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Verhille: Pokemon Black/White 2 will improve your road-trip experience

BY DAN VERHILLE | FEBRUARY 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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If Pokémon were to come up in a word-association game, most people would be returned to the time when Pokémon fever ran rampant in America. Fifteen years ago, this meant watching the dorky television shows, collecting the cards, and playing handheld video games.

While Pokémon fever has more or less subsided, the Pokémon franchise has forged forward, producing seven generations of games catered to a niche group of loyal fans.

Without anyone to play with, I had almost completely forgotten about the games until my girlfriend bought copies of the Black 2 and White 2 versions for us to play while on a 50-hour round-trip bus ride. I bring this up for two important reasons:

One, I don’t have the patience or time to play a game such as this if I’m not traveling. Sure, the game is fun, but it’s time-consuming, nerdy and other, better platform options are available.

Two, I strongly believe that Pokémon is most fun when you’re playing alongside someone who is physically near you. This way you can indulge your guilty pleasure in talking poké-jargon with someone who is equally submerged in her or his Pokémon adventure.

My first impressions upon diving into Black 2 was “Wow, the colors and three-dimensional renderings are really impressive.” It’s easy to see that much effort has been spent making the game visually appealing; cities have gigantic skyscrapers and impressive cable bridges, and hundreds of pedestrians can be seen ambling along the roads of the bigger cities.

Despite elevating the graphics from two-dimensional gray-scale to three-dimensional vibrancy, the basic mechanics of the game remain the same, which raises the question, “Why in the world is there still so much tutorial in these games?”

Does developer Game Freak really believe a substantial portion of Black/White 2 players are playing their first Pokémon title ever? It seems like a stretch, so please, Game Freak, cut the extraneous babble and trust that even your youngest players can figure it out.

Black/White 2 is the first true sequel of any game in the Pokémon series, and it finds players having adventures through the same Unova region as the original Black/White but progressing through the cities in an entirely new order.

I was a little disappointed that more wasn’t changed between the original and the sequel, but enough superficial changes were made to buildings and landscapes to satisfy the eye. A new feature of this generation of games is that they can be “memory linked” to the previous game to show the player flashbacks of events that transpired after the end of the original Black/White.

Most flashbacks were disappointingly irrelevant, but the ones that did affect the current story, such as being able to catch the former antagonist’s Pokémon in the wild, were quite enjoyable.

For the most part, Black/White 2 had more to do after becoming champion of the region, but it did seem a little odd to me that the new areas that were unlocked put me in the embarrassing position of destroying preschoolers for a little extra experience. Not only does it still not make sense to me that toddlers have Pokémon at higher levels than the toughest gym leaders, but I can’t rationalize how it’s socially acceptable for the champion to be using devastating moves like “earthquake” on the little tykes’ playground set.

Unfortunately, the plot of the game is still grandiose and self-important. Game Freak may feel that it owes fans a story in which the entire world rests on the brink of destruction and only the player can rescue it, but after seven generations, this idea is starting to feel played out.

I think creating a history for the region is entertaining, but I’d rather see the writers of the game endeavor to make a story line that’s fresh and more down to earth. They’re getting closer by having characters develop and change between versions, but they need to make the development take place in the game while still feeling genuine.

These oddities aside, the core mechanics of the turn-based battles are still enjoyably addictive as they were 15 years ago. If you ever loved picking and raising a team of Pokémon, you’ll likely find the new version with all its modern flourishes a good way to pass time while on road trip.

Pokémon Black/White 2
Release Date: Oct. 7
Price: $35 new
Developer: Game Freak
Dan’s favorite Pokémon from the game: Galvantula


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