For almost a decade and a half, the gaming community has been obsessed with catching them all. Yes, those cute, trainable Pokemon, with their evolution cycles and amazing elemental combat abilities, have been around since 1998. Since then, we’ve received quite a few iterations of the now iconic formula, taking us to different digital regions where everyday people are obsessed with the wild, animal-like creatures, devoting tons of time and energy into training them.
This year, the venerable role-playing franchise is celebrating another milestone. For the first time ever, its lore is being expanded through the use of numbered sequels. Entitled Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2, the two similar titles continue the story of the large Unova region and its varied locations. In true sequel fashion, the brand new storyline takes place two years after Pokemon Black and White, but its focus is on a new hero, as opposed to the region’s first saviour.
Unsurprisingly, this brand new journey starts off like those before it: a young child is asked to explore his surroundings in an attempt to document all of the species of Pokemon who call it home. It’s an innocent quest, which quickly develops into a world-saving adventure, once it’s learned that Team Plasma has returned. If you’ve played Black or White, you’ll remember the evil sect and its love of Pokemon thievery. Even though its members tried to justify their deeds by saying that they were saving the creatures, they were doing more harm than good, and were being controlled by a rather heinous man.
These entries present a very similar storyline to that of their predecessors. The baddies have returned, and they’re up to no good once again. As a result, Unova is in danger, with the threat being much greater than before. That’s why, taking on the role of an unnamed hero, we’re the ones who must train elemental creatures to save the world from those who wish to cause it harm. In summary, it’s quite simple sounding, and the truth is that the storyline isn’t anything revolutionary. However, as it progresses, it becomes quite interesting, presenting a couple of neat twists.
Since the two sequels take place in the same region as their predecessors did, fans will visit quite a few familiar places. While the campaign begins in a brand new city, as opposed to a small town and, even though some of the region’s locations have changed a bit, there’s still a considerable amount deja-vu to be found within the adventure. It would’ve been nice if Game Freak’s development team had changed things up a bit more than they did, though some important things were addresed. First, creative gym designs and an assortment of new leaders were added in. Next, a new underwater tunnel was constructed, while both a movie studio and a World Tournament centre were included. Surely the first two mentioned changes will sound more noteworthy than the others, but it must be said that the World Tournament is a great addition. Conversely, the film studio and its movie creation opportunities ended up being quite underwhelming.
We were provided with a copy of Pokemon White Version 2 to review, so that’s the version which this article covers. It must be said that, while the mentioned shade’s landscape is similar to what is found in Pokemon Black Version 2, there are some notable differences, including the White Forest, which is not present within the other sequel. Going further, the games’ maps are filled with different species and varied legendaries, with the four seasons factoring into which types can be discovered. It’s rather standard fare, but the enthusiasts amongst us will need to play both sequels if they truly want to catch them all.
The method of capturing wild Pokemon hasn’t changed at all, and there wasn’t a need for it to do so. As a result, you’ll still be walking through tall grass and other unkept areas where the creatures inhabit, waiting for one to pop out and attack you. Once that occurs, a ball of some kind must be thrown in order to secure the beast, although trying to do so right away is usually ill advised. It’s best to fight your opponent until it’s close to being unconscious, as a dwindling health bar usually creates better odds.
Each creature has its own unique move set and elemental alignment – be it water, fire, electricity, rock or something else – all of which allow it to do turn-based battle against others. Gaining experience allows your party, which will most likely contain one gift Pokemon, to level up and earn new abilities, but that takes time and effort. Furthermore, treating your six equipped battle pets well will make them like you more, while giving them items to hold will boost their stats.
As per usual, all of the elemental alignments have understandable weaknesses, with a great example being fire and grass. In order to succeed, one must strategize by choosing the right Pokemon for each battle. If you’re taking on the water gym’s leader, then you certainly won’t want to go in with a party full of fire users. It’s common sense, but thinking ahead will lead to victory. Of course, that means you’ll have to do a lot of training, but using an experience share item helps to level up lower ranked party members, making it one of the most important items in the game.
Simply put, Pokemon White Version 2 doesn’t revolutionize the franchise. It plays like its peers, and is true to form. For that reason, those who’ve played any of the previous games will know what to expect, although they may get lost once or twice as a result of the odd vague objective. The familiarity factor is both a pro and a con in this case, because a lot of this sequel’s campaign is almost too similar to that of its predecessors. In fact, there were times where the issue became a bit frustrating, though things picked up during the latter half of the experience, and I became enthralled by what was going on at that time. However, with that being said, I hope that the next two entries in this beloved series will introduce revolutionary mechanics. Game Freak’s tried and true formula is still very solid, and it still allows for an amazing amount of replay value, but it’d be great if the developers could find a way to inject something fresh into the design.
While Game Freak did attempt to inject some replay value into this adventure by incorporating a brand new medallion system, it doesn’t really add much to the experience. Sure, being given metallic rewards for taking steps, completing battles and shopping at the Poke Mart is slightly rewarding, they’re nothing worth writing home about. It’s tough to become interested in collecting the awards when they’re ultimately meaningless in a just for show kind of way.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the next games incorporated the 3DS and its glasses-free 3D technology, as both Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2 do not. Instead of being developed for the much talked-about handheld, the sequels were made for Nintendo’s original Dual Screen and all of its variations. White 2 runs flawlessly on the 3DS, though, utilizing the system’s two screens to show off highly detailed character models and impressive-looking environments, which are complemented by quality sound effects and some half-decent chiptunes. The only problem I encountered regarded the bicycle, which I had registered. Pressing Y wouldn’t always bring it out, but that problem seemed to be more of a game glitch than a button issue. When the cartridge did decide to let me use the two-wheeled transportation device, I didn’t have any trouble removing it or equipping it again.
Now that I’ve played through Pokemon White Version 2 and have discussed all of its pros and cons, I find it quite easy to recommend the game. After all, it’s more of what Nintendo, Game Freak and the Pokemon Company have made famous: great gameplay and addictive collecting mechanics, not to mention almost unlimited replay value, which is enhanced by the inclusion of interesting post campaign content. Fans of the franchise will certainly appreciate this polished and immersive historical release, even if it is a bit too familiar.
This article is based on a copy of the game that we received for review purposes.