Critics for one were not kind to this particular pairing. They were criticised for forcing players to retread much of the first game with a less than satisfactory narrative. Indeed, Team Plasma has resurrected, yet this time as a typical criminal organisation rather than the philosophical tyrants they appeared as before. There are indeed many interesting set pieces within this narrative, however the stakes feel nowhere near as engrossing, because the villains now have as much depth as a kiddies paddling pool. The villains in feel like they were laid bare by the end of Black & White and therefore their return here just doesn’t feel as engaging. And of course, much of the region itself loses its allure now as we’d seen it all before only 2 years prior ourselves. The last big nail in the coffin for critics also, was the fact that, by the time Black 2 & White 2 hit shelves on the Nintendo DS, it’s successor, the 3DS, was a well established handheld that was missing a Pokémon title altogether. Sadly, Black 2 & White 2 weren’t looking great when first released.
However, this was years ago now and with a little retrospective, what kind of Pokémon game are we left with? The answer is a pretty darn good one! While much of the middle part of the game was a painful retread, there are plenty of new areas to explore here in the Unova region, each filled with life and intrigue to easily match (and occasionally surpass) the areas in the original games. New cities like Humilau and Virbank and landmarks such as the Marine Tunnel, really add an edge to the region that helped encourage us onward. Sure, we were still locked onto a very linear path, but we jumped across the region enough to make this issue feel less prominent than beforehand. Intrigue is only further supported with the re-addition of many of the older Pokémon now littered across the region which, after missing out on them the last time, made seeing old friends quite a delight in this foreign environment. Despite the often forgettable plot, these little additions to the setting helped the adventure feel worthwhile anyway.
This isn’t particularly why Black 2 & White 2 deserve praise however, as an adequate main campaign leads way to the greatest post-game experience any Pokémon game has ever seen! The post-game experience in titles since seem transfixed on supporting a wifi community/professional Pokémon scene, with actual in-game events feeling more of an afterthought. Here though, almost half a region opens up for us to explore once we’re Pokémon league champion. Then there are the dungeon arenas of Black Skycraper/White Treehollow, which provide a unique battling experience not seen before or since and act as an excellent opportunity to gain experience points, while providing a healthy dose of challenge. The trainers here use a diverse range of Pokémon across the series, and ones we don’t necessarily face often in-game. Yet, let’s not forget the glorious battle facility of the Pokémon World Tournament! A fans dream come true, at this facility we could battle every Gym Leader and every Pokémon Champion over again in a more competitive environment, each using full and worthy teams. This facility also showcased the new battle methods, with Rotation and Triple Battles option appeared against every opponent. These aspects are all joined with what was already available in Black & White (the Battle Subway & Pokémon Musicals), totaling in a pair of games which spring to life the moment we watched the credits roll. Despite their flaws, these games really have an identity in the series unlike any other.
In many ways, Black 2 & White 2 feel like a farewell of sorts. Heralding the end of sprite gameplay, Generation VI & VII since have propelled Pokémon into a different environment, where Pokémon is a community experience above all else. Yet as an individual experience, with all its additions, post-game challenges, and their ability to tackle the game in three difficulty modes, Pokémon Black 2 & White 2 are one last hurrah to a series where dragons reigned supreme and battle frontiers littered the world. These don’t provide the best main campaign ever, but once those greatest roll, we have a pair of Pokémon titles unlike any other.