Players of the original Pokemon series, assuming they were ten years old at the time, are now in their mid-late twenties. The first two entries in the series, Pokemon Blue Version, and Pokemon Red Version, were released in 1996 for Game Boy, developed by a company called Game Freak and published by Nintendo.
Fast forward nearly two decades, and the formula for the games is – perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not so – remarkably unchanged. You play a character in a world inhabited by these small creatures (you guessed it: Pokemon) and go through the world collecting them and battling your creatures against others in the world.
Of course, that preamble was completely unnecessary for anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past 16 years, so let’s get into our review of the latest Pokemon game in the franchise, and the first true sequel in its history, Pokemon Black Version 2.
Perhaps the first thing to note about this Pokemon game is that the art style hasn’t changed much from the original Black Version and White Version. This is completely fine, as these games are not meant to be new generations of titles in the franchise, but rather to build on the storyline of the previous titles.
There are also wildly imaginative components to this game, even more so than the hundreds of creature variations running around the world. For example, Game Freak has taken a traditional component of their games – gym battles – and made each one stand out from the next by including beautiful features in each one. Burgh’s gym, for example, features a network of cocoons that carry your character through four floors in the game. It is quite a sight and is very clever given the type of Pokemon Burgh prefers.
While we’re not disappointed that so much of the gameplay has remained the same, we are a little bit upset that there are very few tiny nuances that have changed. The text you’re greeted with when you enter a battle is verbatim copy from the text of 16 years ago, as is the text when a Pokemon evolves, defeats an opponent, or runs away from a wild foe. We do happen to like the very corny dialog of some trainers (we’re not sure that will ever get old), but it is a little disheartening to know that things are almost entirely the same otherwise.
Audio in the game is made up of the same tones and themes in the other Pokemon titles, even as far back as the original two, albeit with a higher quality sound and more range to the music.
Beyond these things, Pokemon Black Version 2 (and White Version 2, although we didn’t test that version specifically) is another triumph in the Pokemon series. It doesn’t blow us away or change the formula all that much, but we did sink about 20 hours into the game before we even realized that our playtime had hit the double digits. Of course, the first five are the same molasses-grinding gameplay that we know from previous Pokemon games, but then it picks up and becomes another Nintendo hit.
We love the Pokemon series, if you couldn’t tell already, and while the games don’t do anything revolutionary, we’re not sure that was their goal. In fact, this is probably as close to a perfect Pokemon game as you could get before the series should be looked at and some bigger changes are made. We can’t wait to see how the franchise will evolve onto the Nintendo 3DS and are even more sure that a console Pokemon title – perhaps an MMORPG – would work wonders now that the Wii U has been announced and is getting closer to launch.
If you’re even a small fan of Pokemon or you used to be and haven’t picked up a title in the franchise in the last few years, you’ll be astonished at how much the series has changed and how much has stayed the same with Black Version 2 and White Version 2 and you should pick one of them up right away.
Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2 launch Sunday, October 7th on Nintendo DS.