There are several constants in the world. For example, one should never take part in domestic violence, feed Mogwais after midnight nor should one mess with a good thing. Over the past several years, the Pokémon franchise has been operating under the mentality of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Despite the negative connotations that this would normally carry, Pokémon has taken it in stride by offering refined experiences that have seen numerous new mechanics introduced since the franchise’s launch in 1996. One trope of the series has been that every pair of games would be accompanied by a third, revised edition (Red and Blue had Yellow; Gold and Silver had Crystal and so on). This tradition has held true for as long as the series has been around. So when Nintendo announce Black 2 and White 2 as true sequels to last year’s Black and White, it was truly a left turn for the franchise (or a right turn, if we were talking about Nascar).
And thank God we aren’t.
Black 2 and White 2 pick up two years after the story of Black and White, which was one of the best in the series’ history. Team Plasma has been disbanded the, protagonist and the legendary dragons from the previous games are nowhere to be found, and you are now in the shoes of a completely new character. The game starts off in a very familiar fashion. You are given an introductory speech by Prof. Juniper and are given one of three starter Pokémon (a choice of Snivy, Tepig or Oshawott) to begin your journey. The similarities between Black 2 and White 2 and their predecessors begin to diminish from there. The next several hours take place in a completely unexplored area in the Southwest of Unova.
Ironically, mountains are not very prone to freezing in Unova.
In this new area, as well as throughout the rest of the region, you will see several Pokémon that have not appeared in a main series Pokémon game in many years. You can make use of fan favorites such as Lucario, Arcanine and Skarmory, just to name a few. Naturally, the Unova Pokémon from previous games make a return and are featured prominently. You’ll partner up with these monsters to take down the resurgent Team Plasma as they aim to finish what Ghetsis started two years ago. The campaign is sprinkled with characters new and old, and you won’t quite know where they all fit into the story up until the very end.
Without spoiling anything, I can say with confidence that this was a solid story with some fun characters. The rival has a true vendetta driving him and isn’t there to be annoying or just another jackass to fight. You understand where he comes from and you spend more time in the story actually helping him reach your shared goal than you do battling him. It’s a fun change. Everything in story and character categories was sharp. There are some tense spots broken up by some much appreciated humor. This is all covered in a near 35-hour main adventure that doesn’t disappoint. It’s a formula that worked well, and I hope that Nintendo carries it over into the next set of games.
Now, every Pokémon game has a story, what really sets them all apart is the extra content. There is tons of content to be had here. The amount of content in these games is reminiscent of Pokémon Gold and Silver on the Gameboy Color, frequently revered as perhaps the best in the entire series. The newest entries surely are reminiscent of those games in the plot as well, but let’s steer clear of spoilers and stick with the extra content. There are about six cities/areas to explore after the story has ended. Each hosts some small side quests and new Pokémon to be caught, but each game also has an exclusive area. Black 2 and White 2 feature Black City and White Forest respectively. They both serve a similar purpose. They’re filled with shops with rare items as well as tournaments that feature some ridiculously powerful Pokémon. PokéStar Studio is a new bonus to replace the musicals from last year. It’s a neat concept, but it doesn’t really cater to the older fans as much as it does to the young ones. Though, there is still fun to be had as you track the box office gross of your imaginary movie. But, all of this pales in comparison to the biggest new feature of all, the Pokémon World Tournament.
The PWT is essentially the series’ greatest hits of trainers. The tourney features trainers who span all generations of the franchise. You can battle any major trainer, ranging from last generation’s champion Cynthia, to the original silent protagonist himself, Red. These battles all feature updated versions of each trainer’s theme music which will send shivers down your spine. Participating in the PWT will yield Battle Points which can be used to purchase items in a fashion very similar to the Battle Frontier from past generations.
Nostalgia meters overloading in 3… 2… 1.
As far as Wi-Fi connectivity goes, no major changes have been implemented since Black and White. You still have the option of either free battling with friends or doing stricter three-on-three battles against random opponents. But, new connectivity features show up in the form of the Unova link, a way to connect with the previous games as well as carry over Pokémon from the 3DS Dream Radar app. The Unova Link also features a Key System which allows you to use “keys” to change your in-game experience. This unlocks things such as Easy Mode as well as Challenge Mode, but besides that, nothing all too revolutionary.
In closing, it will suffice to say that this set of Black 2 and White 2 is the pinnacle of Pokémon’s modern interpretations. It features a great mix of new and old that will satisfy any fan of the much beloved franchise. I’d go as far as to say that it is Gold and Silver for a new generation due to all of its parallels. Whether you are a life-long follower of the series or an estranged fan looking to dive back in, there is no excuse to not pick this up. This is a finely tuned experience that will keep you coming back time and time again.
Prepare to be wowed.