Ahhh, like the changing of seasons, a new Pokémon game is inevitable. But hang on just a minute! Has the world been turned on its head? This time around we have a numbered sequel, the first time in Pokémon history. What happened to Pokémon Grey?
Well, wherever Pokémon Grey is, I can understand why these latest entries have been cast as “Version 2″. Quite simply, they are blatant sequels to the first Black and White games and, as such, those of you who played Black and White will know exactly what to expect.
If you have not played any of the Pokémon games before, then you really are in for a treat. The basics have remained the same throughout the entire series, which is a point of frustration for many fans. The idea behind these RPG games is that the player travels a region, capturing wild animals known as Pokémon. They then train these Pokémon to fight other Pokémon on their behalf as they carry on their journey towards becoming the best darn Pokémon trainer they can be. This has been the core gameplay of Pokémon games since the very first, and remains in this latest entry.
So the basics remain the same, which was to be expected. However, what was perhaps not expected, is how little has actually changed since Black and White. The player returns once again to the Unova region a couple of years after the last games. The world of Black and White Version 2 has not really changed much. The towns are perhaps a little more polished, and there are a few new places to visit that were not around last time. But otherwise it will be very familiar to returning visitors. And the same can be said of the story, which seems to follow a very similar path to the last one as Team Plasma once again are getting up to no good.
Long time players of the Pokémon games will be pleased to hear that, rather than a whole new bunch of Pokémon turning up, some of the favorites from older games will no be making an appearance in Version 2. This seems to be the main selling point for the established fans, whilst newcomers to the Pokémon games will find themselves playing not only the most polished, most complete version of the game thus far, but also perhaps the easiest. Or is it because the game is so similar to the last games that I found it easier? Difficult to tell…
But Pokémon Black and White Version 2 are all about the polish. Visually, everything feels so much better this time around, and the same can be said for the features. New towns, new/old Pokémon, a larger game in general – all of this go towards making this version an improvement over the last. There are even some new mini-games to entice the player, such as the new movie-making game that sees the player creating their own films with which to please the audience. Following the main story will take less time than before, but if you want to explore and try out everything that this game has to offer, there is absolutely loads to see and do. Veteran Pokémon trainers will find the Pokémon World Tournament worth a visit to battle with trainers from the past, including the likes of Brock and Misty.
As always, finishing the story doesn’t mean finishing the game and players who have “gotta catch them all” will find themselves struggling for weeks or even months to complete their Pokédex. The thrill of collecting is as strong as ever in Version 2 and the fact that the real end game doesn’t come until well after the story is complete is welcome. There is nothing worse than a game ending before you want it to.
All in all, Playing Version 2 is a comfortable experience, which raises its own issues. The avid Pokémon fan, of which there are many, will lap up this latest installment in the series no matter what. But for the more casual gamer, the Pokécurious, who are perhaps not so obsessed with “catching them all”, the formula may well be a bit stale. From one game to the next, the changes made in Pokémon games have always been slight with the core “rock, paper, scissors” mechanic remaining the same. The changes between Black/White and Black/White Version 2 are even less than usual, which will turn players off. It has been time for a Pokémon reboot for a while now and your average gamer will be disappointed that it hasn’t happened yet.
Black and White really was the most complete Pokémon game thus far, and Black and White 2 has improved upon the original in almost every way. There is more to do, it is more accessible and everything looks better. But the fact that this installment has failed to advance the series in any meaningful way makes it very difficult to recommend to any gamer who has played Black/White, unless they are a hardcore fan of course.