Nintendo's 'Pokémon Black Version/White Version 2' for DS.
It's been fourteen years since Nintendo released the first two Pokémon games (Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue) onto the original monochrome Game Boy. In that nearly decade and a half, no fewer than eighteen core Pokémon games (and a number of spin-offs) have been released -- all to a certain level of fanfare. Now that Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2, the latest two titles in the series, are about to be released, Nintendo hopes to continue the magic. Luckily for Pokémon fans, the do -- for the most part.
The story, which takes place two years after the slightly-irrelevant events of the original White/Black versions, is akin to one that's been presented over and over again in past core Pokémon titles. Kept simple for the younger audience on which the Pokémon games thrive, the game is more-or-less about a novice Pokémon trainer (the player) as he/she travels the land, growing his/her Pokémon's strength, and taking on various Gym leaders found on the way to becoming the Pokémon Champion for the land of Unova. Also, like previous Pokémon titles, there is an antagonist group of trainers (Team Plasma from the original Pokémon White/Black Version game) up to their own brand of mischief.
Things flow from one event to the next fairly well, even if things never truly get all that interesting. That's not to say the game is uninteresting, but there seems to be very few of those "Aha" moments. Perhaps a 10 year old would find the game slightly more mind blowing than a 30 year old with 25 years of gaming experience, but hey.
It must be noted that Pokémon White Version 2, the version played for this review, shares the same storyline as Black Version 2 does. As with many of the previous games, the only real difference between the two titles is the available Pokémon creatures.
Challenging is one thing that really cannot be said about Pokémon White/Black Version 2. The starter Pokémon that the player begins with (the fire-based Tepig being the one chosen in this play through) is plenty powerful enough to take on most of the early-game foes, and he only grew stronger as the game went on. The various gym leaders and the final assortment of trainers can be a tad tricky, but they're not of the difficulty one would expect from a mini- or end-boss.
Gameplay itself remains much the same as it's been for years with these games. The standard formula of sending out one Pokémon creature after the next in turn-based battles against opposing wild and/or trained Pokémon remains largely unchanged. A little innovation and maturation with these mechanics would be nice to see, but Nintendo gives players little-to-none. Beyond these typically simple skirmishes, the player can attempt to complete his/her Pokédex (essentially a catalog of all the player's captured critters).
What Nintendo does give players, though, is mildly amusing. PokéStar Studios is the major addition to the game. It's a side game in which the player can make little movies featuring his/her Pokémon. Black/White Version 2 also adds a World Tournament option, allowing the player to take on characters from past Pokémon games like gym leader Brock and trainer Misty.
The new titles are also compatible with two new apps for the 3DS: Pokémon Dream Radar and Pokédex 3D Pro. Dream Radar will, once the game official comes out on October 7, let players use the 3DS' augmented reality feature to discover Pokémon that are "hidden" in the real world. Those creatures can then be transferred into Black/White Version 2. Pokédex 3D Pro doesn't come out until early November, but that app will include information on more than 600 Pokémon -- including those found within White/Black Version 2.
Presentation is where Pokémon White/Black Version 2 shows its age, despite being a game that doesn't technically come out for another three days (at the time of this article's posting). The 2D sprites being used in the games haven't changed much since 1998, save for the addition of color and improved resolution. It would be nice to see more modern graphics akin to those used for the Dream Eater critters in Square-Enix's Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. These Pokémon games have simply fallen behind the times graphics-wise.
Mildly entertaining, yet still just as addictive a play as previous core Pokémon titles, Pokémon White Version 2 is an adequate continuation of the series. Unless there are any big shake-ups soon, however, the tired old formulas and increasingly outdated visuals could spell disaster for future releases.
Final Game Guys grade: B-
(Nintendo of America provided a copy of this game for review.)