Pokemon White Version 2 Game Reviewed
I think it’s safe to say at this point that Pokémon has a pretty decent following in the world of video gaming entertainment. The first generation of the long-running catch-em-all saga sold upwards of twenty million copies worldwide and fast-forwarding to 2012, Pokemon Black and White’s total copies sold is a number that approaches fifteen million, and to this very day I can occasionally be caught sneaking in an hour or two of Pokémon Blue on my perfectly-preserved Gameboy Colour. The game possesses a longevity that Pokémon fans simply cannot shake, and why would they want to? With the (relatively) recent release of Pokémon White Version 2, the very specific world of Pokémon fandom can breathe once again after holding its breath for so very long. We now have a game on our hands that claims to be a direct sequel of the previous and asserts that we have a new adventure on our hands. I’ve accrued a frankly embarrassing number of gameplay hours on many Pokémon titles in my 24 years on the planet, with a majority of these hours being on White Version 2, so I feel inclined to pop down a few opinions about the game in word form for your perusal for anyone who is interested; for those of you who couldn’t care less, I’ve given you a piece of writing that you can make a point of actively ignoring. Either way, everybody wins. Now, let’s talk Pokémon.
A familiar sight: the starter Pokémon remain present as expected, being one of the many rocks of the Pokémon genre throughout the generations .
Undoubtedly, Unashamedly Pokémon
First off, I can’t emphasise enough how much Pokémon White Version Version 2 is the most comprehensive and autonomous incarnation/embodiment of Pokémon to date. You will have hopefully realised that I didn’t use the word ‘reincarnation’ here: my selection of words here was wholly deliberate to highlight the fact that while the game is most definitely the embodiment of Pokémon as we have always known it, it packs enough new features and departures from the previous titles to deserve the title of a ‘direct sequel’. Pokémon White Version 2 may be set in the Unova region like its predecessor, but it boasts new characters, a new storyline, new areas to explore and some shiny new features to boot. Thankfully, we don’t have another ‘Crystal’ or ‘Platinum’ on our hands here: this game leads us down the rabbit hole into something rather different, and anything which may be familiar to you from the previous games has likely been revamped, re-imagined and has generally received some kind of much-needed makeover.
A substantial number of locations and their aesthetics have their origins in Pokémon White Version and have undergone some considerable changes to bring a fresh perspective to the Unova region. The most obvious and dramatic refurbishments have occurred with the design of the gyms: the wonderfully delicate and silk-spun surroundings of Castelia City gym make it look like a giant 99 without the flake, whereas the blustery aeroplane hangar of Mistralton City and the grand dragon statues with the Opleucid City gym are but a few further examples of the wonderfully imaginative aesthetic changes. The Unova gyms are much more magnificent than ever , boasting some challenging puzzles which must be undertaken before you can even think about taking on the leader, and a face-lift to the aesthetics that even the guys at ‘Changing Rooms’ would find it difficult to match up to.
A gym like no other: the silk-spun surroundings of Castelia City’s gym is indicative of the considerable makeover given to much of the surroundings in the game.
Before I even go on to talk about the delightfulness of the gameplay, I’d better mention a little about the elephant in the room; I’m referring to issue of 3D, and specifically, why the games weren’t made for the 3DS platform. It isn’t my place to delve into the pros, cons, rights and wrongs of Nintendo’s decision, since there are articles available on the internet which offer supporting and opposing views on the whole thing, and even ones which suggest that Nintendo’s decision not to release the game in 3D will actually hurt the 3DS. As far as I see it, it isn’t so much of an elephant in the room as it is a tiny, pointless, elephant-like, ugly decoration that way too many people are overly concerned about. Aside from the fact the game was released last year and that no amount of whining or moaning about the lack of 3D functionality/Nintendo’s huge mistake on the matter will change the situation in the slightest, Pokémon has always relied on its distinctive artistic style, passing up radical graphics changes in favour of maintaining its idiosyncratic appearance that is so characteristic of Pokémon throughout the years. It maintains the same visual style of White Version and White Version, but hits us up with some subtle 3D (in the non-3DS sense) graphics which give a dramatic sense of cinematic grandeur which are by no means delusionary: just look at the pretty screenshot I’ve placed over yonder.
The streets of Castelia City flare up some of the mild 3D-style surroundings whilst panning across the scenery. Actual 3DS functionality will have to wait until Pokémon X and Y!
The embers of the Pokémon fire still crackle with a white-hot glow in Pokémon White 2, and the fuel for this long-burning yet entirely metaphorical fire is the dependably consistent nature of the gameplay mechanics. The game still boasts the familiar ‘attack and return’ style of battle that has been the mainstay of Pokémon games from the first generation to that of the present day. Encounters with wild Pokémon, other trainers, gym leaders and the catching of the Pokémon themselves are all performed in an incredibly familiar way, and it is in this resolute consistency that the essence of Pokémon in general comes from. The game proudly carries the torch that has been burning since Pokémon Red and Blue, with changes such as aesthetical alterations and slight functional upgrades to the system being incremental and gradually introduced over time, facilitated by the new and improved hardware and dual-screen functionality that the Nintendo DS has to offer. As clichéd as the phrase may be, the core principles of the gameplay aren’t broken, and it would be a foolish risk of colossal proportions to try to tinker with the very structure on which the unique spirit of Pokémon is based.
Further separating the game from the tethers of its predecessor is the new and expanded Pokédex incorporating Pokémon from times past as well as the usual suspects of the more recent generations. To facilitate the locating and capturing of this abundant collection of Pokémon, the Habitat list makes its debut in the game, and is one of the advancements in the Pokédex which stood out the most for me. This feature kindly informs you of the particular Pokémon that are native to each area, and whether you already have these Pokémon in your collection. Due to the sheer number of Pokémon available for capture in the Unova region, the Habitat list provides the perfect method of categorisation and furnishes you with essential information about the Pokémon of each of the areas you visit. No longer will you have to rely on dumb luck or a quick delve into one of the many Pokémon fan-sites on the internet to tell you which creatures you still have to catch in Route 13, for example: the Pokédex will now give you this information. This is good news for pretty much everyone who plays the game, but fantastic news for the die-hard Pokémon fan (in the ‘dedicated’ and not the ‘John Mclane’ sense of the phrase) who wishes to undertake the national Pokédex challenge. Catching them all has never been such a convenient (if a tremendously time-consuming) task.
The changing of the seasons is a feature which follows on from the Pokémon White Version 2, but is not simply an aesthetical feature that is just pretty to look at and to be occasionally noticed as you pass from one city to the next; it is a feature that actually trickles into the gameplay very frequently. The season cycle dictate when and where certain people you’ve met in the game will be, and whether they will battle you or not. A character called Cynthia is an example of this, since she will battle you every day in the spring, but not in the other seasons. The presence of certain wild Pokémon is also a season-specific feature, with some Pokémon being rare in one season yet abundant in the next. The seasons even affect the accessibility of certain areas within the game; snowfall in the winter, for example, allows you access to an area in Icirrus City which is otherwise inaccessible in any other season.
Content to keep you contented
The game comes packed with an abundance of new content which, such as Pokéstar Studios where you can try your hand at creating a series of short features using your Pokémon as actors. In a similar vein, the Pokémon musical lets you branch out into more theatrical ventures. Fame and notoriety are the spoils of these secondary tasks, and of course, a large statue made of bronze should you find your movies a success. Join Avenue acts as a meeting ground for other players to set up shops and establishments in; rewards and prizes such as rare candies, Ultra Balls and even a Master Ball. The Battle Subway lays in wait for those who feel that movies and musicals are little too pacifistic for their liking; hop on whichever train takes your fancy for single, double, and multi-battles, as well as the opportunity to battle over Wi-Fi with fellow Pokémon enthusiasts all over the world. The battle subway is just one example of the fantastic use of the Nintendo DS’s functions, allowing Pokémon games to include more diverse and interactive content with each release, bringing Pokémon fans in the world closer together and truly connecting the expanding community.
Perhaps the most notable and undoubtedly the most entertaining of the game’s supplementary activities is the Pokémon World Tournament. Acting as an outlet for your Pokémon-related frustrations in which you can repeatedly battle to your heart’s content, the Pokémon World Tournament is brand new feature which allows you to (for battle points, not experience points) face-off against some of the iconic names from the frankly massive world of the Pokémon past. Going up against characters of previous-game fame allows the life-long Pokémon fanatic (of which there are many, including me) to relive some of the most memorable battles of their own past, as well as giving the player an idea of just how broad Pokémon’s history truly is.
All of the extra content in the game runs parallel to the main story, so they can be entered into at your leisure without holding up your main game progress, or if you only have eyes for gym badges and the elite four, the secondary content can be ignored entirely. The abundance of content within Pokémon White Version 2 means that the player is unlikely to run out of things to do for the foreseeable future, and makes the entire game a more well-rounded experience, eliminating the danger of the entire affair becoming an endless cycle of battling and catching with no reprieve from the action.
Pokémon Through and Through
Sceptics of the Pokémon franchise can scatter immediately, and doubters of White 2 who are fans of the previous titles can rest assured that Pokémon White 2 maintains Pokémon’s style whilst injecting some badly-needed fresh content into the game. There are advocates of change out there that oppose sprite-based battle animations and the general main-story format of taking on gyms and battling the elite four: I feel that this system works to the game’s advantage, allowing absolute consistency throughout the series and providing a foundation around which new content can be built. Changing the format could run the risk of the game losing the magic that is has consistently retained year after year. Undoubtedly a sequel as opposed to a simple augmentation of the previous title, Pokémon White Version 2 received my full support and admiration. I have no time for nay-sayers here.
Reviewed by Craig Sherratt