Review by KeyBlade999

Reviewed: 10/04/12 | Updated: 11/02/12

The first sequel in nearly a decade. Is it any good?

~ Review in Short ~

Gameplay: More or less like the usual Pokemon concept. Turn-based battling, "catch 'em all", and much more. All in all, pretty good, but little new.
Story: A sequel to the original Pokemon Black/White, set two years later, with a similar plot revolving around Kyurem, the partner of Reshiram and Zekrom.
Graphics: Better than the first to some extent; vibrant and colorful, and many more animated sequences are found here. Very good.
Sound and Music: Typical Pokemon themes with a decent remix. Everything meshes well with your location, but not much you haven't seen.
Play Time: Worth thirty to forty hours for a basic start-end playthrough, but thousands for a comprehensive play of the game. It's very expansive.
Replayability: Moderately low. There isn't much here series veterans will find new, nor will you really obtain much non-linearity. There is a lot of repetitivity, too.
The Verdict: All in all, Pokemon Black/White Versions 2 is another decent addition to the Pokemon series. There isn't a whole lot new to this sequel of the Unova games; mostly locales and Pokemon encounters to name the big ones. It's not too bad a game, though, and is supposed to have a difficulty-changing idea to make it both fun for newbies and veterans. All in all, a purchase-worthy game for the Nintendo DS.

~ Review in Long ~

Pokemon Black and White Versions 2 is the newest entry into the mainstream Pokemon series, coming just a year after its prequels, and a few years after the release of the Nintendo 3DS. After the rather polarizing Pokemon Conquest game this summer - some liked it, some despised it - and the tendency for Nintendo to repeat concepts in their Pokemon games, it is only expected that some people would question the worthiness of buying another Pokemon game.

I, for one, think that this game is a decent purchase for your DS collection. Why would that be? Well, let's see...

Pokemon as a video game series began in the mid-1990s with the release of Pokemon Red, Green, and Blue Versions, with Green and Blue being only in Japan and the U.S., respectively. These games were on the Nintendo GameBoy, and were soon followed by their expansion, Pokemon Yellow Version. This is also were the Pokemon television anime, manga, and TCG began to take hold.

In the late-1990s and early 2000s, the second generation was released for the Nintendo GameBoy Color, promising more than monochromatic color schemes, and doing so very well. Pokemon Gold and Silver were the initial releases, with the expansion, Pokemon Crystal, coming a few years later. The side games began to start around here, namely with Pokemon Stadium and Hey You! Pikachu for the Nintendo 64. An unreleased Pokemon game was also planned for the Nintendo 64DD around this time, but the system failed horribly, and the game was never released.

In 2003, the third generation of Pokemon was ushered onto the Nintendo GameBoy Advance, adding in around 130 new Pokemon. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were the initial releases, with the expansion, Pokemon Emerald, coming in the next years. Also in 2004, the remakes of the first generation games were put on the GBA, aptly named Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen. Non-mainstream games and their popularity strongly took hold in this era with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Team, Pokemon Colosseum, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, Pokemon Channel, and Pokemon Pinball.

In 2007, the fourth generation was finally brought to the Nintendo DS. These games showcased Sinnoh, the fourth Pokemon region, and started with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, later expanding into Platinum. The second generation games were also remade in 2010 and named Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver. The side games continued in this time with Pokemon Battle Revolution, PokePark: Pikachu's Adventure, and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky.

In 2011, the fifth generation of Pokemon continued its reign on the Nintendo DS with the original Pokemon Black and White being released, without a currently-known expansion. Prior to the sequels' release, notable side games included Pokemon Conquest, Pokemon Rumble Blast, PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond, and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 3 (planned for a winter 2012 Japan release on the Nintendo 3DS), as well as the ever-useful Pokedex 3D application for the Nintendo 3DS. Pokemon Black/White Versions 2, the subject of this review, was released in summer 2012 in Japan, and will be released on October 7th in the United States.

So, yes, Pokemon has become quite the expansive series in its fifteen-plus years. We've had everything from just having fun with Pokemon to turn-based battles to gridded fields to real-time battle systems. Pokemon is known for its variety outside of the mainstream games, not to mention the number of games it has!

General Progression Concept:
The game, on a general level, will progress not much differently than the other mainstream games. You'll begin the game by getting one of three Unova starters before progressing on your journey into the Unova region. You'll progress through the eight Gyms of Unova to the Pokemon League Championships. Along the way, you'll also come into contact with the malicious Team Plasma, still focused on abusing the legendary Pokemon, who, for once, you never catch until after the Pokemon League. There are also a lot of puzzles and such on the way.

Again, if you've played the previous games, you get the general idea. You'll end up having a set linear path before you - you must go, foreseeably, from Gym to Gym, and you rarely get to veer off the path, except for nearby side areas.

Battle and Powering-Up Systems:
Pokemon Black/White 2's battle system is not unique in comparison to most other Pokemon games and other RPGs. Each battle will be completely and fully turn-based - no real-time interactions whatsoever, much like in Final Fantasy I, III, X, and Tactics, Pokemon Conquest, and all of the mainstream Pokemon games. Your turn order is decided by a Speed stat. On each turn, you can do one of several things: switch Pokemon, use an item, or, most often, use a move to damage the opponent. The main goal of the battle is to damage your opponent's Pokemon so that they all reach zero HP and faint, thereby making you the winner.

A battle usually will be a one-on-one, though there are three other types, more often used in this game than in previous entries. There are double battles (two-on-two), triple battles (three-on-three), and Rotation battles (basically triple battles where you only use one Pokemon at a time). You'll find dozens of battles in this game, be they in the wild or from a Trainer. The system does get mundane eventually, and you'll probably yawn your way through the battles from the fourth Gym onwards.

The level-up system, like with many RPGs, is tied directly with the battle system. You'll have a basic RPG level-up system - beat enemies to gain experience and level up. This did lead to mass grinding in earlier RPGs without a proportioning of difficulty and experience. Pokemon Black/White (the firsts) changed that ideal for the Pokemon series by only making hard battles garner lots of EXP., and easier battles gain miniscule amounts of it. In the end, that makes the game a lot more fun, knowing you can't grind for a few hours on end to get to Level 100; the Gym Badge and obedience system also helps with this ideal by only letting Level X Pokemon obey you when you have a certain Badge. All in all, Nintendo has added challenge to the series.

Leveling up is also a critical process in this game. like in other RPGs, yes, your Pokemon's stats will go up somewhat, depending on the Pokemon's species, Pokemon defeated, and certain other invisible values, which make it so that it is excruciatingly hard to find two Pokemon exactly alike. Anywho, the leveling-up can also trigger evolution (becoming a more powerful Pokemon, numerically) and learning new moves to damage Pokemon with. Other ways to learn moves include breeding, certain items, certain people, and, in some cases, having a Pokemon from a different game.

The Fourth Dimension and the Game:
As time goes on, the game's environments will change. In most games from Gold/Silver onwards, you can find certain Pokemon at certain times of the day based upon an in-game clock or the clock on the console. You get a similar day/night system here, as well as the system of seasons, introduced into Pokemon Black/White.

The idea is that, for every month that passes in real life (or just based on your DS clock), your game will cycle through the seasons of spring, summer, autumn or fall, and winter. Each season can change the appearance of various in-game areas. For example, where you'd normally find verdant green, leafy trees in summer, you'll find snowy areas and bare trees in winter. Other than the excellent aesthetics, this can also change the appearance of a few Pokemon. This can also affect what Pokemon and Trainers will appear in an area, and how you can progress through the area to certain items.

Version Differences?
There is always a reason for multiple versions of a game to be released, other than the idea of snatching up some money. Well, that's the main idea, but it also encourages socialization.

Anyhow, what will you find different between Black 2 and White 2? There is a larger wealth of differences than ever seen in a Pokemon game. You can find the standard legendary Pokemon differences, to a point, and the standard variation in wild Pokemon encounters. Sometimes, Trainer's own parties will differ depending on the version.

Perhaps the most startling inconsistency, at least for an FAQ author like myself, is how more than a few areas are different between the versions. There wasn't much of a problem with this idea until Ruby and Sapphire, and the number of differing areas slowly increased more and more into Generation V, where you'll have a fair amount of variation. The games do not completely differ - it's more like ten areas, at most, that are changed between the versions.

So, if you were to buy either version of the game, which would I suggest buying? Based solely on one unnamed matter, I say buy White 2, but there is no real point in going crazy about it. Unless you are one of those Pokedex completionists, you shouldn't really buy both of them or be concerned over which to choose.

New Things Not in the Prequels?
Not a lot has changed in Unova in the past few years, believe it or not. You'll still have the standard eight-Badge quest; sorry, Gold/Silver fans! The landscape has changed somewhat - it seems that there have been a few landslides and a few nearby glaciers - and forced your path to vary somewhat. There are also a few new areas to go along and visit.

Some of the wild Pokemon encounter details haven't changed at all in the areas also in the prequels, and the same goes for the Trainers and potential trading partners, which was a bit of a missed opportunity. Sometimes, while going through familiar areas, I'd feel like I'd played this before, which I effectively did, just in the original Black/White. However, you do also get to non-Unova Pokemon (as in, Pokemon that were in Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh games) in some areas, which is a vast help in some situations.

The biggest thing is something akin to the Battle Tower of generations past. The Pokemon World Tournament will allow you to fight, in effect, dozens of different Trainers in many different tournaments. (And, no, this is not related to the Video Game Championships.) There will be many familiar faces in the tourneys as well. While this doesn't earn you EXP. or money, you can get points to trade for certain useful items, and it is always a nice way to spend a few dozen hours!

One of the most important to Pokemon nowadays, especially given the staleness of the formula, is how it engages you in its sidequests. Pokemon Black/White 2 open up a wealth of sidequests for you in comparison to some other RPGs, and they are perhaps the most impressive feature of the gameplay.

Firstly, there is a bit of an Achievements system in this game (like the Xbox 360 Achievements). However, these are now called Medals and, like the Achievements, are obtained through various arbitrary activities. Some, for example, involve just walking a lot of steps, while some can involve nearly impossible tasks, such as finding a Shiny Pokemon or getting a Pokemon with Pokerus. There are approximately 255 of these to do, with a minimal number actually being based on Wi-Fi, and moreso favoring your personal skills, so they will keep you very busy.

Next, Pokemon Black/White 2 toss in a bit of a "Hollywood" type of deal called Pokestar Studios. It is akin to the Battle CDs of Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. You'll basically act out a battle in slow-motion. What moves you choose are extremely critical to making a good movie, as are the phrases you choose for the dialogues. Many things must be taken into account. However, this mode is rather slow and boring, and often frustrating due to the randomness in your costars' actions causing you to fail miserably.

There are also the expansive, extraneous battle arenas. The Battle Subway offers many different types of battles in a bit of a Battle Tower format (win a lot of fights using a limited number of often-weakened Pokemon). A certain version-exclusive area also offers a similar format. The Pokemon World Tournament offers hundreds of expansive, varied battles against famous Pokemon Trainers of previous and current generations. For example, there are Type Tournaments in which you only can use and only can battle Pokemon of a certain type, and Leaders Tournaments where you battle the Gym Leaders from certain regions. Plus, these are in an elimination format, making them all the harder and requiring strategy. All of these are quite fun.

Next, the minor quest also added in is the same as in the original Black/White - Pokemon Musicals. It is sort of a no-fight version of the Pokemon Contests of previous generations. Basically, you given your Pokemon some Props (which have a style attribute given to them) that fit the style of the musical, then show off and hope you win. They're pretty boring, though.

Finally, the most obvious sidequest is the Pokedex completion quest. Since 2011, our main goal has been to obtain 649 Pokemon - over four times the Pokemon from the days of Pokemon Red/Blue! This is a time-exhausting quest, often able to take months or years. However, this quest is still flawed greatly. Firstly, you now have to have somewhere around fifteen Pokemon games - basically every game since 2003 (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, FireRed, LeafGreen, XD: Gale of Darkness, Colosseum, Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold, SoulSilver, Black Version 1, White Version 1, and whichever of Black/White 2 you don't get). And that's not barring the fact that only certain Pokemon can be gotten through the Nintendo Events, so that's even more money shelled out. Basically, you're losing about $300.00 on Pokemon games in doing this quest. Still, it is enthralling, and about 35% can be done on a just Black or White Version 2 by itself.

Other than that, there's the general completionism quests - item hunting, Pokemon leveling, et cetera - but this is more than you get in a typical Pokemon game, and the majority of it is fun.

Like almost every Pokemon game, you'll find a fair wealth of things to do with your friends who also have this game. First and foremost, you can trade Pokemon. This can allow you to get preferred Pokemon (such as getting a Water-type when you have none, and a Fire-type Gym around the corner) or to get Pokemon not of your version. Like in most Pokemon games, certain Pokemon - namely legendaries, but often some minor others - are available in only in one of the two or three versions released, and trading is thusly required.

You can also battle Pokemon. Via Wi-Fi, or assumably infrared like with Black/White, you can challenge a person to single, double, triple, or rotation battle. Some of these can also be two people versus two people rather than the general one person versus one, allowing for excellent team battling. You can also put a varying number of restrictions on the fight, allowing you to make the field more equal when unknowingly fighting a super-veteran of the series.

Those are the mainly used features, and both can be done through infrared, local Wi-Fi, or Nintendo WFC. After obtaining a certain item in the game, you can also use the Entralink, a side area akin to the one in the original Black/White where you do a series of missions. You can also pass survey answers from one another to see how you compare with others in your area. The Entralink is also able to affect certain version-exclusive areas of the game.

My Overall Opinion:
In the end, there is not a whole lot you haven't yet seen here. The battle and level-up systems are generally like the one set in the original Black/White, and the Pokedex data (I'm speaking like the Pokedex data in a strategy guide or FAQ) is almost completely the same except for move tutors. The main differences you'll find in this game from the others is the Pokemon World Tournament, the changed terrain, and some new areas. The version-exclusivity isn't too new, either.

In short, the gameplay had a lot of changing potential between the originals and the sequels. The game is still the one I know and love, but, honestly, Nintendo sorely missed an opportunity by not revamping practically the slightest bit of data. Even in the sequels to Red and Blue, the wild Pokemon encounters and other Route data differed more than it did here! I still like the gameplay, but it is a missed chance to really wow the player. That is my main gripe with this category.

STORY: 8/10.
Pokemon Black and White Versions 2 take place approximately two years after the first Black and White games were released. They take place in the Unova region of the Pokemon World, where you can find Pokemon different than in other regions, being so separated from the other regions, though migration has obviously occurred over the years. It is also immediately obvious that several natural disasters have occurred, such as landslides and glaciers running on land.

Your journey begins pretty typically for a mainstream Pokemon game. You are given your starter Pokemon at the age of ten, and then set out on a journey to conquer the eight Unovan Gyms and their Pokemon League to become the Champion of the region. Along the way, you meet up with the newly-divided, yet still malicious, Team Plasma. They have recently given up on their ventures to abuse the powers of Reshiram and Zekrom, as their leader and some Trainer have them, and their locations are unknown.

Rather, Team Plasma is focusing on the other legendary Pokemon of the trio, Kyurem. So, throughout your journey, you'll encounter new Pokemon, make new friends, conquer Gyms, grow and mature as a Trainer, complete the National Pokedex, and have your name etched in the tomes of legend as being one of the few people to see a legendary Pokemon, and to save the Pokemon, and the world, from the forces of evil.

Are you up to the task?

GRAPHICS: 9.5/10.
The only problem I have with this is as to why this game was not released on the Nintendo 3DS, thereby giving us some 3D graphics. Granted, that is the only problem I have. This game shines far above the other DS competition, and the mainstream Pokemon series as a whole, in having amazing graphics.

You'll get the generalized vibrant and colorful environments. Weather conditions are done nicely, and you get a variety of environments - cities, forests, deserts, oceans, under the ocean, and everything in between. Pokemon Black and White 2 truly produced some amazing graphics. The animations hold up steadily under whatever stress that even be pressed onto the system - remember, turn-based combat rarely forces the system to its capacity.

Oh, yes, animations. Beginning in Pokemon Black and White, Pokemon sprites became fully animated during battle, perhaps the best ever addition to the series short of real-time combat (and that's in some other games). They remained so in this game, and the Pokemon look just as good as they ever did. There are also a lot more battle animations, namely when opponents get ready for battle. This series is moving ever closer to fully rendered, fully animated, three-dimensional graphics, and I can't wait for it if just the 2D is this good.

I'll admit, they are hard to describe in a review, for I can only do so good. But, trust me, I have more than a few hundred games, and this game boasts some of the best graphics I've ever experienced. Definitely a positive factor for this game!

The sounds are as good as ever. And that's my main problem with this category. The game doesn't offer too much, as far as I can tell, that is new in the way of audio. You'll get a variety of sounds and sound effects, namely (staticky) Pokemon cries and weather effects. They are all good, but also not really exceptionally new to the series. There is a massive variety, a plus for this, but, again, Nintendo has had plenty of time to try and revamp it.

Now, the music, I love. There is a great amount of variety in the music. The music isn't jumpy or skippy, so to speak, in the least; the music is, in fact, of a high quality. You'll get themes that really seem to fit the tone of the area - your first Route has a bit of a peppy, happy theme; the Gyms have a bit more of a rock tune to pump you up; the Pokemon League has an ominous theme, foreshadowing the trials ahead; and so on. The background tracks are perhaps my favorite factor in this game, in that there seems to just be so much new, or at least revamped.

PLAY TIME: 9/10.
Pokemon is perhaps one of the oddest games when it comes to how long the game lasts. Most games will in general last a set amount of time, be it twenty minutes, twenty hours, or twenty days, despite the sidequests. This can be because the sidequests are too few, too short, needless, or the rewards are practically (but not literally) required for game completion. Other games can be different - some can be won in a few hours, but take years to beat.

Pokemon Black and White Versions 2 are such games.

The main storyline, taken almost alone, should take about thirty hours to beat. It is a little shorter than I'd use to beat most of the other eight-badge (which means no Gold, Silver, Crystal, HeartGold, or SoulSilver) games; those games usually amount to around forty hours. Of course, that's pretty average for most RPGs nowadays, so it's not much to complain about.

Side stuff, however, is a different matter. The end goal of every Pokemon game player is to find and document all 649 Pokemon in the Pokedex (at least in these games). While some Pokemon are never able to be found again - such as Mew, Arceus, and so on - it will still take hundreds and thousands of hours to find them all. This is because you, effectively, either have to do an absolutely massive amount of trading, or have to beat every other game in the mainstream series since the GBA games. That's where Nintendo really gets you.

So, yes, this game definitely could last you thirty or so hours if you're a casual gamer, and thousands if you're a completionist. There are some side details that could also add another ten hours to your playing clock, and multiplayer is always a great reason to keep playing this game for dozens of hours, especially over Nintendo WFC.

Okay, in the end, one thing must really be learned here. I've mentioned it several times, and I will mention it a few more. This game has a lot of similarities to the original Black and White, and a lot of similar fundamental systems to other games in the series, and RPGs in general. Pokemon is slowly becoming a generic RPG by its own repetitivity in itself, and the fact that RPGs keep coming.

That being said, you've probably already effectively played this game a few times because of playing other games; the games pretty much will differ only in story, graphics, and sound, the categories that are almost the least critical to a replay. Granted, if you enjoy the mechanics of Pokemon, you'll probably enjoy replaying it several times in a row.

The gameplay is enjoyable. However, because you do, for example, so much battling, the game can quickly become fairly mundane. The very mechanics of the mainstream series have been spammed to an awful point that makes replays almost boring to even the most fanatical of players.

In the end, this game isn't exceptionally easy to replay. Oh, yes, you probably can if it is your first Pokemon game (now or in a long time), but that puts you as part of the exception. Too much repetition throughout the series has sorely damaged this category of the games. The difficulty system seemingly proposed (I haven't confirmed its existence fully) helps a little by adding challenge, but, altogether, some kinks really need to be worked out before the sixth generation.

THE END. Overall score: 8.2/10. My rating: 9/10.
This game shows off one of the rare instances where I believe the sum of the parts to be greater than the whole. Yes, Pokemon Black and White 2 really have some things that need to be fixed before the next mainstream games come out. A different battle system, or at least one less mundane, such as real-time, would be seriously appreciated. Greater levels of difficulty could help. In general, adding ways to decrease repetition or increase entertainment without self-imposing a challenge, such as the Nuzlocke, would greatly get this series out of this rut.

That being said, Pokemon Black and White 2 is still not a game you should pass up. Most fans of Pokemon would still enjoy playing it, and most people looking just for some game to play, picking nothing in particular, could rent this for a few weeks before deciding on whether to buy it. I personally decided to keep mine, and I'm enjoying it so far. Yes, the game gets a bit boring later on, but everything else helps to contribute to lessen the boredom.

In short, Pokemon Black and White 2 is an excellent game. Not likely a "Game of the Year", but by far a great buy for anyone owning a Nintendo DS or 3DS.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Pocket Monsters Black 2 (JP, 06/23/12)

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