It has been two years since a small-town kid defeated the mighty Team Plasma, and in that time, the region of Unova as well as its people have changed.
Bianca, no longer unsure of herself, has settled in nicely as an assistant to Pokémon Professor Juniper; gym leader Brycen has made a name for himself in PokéStar Studios; and the once-powerful Team Plasma is now reduced to a meager band of pirates.
Yes, the Unova region of Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 has noticeably grown -- if only the game itself seemed as promising. While Black and White 2 are not retreads of their 2010 predecessors -- at least not in the same vein as Pokémon Platinum -- there is not a whole lot new, either.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, as Pokémaniacs the world over are largely comfortable with the mostly untouched core formula. Some would argue that Pokémon Black and White 2's being a true sequel rather than a Platinum-style remake is commendable enough. When speaking about the series, this may be true. It just would have helped if some of the new additions were as substantial as others.
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The first addition we got to see was an optional series of side activities involving PokéStar Studios. Here, players will be able to take roles in -- and act out -- film scenes from a variety of genres. The way you shoot films is largely the same, however. Shooting a film plays out like a Pokémon battle except you are given a set of instructions which act as your script.
Scripts simply require that you fulfill a certain battle condition, like defeating a Pokémon with a certain type of attack. If the Pokémon in your party do not fit the bill for the script, you can rent Pokémon to use specifically for filming. You can choose to ignore these battle conditions, which count as an ad-lib performance, carrying the risk of the audience disliking your performance; or it can pay off with the audience enjoying the film even more. Oddly enough, there is no way to gauge when an ad-lib can result in a better reaction, which will probably just discourage any sort of experimentation.
These sequences can be really long, with most of them being long-winded speeches through text blocks. There's no point in going through all that and risk failing. The actual benefit to participating in film production is next to nothing.Apart from you own amusement, or the desire to possibly run into an old face or two -- such as Brycen, the ex-gym leader who has become a big film star -- there is no real motivation to participate. You do not earn money or items for a well-performing film, and you can not even earn experience for your Pokémon during the battle sequences. At least PokéStar Studios is completely optional, neither story relevant nor required to advance the main quest, but that just adds to the question of why it's here at all.
A much better addition to the series is the Pokémon World Tournament, a tournament-format battle arena where you can face off against AI opponents to sharpen your battling skills. As a nice little touch for Pokemaniacs both old a new, the competitors you will be going up against are made up of the gym leaders from all of the Pokémon regions. That's every gym leader from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, and Unova (from Black and White 1) to test your mettle against. As an added bonus, if you manage to best all of them, you will unlock the Elite Four of each region as well. Need more of challenge, though?
The Pokémon Company will also be recording the teams and loadouts of the 2012 Pokémon Video Game World Championship top contenders and finalists as a free download for Black and White 2 players to go up against in the Pokémon World Tournament. Essentially, the real-life counterparts to the Elite Four will be waiting for you once you've bested every other opponent thrown at you. Unlike the silly movie-maker sim, the World Tournament comes as a welcome addition to the game, and battling against Lt. Surge, Giovanni, and Dragon Trainer Lance is trip down memory lane I cannot wait to go down.
Another addition over the first Black and White is an expanded Pokedex. This go around, it comes with a handy little feature that allows you to see all the possible Pokémon that can be caught in a given area, and records which ones you have already captured. It's a subtle addition, to be sure, but it goes along way to assisting and streamlining the process of catching 'em all.
Similar to (but not at all apart of) the Pokémon Movie Studio are vignettes that unlock based on your completion rate of Black and White 1. Returning players will have noticed the surprisingly heavy emphasis on storytelling. More surprising was that it was actually pretty good. The story-heavy leanings of the first remain here, and these short films help fill in the gaps on the happenings of Unova from the first to the second game.
For example, one includes a gym leader that you had to defeat in the first game popping up in the second as a side quest. This gym leader has since lost their gym in the two years that have passed, and you may embark on a side quest to help them get it back. If you played far enough in the first game to defeat this gym leader, you will unlock their vignette showing how it all went downhill for them.
To unlock all of the clips, players need only make sure that they have a save file from the first in which they defeated every gym leader, the Elite Four, and Team Plasma in the final sequence. Considering the emphasis on story in the Black and White games, these little cinematics strive to go a long way to fleshing out the story further, and are a great touch.
So while there may be some bad to go with the good in this latest iteration, it is looking mostly bright for Pokémon Black and White 2. PokéStar Studios' inclusion is a real head scratcher, but the World Tournament mode, unlockable vignettes, and expanded Pokedex do add a fair bit to look forward to. At the very least, the core collect-a-thon, battle-heavy gameplay is still the same, and for some, will be warrant enough to take the dive.