By Laura . February 28, 2012 . 1:32pm
Warning: Pokémon names abound. Familiarity with them is required for full enjoyment of this article.
Azure skies. Crystalline waters. All is good at Seasong Beach, home to Alomomola and Frillish swimming through the gentle tides, and to the Pidove and Wingulls flying overhead. Axew, Timburr, and Patrat play by the fountain, enjoying games of chase and mock battling.
It’s to this image of tranquility that Pikachu arrives with his friend, Piplup (for the sake of convenience, Pikachu’s a male in this article). The two are enjoying their vacation when they hear of a new attraction called Wish Park. Pikachu and Piplup, joined by a curious Oshawott, enter, lured by the enticing offer of free cake and fun attractions. True, the attraction is fun, and they have a great time, but the cake is a lie and before long, they find that all the Pokémon who’ve feasted have become dopey and swirly-eyed.
Cofagrigus, keeper of the attraction, is not too happy with the gang’s refusal to eat a bite, and when they protest and demand that everyone be released, he attacks. The three just about reach the door when, out of nowhere, a ghostly arm blocks their way. The door is closing and, in a display of heroism, Piplup shoves Pikachu and Oshawott through a gap and out the exit, leaving himself behind.
After they’re through, Oshawott decides to team up with Pikachu as something of a junior detective (as per Samurott’s orders) to investigate the case of the missing Pokémon from all over PokéPark. Later, the two are joined by Snivy, a princess bored and looking for fun, and Tepig, a timid-but-trying-to-be-brave hopeful for the Crag Area’s Battle Tournament, on their journey to stop the nefarious plot of a mysterious force intent on brainwashing all of PokéPark.
There was no question that PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond was going to be a blast, and I’d heard the attractions in the previous game in the series were fun, so I had high expectations of those parts. That said, before I started the game, I was skeptical about the story because this is usually the Pokémon series’ weakest point.
However, as I played on, I found myself having fun with the story. It’s not five-star (conspiracies and intrigues galore), but it’s cute and dynamic. I think I enjoyed it so much because of the well-written dialogue, the witty banter between Pikachu’s three companions. (An example would be the time Oshawott mistakenly took Snivy for a boy, or the time Snivy casually tells a fire-type Darumaka to light the cannon Tepig is stuck, in despite his vehement protests.)
The game always feels well-paced, despite the fact that you’re finding yourself running around trying to befriend every single Pokémon you see. You’d think that all the side quests make you feel like the story’s being broken up. However, you never feel the lull. I think this is because there’s always something happening. Sometimes, the Pokémon are talking to one another, and other times they’re actively attacking each other. Mankey will actively run into other Pokémon and knock him aside on his run (he especially likes to chase poor floundering Magikarp … who is always somehow stranded on land, thanks to his Splash attack). Snorlax will occasionally pound the tree he’s sitting next to, knocking off Berries every now and then.
The Pokémon’s mood affects their interaction vastly. Angry, the Pokémon will charge at you and attack you. You don’t have health when you’re not in battle, but it’s still startling seeing them so hostile, not to mention a bother when you’re getting shoved around. You can attack straight back, too, and send them flying with a flick if you’re annoyed. Luckily, they don’t hold grudges against you. Sometimes.
There are different items scattered across the map that can affect the Pokémon’s moods, too. The two most drastic are the stinky berry and the Cleffa plushie. Carry around a plushie, and suddenly everyone’s your friend. Timid Tranquil will approach you and snuggle up to you, and other Pokémon will compliment you on how cute your item is (except for the ornery Mankey, who will attack and attack until you’re out of his sight because he hates cute things).
On the other hand, carry around a stinky berry and suddenly you have Fraxure slashing at you and Patrats mobbing you, trying to get you to let go of the berry. Only Munchlax seems to like the item, and he’ll gladly eat it if you offer it to him.
In addition to all of this, Pokémon are always looking for action and fun. As you talk to others, they’ll ask you to play Chase or Hide and Seek. The Eevee evolutions will want you to run their custom racecourse, and Crawdaunt will want you to run an obstacle course, with themselves as the obstacles. Despite the lack of formal minigames in PokéPark 2, there are plenty of things to do.
These games are often ways to recruit Pokémon, which is key to advancing the story. There’s no need to befriend everyone, but it’s always exciting talking to everyone. A lot of times, they have quirky personalities that make things all the more interesting. In fact, I believe that the key to this game’s success is the interaction between all the Pokémon, without the filter of human interference. With the absence of the trainer, the Pokémon become their own characters and their relationships become more interesting and fun.
For example, in PokéPark, the currency is Berries, which you can collect from trees or by competing with other Pokémon in Chase or battles. You can use these to pay your tutors to train up your HP, your running speed, or your attack power (for each of your three attacks). On the other hand, you can also use these to buy trading items.
These items do nothing (although some Pokémon want some trifle before they join you) and have no practical use, but you can collect them everywhere on the map. Other Pokémon also find them sometimes and will offer them to you for a price. On the other hand, some other Pokémon will want some trade items and are willing to pay high prices to get what they want. I think this is an interesting way to gain (or lose) money and to interact with the other Pokémon.
On top of the previously mentioned methods of recruitment, you can’t forget the most common pastime for Pokémon: battling. For me, this is quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had fighting in Pokémon. Battles control like an action game — you run around and dodge the attacks while trying to counter with your own. One button activates the Dash Combo, which you can press again and again for multiple hits. You can also hold down the button to charge up a long-distance attack (Thunderbolt, Leaf Storm, Water Gun, or Flamethrower, depending on the Pokémon). Finally, you can also give your Wiimote a shake to unleash a sweeping area attack that hits pretty heavily (Iron Tail, Leaf Tornado, Razor Shell, or Heat Crash).
In addition to this, you can also occasionally call in assistance from a Pokémon you’ve befriended in the area. Once you do, they’ll perform one attack before leaving. This is rare and should always be taken advantage of accordingly (and can be the deciding factor between victory and defeat). My favorite are Scyther and Boldore, but a good portion of your friends can offer their services.
Out of the four Pokémon you can control, their physical abilities are taken into account in battles and out. Each has their own special abilities that make exploring interesting. Oshawott can swim, Snivy can jump high, and Tepig can break rocks apart with his charge. (Pikachu’s all-around average, but you’ll still find yourself using him quite a bit.) Sometimes, you’ll find yourself returning to previously-visited areas to try and find new ledges or break open new pathways to look into.
Pikachu is the most average of the four, with relatively good attacks and high speed. You get used to him first, since he’s the first one you use, but unlike other games where the character you start with fades into the background, Pikachu’s attacks are actually pretty powerful.
Snivy runs quicker and absolutely zips across the battlefield. She also has better control, I think. (Pikachu is horrible with tight turns.) Her attacks are slightly weaker, but she attacks faster. Oshawott can barely paddle along on his two feet, so he’s ridiculously slow at running. Fighting with him is difficult because of his low speed, but he has great range with his Razor Shell, which he throws around like a boomerang.
Finally, Tepig is amazing in battle, absolutely battering everything aside with his Heat Charge. Outside of battles, his charge is interesting in that it lasts for a long time. He’s pretty slow (slowest, other than Oshawott), but you’re saved the trouble of pressing the “1” button every two seconds to keep him running.
Regardless of Pokémon typing and whatnot, you’ll find yourself adapting and preferring to use some Pokémon and opting to avoid others because they’re all so different. I myself enjoy using Snivy a lot, even if I’m fighting a flying-type Braviary or a fire-type Darmanitan. (Beating them despite the type disadvantage is so satisfying… Perhaps this is why Ash does it in the anime?! …Nah.)
Somehow, fighting as a Pokémon rather than ordering your Pokémon around makes all the difference. For the longest time, I’ve been searching for a game that allowed me to play with Pokémon, but not as a trainer. I love playing as one of the four Pokémon and trying to befriend all the Pokémon available in the park. PokéPark 2 was just what I was looking for.
Food for thought:
1.) There are four minigames in the game in total. While this is much, much less than what was available in the previous game, I hardly noticed their absence. On that note, these four that PokéPark 2 does have are very, very fun.
2.) Not all 649 Pokémon are in the game, obviously, but the ones that do appear are from a healthy smattering of all five generations, which I thought was nice. It was a pretty seamless integration.
3.) You can take photos, which you can then save to the Wii system memory or an SD card.
4) I absolutely love the loading screens, which always keep up to date with your progress in the game. If you don’t have Snivy yet, she won’t appear in your loading screens. If she does, you’ll probably find her jumping over Pikachu or whizzing by with Oshawott hanging on to one of the vines.
5.) Another aspect I love about the game is that you hear them talk (by saying their names) as well as read the dialogue.
6.) Fun story. In the beginning of the game, a Patrat wanted me to get a ball. I break open a chest and voila! There’s a ball there … except, just as I was about to roll it to the Patrat, a Maractus comes up and gleefully shrieks, “Hehehe!!” before proceeding to shove the ball into the ocean, thereby making it disappear forever and ever. Later, I realized that that particular ball wasn’t the one the Patrat wanted, and that this wasn’t even a quest in the first place, but this was my first taste of crazy Pokémon interaction.