Pokémon Black and White 2 comes as something of a surprise. Not only did Game Freak buck fan expectations by announcing two new titles instead of the expected “Pokémon Gray,” it even revealed they’d be genuine sequels to the first Black and White versions and not, as we’d all assumed, a simple repackaging of them. Even more surprising is just how well B&W2 have turned out, considering their new direction, making them the most original pair of Pokémon titles since arguably Gold and Silver.
Watch this trailer showcasing Pokémon Black and White 2's release date
You wouldn’t be able to tell just from looking at the games, though. On the surface, B&W2 seem like any other Pokémon titles: You begin your adventure in a small town, where you and your childhood friend receive your first Pokémon from the local professor (or, in this case, the professor’s assistant). From there you’re free to explore the region of Unova, capturing other monsters, battling rival trainers, challenging the world’s eight Gym Leaders, and, eventually, becoming Pokémon League champion, all the while thwarting an evil organization’s plot for world domination--you know, the usual stuff.
Not that any of this is a bad thing; the gameplay is just as compelling now as when the series first debuted. There’s something undeniably satisfying about catching a team of monsters and raising them into an unstoppable unit, and Unova’s Pokédex has even been expanded to include some older Pokémon alongside the ones introduced in Black and White, giving you more options to take on the games’ challenges. There’s also enough depth in the battle system to keep each rival encounter fun and engaging, ensuring your quest will never devolving into a monotonous grind.
Where B&W2 really differ from previous games in the series is their storyline. The pair pick up roughly two years after the events of the first Black and White. N, the enigmatic “king” of Team Plasma, has left Unova with either Reshiram or Zekrom, depending on which version of the game you choose, and in his absence, the team has splintered into two rival factions: one which wishes to atone for its misdeeds and reunite people with their stolen Pokémon, the other which looks to liberate them from their captors. It’s an engaging tale, particularly for a Pokémon game, and you’ll want to stick with it to the end to see how it all plays out.
In addition to some other welcome nods to the previous games, B&W2 bring in a handful of new features to round out the experience. Among the first you’ll notice is the inclusion of achievements, which are doled out in the form of medals each time you complete a certain task (like saving a certain number of times, for instance). Also new is the Pokémon World Tournament, a stadium in which you can battle Gym Leaders from all over the Poké-globe, including old favorites like Misty and Lt. Surge. And then there’s Join Avenue, a unique shopping mall that you can populate with other players you’ve encountered, be it through Wi-Fi or tag mode. Each of these features adds a nice layer of replayability to the games, giving you plenty to see and do after you’ve conquered the Pokémon League and finished the main quest.
Here's the first trailer for Pokémon Black and White 2
Unfortunately, there are a few areas where B&W2 stumble. While the titles are certainly a lot of fun, there’s very little in B&W2 to attract new players to the series, which is especially true considering they’re a continuation of the previous Black and White versions. To their credit, the pair do an adequate job of easing newcomers into the gameplay, but players will only get the most out of the experience if they’ve played either of the preceding games, making B&W2 a poor starting point for the uninitiated. The setting may also make the adventure a bit too familiar for returning fans, as you’ll be exploring many of the same towns and battling many of the same trainers as in the previous titles.
Still, these are minor complaints when taken with the games’ strengths. B&W2 are yet another fine pair of entries in the Pokémon series, and they serve as a fitting sendoff for the Nintendo DS. Rather than being a mere retread of the first Black and White versions (as each “tertiary” version before them was), B&W2 offers up an entirely new adventure through the Unova region, continuing the storyline of their predecessors while introducing new features and locations of their own. They still do too little to attract non-fans to the series, but for the vast crowd who have already been taken in by its charms, B&W2 will be yet another excuse to catch ‘em all.