Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Pokemon Black & White version 2

“Nintendo’s iconic franchise returns as more than just a mid-generation revamp – rather Version 2 is a remodeling of the Pokemon universe. While the core gameplay has stayed the same, nearly everything else has been tinkered with to provide an even more enjoyable trip down memory lane.”

There is no bigger series on Nintendo’s handheld that I look forward to reviewing more than Pokemon. Black and White version 2 is more than a minor expansion and aesthetic revamping of the predecessors, rather this direct sequel incorporates the same tried and tested formula that fans love alongside some engaging changes and refinements that culminate in one of the best Pokemon experiences to date.

Just like with any of the third instalment titles Version 2 doesn’t change the mould of past Pokemon games: at heart this is the same experience that you’ve played through numerous times before. This may put some fans off and if you were hoping that the series was finally going to get a dramatic overhaul, well you’re going to have wait a little longer I’m afraid. Those of you who accept this fact will be able to enjoy this high quality turn-based role-play game while also partaking in a mass of new content created specifically for Version 2.

Being a direct sequel it becomes immediately apparent how familiar and yet surprisingly refreshing the content in Version 2 feels. You begin the game in a new city and while Unova for the most part is the same, new areas and revisions to old ones have occurred to revitalize the world around you. These aesthetic changes go as far as the wonderful use of 2D sprite art and 3D graphics that the originals began implementing. This art style gives Version 2 a real sense of grandeur as you look over a horizon or gaze down upon a city. This slight subtle tweak to the visuals really makes Unova come to life and gives the game a real mature feel.

Of course the stars of the show are the Pokemon and Team Plasma’s attempts at world domination. Those of you who completed the original games will have an option to sync the content together and add a few nice references to events that occurred two years before Version 2 is set. These references aren’t needed to understand the story presented here, but syncing will provide those who completed the games homage to their work and how their efforts helped to shape the present Unova region.

I think it’s fair to assume that everybody reading this review pretty much knows exactly how Pokemon plays by now, so I’ll only go through the key combat quickly just in case someone has randomly decided that this will be the first Pokemon game they pick up. At its core Pokemon is a turn-based RPG where players catch Pokemon and battle them against each other. Pokemon have their own types, sub-types and moves. A rock, paper, scissor like game occurs with fire beating grass, grass beating water and water of course beating fire and so forth with other types. This principle applies throughout the whole game but after years of tweaking and adding to the formula don’t be fooled by the game’s apparent simple nature. Indeed Pokemon can be as advanced and complex or as easy as you want it to be. Natures, hidden stats, IV stats and many more factors attribute to the multitude of ways you can raise your Pokemon as they gain levels, but the beauty of Nintendo is they layer their games in such a manner that anyone of any age and skill type can pick Pokemon up and have a blast.

Fortunately even for veterans of the series there is a whole load of new content to try out and explore in Version 2 that’s brand new to the series. Pokemon World Tournament is one of these new additions, allowing you to partake in an event that challenges previous gym leaders and champions. This makes for a wholly exciting and nostalgic game mode that puts you to the test against some of the most challenging trainers Version 2 has to offer. If you’re looking for something to do other than battle than PokeStar Studios which allows you to create movies using your favourite Pokemon, might just be the mode for you. Along the same wavelength is the returning Pokemon Musicals, which can also be quite fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

Version 2 also emphasizes interconnectivity with other players. Using the game’s various communication methods players can get together with other players and explore a variety of unique shops only available in Join Avenue. On top of that the Entralink introduces brand new Fun Fest Missions – paired with the chat capabilities of the Xtransceiver, there’s a whole load of ways players can interact with each other and partake in various quests and missions in exchange for goodies.

New additions don’t stop there: the addition of Pokemon-esque achievements in the form of Medals will force you to look at your Pokemon experience from a different angle. With hundreds of medals to acquire, this system is an interesting and fun new way to add some more spice to your adventure. Perhaps more importantly is the new key system, which when acquired lets you manipulate the game in interesting ways. Keys can be found by fulfilling certain goals and can then be used for example to change the game’s difficulty setting from the standard normal to either easy or hard – this is a never before seen feature for a Pokemon game and can enhance the experience drastically for veterans of the series. Even the Pokedex has been given an upgrade with the ability to point out what creatures you have spotted in each area. This now makes capturing all the Pokemon incredibly easy in a systematic fashion.

It’s fairly obvious that Version 2 is far more than your traditional mid-generation third version release – these direct sequels provides much more than the customary updates Pokemon fans are used to. Will it provide that same wonderful spark you first felt when you played Pokemon Red/Blue, probably not. But the same can be said for every Pokemon game – it’s never the same as the very first time. That’s not to say however, that this isn’t a rich and deeply engrossing experience – this direct sequel enhances the game and builds upon it while not necessarily changing the formula. As far as RPG games go, the Pokemon series is right up there and why change a formula that has proven to be successful time after time. So go get yourself a copy and relive this beautiful adventure once again and become captivated by the glorious world of Pokemon.

8.0 | Gameplay |
Your traditional Pokemon gameplay returns in glorious fashion. This beautifully styled and refined game refuses to change an already proven formula, but sands down the edges and pretty much updates everything outside of the core gameplay. The result is a shaken up adventure full to the brim with excitement.

9.0 | Presentation |
As far as the Nintendo DS goes it doesn’t get much better. A beautiful world comes to life and changes as the seasons turn. Unova is a wonderful region full of mesmerizing and memorable areas to explore. The use of 3D environments surrounding 2D sprites really gives the towns and cities the sense of scale they so desperately needed and as always, the Pokemon are so damn cool.

10.0 | Replay Value |
I’ve purchased every Pokemon game since Red and Blue and my minimum game time on average spans somewhere close to 50 hours. As a result I’ve probably spent more time playing Pokemon than any other series of games and I never get bored of it. This is a game you can really get sucked into and lost for a very long time. The world of Pokemon is brimming with life and the emotional connection created between you and your favourite Pokemon is difficult to emulate in any other video game.

9.0 | Final Thoughts |
Let’s not get stuck in the argument that the series hasn’t changed for years and it’s still the same old thing. Pokemon Black and White Version 2 openly avoids changing what we know and love about Pokemon but literally goes to town on everything around it. The result is a polished off game with a host of new content and additions that make this Pokemon adventure, one of the most enjoyable yet.

Igor Kharin.

Editor’s note – To clarify Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2 are two separate games. I merely mentioned them as one game in the review for ease of writing. The differences between the two copies are those you would expect from a Pokemon game: changes in locations of Pokemon, changes in available Pokemon, a couple of variable locations and so forth.

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