Pokemon White Version 2 Review: Walk on the Wild Side

Oh come off it. There is no way you can possibly be here because you haven’t heard any opinions on Pokemon White 2 and think it might be useful to see whether you should buy it. There are much better and more reputable reviewers that have already done that and it’s almost certainly a case of you wanting to validate your own opinion, positively or negatively. Thus, this review will be more of a discussion on various questions the game brought up for me, and you can feel free to jump in via comment or note-tied-to-brick-hurled-through-my-window.

How on Earth does the economy keep itself going in the world of Pokemon? The entire manufacturing base of the nation seems to be based on Pokemon training products, and other than a few herb stores and vending machines, there’s nowhere to get any sustenance. Really, each region is less part of a country and more a series of unconnected city-states, given how nobody ever seems to leave an area of a few square metres. There certainly aren’t any paved roads, and what transport networks exist are plagued by both vicious local wildlife and hordes of men and women – even children – who assault passersby on sight; a practice colluded in by the local police force, who seem more concerned with endlessly retracing their steps, like they’re looking for a missing contact lens or something.

I mean, where are the Pokeball factories, the trade networks that mean every Pokemon Centre is adequately supplied with all the goods they need? The skyscrapers of Castelia City seem to serve no more purpose than residential buildings and an office for a man who for some reason has the legal jurisdiction to change Pokemon names.

Where are the people who don’t care about battling, those who are into sculpture or modern dance or classic literature? They seem to be non-existent and quite frankly that scares me. Death camps? Forced labour in the PokeMines? Who knows, says the game, and who the hell even cares.

That’s before we even begin to assess the intellectual quality of the world’s population. Children as young as ten (although thankfully Pokemon White 2’s protagonists are 14) are allowed to roam the wilderness unprotected from gangs of masked assailants by anything but a small, fat duck. Most residents can only spout the same few lines of dialogue and each region contains something like one school, which is almost always devoted to the practice of Pokemon training rather than anything practical like how to read or do basic maths.

Does anyone else see quite a bit of the objectivist about this arrangement? It’s very much Darwinism made into a (barely) functioning society. There’s no government, just a procession of huge corporations and the odd terrorist group that always tries to bring the world to its knees without any foresight or understanding of the fate of the groups that came before, despite the fact that in the absence of any armed forces and only the minimal number of police officers, they’re still defeated time and again by teenagers.

They seem to be following the Saturday morning cartoon school of villainy, which insists that its adherents be as roundabout and inefficient in their plots as possible (like trying to freeze the entire world) while still managing to make good their escape every bloody encounter like the only university courses they could take were Modern Art and Escapology.

I mean, Christ, we’ve gone from Team Rocket, an organised crime syndicate with a predilection for grand larceny and animal cruelty in the name of making a profit, to Team Galactic, who wanted to unravel space-time and rebuild it in their own image. How on Earth they planned to do that when they inhabit said realm is beyond my knowledge, but at least both those teams, despite each having a different modus operandi and motivation, posed some genuine threat. After the universe-ending gang from the last set of Ayn-Rand worshipping animal cruelty simulators, the villains this time being a hardcore remnant of an already-shattered ecowarrior group with misguided intentions seems like a bit of a step down. It’s like playing a shooter where you bring down the Third Reich only to find yourself in the sequel fighting the Real IRA.

What’s more, what happened to Pokemon contests? I’m sure they were never tremendously popular, but in Ruby and Sapphire they were a neat distraction using cool mechanics that added depth and interest to players who’d beaten the main game (or at the very least wanted a Milotic); now we’ve got a massive building (which you have to visit) where Pokemon movies are directed.

Yes, now any dullard with a sack full of Pokeballs and a god complex can make cinemagoers suffer through their abysmal attempts to follow basic instructions. At least, that’s how I remember it working. I was struggling to stay awake through the twenty minute unskippable cutscene that accompanies our introduction to this most wondrous of sidequests that nobody in their right mind would want to play.

Mind you, the new Pokemon of the most recent generation might as well be used for movie making since they’re absolutely useless for anything else. Scratch that, they’d be terrible at acting too since they’re incredibly ugly. I can name every Pokemon of the first generation (even though I was too young for it) but none of the fifth generation that was released last year. The one most people seem upset about is Garbodor, a massive sack of trash that I don’t even mind because it can be used as a metaphor for the state of modern gaming. The worst offenders are just bland, uninspired knock-offs of creatures that came before and played their roles better. It’s fine if they want another couple of hundred of the mewling things to cram onto trading cards and duvet covers and love pillows, but one of the few things B&W2 did right was kick the newbies out and let us catch the proper Pokemon from the outset.

Come on Nintendo, bring back the Pokemon I loved as a child. Please? The Pokemon where the story was only nominally there and the excitement came from exploration, training and a huge post-game list of things to do, as well as a sense of humour that the current games lack. Pokemon has become no more than a marketing device for children, with a competitive scene requiring the dogged compliance of purchasing each new instalment and no good ideas since five years ago. The series has fainted, Nintendo, and it’s time to take it to the Pokemon Centre and put it to bed. Then set the bed on fire and come up with a new series.

I’m in a bad mood this week. Can you tell?

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Robin Wilde

Co-Editor of Cubed Gamers, meaning I send out, take in, edit and upload content. I'm also in charge of doing much of the graphics and design stuff for the site.

2 comments

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  1. John Doe 7 November, 2012 at 00:25 Reply

    Not the best review in my opinion.
    The beginning is really just you ranting about how non-realistic the series is. It’s a video game, and a children’s one at that. Maybe you could see that the intention of the series is not to be gritty and realistic, but more fun.
    Also, I’m shocked you mention a lackluster villain team yet make no mention of G/S/C’s villain team. The second Team Rocket was utter crap. The bosses weren’t challenging, their goals were dumb, and they fell flat at every point. I haven’t played, B/W 2, but they must be better than that.
    The statement about the unmemorable Pokemon is very poor. You complain that you can remember things from my childhood that was insanely famous and has been around for nearly 15 years, but not these as I’m much older (meaning you don’t focus on it as much, nor do others around you) that was only released a year ago. Really?

    This final paragraph is just nostalgia syndrome. The game isn’t bad, you just remember the older ones being good because they came out way before and you have fond memories. There’s still exploration, there’s still training, and there’s an even BIGGER list of things to do, or so I’ve heard, in this game as opposed to older games. (Unless you refer to the Kanto part of Gen II, but that isn’t really postgame) OH yeah, and there was never really a sense of humor with Pokemon. No clue where that came from.

    Pokemon will always be about bringing money to Nintendo. Obviously. The point of all video games are to make money for developers. You can’t complain about the fact that they still do this later on. There’s still an audience, they still sell well, and most importantly, they’re still good games.

    • MrNameless 8 November, 2012 at 23:57 Reply

      Yeah, you’re probably right. I was in a pretty foul mood while writing this and screaming incoherently at games somehow relieves that a bit!

      To quickly clarify – I was quite disappointed with this game; I couldn’t get immersed and I was quickly bored. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything special. If you enjoyed Black and White you’ll probably enjoy this too.

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