Pokemon Black 2/White 2 Review: Nothing Evolving Here

Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 are follow-ups to Pokemon Black and White from 2011, which I was less than impressed with. These sequels are more like rehashes – set in the same area with many of the exact same characters (who reference the previous games a lot), there’s not much at all that has changed. Sure, there are new Pokemon, and you play as a new trainer, but your starting Pokemon are the same three options, and just about every aspect of the game is the same save a few small changes. So should you bother to get this game?

Platforms: DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Game Freak
Genre: Pocket Monster Role-Playing Game
Release Date: October 7, 2012
ESRB Rating: Everyone

The answer to that depends on what you want from Pokemon Black 2 and White 2. What do the new games have going for them? Well, for starters, they’re Pokemon games, which gives them an instant fan base. If all you want is another game in which you collect Pokemon, fight other trainers, go up against gym leaders for badges, and take on the Elite Four and the champion for that epic feeling of pure satisfaction, then no matter how Game Freak adjusts their tried-and-true formula, it should work for you. That formula is pretty stale in this case, but that didn’t stop me from playing the game for over 70 hours, seeing it through to the end, collecting as many pocket monsters as I possibly could and traveling Unova yet again.

By this time, I’m pretty sure you know how Pokemon games work. You are a regular kid growing up in a world in which Pokemon, or pocket monsters, live with humans. They have a symbiotic relationship… for the most part (except for those bad dudes and duddettes over at Team Plasma). You want to become the best Pokemon trainer, so you go out into the world with your Pokedex and try to fill it with information. You do all the normal things a kid on a quest would do: fight battles, catch Pokemon, and check in regularly with your parents. Well, not so much in this game, but you should do that more.

While the gameplay and setup are the same, there are additions to the formula. Now, hidden grottoes are across the region – secluded places where you can find, fight, and capture special Pokemon. There are also plenty of ways to level up your characters, be it in the subway station or the various arenas spread across Unova. You can take responsibility for an avenue and line it with shops, gaining popularity as word spreads about your choice of shops and people running them. You can even make movies starring your Pokemon. In addition to your regular Pokedex, you’ve also got the Habitat option, which lets you know when you’ve got all the Pokemon in a specific area. This is very handy for completionists looking to catch ’em all.

But what else is there that is actually – well – relevant, and not just filler? This entry in the Pokemon franchise features a new plot thread that takes you off the beaten path. Unlike previous games in the series, you’ll be doing more than going from one gym to the next and fighting everything in between. Black 2 and White 2 go off the rails a bit, taking you out of the regular sequence to do some battling that you might not have. There’s plenty more butt-kicking, which, of course, helps in the long run to get you ready for those final encounters against the big bosses.

Which leads me to one of the biggest problems I had with the game. The Elite Four were challenging – extremely so! – which I am not complaining about. I love a fight involving Pokemon that takes strategy and planning. But the final battle against the champion was absolutely brutal. I came within one hit of winning four times and got killed, culminating in hours of sheer frustration. Her Pokemon – which weren’t even as high level as mine! – consistently destroyed mine. One of her Pokemon has the most ridiculous set of attacks, which seemed to counter literally every single member of my party and annihilate them in one hit. It was an exercise in aggravation and disappointment, especially considering if you don’t beat her, you have to start over again from the beginning of the Elite Four and fight them and her all over again.

Pokemon Black 2 and White 2, in my opinion, are designed as holdovers for fans of the series who are waiting for a real 3D Pokemon to come out – which, admit it, you were hoping this game was going to be. There’s nothing innovative here, nothing astronomically different – there are still the rotation and triple battles, surfing across the ocean, trying to track down various Legendary Pokemon. Really, even with the new and old aspects of the game, this is just the same delivery system for your Pokemon craving. As I said, I played the game for 70 hours, but by the end, I just wanted to finish it so I could escape its icy, addictive clutches.

As such, there’s really no place for this game in the hearts of any but the most diehard fans – those of us who need something while we’re waiting for the true 3DS game or, as some are clamoring for, the Wii U game. In the interim, if you’re looking to just have a casual Pokemon experience, you could pick up Pokemon Black 2 and White 2… or you could pick up the originals, Pokemon Black and White. But really, there is no such thing as a casual Pokemon experience, and if you’re looking to have one, then you should start (yes, I said “start”) with Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver. Attach that Pokewalker to your pocket and forget about ever leading a normal life again.

Review Disclosure: A review copy of Pokemon Black 2/White 2 was provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review.

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Nicole Kline is Warp Zoned's Senior Editor. She first began preparing for the job by climbing a milk crate to play Centipede in an arcade. You can find her on PSN under the name toitle or you can email her at nicole AT warpzoned DOT com.

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