Pokemon White Version 2
Ah yes, Unova. It's as if we never left.
This may be hard to accept, but there's a chance you've outgrown Pokemon. It's a question I asked myself while playing the newest entry in the popular franchise, Pokemon White Version 2 (accompanied by Black Version 2) while on a lengthy transatlantic flight. You know, what with all the grinding, childish plot and simplistic battles, where my advanced Tepig was able to crush an untold number of adversaries until much later in the game. That said, it's easy to point the finger at Nintendo and accuse the company of phoning this one in. A valid argument, since White and Black 2 appear to lag behind previous iterations, but does this title retain the core experience while adding some new features for longtime fans? More importantly, is it a good video game. Yes. Yes it is.
To that end, this adventure once again takes place within the Unova region, where you'll notice various locations and characters have changed, mostly for the better. Beyond this, however, the game starts out almost exactly the same, with the player selecting from three Pokemon, then setting out to find/battle wild critters, eventually squaring off against Gym leaders to earn badges while purchasing a variety of items, from Poke Balls to potions and other useful goodies.
I did find much of the gameplay to be somewhat monotonous, while the computer was mostly a pushover. Despite encountering a plethora of opponents, I was able to make short work of them in lieu of having leveled up even the weakest creatures and utilizing those aforementioned potions when necessary. I'm also a 33-year-old dude with a basic understanding of how these RPGs work. Youngsters, on the other hand, may find things a bit more challenging.
Beyond the usual battles, players will of course be able to complete a Pokedex. There's also a World Tournament feature that lets them take on both Gym Leaders (Volkner, from the Sinnoh Region, comes to mind) and Champions from Pokemon games past, yet another nod to those "in the know". They can even make movies with their new pets by way of Pokestar Studios, eventually releasing them at the in-game theater.
Perhaps the coolest thing about White/Black Version 2, though, is the connectivity with Pokemon Dream Radar, a mini-game of sorts downloaded through the eShop, which harnesses the 3DS (remember, this is a DS game) camera, tilt controls and Augmented Reality features to search for and nab Pokemon, which they can then transfer back into the game; this debuts October 7. There's also a Pokedex 3D Pro application coming November 8 that provides info on 640 plus Pokemon, including ways they evolve. Both pieces of software require a 3DS system to download.
Graphics-wise, the game definitely shows its age. People can ramble on all they want about how these are without question the best-looking Pokemon adventures on DS, and they may have a point, but considering the outdated technology, those 2D sprites don't provide much in the way of eye candy. And since this is on DS, you can forget about switching to 3D effects on the more advanced handheld.
Ultimately, what I took away from Pokemon White Version 2 was this: that the series, much like the monsters that call it home, desperately needs to evolve. Nintendo and developer Game Freak have just about exhausted the same, tired concepts, and it'll be interesting to see where Pokemon goes when it makes a proper appearance on 3DS. Of course, if you're a diehard supporter or need a gift for someone's kid (even yours), this is a solid purchase.
Review copy provided by Nintendo.
What's Hot: Same tried and true Pokemon gameplay, hundreds of monsters to collect, acceptable graphics and music for a DS game, Pokemon Dream Radar.
What's Not: A bit on the easy side, plot seems a bit weak, doesn't add anything dramatically new to the series.