It’s rare to find a Nintendo franchise that hasn’t been around for ages nowadays and Pokemon is no exception. Back in 1996, the franchise took the world by storm with its addictive collect ‘em all gameplay with RPG elements. Sixteen years later, you could be forgiven for thinking that Pokemon would be on its last legs, yet the release of a sequel to last year’s Black and White versions suggests otherwise.
Black and White 2 are set two years after Black and White in the same region: Unova. While it’s not a necessity to have played the first games, players that have will appreciate the finer details in Black and White 2. A couple of recurring characters from Black and White reappear throughout and your player character from Black and White’s impact can still be felt two years later. However, calling Black and White 2 a true sequel (the first in the franchise’s history incidentally) seems odd. After the first two gyms, the game follows an almost exact path to the first games. While this is entirely normal for the third game in a Pokemon generation (see Yellow, Crystal, Emerald and Platinum), it can all feel a little too familiar.
Of course, this is an old problem with Pokemon. All five main series games follow the same linear pattern: travel the world, collect the eight badges and defeat the Elite Four to become Pokemon Champion. It’s a tried and tested formula but it’s also a little stale by now. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo try to combat this with the sixth generation of games. Still, Black and White 2 contain a few new devices to try and increase the longevity of the franchise further. Black and White introduced over 150 new Pokemon to the mix with none of the old favourites appearing until after you had finished the game’s story. In Black and White 2, every generation is thrown into the mix causing much excitement when you find a Psyduck on the second route of the game. It’s very refreshing to have a different selection of Pokemon to catch from the beginning of the game rather than the normal and flying types we’ve come to expect from the earlier routes.
There’s a couple of new distractions from the main story as well this time round such as the Pokestar Studios where you are tasked to star in movies alongside your Pokemon for general release. Each movie plays like a Pokemon battle with you having to follow a script of which moves to use and what to say. Of course, the fun comes from throwing this out of the window and saying or doing whatever you want and watching your virtual audience gasp in horror at your creation. Or you could create the movie to specifications and become the Poke Steven Spielberg. Each to their own I guess.
Of course, Pokestar Studios is just a fun diversion. Game Freak also listened to the hardcore fan-base and improved their end game options as well. After defeating the Elite Four in Black and White, you opened up a couple of new towns and not much else. Here, you unlock a lot more to see and do as well as opening access to the biggest selection of legendary Pokemon from any game including Latias, Latios and new versions of Kyurem. The most exciting addition however is the Pokemon World Tournament which replaces the Cold Storage facility in Driftveil City. Inside are a variety of tournaments to participate in with more set to come as downloadable content. The best part is that these tournaments feature characters from previous generations of games including old favourites Misty and Brock. It’s a neat throwback to the older games and gives the game an unexpected boost in lifespan. You’ll want to replay each tournament over and over again just to get a glimpse at your favourite Gym Leader’s team.
Whether you pick up Black and White 2 is up to how devoted to the franchise you are. Diehard fans will have already picked it up and will be EV training their tournament beating team as I write this. If you missed Black and White but are looking for a way back into the series, this is a great re-entry point. Haven’t touched a Pokemon game in your life? Well, you might as well jump on now, because Pokemon isn’t going to die out anytime soon.