Looks like Pokémon. Tastes like Pokémon.
Okay, so maybe that’s sounds a little cynical, but really, is there any other way to describe a new Pokémon game? What was the iPhone 4S like? Well, it’s like an iPhone 4, but better. I can’t think of a better descriptor: Pokémon defined their own flavor in 1996 (1998 here in the US) and they’ve stuck to it like McDonald’s has stuck to their fries.
And since I’ve been playing Pokémon since I got Blue Version back in the summer of 1999, I can’t very well say this qualifies as a “first impression.” I can, however, describe my reactions to some of the changed ingredients and say that White Version 2 tastes the best out of the series.
Exploration. There are only a few new locales (remember, this is a sequel) that I’ve visited, so there’s not much to be surprised by here. I haven’t advanced far enough to see how HMs are handled or required, but at least I haven’t become frustrated yet. The biggest surprise was having a gym in the starting town and thereby the amount of back-and-forth running about that was done early on. This worked for helping to find Pokémon to fill out your team early, but otherwise felt a tad unnecessary – there may be a solid reason why there’s never been a gym in the starting town before.
Battles. The visuals are pretty, and not just for Pokémon standards. This is a visually appealing game. The sprites are crisp, the camera swings and pans to show off environments, and the battle animations are nice. Along with these upgrades, the game seems to run better all around. I remember battles in previous games feeling long or sluggish, but here they move nicely which helps keep the rhythm of game play going. The pacing for difficulty feels good, as well. Combatants’ levels don’t plateau for too long and don’t suddenly spike either, keeping the game from becoming dull or requiring extra experience grinding. The variety of wild and enemy Pokémon types is well spread out, adding interest and color to the early areas.
Collecting. This is been my biggest surprise and joy for this version. The variety of Pokémon that can be found and caught early on is impressive. Before earning my first badge, I had, excluding my starter, one Electric-type, a Fighting-type, a Water-type, three Normal-types, and a Dark-type. Some of these, like Riolu and Azurill, took a certain concerted effort to collect in previous iterations. It wasn’t long before I had filled out my team with a Fire-type, two Poison-types, Flying-types, more Electric-types, and a Steel-type. Really, I was impressed. And this is a big deal. Collecting is such a vital part of the Pokémon recipe that I’m surprised The Pokémon Company hasn’t done this sooner. The collecting feeds into team building, it feeds into battling, it feeds into exploration – every other aspect of the game is affected by this. And having these Pokémon come from a variety of generations is only a positive, as it encourages nostalgia and rewards older and newer players alike: older players like the older Pokémon and newer players get to see more of the established legacy. Basically, options are good things and this game provides plenty.
So that’s Pokémon: serving the same great meal for 15 years. Perhaps that’s a bad thing and people no longer care for the taste. The rest of us keep buying the games just like we keep ordering pepperoni pizza. There are changes in spices but the core remains the same – it has to remain the same. If it was any different, it wouldn’t really be Pokémon anymore. As hardware improves, so will the tech the engine is built on and so will the social features evolve. Also, nothing else tastes like Pokémon tastes. It’s not another first-person shooter, another action game, another open world RPG, or another sports simulation; it’s another Pokémon. And it tastes just fine.
Pokémon White Version 2 was developed by GameFreak and The Pokémon Company and published by Nintendo. For this post, I played for about 10 hours and earned 3 badges on the Nintendo 3DS. I purchased the game for myself.
This post was originally written and published by me on a former site on November 6, 2012.