As someone who has owned and loved every mainline Pokemon RPG since I first saw the start up screen on Pokemon Red; I was excited, yet also hesitant regarding Pokemon Black 2 and White 2. Game Freak and Nintendo have shaken up the regular Pokemon formula we have come to know for over 12 years by not just releasing a third 'enhanced' version along the lines of Crystal and Platinum versions, but by introducing the first true Pokemon sequels. So what does that mean exactly?
Disclaimer:Pokemon White 2 is what I have reviewed as it was the version in which I mainly played and spent the bulk of my time in, but I also played Black 2 and will refer to differences later in the review.
Pokemon White 2 is set two years after Pokemon White, and Unova has changed. You play as a new trainer (male or female) and start off in a new town called Aspertia City which is located in the South West of the region, a section of the map that was non-existent in the original game.
From the get-go the player is confronted by Bianca, who is now Professor Juniper's assistant. She gives you and your 'rival' (a new character Hugh) your starting Pokemon. These are the same starters from the first White Version: Oshawott the water type sea otter, Tepig the cute fire pig or my personal favourite Snivy the badass looking grass snake. It is from here where you become a Pokemon trainer and set off on your journey, which involves traveling across the region, catching Pokemon, battling other trainers, and collecting all eight gym badges so you can take on the Pokemon League and become champion. This is standard fare for a Pokemon title, but White 2, (much like the original White Version) is a heavily story driven game. This is constantly apparent as it guides you across Unova and builds upon and expands on the events of the first game, more so if you have played Black or White and chose to link your save files to the sequel. There is much more story wise that I won't get into in the interest of spoilers, but the game does include a new and old Team Plasma, the ever mysterious N, and some heavy themes that touch on morality and equality.
Graphics and Presentation:
Pokemon White 2 sports the same 2D sprite graphics for humans and Pokemon that the series is known for. The sprites are very crisp and have an eye-catching and detailed visual style. During Gym battles the Gym leaders have a short animation as they prepare to fight. In battles Pokemon have an animation that loops where they move various parts of their body (introduced in White 1). This makes the Pokemon feel more alive. In battle, when Pokemon are put to sleep their eyes close. It's little details like that which set the graphics apart from other Pokemon titles. Although the sprites are well done, the player controlled Pokemon in battles are more often than not, severely pixelated and sometimes even ugly. This is due to the sprite model being so close to the screen where only part of the player's Pokemon is visible. Pokemon have been rendered in 3D on the Wii as well as the Pokedex for the 3DS, so maybe in the next game we will see a completely 3D Pokemon RPG.
To supplement the (generally) beautiful sprites, most of the game world is created with 3D graphics. Buildings, trees, rocks, vehicles and landmarks are all in the third dimension and the general art style is beautiful and clean. The 3D graphics work surprisingly well, more so than older versions. The 3D graphics are also used in short cut-scenes that actually play out over the top and bottom screen of the DS during key story moments.
The general interface present in White 2 is elegantly designed and feels decidedly modern. Every menu is sleek and simple to navigate and nothing is buried under too many screens or is hard to find. The majority of menus can be controlled using the bottom touch screen and it is beyond easy to do anything from finding items to use to customising your player card. There are many subtle aesthetics that can easily be unnoticed. The background shape that displays your Pokemon's statistics in battle is white in White 2 and black in Black 2. As are the stylish blades that pop up upon accessing a new area and display where you are and the current season.
Another excellent feature is being able to set items to a hot key for easy access. Such as the bicycle, Town Map. One of my favourite new features of the game is when a Repel (an item used so you don't run into wild Pokemon) runs out, a menu appears and asks if you would like to use another. It is slight yet significant improvements like this that make Pokemon White 2 an amazing game.
The sound in Pokemon White Version 2 will be familiar to those who have played the prequel. Much of the music is repeated for this version.Most of the battle music, route music and all of the Pokemon's cries remain similar if not the same. All in all it is standard stuff, not to say it isn't decent, but there isn't a lot that is new here. What is new is some exciting mixes, a few of the Gym battles are significantly enhanced by genuinely exhilarating tunes; For instance the second gym battle is fought on stage against the leader Roxie, a quirky guitarist and her band who are playing their respective instruments, and upon defeating one of the band members, the music they were producing ceases.
White 2 is also the first Pokemon game that includes music with voice. Although subtle and irregular, it is noticeable and a nice change from the norm when they appear.
Gameplay & Controls:
Anyone who has played a Pokemon game before will be instantly familiar here, White 2 doesn't do anything new or revolutionary in terms of gameplay or combat. The player character is seen from a top-down perspective as you travel through various towns, caves and routes. Pokemon battles largely remain the same with Pokemon names, level, health, gender and experience points as well as all the fighting taking place on the top screen with attack commands and menus on the bottom screen. Pokemon still have four attacks and are primarily 1v1 fights, but there is the odd Double or Tripple Battle - which play the same as 1v1 just with more Pokemon, or the exciting Rotation Battle where you have to swap on the fly between three Pokemon. These are quite enjoyable and can become challenging against tougher trainers.
Like any good Pokemon game, you'll need some Pokemon to catch! The good news is that the initial Pokedex is just over 300 monsters, that are all obtainable throughout normal gameplay, with so many Pokemon to choose from and experiment with its easy to make a party suited to your play style. Later on in the post-game there are many trainers that have Pokemon that you can't naturally catch in the game, and exist purely as a tease. Pokemon can be transferred over from any of the previous DS Pokemon games easily though, but the bad news is that Pokemon in the original Black and White need to be physically trade done for one with the use of another DS console. This was personally annoying to me as I had over 50 Pokemon I wished to bring over from my adventures in Platinum, Soul Silver and White that were on the White game cart. Needless to say, I had to catch a lot of low level Pokemon and spent over an hour and a half trading them over. But it was well worth it to bring in my favourites and high levels.
Another grievance is that The Kami Trio Legendaries, Tornadus, Thundurus, and Landorus, can only be obtained via the Pokemon Dream Radar App on the 3DS Store. Which owners will not only must own a 3DS to take advantage of, but also pay extra for that App. The fact that these Pokemon were freely available to catch in the original Black and White is annoying.
What else is new in White 2?
The Pokedex has a new habitat list which details which Pokemon are found in each area and if you have caught them. This is a fantastic feature that I'm sure will be seen in all future Pokemon titles.
Briefly,some of the new additions for White 2 include Gym Leaders new and old as well as redesigned and generally more enjoyable Gyms to battle through.
Join Avenue, which starts off as an empty shopping strip that you as the player is tasked with managing and inviting NPCs as well as other human players to open up shops that can be leveled up and provide some worthy goods.
Pokemon World Tournament is a new constantly running event where you can enter and battle against some powerful trainers as well as various Gym Leaders and Elite Four members from previous games, to win prizes. The only downside to these battles is that your Pokemon don't gain experience.
Pokestar Studios replaces Pokemon Musicals from the earlier version, it is here that the player and Pokemon star in various mini movie series that each have their own crazy storyline. These are entertaining as a distraction, but don't provide much incentive to get involved.
Like any Pokemon game, once the initial play through is finished there is more to do. White 2 excels in its post-game offerings by having the most amount of post-game content since Gold and Silver (which opened up another region, Kanto,to explore). The list of things to do once finishing the game is too long to fully list, but there is many new areas and towns to explore,new Pokemon to catch including a plethora of Legendary Pokemon,fossils to uncover, items to find and White Treehollow (Black Tower in Black Version 2) which is a dungeon-like area where you have to defeat a certain number of trainers without the use of any items. There are also new difficulty modes that are unlocked upon completion which is a first for the Pokemon series and drastically alter the game.
As usual there is differences between versions. There are about 20 Pokemon in the wild that are exclusive to White 2, and the same amount for Black 2, for example early on in the game in White 2 there are Elekid running around to catch, while in Black 2 it is replaced with Magby. I mentioned earlier White Treehollow and Black Tower, these are exclusive to their respective versions but can be transferred to the other version as 'keys' via wireless and unlocked to visit and play through. Same goes for the additional difficulty modes, White 2 unlocks 'Easy Mode' while Black 2 unlocks 'Challenge Mode' which lower or raise the levels of trainer Pokemon. One does not need to buy both versions, only know someone with the other to experience a bunch of extra content on your preferred game.
Multiplayer has always been a big part of the Pokemon games. Being able to trade and battle Pokemon with friends locally and online returns. The menu system and general interface of the multiplayer is rough and slow as there is a lot of menus to get through. But it works, and when it does work in my experience there was next to no lag or latency. That being said, I didn't spend much time online as for me, Pokemon has always been more of a solo experience. I have played more battles against people over wireless than online and that works flawlessly as always and it is easy to change the battle styles, choose whether to include items or not, how many Pokemon you want to fight with etc. One issue is that for every battle I took part in, just before the fight your Pokemon are displayed on screen as you pick which order you want to put them in the party. Now, during this quick process your opponents Pokemon and levels are displayed on the other screen. This was annoying to me as it is enjoyable going into battle with friends and being surprised by their Pokemon choices, and having to adapt to said choices on the fly. But as stated, I didn't spend large amount of time in multiplayer and did search for an option to turn this off, but if there is one, I retract my previous complaint.
There is much I didn't cover in this review of Pokemon White Version 2. The game is vast and in the 65 hours I put into the game I am still not finished with it and have much left to explore and uncover. Although I do have some minor issues with the game, White 2 is by far the best version of Pokemon in terms of content and approachability and deserves a look regardless of what kind of gamer you are. I would recommend it to Pokemon experts who have been playing since the early days, those who haven't played since an earlier version and have been meaning to get back into the series, and especially to those who are entirely new to the world of Pokemon. Even though it is a sequel, it's greatly accessible. Pokemon White Version 2 can be enjoyed by anybody who loves a great RPG, and for that matter, a great game.
+ Fantastic and addictive gameplay
+ Large amount of post-game content
+ Slight, yet meaningful changes
-Exclusive Pokemon to the 3DS App
-Having to individually trade Pokemon over from Black/White
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[Nintendo DS] Pokemon White Version 2
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