We hailed Pokémon Black and White as “the most evolutionary step within the series to date,” and its sequel, a notable first for the franchise, rides the crest of such wave. The arrival of the fifth generation in the Pokémon series saw developer Game Freak introduce a range of gameplay advancements, improved animation and the vast region of Unova, let alone a further 150 brand-new critters for Pokéfans to capture. In such regard, Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 aptly uses such a sturdy foundation, broadening the experience through a mixture of incremental additions.
Set two years following the events of Black and White, the player now begins their journey in the new locale of Aspertia City, which can be found in the mountainous range to the west of sprawling metropolis, Castelia City.
Those with any previous experience with the series will know exactly what will be expected of them with the latest entry. Setting out to claim Gym Badges, complete their Pokédex and proving victorious at the Pokémon League are your main aims once more, and despite such formula remaining to feel tired it still results in an enjoyable ride.
Yet the narrative which serves to connect the dots is less than enamouring, which fails to match the strength of its predecessor. The motivation of your childhood rival Hugh grates, whose continued training is in pursuit of defeating Team Plasma who are responsible for the theft of his sister’s Purrloin five years ago, and the mysterious Colress disappoints in never being able to deliver the same level of intrigue as that of N.
Every gym has been redesigned, providing the majority of highlights that Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 have to offer. Trainers will find themselves walking down catwalks, transported through webs and floating along lily pads, amongst others.
Perhaps of most significance are new activities, which include the Pokémon World Tournament in Driftveil City and Pokéstar Studios in Virbank City. The former grants the opportunity to battle Gym Leaders and Pokémon League Champions from the core series, whereas the Pokéstar Studios allow you to partake in filming short scripted sequences – the player choosing a move of a specified type to ensure that their movie is a success.
Such diversions may appear to be minor additions, yet are welcome expansions that will surely be met positively by fans. Even more so, Game Freak firmly flip the nostalgia card, with older generation Pokémon making appearances throughout the entirety of the game either in the wild or used by rival Pokémon Trainers – addressing a key criticism aired toward the original.
Move Tutors also make a return, allowing players to trade collected coloured shards that they find on their travels to unlock a chosen move for any of their Pokémon, if compatible.
Whilst the unimaginative screeches of Pokémon prove a disappointment yet again, the game’s soundtrack amounts to one of the most impactful within the series to date. From the guttural Team Plasma battle theme to remixed classics, the audio direction is certainly a joy to behold.
If there was an overriding issue to point out, it would be that the experience remains all too strikingly familiar. Whether Game Freak chooses to accept it or not, we’ve reached a point at which reinvention appears a necessity for the franchise. Yet, that said, Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 are still readily capable of holding their own.
It is the blend of old and new that lends Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 their greatest strength, an aspect that most Pokéfans will surely welcome with open arms.
Version Tested: Nintendo DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo