really blame them for trying. For this I would give 7 out of 10 (in respect of DS’s pixel and hardware limitation).

Final Words

Adding all the points up, it’ll be roughly 30 out of 40. In their own Black 2 and White 2 made for arguably the most complete Pokémon game experience that you will ever get in a handheld system. There are shortfalls, namely in graphics and disappointment tied to the storyline, but overall, it is a pretty good game, and good for killing time as well.

jovee~