(warning: long blog with lots of pictures!)
Been a while since I wrote anything huh? There hasn't been many compelling games I've been wanting to talk about for the past few months so I went a little quiet. And though Pokepark 2 has been out in Japan for quite some time, I never went out of my way to get it; this is my first Pokemon game that I haven't got the JP version of in a long while. I don't know what held me back, but I got my hands on the US version just recently. And the photo-taking feature is back and you get to use it right from the start! No more messy film-buying and sorting. However due to the limitations of photo-taking I still can't capture any shots of Pokemon talking or playing games, so I'll alternate between using my own screens and a few others for coherence. Alright, let's see what's in here.
Pokepark 2 is a sequel to the first game released a couple of years back, and even from the first bootup the game just feels better than the first. From having a bare-bones story, it improved to a....slightly less bare-bones story. It's not the kind to make you sit up all night and pay attention, but by Pokemon standards this is impressive. You start off with Reshiram and Zekrom in some alternate dimension talking about a disaster that's going to befall the Pokemon world (ooh). The next scene is impressive; it very much resembles the cute, whimsical s.tyle of the anime as Pikachu meets up with Piplup. The anime voices are fully preserved too for the main playing Pokemon!
After the obligatory run/jump/attack tutorial, another awesome cutscene with a fly-by of all the areas in the game (almost) by a Flying-type Pokemon, and showing all the Pokemon on the ground doing things. By far, this is the best 3D cutscene of a Pokemon game I have ever seen, with attention to detail everywhere. Then both Pikachu and Piplup show up at the game's first area, Seasong Beach (pictured above).
Dang, the level furniture is awesome and more detailed than the first game. It's still full of wide-open spaces, but a lot of excess has been trimmed off since Pokepark 1, and overall it feels a lot less empty even though most of the Pokemon are not here yet (you'll see why in a bit). Like an excited tourist, I get to the picture-taking.
Pikachu can't swim, so I leave that for a while and go make some friends before progressing. The games you play with the Pokemon in the overworld are the same as always; it's either chase, battle, quiz or hide-n-seek. Then again, they're Pokemon, I don't really expect them to have any complex forms of entertainment. In a way this is like Animal Crossing meets Pokemon- one group of gamers will find this totally pointless while another will simply enjoy interacting with the Pokemon and watching them interact with each other without Pikachu butting in (and there's a lot more of these than in the first game)
The one thing that stood out aside from the improved graphics and smoother character models though, is the music. I absolutely hated Pokepark 1 because of the music; except for the hub area it was silent most of the time with a few sounds every now and then. This time around though...yes. Just yes. No more dead silent areas that make you want to fall asleep, replaced with full music that even changes as you move between the bustling and peaceful parts of the same area.
Oh but look at me ramble...back to the story. These two are advertising some place called the Wish Park and it costs 10 berries to enter (I had 30 at this point). Free attractions and free cake and.....woah. A perfect amusement park waiting to be played. Too good to be true? Well, I never watched the trailers (lol) so I didn't know yet, but if you've watched them you know what's happening next. Oshawott bumps into me a little later.
From this poster on the other side of the beach, suddenly a door appeared and sucked Pikachu/Piplup in. Both land at Wish Park.
Alright I keep reminding myself to take pictures of Wish Park but keep forgetting....so we'll have to make do with these. So this is Wish Park, the wonderland. A bit too dark if you ask me, it's always like nighttime here. After a bit of trekking I arrive at the first proper minigame (of four in total) called Cake Contraption, which is basically shoot stuff to get points, Wii Play s.tyle.
After the minigame, we're being told to eat the cake. Before we can do so though, a Pansear shows up and tells us not to do it as it made everyone act strange! Okay what's going on? It seems the cake hypnotizes all the Pokemon who eat it, trapping them in Wish Park forever to play the games and eat cake....did I mention forever?
The attraction boss, Cof.agrigus has both Pikachu and Piplup cornered when suddenly Oshawott pops out and defends. A quick battle with Cof.agrigus' underlings ensues and Oshawott reveals himself to be some sort of secret agent sent to investigate the Wish Park. Cool. Then the escape scene! Piplup fails to make it out and was caught, and only Pikachu and Oshawott escaped. Pikachu, naturally, gets very sad about the whole thing especially since it's impossible to reopen the portal to Wish Park without knowing how. So I start tailing Oshawott to see his boss when...ooh, what's this?
A treasure chest? I'm sure Osha won't mind if I pick it up. I'll hurry after him in a bit. Two Paddle Fans? They apparently add to a collection of things you can trade with or buy from other Pokemon for no apparent reason, but you can make friends by giving these to certain Pokemon who want them too. Anyway, after him. Along the way I met a Drilbur who tunneled into the ground the moment he saw me. (below is not my shot, I don't have Snivy yet, just showing where Drilbur is)
Oh but look at me going off-course. Oshawott will get mad at me for sure.
On the way there, there's a lighthouse with its entrance wide open and really inviting. What's inside? .....I can't get in. WTF why did they make such a big ol' hole when you can't enter it?
It was supposed to be legendary? I had no idea. Apparently all the Pokemon who've been in there have never gotten out to tell the tale....except the two of us of course, which is probably why it's called as such. No wonder the area was almost devoid of Pokemon. Anyway, Samurott asks Oshawott to take me on his investigation. Now I can use two Pokemon! I was eager to get into the water, so naturally that's what I did first.
Woo :D This is sweet~ There are a few islets on the water too, and I find something glowing.
It's different from the normal treasure chests; they go into a different compartment called 'Important Items'. It's a Vast White Quill.....what? At that time I didn't know anything, but now that I think about it, it should be related to Reshiram.
I made friends with a few more Pokemon, and they sometimes do more than want to play Chase; some want you to find and fetch items, some want you to lead them somewhere because they got lost, and so on. Then I found this lying around in a box.
Whose Cleffa Doll is this? Does it belong to anyone? I had no idea so I picked it up for a while. Then dropped it because nothing was happening. Alright, now to get to Cove Town, the next area, to find out exactly how Wish Park operates. I meet a Timburr and he tells me to go get his hammer from the lighthouse so he can fix the bridge connecting the beach and the town. Oh hey! That big entrance from just now, I can go in it now! Not so useless after all eh?
Inside is a 2D platforming game where you have to get to the treasure chest in a limited time. Not too difficult.
Anyway, bridge is up and all, let's get to the town! Before I moved up to the town though I noticed something. Every single Pokemon on the square on the beach seemed to move closer to the Cleffa Doll I placed on the ground earlier for a bit, commenting on how cool it was (isn't it supposed to be cute?). I also noticed a big smile on Pikachu/Oshawott's faces whenever they carried the doll around (as opposed to a neutral face whenever we carried other things like balls) and Patrat was in a good mood when we went near him.....wait.
Drilbur! That's it! Let's try it out *carries doll near Drilbur* Oh, he didn't burrow underground this time! Success! From here I found out about certain items on the ground that attract or repel Pokemon, it's not just the doll, there are various other things too, some of which other Pokemon may hate. They don't belong to a specific Pokemon at all!
Looking down from the path to the town, the music changes to an appropriately relaxing tune.
This, is Pokemon paradise. I'd sit here and chill all day if I didn't have a goal to achieve in the game lol.
Then on to the next area, Cove Town.
Empty again...Pokemon have been disappearing from here too huh. Audino is here though, along with Raichu. They must be the ones who raise my battling stats. Oh cool I can raise Oshawott's too. Let's leave em for now.
Certain chase games here don't take place simply because the Pokemon want to play, sometimes there's a small scenario going on, like chasing a Pokemon who played a prank on you by stealing 100 berries from you, or helping a Pokemon chase down another Pokemon so he can retun a lost item. They may not go any differently, but it adds a little more flavor and perspective.
Oh finally, the Photo Studio...now I can take a break from photo-shooting and save everything I took so far to the SD Card...instead of having to buy a roll of film everytime you take 20 pictures, you can save up to 72 on the Wii hard drive and the earliest one will be deleted if you take anymore. Save them to an SD Card first to preserve 'em, and you can only do that here. Misdreavus asks me if I know how to take photos. What? Of course I know, hit the Minus button! Then she tells me there's another trick to it. What?
You can now point the Wii Remote on the screen to look around in first-person view THEN take a photo?? SWEET! Finally, no more aiming around to get the perfect angle with Pokepark 1's cheap stupid camera, and you don't have to see Pikachu's mug in every photo you take anymore!
I took a sample photo with the Wiimote controls. Aw yeaaaah :D. Oh, my one hour is up too.
Anyway, I powered down after this.
Although it's very much the same gameplay as Pokepark 1, there's more motivation to go and do it as there's a better story tying up all the scenes together. The graphics are colorful and cute just the way I like them, and as I said earlier, a lot better than the first game in pretty much every aspect. Music is wonderful, and the glaring lack of it in the first game made the eventual inclusion even sweeter. Battles, although still easy, have more depth to them because you can pull off move combos and elemental typing is taken into account (Pikachu's Thunderbolt won't even scratch a Ground-type while Oshawott devastates them) and can sometimes have different rulesets and arenas (you can also summon helper Pokemon but I haven't gotten to that point yet). The prper minigames are fewer in number compared to Pokepark 1 but I'd rather have four good games with randomization than a dozen crappy ones that always play out the same no matter which Pokemon you use.
The one gripe I had with this game was.....good god Nintendo it's a 3D game, give Pokepark analog stick support for chrissakes! Moving around a 3D space with the D-Pad is cumbersome and annoying, and freaking antiquated too. What the heck. Also I know they're just Pokemon with not many complex activities other than chase each other around all day, but at least increase the variety by a couple more or something.
Being laid-back with limited activities to do, Pokepark 2 isn't for everyone, but for the younger age group and anybody who wants a Pokemon game where you can just hang with Pokemon and play with them like normal pet animals would normally do, this is wonderful and beats the first game upside-down. There wasn't a single boring moment I had during this first hour, and I'll be back to this game soon, virtual camera at the ready, hungry for more.