At this point, it's inevitable that the first version of a new Pokémon game won't be the last. Ever since Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon players have gotten a new and improved version about a year later. It's no different with Pokémon Black and White, which came out about a year and a half ago. Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2 take place roughly two years after the original game. The region of Unova has changed in that time, and a new generation of trainers sets out to explore the land once again.
While the game is called Pokémon White Version 2, it's far more equivalent to the "spin-off" Pokémon games like Platinum or Emerald than it is a full-fledged sequel. It's easy to get into the shorthand of calling it Pokémon White 2, but "Version 2" is far more accurate. It has new features, minor bug fixes, and an updated plot. True sequels to a Pokémon game tend to include pretty drastic changes and a boatload of new Pokémon, but White Version 2's mechanical differences are more subtle, and there are a limited number of new Pokémon, almost all of which are "legendary" Pokémon. You revisit many of the same areas and encounter many of the same people. It's more enjoyable than simply repeating the plot like in Platinum, but a true sequel this is not.
One of the most noteworthy changes is a different lineup of Pokémon early in the game. The original Pokemon White featured new Pokémon until you finished the main story. White Version 2 includes a greater mix of new and old Pokémon from the outset. You'll encounter Rattata and Zubats alongside Patrats and Woobats. This gives you a somewhat wider variety of Pokémon to choose from, and it's quite a welcome change. The shine has worn off the new White Pokémon, and it's more enjoyable to have a variety of choices since the thrill of discovering new Pokémon has long since dissipated. There are a few new ones, but they're mostly new forms of existing Pokémon that can be unlocked in unusual ways.
Likewise, the gameplay hasn't seen many significant changes, so cool new features are few and far between. A "hard mode" and "easy mode" are unlocked after you finish the game. Move Tutors have returned from Pokémon Platinum to teach your Pokémon special abilities in exchange for Shards. Some minor quality-of-life features have been added, although they're inconsistent. For example, when a Repel item runs out, the game instantly asks if you want to use another one. It's a minor fix but improves the experience. On the other hand, the run/walk toggle from Pokémon Soul Silver/Heart Gold is still inexplicably missing, forcing players to spend 90% of the game holding down the B button.
Pokémon White Version 2 does its best to offer a selection of challenges. The main story isn't likely to challenge most die-hard Pokefans, but the extra content may pack enough punch to keep them entertained for a while. There are a number of optional challenges that allow you to take on new and old Pokémon trainers to see who is the best. Both Double and Triple Rotational battles have returned, although both are underutilized. As is now the norm, online play is available, and players can challenge friends and rivals around the globe. There is a staggering amount of content in the game, and while a good portion of it is recycled or remixed, there's still enough content to occupy a die-hard fan's time until the next (true) sequel.
One of the more entertaining features is the Pokémon movie studio. Early in the game, you're recruited to replace a struggling actor in a movie. After doing so, you're allowed to take on film roles, which play out as puzzle-like Pokémon battles. You're given a script and a set of Pokémon for the battles, and you have to follow loose instructions, such as "lower the enemy's stats" or "allow enemy to take damage." You must figure out how to follow the instructions while still meeting an overall goal, such as defeating an enemy by a certain turn or to allowing yourself to be defeated. Some films are exceedingly simple while others involve complex maneuvering to switch items, moves and Pokémon. None are overly complex, but the films do tax your knowledge of Pokémon moves, items and gimmicks. A really neat addition is the ability to bring in your own Pokémon. Breed a specific Pokémon, and it can try to take over the role of the film's pre-defined ones. This allows you to earn your Pokémon a special star, and it makes it easier to obtain "strange" film endings by altering scripts at certain places. This also lets you get better prizes and create silly bonuses.
A few new features take advantage of the DSi and 3DS hardware. You'll be put in charge of the Join Avenue, a small section of marketplace whose owner doesn't have time to build it up. You can recruit shopkeepers to run shops in the marketplace, such as lottery places or massage parlors. As you connect to other players via Wi-Fi, IR or any connection, more people will visit the Join Avenue, and you can recommend shops to them. This levels up the shops, improves the quality of the avenue and earns you new items and special prizes. You can also use the Pokémon Dream Radar application for the 3DS to unlock Pokémon that normally wouldn't be available. There's a hefty dose of multiplayer features, although to the game's credit, you won't miss much if you played the game solo.
Visually, not much has changed from the previous games. The graphical enhancements made to Pokémon White are all still present, but there aren't many visual updates. It's a charming title, and there is some pretty clever usage of new content. The movie studio, for example, has a number of new trainer and monster sprites to represent the various film special effects. The soundtrack is solid, containing a healthy mix of new and old songs. A few bizarre vocal songs detract little from the overall appeal and actually have their own unusual charm. The actual visuals aren't the best, but few games are as filled with small, charming details as this title.
Pokémon White Version 2 is a perfectly fine expansion for people who want more of the original. There are bunches of new trainers, new content to explore and a few new monsters to find. It's more of the same, as nothing solves the issues with the original game, but it doesn't introduce any new weaknesses, either. Pokémon White Version 2 is a "version 2" instead of a sequel, but when compared to Pokémon Platinum or similar spin-offs, this is probably the best of the lot. The altered plot, changed content and new features make it an extremely worthwhile second offering.
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