This upcoming Sunday, Nintendo will launch a brand new entry in the Pokémon franchise with Pokémon Black and White Version 2. Gamers will dive back into the Unova region in order to save the world once again.
Game Freak, the constant studio behind this world famous franchise, has added a new storyline, a few new Pokémon, new towns, new features and minor tweaks to the originals in this Black and White saga with Version 2. Is that enough to make this Pokémon a must play?
Worthy of a sequel?
Pokémon fans know that Black and White 2 represents something really unique for this franchise. This is the first Pokémon game to ever be a numbered sequel. Every generation of Pokémon titles has been either a set of two colors (representing the original entries) or an ultimate version.
We had Pokémon Red and Blue in 1998, for instance. In 1999, we saw Pokémon Yellow. These enhanced versions are typically extensions of the original games. They feature special twists that make the first titles unique; but, normally, they aren't really perceived as "must buy" additions for folks that own the originals.
Last year, we received Black and White, the first original Pokémon games to release by Nintendo since Diamond and Pearl back in 2007. If you could time travel back to the launch of Black and White and ask gamers what they thought the next Pokémon game would be, I bet most would say something along the lines of Pokémon Grey.
However, Nintendo and Game Freak delivered Pokémon Black and White Version 2. They were calling it a sequel. In the gaming sense of the word, that's what it is.
A sequel in gaming typically indicates that players will see a continuance in the plot line and a refining of the game's mechanics. Black and White 2 presents both aspects. The story in this game takes place two years after the originals, though it's not all that remarkable.
As for the mechanics, well, this is Pokémon.
Perfecting the formula.
Stop me if you've heard this before: you'll tell the new professor your name, distinguish your sex, meet some characters in your small town, select your starter Pokémon, be handed a Pokédex and venture forth into a world of adventure. Catch. 'Em. All.
You'll fight gym leaders, earn badges, seek out rare Pokémon and take on the elite four. This franchise, above all else, is predictable. But, the formula is what's earned it such a great train of success.
Pokémon is an RPG experience unlike anything else in gaming today. This is the one franchise where gamers are typically okay with repetition and aging mechanics. Game Freak has added animations to sprites, perfected the UI, combined healing and shopping elements to Pokémon Centers, added a clock to the bottom screen of the DS, made trading more user-friendly and upgraded just about every single element of this experience to a point near perfection.
Pokémon is an old dog that doesn't need to learn new tricks. There's always been something so perfectly addictive about catching and training Pokémon that earns this franchise a "pass" from nearly every critic with every release. Game Freak changes the storyline, they make additions that only the truest of fans can genuinely geek out about, and they add generations of Pokémon that almost everyone says will never be as good as the first.
Yet, here we are, back again, lining up to buy the new Pokémon game. This is the formula you know and love, and it's been tweaked to such a point that Black and White 2 are the smoothest entries to-date.
This franchise, above all else, is predictable. But, the formula is what's earned it such a great train of success.
Is this okay?
For some gamers, Pokémon has become a lot like Activision's Call of Duty. There's a consensus among people who feel this way that Pokémon releases far too often. However, I'd like to counter that idea.
I decided to create a quick chart comparing the Pokémon and Call of Duty franchises. The Xs represent completely original entries in each series. No remakes, no ultimate versions, no spin-offs, no Pokémon Platinums and no Game of the Year Editions. These are completely original games in each franchise.
With this lens on, the Pokémon series looks far less used than Call of Duty. If I were to use every edition of every game, including mobile offshoots and portable titles for the Call of Duty brand, the chart would get extremely complicated. However, Call of Duty would still command a much larger presence.
Nintendo has often returned to the waterhole with Pokémon, I will grant anyone that fact. However, they do so in an infrequent and easy to engage manner. You know that Pokémon FireRed is a remake of the original game, and you know that you can totally ignore it if you like. Call of Duty, however, tries to pass off as a brand new experience year in and year out. That's why, for me, the difference between these two series is noticeable.
Could you be buying in to the same Pokémon you've been experiencing since 1998 with Black and White 2? Yes. But, at this point in the series' nearly 15 year run, you either like Pokémon, hate Pokémon or are completely new to the franchise. For those that like this series or want to experience it for the first time, Pokémon Black and White Version 2 is a great place to start.
However, if you're looking for a completely new and revolutionary take on the Pokémon brand, you'll want to wait a bit longer. This is a great game, but it won't meet that demand.
We recieved a review copy of Pokémon Black and White Version 2 from Nintendo for the Nintendo DS. We completed the game's storyline before starting this review. We picked Snivy as our starter Pokémon and totally regretted it until the very last gym. We knew Tepig was a better choice.
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