Developer: Game Freak
There are not a lot of long-running video game franchises out there that have managed to keep the same level of quality as Nintendo and Game Freaks Pokémon franchise, which started way back on the original Game Boy with Pokémon Red and Blue in 1998. And while the series hasn’t seen a great deal of evolvement it’s certainly seen a number of incremental benefits over the course of its nearly 15 years of existence. But it’s worth saying that Pokémon Black/White 2 is about the biggest step forward that the franchise has taken since its humble black and white beginnings on Nintendo’s original portable platform.
And that progression doesn’t really come from the gameplay mechanics, which are more or less the same as any other game in the series. You’ll still take on the role of a mute, young boy or girl protagonist, who grew up in a small town and sets off on an adventure to, indeed, be the very best. You’ll get your first Pokémon before heading out, with the ability to select from three, and your rival/best friend will end up picking the Pokémon that yours is weak against.
You’ll then set off, explore high grass areas, gather up and train new Pokémon, evolve them, and battle them against various trainers on your way to tackle the Elite Four. So yeah, on the surface, not a lot has changed. And it would be great if it did, because quite honestly, there’s certainly a bit of fatigue that’s set in for me as a fan over the past decade and I’d love to see some more chances taken here. But I understand that a lot of people would prefer that they didn’t, and for those folks, they’ll probably get a lot of enjoyment out of this entry.
But what if you’re hoping for a little more than your typical Pokémon adventure? Well, Pokémon Black/White 2 has you covered there as well. For the first time in the history of the series, Black/White 2 is a literal, honest to God sequel. And while you’ll take on the role of a new hero trainer, you’ll encounter a number of returning faces, enemies, and towns as you continue to explore the returning region of Unova.
There are elements that will carry over from the first games to this entry, and not just your existing Pokedex. You’ll have little references tossed about from your previous adventure, which is nice for consistency, and your plotline will directly tie into the plot of the previous game, like any standard sequel should. It adds a lot of depth to the story, something that we’re not used to seeing in the series so far. Not that the Pokémon games have never focused on story, but expanding upon an existing universe like Black/White 2 manages to do is certainly unique.
The game also benefits from previous improvements, including the new Pokémon types introduced in the original Black/White games, and the additions of seasonal changes found there, along with the day and night cycles that were introduced via HeartGold and SoulSilver. And of course, the visual style of the original Black and White carry over as well, complete with improved animations that make for the best looking handheld Pokémon title to date.
One other added plus is tossed in for 3DS owners, which is also nice considering this game was developed for the DS. Pokémon related apps available on the 3DS will work in conjunction with the game, and while I’m not an active user of either, I can certainly appreciate the attempt to throw a bone to 3DS owners disappointed in the fact that the series hasn’t made the transition yet. And it’s a nice attempt to appeal towards the hardcore fan base of the series, giving you even more content to check out and enjoy if you really like to delve into the fiction.
Overall, I think creating an actual sequel to the existing dual releases seems to be a more interesting approach than simply crafting a third standalone game that offers up refinements but rehashes the general plot and setting, which is pretty much the way handheld Pokémon adventures have operated since the beginning. It offers up more incentive to pick up another release, and gives fans something to look forward to in relation to the characters, plot, and settings of each game. Story has never been the series strong suit, but Pokémon Black/White 2 certainly does a great job of attempting to change that. Here’s to hoping that Game Freak takes the positive reception to these changes just a bit further with the next, inevitable 3DS release, and opts to alter the gameplay side of the equation in the same way they’ve overhauled the approach to plot.