Most of the news from Nintendo these days centers around the release of their upcoming WII U console release. With the new system due out in November, Nintendo is reminding gamers that they’re not quite ready to shut the door on the older systems with the release of two new Pokemon games, Pokemon Black and White Version 2. Released in 2004, the Nintendo DS has been one of the company’s best sellers and though the system has evolved, they are still releasing games that can be played on that original DS system. Some downloadable apps and features have been added for players with the new Nintendo 3DS.
Pokemon, for those unfamiliar with the game portion of the franchise is essentially a turn-based role playing game. In them, in addition to defeating your enemies, you must collect said enemies. As you collect these little pocket monsters, you can build a team to fight other Pokemon teams. Think dog fighting, without the gore and tragedy and with really cute monsters. These Pokemon will level up as you fight them and can eventually be evolved into more powerful monsters. Each of these monsters has a specific elemental attack that is more or less effective against other types of enemies. This is all wrapped up with a narrative geared toward younger gamers.
Pokemon Black Version 2 returns players to the Unova region two years after the events of the original Pokemon Black game. It is worth noting that this is the first time in the core Pokemon series that a storyline has continued from one game to another. That being said, though players can explore new towns and areas and see some other changes to region, there really are no new Pokemon to be found this time around. However, some of the Pokemon from outside the Unova region, such as Eevee, Riolu, Tyranitar, Arcanine, and Mareep can be found pretty early on.
While none of the core mechanics of Pokemon have been changed, there are a handful of new features. The first of these is the new “PokeStar Studios” where players can make their own movies by picking a scenario, completing a battle by meeting a certain condition, and then choosing a dialogue option. There is also the “Pokemon World Tournament.” In this mode, players can work their way up to fighting against various gym leaders and eventually enter a final tournament against the champions. Another new multiplayer mode is the “Funfest” series of missions where you compete against up to 99 local players and try to complete various tasks. These new modes offer prizes in the form of bonus items to help in your quest.
If these don’t sound like big changes from last iteration of the nearly 15-year-old RPG franchise, it’s because they’re not. Players choose from the same three initial Pokemon as the original Pokemon Black game. Oddly, the biggest difference between Version 2 and the original, besides the new modes, is the balance. Pokemon has gotten easier, though a bit more tedious. The beginning of the game runs you through more battles than a title used to, but the difficulty of your enemies have been decreased. This means there is a lot more fighting but with weaker enemies. This carries through to how the gyms have been designed as well. It is almost as if Nintendo and Game Freak are trying to make Pokemon more accessible but, choosing a sequel to implement that change is puzzling.
Pokemon Black Version 2 does offer some welcome visual upgrades. This is obvious from the first time you start the game up. The opening art and animation sequences are noticeably sharper. The improved graphics carry over to the game, too. The menu screens are also both more functional and better looking. The title calls the game Version 2 which implies an upgrade over the first game, like a “Game of the Year” edition rather than a sequel, and perhaps they should have just rereleased the original. The expectation for the core Pokemon games is high and there is little in this outing that advances the series. As an improvement or upgrade upon the original, Pokemon Black Version 2 succeeds but, as a true sequel, it may disappoint many long time players.
Pokemon Black: Version 2 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief and Mild Cartoon Violence.