Finally the Pokédex is real!
Pokemon Black 2
Developer: Game Freak
Pokemon Black 2 Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
However, something that has had a significant change is the difficulty. I can’t speak for others, but I never had a hard time beating the earlier generations. As long as you had a super-effective attack on the opposing trainer, you were nearly guaranteed to win. This is most definitely not true anymore. Damage seems to be much harder to do and, as a result, trainers become a significant obstacle. This is even more so for gym leaders, other bosses, and late-game trainers, who have trained extremely well and given their Pokemon moves counteracting their type weaknesses. Even wild Pokemon seem to be much harder to defeat or catch, with levels that often match your own as you progress. Despite that notable change, I found myself liking the difficulty spikes. Strategy became far more important to the battles and I’m one who always likes a challenge. Though I have to say, I’m glad they gave you a double battle tag partner like Hugh for some of the most difficult sections.
Speaking of Hugh, the rival is always an important aspect of any Pokemon game that’s handled a bit differently here. Normally, the rival is a unpredictable test of skill that can show up anywhere and make sure your Pokemon are up to snuff. However, Hugh is a bit different in the regard that he only battles you a total of four times. In fact, he teams up with you exactly as much as he challenges you and is more a constantly appearing companion than anything else. I will say that I miss having the difficult test, but the larger character depth makes him a more likable character in the long run. Although, he has more than a small obsession with getting a stolen Pokemon back from Team Plasma that gets really old really fast. Still, he serves his purpose well enough and I never minded seeing him, especially because he makes for a great partner.
The post-game and online content for Black 2 and White 2 is also significantly expanded from previous games. There has always been something to do after the main story, be it catching legendary Pokemon scattered around the region or tough challenges like the Battle Frontier. However, Black 2 and White 2 have a wealth of content, including exploring numerous previously-unreachable areas, rematches against many tough trainers, extra bosses with significantly powerful Pokemon, and epilogues to many of the story threads brought up during the main game. There are also many different online aspects like the online trading that, while not amazingly intuitive, still provide more to do and more ways to get Pokemon.
Particularly praiseworthy among the crowd of content is the Pokemon World Tournament, a completely new addition to the Pokemon world that allows for tournament matches against many recognizable trainers around the region. In fact, beating certain tournaments allows matches against gym leaders from previous generations and, eventually, previous champions. It’s a great callback to the previous games in the series and seeing old hats like Brock or Jasmine again is a great blast of nostalgia, difficulty aside.
The visuals are not the most impressive I’ve ever seen, but they do the job. Even now, the look seems to be an expansion on the basic visuals of the original games, although the 3D environments and cutscenes do look quite nice and the design of many locations is inspired, such as the Black 2 version of Opelucid City. The Pokemon and Trainer movement details are also nice little additions and it’s clear that a significant amount of polish went into making the game look as nice as it can while keeping a similar look to the original Black and White. With that said, I’m not sure what more can be done to improve the underlying base at this point. When they inevitably continue on to the sixth generation, I believe they’ll have to give the visuals a significant change to have them look any noticeable amount better than they currently do.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the music seriously impresses. The Pokemon games have always had catchy, well-done songs to fit their different locations and battles perfectly, and this is extremely true here. Listening to the various tunes, I can’t find a single one I honestly disliked. The musical style of the entire game is also consistent throughout the soundtrack while still matching the kind of music expected from a Pokemon game. Also notable are the changes to the music to fit the myriad situations, such as a remix of the main Pokemon theme playing when a gym leader is on their last Pokemon, the gym theme changing depending on the gym in question, and the previously annoying low life beeping made into a song for far less annoyance. These changes flow well with the battles and environments themselves and manage to make them far more dynamic than they would be otherwise. Among many others, I have to say I have a special fondness for the new champion theme, the Colress battle theme, Hugh’s battle theme, and all the themes from the fourth gym. Really, I can’t say enough good things about the music from this particular entry.
In the end, the first direct sequels in the series are yet another couple of games following the standard Pokemon formula. However, this game is the smoothest refinement I’ve seen of this system. Battles require more strategy, the world is more interesting, the Pokemon are still cool to pick out, and the callbacks to the generations of old bring back great memories. I can’t fault the developers for keeping with an idea if it still works and despite any initial misgivings and disenfranchisement with the series, I did have fun battling through another region. That fact can’t be denied. If you have fond memories of Pokemon, these games will remind you of why you loved the originals and even if you’ve never played a Pokemon game before, I’d still say it’s worth a try. With refinement like this, there’s never been a better time to test the waters. Just watch out for the Basculins.
A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. The reviewer played the game for almost 50 hours.
Pokemon Black 2 Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
Ahh Pokemon. What can be said about it that hasn’t been said already? Upon first release, it quickly became a massive phenomenon and I can’t remember any kids during my younger years who didn’t at the very least know about it. There just seemed to be a certain magic to the idea of catching a team of little monsters, your personal team, and defeating all of the most powerful trainers in the region until you were the very best, like no one ever was.
Catchy anime openings aside, things seemed to change as time went on. As the newer generations came and went, many of those same kids who had become so enraptured seemed to drift away. New fans were always attracted, many older fans stayed, and the brand has continued to sell extremely well, even after all these years. However, it almost seemed as though the magic was gone and while it was still popular, it was nowhere near what it once was in terms of its impact on culture. Personally, the last generation I bought and played through was the 3rd, specifically Emerald. While I did enjoy the game, it didn’t get me excited as it once did and when the 4th and 5th generation games came out, I passed them by as there were other games I wanted more. As such, getting to play Black 2 was like opening a time capsule to my childhood. However, does the tried and undeniably true formula still hold up today? Allow me to tell you.
|PROS||Refined gameplay, Dynamic music, Still fun|
|CONS||Graphics could be better, Won’t change your mind|
|WTF?!||The random Zoroark in Lostlorn Forest. Where did that thing come from anyway?|
If there’s one thing the main Pokemon games aren’t lacking on, it’s consistency. Even with these “5.5 gen” games, the basic gameplay and story ideas seen in the original three are still in full force. In fact, considering the extremely heavy similarities, I’m going to do a little something different with this review. I’m going to compare each of the major aspects of a main Pokemon game for this particular entry against those in previous generations, while still talking about how it works toward the overall experience. The way I see it, it’s impossible to avoid comparisons, so let’s just get right into the thick of it with the story.
I’ll be blunt here. From a story perspective, the original games had practically nothing going for them. Yes, there was the whole “become the Champion” point and yes, there was also the whole deal with Team Rocket’s constant attempts to muck around. However, there wasn’t really much, if any, depth to be seen and, even as a kid, I was a bit disappointed at how there could have been so much more to it. In comparison, the story of Black 2 and White 2 is better, with Gym Leaders interacting outside the gyms, a resurgence of Team Plasma from the original Black and White with actual stakes, and constantly reappearing characters like your rival Hugh and previous game rival and new gym leader Cheren. However, the story is only good in that comparison. Outside of that scope, it’s still lacking rather painfully. Hugh’s constant motivations against Team Plasma can get irritating, characters seem to pop up with little rhyme or reason, and supposedly big payoffs aren’t built up to enough to make them feel as important as they should be. To me, it comes off as kind of amateur when I really believe they can do better than this, although the effort is there.
Considering the setting in a short aside, the region is still the same as the original Black and White, the Unova region. However, if you are worried about the game being a complete retread because of this, fear not. From the info diving I’ve done, it’s clear that many things are significantly different, from the all new starting region in the lower left corner of the map to the reformatted northeast section. On the flipside, many things are still the same, with five gym leaders and the Elite Four reprising their roles, but even they manage to differentiate themselves at least slightly, with new gym designs and Pokemon teams. The Unova region is not exactly the same by any margin, and you won’t be feeling like you’ve seen it all before.
Also notable is the Pokemon available in this revamped Unova region. In the original Black and White, before beating the Elite 4, the only available Pokemon were those native to the Unova region. While I, unlike some people I’ve seen, have no problems with the newer Pokemon, it does feel a bit limiting to only focus on those new ones in the main game. This is completely different in Black 2 and White 2, where previous generation Pokemon are scattered all over the region, setting the number of available Pokemon before the Elite 4 to an unprecedented amount of around 300. This makes for a lot more variety and choice in choosing your personal team and, as previously stated, that’s a large part of what makes the Pokemon series good.
As for the gameplay, the basic idea is still the same as it’s always been. You catch Pokemon, form a team with different movesets and types to conquer any other team, and get into battles against other Trainers to try and knock out all their Pokemon before they do the same to you. However, there are many different aspects to consider and variations to try on this basic idea. Particularly interesting to me are the Triple Battles and Rotation Battles, specific fights each involving three Pokemon, the first simply having six Pokemon battling it out at once and the second involving six Pokemon out at once, but rotating the main attacker between those choices. It’s nice to see some differences in the formula, although these particular types are merely carried over from the initial Black and White, so it’s nothing new. With that said, the design is still very solid and despite the fact that little of the groundwork has changed since the series’ inception, it’s still rather fun to battle against both trainers and friends.