By Matthew Bird
Being a child of the early nineties, I grew up in a world where the biggest decision of my childhood life occurred in Professor Oak’s lab. Having not played since the days of Gold and Silver, I was immediately thrown back into that mindset, contemplating that same decision with as much careful thought some fifteen years later as soon as I turned on Pokémon Black 2.
What is great about the franchise is that everyone’s experience is so unique, and this was not lost with Black or White 2. I’d seriously forgotten how addictive this game could be. The basic style of gameplay hasn’t been played with too much by developers, which made it so easy to jump back in. Your mother and her friend Professor Juniper conspire to kick you out of home with the task of filling a Pokédex. Your neighbour embarks on the same mission, and together you go out into the world. Your neighbour -- with clear aggression issues and possible attention deficit disorder -- makes for an entertaining character to run into. Your mother's very excited to get rid of you, and gives you some sneakers which allow you to run around the map, making travel between towns much faster and less tedious than in other instalments.
The gym battles are fun in this instalment; each gym has a unique design, with a fashion catwalk being my personal favourite. There are some new cool designs and ideas for the different towns and landmarks you experience along the way.
What Game Freak has done with this instalment is put a lot of effort into adding extra goals outside that of training and collecting Pokémon. Collecting medals is a way to bring ‘achievements’ into the game; the great thing about medals is that they are seemingly so easy to earn, with a trip to the PokéCentre usually leading to receiving a medal or four from the appropriately named Mr Medal. This does dry up the more you play, when medals become more challenging. Fancy yourself a bit of a star? Then a visit to the Musical Theatre or the Pokéstar Studios is for you. At Pokéstar studios, you are greeted by Mr Flamboyant Homosexual (okay, I forget his name... it's just that he thought I was “Faaaabulous!”), who gets you to act out scenes for his films. Similarly, at the Musical Theatre you must dress up your Pokémon and put on a show for your adoring public.
The graphics and music of the game are largely outdated, but pleasantly nostalgic; they don't detract from the game's appeal.
One area that I think is getting out of control is the amount of Pokémon available to capture. Things were a lot simpler in the days of the original 150, and I admit I struggle to keep up with the all the new additions. Take 10 seconds to look around your house and make a mental list of 5 inanimate objects. I guarantee there is a Pokémon based on at least two of those objects now.
I think Pokéfans will really enjoy Pokémon Black or White 2. It is a testament to Game Freak and Nintendo that they have managed to keep the franchise fresh and enjoyable whilst also managing to not change too much. Other developers should take notice. Most importantly, any child who is about to make that important choice in the Professor's office for the first time have a great game to welcome them into this rich franchise.