When it was announced that the third game in this fifth generation of Pokemon titles would not be an amped up version of Pokemon Black and White, but rather, direct sequels, the initial response was tepid at best. Pokemon Black and White were a huge improvement to the series, which had sort of floundered during the fourth generation (Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, Platinum). Everyone was assuming that there would simply be a Pokemon Grey, so there was immediate skepticism to Pokemon Black and White 2, due to the human nature to be suspicious of change. Instead of opting for a slightly enhanced version of Pokemon Black and White, with a general retelling of the story, GameFreak has opted to go for a completely new angle, complete with a new story, new Pokemon (to the region), and even new cities to explore, all while retaining the classic Pokemon charm many of us grew up with.
Two years have passed since the events of Pokemon Black and White. Many things have changed over the years. Cities have grown, people have moved on, and the Unova region is as bustling as it has ever been. You start out as you would any other game in the Pokemon series – a young boy or girl set on becoming the very best. But where previous Pokemon titles had much less of an impactful story that involved digging for subtext, Pokemon Black and White 2, like the originals, opt for a moral quandary that lasts throughout. Should Pokemon be confined as battling pets for humanity’s sport, or should they be liberated from such an imprisonment? As they state in the game, the world isn’t so “black and white” (ugh), and you’ll find both sides relatable throughout. I’m glad that GameFreak has opted to take a more serious note with the story, because up until this generation, you didn’t see a lot of substance in that department. Sure, the world often “seemed” in peril, but you just used your magic Master Ball to make it all better in the end, so it would seem.
The story isn’t the only department where Pokemon Black and White 2 really delivers. The classic grinding Pokemon gameplay is further refined in Black and White 2, never failing to cure that JRPG itch. New features implemented in Pokemon Black and White like triple battles, rotation battles, and the C-Gear return in full force, with the latter getting an aesthetic overhaul. The C-Gear works like the Nintendo 3DS Streetpass system works – it scans for trainers around you, and displays their name, where they are in the region, and even updates on if Pokemon are evolving or battling. It’s pretty neat to just run into people (more specifically, their stories) and check up on them, bringing the game ever-so-closer to that picture perfect MMO feel. Speaking of online, the online aspects from the previous games are back, and still work as well as they did in the original Black and White. It’s still fun to matchmake with a Pokemon team you’re trying to make perfect, and the varied combat Pokemon offers means that no two battles will be alike.
The big issue with Pokemon Black and White 2 is obvious: why not make Pokemon Black and White 2 for 3DS? Well, profit-wise, it’s a no brainer. The regular DS has a way larger install base, so they will easily make more money off putting them on DS, but these features that are integrated in the C-Gear really are just what you’d find in Streetpass. Nintendo attempts to cover the gap by selling the Pokemon Dream Radar on the 3DS eShop, where you can find exclusive Pokemon, but it just isn’t the same. At the very least we could see a graphical overhaul in the next Pokemon titles, something we haven’t seen since Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, which was over nine years ago. With a Pokedex 3D Pro on the way to the 3DS as well, it’s clear that there is a shift from DS to 3DS happening. If not a traditional Pokemon game, I say that Pokemon Snap 3D would be a match made in Poke-heaven.
Now let’s talk about the actual Pokemon. Pokemon Black and White featured exclusively new Pokemon in the Unova region, a first for the series since the original Pokemon Red and Blue. Pokemon Black and White 2, following the story, features a mix of old and new. It’s nice to see more familiar faces, and rarer Pokemon like Riolu and Eevee are now found in certain wild grasses, so building that perfect team is just that much easier. The same can be said about the cities you travel through. You start out in a completely new town, Asperia City, literally an entire region away. Just like in the previous games, Pokemon level up as you get further in the game, but this time around they’re a bit more evenly-aligned with the previous city’s gym, keeping your Pokemon on their toes.
In Pokemon Black and White 2, there are a lot of little changes from previous games. For example, when you use a repel, it keeps lower leveled Pokemon at bay. When it runs out, you automatically have the option to use another. A small update, but it saves monotonous seconds digging though your inventory. That’s where the sameness starts to creep in – inventory. It’s still kind of a hassle to parse though, even though you can order it numerically or alphabetically. Speaking of sameness, it’s still a very linear game, with a forced order of gym leaders and Elite Four members, but the whole gym plot is overshadowed by the Team Plasma arc, very clearly. I kind of hope they buck the traditional gym leader to Elite Four trend in the next game, because it’s been the same for around fourteen years. I almost forgot to fight the city gyms on occasion, because you can zip by it when you’re going from city to city to cave to city. Despite this, Pokemon Black and White 2 are still just as fun as any Pokemon game has been, with added perks and benefits to a classic formula, to boot.
Pokemon veterans will know the true value of Pokemon isn’t in the story. Beating the Elite Four is only the start of your Pokemon journey, as Pokemon Black and White 2 features the most post-game content of any Pokemon title, and that’s a huge accomplishment seeing as I’ve put hundreds of hours into multiple titles. You’ll be getting your hands on all sorts of Legendary Pokemon from previous generations. Registeel, Heatran, Uxie, these are only some of the legendaries you’ll come across. If you thought the battle subway from Pokemon Black and White was a nice time-waster to test your might, check out the Pokemon World Tournament. You’ll be battling gym leaders and rivals throughout all of Pokemon history, an extremely interesting concept that ties the franchise together quite nicely.
It was a smart decision to opt for Pokemon Black and White 2 than a Pokemon Grey, because you still have the variety you find in the paired games of a generation with the updated features, maps, and Pokemon of the upgrade, and while the traditional Pokemon formula of “gym-evil organization-Elite Four” may be wearing out its welcome, Black and White 2 are without a doubt the biggest Pokemon games that have ever been released. You’ll spend dozens of hours hunting down all of the legendary Pokemon, and fighting gym leaders from across the world, and you would still only scratch the surface.
Want your own Mewtwo? Learn how to get one in Pokemon Black and White!