Pokemon is what got me into gaming. My four year old mind was attracted to reruns of the show as I spent my early years eating cereal in front of the tele, and when I hear there were games to add to my list of toys and trading cards, I jumped it… with Pokemon Stadium! And then a few years later I got a GBA and played the crap out of every version that I could get my hands on. And to this day, I still love the games, with Pokemon Conquest being one of my favorite titles of 2012. And as somebody who found Pokemon Black to be the his favorite Pokemon game, what do I think of Pokemon Black 2? Find out!
My thoughts on Pokemon Black 2
Release Date: 07/10/2012
Now, I was originally going to do a review of this title, however after thinking about it, I realized that it would be more enjoyable for me if I just made a less structured analysis. Also, I realize that I am a bit late here, but, as I said before, I love themes, and this was the earliest slot I had available in the system, assuming I wanted to post my three Semi-Halloween specials before October was done.
Before I talk about the game, I feel like I need to talk about how I played it. Now, this piece will assume that the readers know what I am talking about when I mention the base mechanics and themes of Pokemon, because they’re too natural for me to even describe as of now. However, I did not play the game in a traditional fashion, I played it with a full team of six Pokemon that I imported from my copy of Pokemon Black, all level 10s with stats boosted via vitamins, and some moves that I taught via TMs. I found no reason why I could not do this, after all the game allows it after the first badge is obtained, and I would assemble this team of Swampert, Eelektross, Charizard, Gallade, Hydreigon, and Venusaur, later on anyhow.
This gave me a unique view on the system, which I had attempted before, but I have never gone this all out. Yet right from the get go, it made me realize just how broken the evolution system is, well, not broken as much as poorly designed. You see, with new variations of old pokemon coming in every generation other than the fifth, the sheer number of the minor variables that one has to take into consideration if he wants to evolve a certain Pokemon is staggering. This came into play during the four hours I spent trying to find a dawn stone to evolve my Kirlia into a Gallade, but I could not buy any of them anywhere in Pokemon Black, yet I could find them via a random dust cloud in cave areas. Needless to say, I did not get one, and by the end I just settled on going back into my copy of Ruby, catching a male Ralts, which took me a good hour, importing him to Heartgold, raising him up to a Kirlia, using both of my DSes to trade him back to Pokemon Black, raising him up to the rest of my team, and then bringing him to Black 2.
I know that is the definition of nit picking, but there is so much extra crap I needed to get my ideal setup that could have been prevented by not forcing me to find other people and link my copy of Black with them to get to a shop where I can buy some dawn stones. Is there any good reason for making the game this complicated just to get one Pokemon? You guys realize that you can retcon certain evolution methods and not make it so that you need to level up while holding an item during a certain time of day. I get maintaining a continuity, yet you sure don’t do that in terms of maintaining moves, so why should it apply to things that make the game less fun?
Okay, onto the actual game itself. The story centers around main protagonist design #6, who after refusing to get a Pokemon ten times, or maybe that was just me, decides that he will begrudgingly go on an adventure. Now, that is an extremely minor detail, but I really like seeing those, it just shows that the designers know how players will act and accompany them for a better experience. However, after going through something that is a mix between a rehash and remake of the previous version of the region, with your route being about 50-60% different. Going around fighting gym leaders, trainers, filling up your boxes of Pokemon, which has been halved because we brought back about 150 old Pokemon, in opposition to the only new Pokemon rule found in the prior title.
It all remains a pretty enjoyable mix between well designed areas, creatures, occasionally funny dialog, and the like. Everything in the game was going swimmingly, even the bits about the one dimensionally evil pro-Pokemon organization remained amusing, with their morals of freeing Pokemon now being to make them more powerful and basically weaponize them, because those are the same. I actually feel a bit bad for not really examining their insight, due to how I naturally listen to something whilst playing Pokemon, either music, podcast, or just the audio for a show. It is just that if a team is evil once, and they come back again, there is a 99% chance they will not be reformed, especially if they now wear black.
But other than being a fairly reliably stable and very balanced game, with the critical hits being devastating, math being simple enough to memorize. Even though I do not recall seeing an invaluable type chart with my copy, but that could just be me. Paired with a leveling system scaling to inspire progress, that I did not even notice in the first game. Battles are short and frequent enough so that after a trainer battle, you are ready for another one. Paired with the occasional double, triple, or rotation battle, and the game does have a good amount of variety to nearly justify the 50 hours I spent with it. I say nearly, because the battling that I want is only about 75% of the title.
I don’t mind wandering around in games, and I did not use to have a problem with needing to heal after most battles in RPGs, yet here is where it just got tedious for me. Now, I know that the excellent Zeboyd titles have spoiled me here, but after nearly every battle in Pokemon, you have nothing preventing you from flying away, an ability you get before the 50% marker, or digging out of a cave, which you get slightly beforehand. And once flying away, you can go, heal, and then walk back, only to have someone faint, where it is the most efficient method to go back and heal them, rather than using your own items.
A similar thing can go for the whole random battle idea. I found the idea of having a designated battle quota to be a great idea, and while you have repels to save your hide, they cost money, so it is not efficient to use them. Instead, I ran away from nearly every battle that wasn’t with a new Pokemon, and then it was just to collect them and eventually delete them, because I’m awful like that.
But then we got to some places where battling was the whole idea, namely using moves strategically, in the form of Battle Subway, the Pokemon World Tournament, and Pokestar Studios. All of which I have the same problem with, you don’t get a lot of stuff for completing them. To me, the main incentives you can give to a player of Pokemon are money, new Pokemon, and experience. Here, you get battle points that you can use to buy TMs, instead of finding them around the world, because everyone likes to spend over an hour just to get the ability to teach everyone Brick Break.
While, with Pokestar studios, you need to follow a script to reach a certain condition while battling, kind of like those bonus missions no one played in Pokemon Battle Revolution, a game that nobody played. Here your reward is seeing a really cheesy movie that you just finished making some scenes for, and some items if you do it enough. And it takes forever to get done! It is slow, unrewarding since you can’t act however you want, there is no unique strategy, you just follow a set of instructions and bam, you get a fan to give you some fresh water.
However, there is one addition that did keep me coming back, and that is the sports domes where you can fight high level trainers everyday and get a crap ton of money, and you have a shop that you run where you refer people around to cause the shops to gain new stuff. And these shops are unique, it is the only place I found where you could buy berries, shards for getting unique moves, and get some training for all of your Pokemon at a cheaper price than normal means. And, well, it is just nice to feel like you’re in control of something larger than your team in a Pokemon game in a feeling that I can not properly explain.
Then we get to endgame content, which I normally try to complete all the way through, although I was rushing to finish up my nearly 60 hour long playthrough and have more games to play. I appreciate having more content, yet I really had no desire to catch the legendaries once more. You see, when I end up paralyzing and getting a Pokemon down to one HP, there is literally nothing that I can do but hope that a ball captures them. And there is no reason why it cannot be your first one, there is no form of warning on their capture rate, you just chuck away thousands of Poke-Yen at ancient beasts who, yes, do really lose a sense of weight after you realize that one can obtain god itself.
I am aware that people have brought this up, but the process of collecting all of these legendary creatures lacks any real sense of value. The battles are not hard, just time consuming, with the only elongator being the fact that you need to get the one or two percent chance of actually hitting them. On the subject of capture rates, what is preventing you from only catching Pokemon at night, where you can use Dusk Balls, which are better than Ultra Balls, and slightly cheaper?
I did not do it because I was too lazy to set my clock, and you don’t get Dusk balls for quite a while. Same thing with Super Potions and Max Repels. For half the price, you can get a restoration item that does an extra 60% of healing, with the only incentive otherwise being how you cannot order a bulk supply. At the same time, Max Repels cost 700 Poke-Yen, and protect you from random encounters for 250 steps, while a Super Repel is 500 Poke-Yen, and protects for 200 steps. Do the math, and the less bulk is the better deal. Who allocated this pricing structure?
However, all of these problems that I have are more along the lines of nitpicks. The environments are still interesting and varied with the exception of a few caves. Pokemon still maintains its wonderful character designs, as much as some might argue against. They were always stupid, but they are still recognizable, even if you can’t recall the names. Combat still has a large sense of progression, yet due to how the EXP goes faster in their title, I was at my prefered level of the mid to late 60s, ten hours before I was expecting.
As much as I can find imbalances, with the whole idea of some Pokemon being lackluster from a gameplay standpoint, is questionable from a balance point of view, even considering perfect imbalance. The game never managed to get too hard, or too easy, with some of the more optional stuff with higher level trainers requiring strategy, even if it can feel a bit forced at points.
The game manages to be fun, but looking at it without lense of tradition, I can see many points where the title could be improved. And as much as the ideas for Pokemon games are common as dirt, I think I narrowed them down to just two. One is my take on something that people have requested for years, an open ended Pokemon MMO. One where you do not have a designated path, and things are balanced as you get to them, with every gym and every region available, and, let’s say, 10 different team line ups. You pretty much already made the last two in the form of the gym leaders’ iterations in this title.
Although, the next is something that could very well remove what many people might like about the games, by limiting the amount of freedom you have. In a sense, an abridged version where wild Pokemon are limited, strategy is king, and your route for capturing is given maybe a free slot or two. I suppose that it is not “traditional”, yet the role of being the one individual who topples every challenge, and can rework his team with no limits, is a nice freedom, but freedom only feels like it when you have restrictions.
Or maybe both of these ideas are just me blowing smoke from my bum, because this is the first time since 2005 where I played a Pokemon game that did not feel like a whole new title. Yes, there was a remake with Heartgold, yet I barely remembered the original title, so it was pretty much new to me. I would not call this game, or the series stale, or bad, it is more that the world around them is changing, and as much as the budge a bit, the minor problems that have been covered up throughout the years, are still implanted deep down. But hey, that’s just my two cents on the matter, thanks for reading.