Thursday, 19 April 2012

First Look: Pokémon Black and White 2

Like every rational creature, I love Pokémon. And why wouldn’t you? Entertaining adventures, ruthlessly addictive monster collecting and accessible but deep battling make for a fantastic handheld game. That the franchise has grown pretty formulaic doesn’t bother me- it’s a nice formula, it works. Nonetheless, it’s pretty exciting when there’s a substantial change to that formula, and so there has been! The next Pokémon release, following last year’s Pokémon Black and White, won’t be a Grey version, or even an enhanced remake of Ruby and Sapphire, as previous form suggests. Instead, we’re getting Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. But what exactly does that mean?

Details are currently pretty sparse, but have been slowly filtering out since the announcement. These, as the name suggests, are direct sequels to Black and White- a couple of years have passed since the events of those games, and while we are revisiting the same region, some changes have occurred in the interim. We’re gonna have new player characters, new gym leaders and a new rival. Additionally, it seems that Black and White’s all-new Pokémon approach has been dropped, and the old school mons will be more readily available. Legendary Ice Pokémon Kyurem has apparently been wrecking shit, as legendary Pokémon inevitably do, and seemingly has multiple forms echoing the Reshiram and Zekrom legendary monsters from Black and White. 

At this point, that’s about all we know. What is interesting is that almost all of these are different from the very formulaic approach the main series Pokémon games have taken to date. Instead of a slightly enhanced third version as was the case with all previous generations, these seem to be pretty decent approximations to new games. They’re also direct sequels- while Gold and Silver took this route, there’s been nothing of the sort in the series since then. Perhaps most puzzling of all is that these are going to be released on the old DS, and not new-hotness 3DS. I never got a 3DS, so it suits me, but it seems very strange- Black and White 1, in the eyes of many, should have been 3DS games, and I would have thought Nintendo would mandate a 3DS exclusive release to drive sales and secure the console’s very slightly shaky market. 

Perhaps I’m just gushing over trivial crap, but what little we know about these new games all seems unusual, especially for a franchise as notoriously static as Pokémon. Personally, I hope these games deliver some of the polish and singleplayer quality that went AWOL between the brilliant Heartgold and Soulsilver remakes and Black and White- I and others sorely missed features like the enhanced interface and walking Pokémon that HG/SS brought to the table. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 are scheduled for release this summer in Japan, this fall in America, and presumably at some point in Europe. I’ll be sure to keep my readers posted with the latest news on these titles, provided I remember and can be arsed.