Black 2 and White 2 may not be as fresh as its predecessors and maybe even shorter, but it's just as fun and addictive.

User Rating: 8.5 | Pocket Monsters Black 2 DS
[Spoiler Warning]: This review contains mild spoilers upon the game's plot and content. If you wish to find these features out for yourself, read a spoiler-free review elsewhere.

It is considered that Pokémon Black and White were some pretty interesting destroyers of tradition for the franchise. For the first time in over ten years, another row of core Pokémon versions were released on the same system as another. GameFreak breaks tradition once again with Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, by making them the first direct sequels to another core game within the franchise (Gold and Silver can be considered as sequels to a degree, as they take place in another region three years after the events of Red and Blue.) Unlike Black and White when they first came out, I didn't really expect much to change with the sequels that GameFreak had made, so not too much is changed. This simple fact however, does not keep Black 2 and White 2 from being almost as good of an experience as its predecessor was.

The game introduction takes a relative position that Black and White did, but you begin on a completely different (and new) portion of Unova that did not exist at all during Black and White. Instead of being gifted your Pokémon in a box, you are given to them by Bianca, one of the rivals from the first game who becomes a helper to Professor Juniper.

One thing I enjoyed about the beginning (and the rest of the game for that matter), is that the game goes back to the tradition of having only one rival instead of three like Black and White had. To me it felt like it caused the game's length to get padded out a little too much, as did some others.

The premise of the game hasn't changed too much since Black and White. Black 2 and White 2 take place two years after the events of their predecessors, which allowed GameFreak to do some interesting tweaks to the region that seemed a little logical (gym redesigns, some character's roles changing, and some newer areas just to name a few.) Plasma returns as the enemy team this time, but this time around their motive is different.

For the game, GameFreak decided to add some space within the Unova region to flesh it out a little more, adding for new areas of exploration and to lengthen the story while try to make the game as familiar, yet new as possible. Some of the new interface changes are pretty, but do not stray too far from Black and White to stand out very much. Some things like the differing of building aesthetics in some areas (notably Route 4 and Opelucid City) make a welcome return and are kept mostly in tact.

The gyms of the game got a very positive facelift when it comes down to /all/ of the designs. My favorite certainly being Burgh's gym with Drayden's at least being the runner-up. The gyms also have unique music for each one (excluding the first, which adopts the one that was in Black and White. It fits though since Cheren is the first leader.)

There is also the Pokémon World Tournament, which allows you to fight random trainers under some certain circumstances, or battle gym leaders and champions throughout the entire Pokémon world, but more on this later.

Not too much has changed about the gameplay at all. The core mechanics are in tact as you would expect in a game where the generation's gameplay landscape has already been set, and don't take too much of a leap. Overall there aren't very many changes to the mechanics at all, most of them being very little.

Black and White decided to behave like the other generations did not exist up until the post-game where other region Pokémon were basically all over afterwards. Black 2 and White 2, however, have Pokémon of all generations catchable mostly from the beginning. This was something that I was somewhat skeptical about, but in the end it allows the rest of the game to be deeper in terms of trainer rosters (though minor). It is also the biggest regional dex to date, boasting three hundred Pokémon.

The game's difficulty is kind of mixed. Unlike my first run of Black and White (which I used some sort of reference while playing), I played through Black 2 and White 2 blind and found the game to be fairly easy up until the end where the plot took an interesting turn of events. About four fifths of the Elite Four seemed rather underwhelming, and in fact I found them to be very easy up to the champion. The game does offer a 'Challenge Mode' that boosts the AI and enemy levels to a higher extent, which I have yet to try with my time with the game, but it looks promising.

Speaking of difficulty, the gym leader portion of the Pokémon World Tournament have proven to be rather difficult, as their teams can be subject to change after every challenge, and they have items and higher AI than the other trainers within the game. I still cannot find myself beating the Sinnoh leader tournament after numerous tries, and I barely won on all the others but the Unova tournament.

The Wi-Fi basically goes unchanged, as you would expect. It did not change that much at all with the generation four iterations, so this is something that should had been expected to begin with. I still find it a pet peeve that the game lacks an option to turn off opponent team preview.

The game's graphics do not improve from Black and White, which I expected one hundred percent. It already looked like Black and White were pushing the DS to its limits, and it seems like the sequels prove that this is what the DS is capable of in the end. Something I like is that all of the trainer sprites are now animated, unlike Black and White where only the most recurring characters had sprites that were animated. The sprites really aren't that different, which is somewhat disappointing.

Like its predecessors, the music of Black 2 and White 2's music proves to be some of the best that the series has to offer. The new themes for the gyms sound pretty neat, and very fitting; some music has been added for towns, which fit too; and some of the new composures have proven to be some of my favorites. Some old tracks come back as well arranged, but those are for use with the Pokémon World Tournament.

Replay value will be based off of what it is mostly for Pokémon games. I managed to defeat the champion after seventeen hours of gameplay, which seems to be shorter in comparison to other games. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 will have you coming back for more mostly dependent on what you make of it; if you just want it for the story, it won't last you too long; if you want to catch all 649, or compete in the competitive field, then you'll be logging up hundreds of hours likely.

Black 2 and White 2, like most Pokémon games, are not without their own flaws:

The first is that it overall feels a lot like its predecessors; this may be fine for some, but those who are looking for a little more than that may be a little disappointed.
The second is strange: the games are either the second easiest in the series to me (second only to Emerald), or I'm getting too good at the games. I seriously can't tell…
Another flaw I have is that it felt like it was more so on the short side. While the post-game felt a little more fleshed out than what Black and White had to offer, I was still sitting there yearning for more, but it was entirely out of my reach.

All in all, Black 2 and White 2 are welcomed additions to a series that has aged much better than others. GameFreak did a good job continuing off of what Black and White initially built, and made it a little more interesting and engaging, though seemingly shortening the game a little bit as a trade-off. By no means will fans be disappointed with the new installments. If you did not like Black and White, then it's a pretty good chance though that Black 2 and White 2 will not change your mind.

Presentation: 8
Gameplay: 8.5
Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9
Replay: 8.5
Overall: 8.5/10