Last week the Pokemon franchise released their newest additions to the series of video games, Pokemon White 2 and Black 2. These are meant to be sequels to the successful Black and White, with the story taking place 2 years after the events of those games.
I’ll start with this:
Verdict of a highly critical Pokemon fanboy: 7.5/10
If you like Pokemon games, go play it. It’s a good time.
The gameplay is pretty much standard Nintendo DS Pokemon RPG gameplay, so there’s not much to be said. The graphics are classic Pokemon, crisp and pretty, and the controls are simple and intuitive.
I’m a big Pokemon fan, I’ll put that out there right away. I did not like Diamond and Pearl. I thought White and Black were mediocre as Pokemon games, especially when compared to the original games, which were such incredible cultural phenomenons.
These new games are unconventional in two ways: the style of a sequel is new and innovative, and the game difficulty is slightly altered.
The sequel concept actually works. Shocking, I know. The story is a followup to Black and White, with N’s supporters having broken off from Team Plasma, so your old enemies are split in half, some helpful and some still trying to conquer the world. It also makes the game very interesting, for those who played Black and White, because there are new interesting changes and additions to the map. Where your character starts is a whole new area, with two new gyms. We also get to see some old characters, like Bianca and Cheren, who is the new gym leader in the first city. They look far more than two years older, but they’re still fun to see.
Speaking of the gyms, they’re pretty cool. The first two gyms are very simple and standard, giving the player a chance to gauge the difficulty, which is an important step, since this game’s difficulty is not quite standard. As you get further in the game, the gyms get exponentially more complicated and intricate. Oh, and difficult. All the really interesting gyms from Black and White (which may have been the only cool thing about those two games) have been updated in an incredible way. They largely follow the same concepts, but have interesting updates that make the gyms more difficult, both to beat and to navigate.
Now, here’s the most interesting part of the new games, the part that made me enjoy them more than any of the past couple of generations. They’re more difficult. The levels of the opposing Pokemon are higher, they’re more difficult and they’re more varied.
The new Team Plasma is also quite a bit more difficult. Their leaders have interesting type focuses, differing from the typical poison/dark sets that are so easily predictable. Zinzolin, the first Plasma boss, has an ice set, Colress, who comes later, has a metal set. Tough to beat and fun to battle. We haven’t seen a different type focus since Teams Magma and Aqua in generation 3. The whole Plasma line is more interesting, they even have a GIANT FREAKING PIRATE SHIP. THAT CAN FLY. As well, one of the team plasma grunts during the epic shenanigans that always take place between the 7th and 8th badge says “bother, bother, bother.” (see potter puppet pals).
To balance the increased difficulty, the game gives the player the opportunity to grab increasingly powerful Pokemon earlier than usual. A player can snag a Braviary or Mandibuzz (depending whether you’re playing White 2 or Black 2) early, Riolu is available as early as the second city, and the player is handed a Zorua who gets boosted experience early as well. The game wants to provide a challenge, but still wants the player to be able to move forward productively.
The legendaries reflect that. Kyurem, the ice/dragon BAMF, is the primary focus, but the player also gets the opportunity to catch the three “new” dogs: Cobalion, Virizion and Terrakion on the path through the game.
The verdict of a very picky fanboy: 7.5/10.
Though it plays off of past maps and concepts, it provides innovative and challenging new puzzles and battles, but the generation 5 Pokemon still don’t quite match up to early generation popularity.