DS Swan Song
The first direct Pokémon sequels in the role-playing series' history, Black Version 2 and White Version 2 for Nintendo DS represent refinement rather than revolution, as has come to be expected from a franchise which never strays too far from the successful structure that has allowed it to thrive for almost 15 years. Playing them feels like attending a brilliant leaving party, a celebration of all the best things Pokémon has to offer before it sets of on a journey to pastures new (or at least gets a significant visual update for its 3DS debut).
Your adventure begins in Aspertia City, in the far southwest corner of the Unova region, two years after the events of Pokémon Black and White. The formula's the same as that of the last games, but it's still a winning recipe. As ever, you play as a young trainer collecting Pokémon and battling rivals. Eight gyms and their leaders must be defeated before you can visit Victory Road to take on the region's best, and your quest is punctuated by encounters with main antagonist Team Plasma.
There's a tutorial that makes the game mechanics easy for newcomers to get to grips with, but the explanation are relatively brief and everything moves at a nice pace. The expertly crafted, turn-based battles are fairly easy in the early stages, but get more challenging later on, and there are 300 Pokémon in total, including a number of older species, which leads to varied encounters, ensuring your quest never devolves into a monotonous grind. The online game seems smoother and slicker than ever too, meaning you'll spend plenty of time playing with friends.
Familiar Yet Fresh
While the similarities with past entries in the series are clear to see, there are a number of fresh features, including the widest range of side activities in any Pokémon title. These include a game which lets you make miniature movies with your favourite monsters while testing your Pokémon knowledge, and the welcome inclusion of the Pokémon World Tournament, which offers a series of battles against powerful trainers from the previous games in the series.
Plus there's Join Avenue, a shopping mall populated with other players you've encountered online where their stores sell rare items. The game also introduces achievements, which are handed out in the form of medals when you complete certain tasks, and there has been an improvement on the presentation front too - all trainers are now animated, there are some new Pokémon animations, and the cutscenes that spread across both screens are great. The soundtrack is also one of the series' best.
There's no denying that many aspects of Pokémon Black & White 2 feel highly familiar, but that doesn't stop this being one of the most significant updates yet in a generational Pokémon follow-up. There's a new narrative, plus some fresh features and locations, all of which is backed up by the compelling 'gotta catch 'em all' gameplay we've come to know and love. As such, this is a highly recommended game for Pokémon fans and a great starting point for those who are new to the series.
- Same great gameplay.
- Some new features and locations.
- Improved presentation and cool soundtrack.
- Structure lacks freshness.
- Some locations have barely changed.
- We want a brand new 3DS version.