By Laura . July 30, 2012 . 5:46pm
Welcome to our in-depth coverage of Pokémon Black 2. The purpose of this series of articles is to provide a well-rounded account of what you can expect from Black/White 2 without spoiling the actual experience for readers who intend to play the games themselves. We hope you enjoy it!
Previous Pokémon Black & White 2 Diaries:
After Reverse Mountain, I reached the sunny beach of Undella Town—Unova’s resident resort village. It’s remained almost unchanged over the past two years, but there is a shiny new Marine Tube built, leading up to Seigaiha City. Unfortunately, it’s inaccessible at the moment, as are the deep water ruins that are from the first game since I don’t have the Dive HM yet.
However, that hardly means there’s nothing to do here because Black 2 seems to give you a wider breadth of freedom for exploration in between story points. Usually, the Pokémon games have a gym, some plot point in that city, and then you’re off to the next city with its gym and then the next plot point. Sometimes something happens en route, and sometimes you’ll have to backtrack, but the place unlocked after each plot point are very few so you’re herded in the right direction. There may be a dungeon on the side here and there, but usually there’s some plot there—like the awakening of a Legendary Pokémon or the infiltration of a Team [x] base—and there’s never been very many optional dungeons before.
At Undella Town, though, I was presented with a variety of options in terms of exploring. I could go south towards Black City (but not enter it) on Route 14 with its beaches, cliffs, (inaccessible) waterfalls and trainers, or I could Surf around and find trainers in the water to challenge as well as hidden items. North, there’s a whole series of town and routes to go through before I reach my next destination, Opelucid City and its Dragon Gym. I don’t think a Pokémon game’s been this hands-off before.
Trainers are getting easier, especially with a Lucky Egg in hand, but they’re still pretty high in level. It’s still maintaining that nice level of challenge while still being just this side of possible, especially because I switched up my team a bit with the new wild Pokémon wandering around. The biodiversity is as great as ever, although this actually isn’t much different from the previous games,
By this point in time in Pokémon Black, we’d already be in post-game, which was when the Pokémon from non-5th Generation started coming in hordes. I think because this is the second game of the generation, I’m much less focused on capturing new Pokémon and filling up my Pokédex than I was before.
Usually, I absolutely have to catch all the Pokémon in an area before moving on, but the Double Grasses and the sheer number of species in the grass (making it feel like the rare species seem to appear much less and the common ones much more) make it hard for them to be captured and only adds to a frustration I wish to keep out of Pokémon. Currently, I’m just catching whoever I encounter and catches my eyes, but I’m not running around searching out every species I may have missed.
The journey up to Opelucid City really is almost all exploration and catching new Pokémon, though, so there isn’t much to talk about. The areas are mostly the same, although I’ve discovered some Legendaries wandering around this area, too. Rather, they ambushed me and caught me off-guard. I had to opportunity to save, but I am once again torn about the high catch rate in Generation 5 games.
Anyways, instead of talking about my wonderful time bonding with my new Altaria and Golduck, I will go into what changes I observed in with regards to items. The few I saw aren’t much, but they make all the difference in terms of convenience.
Starting from the smallest change, I feel like I’m coming across TMs much less common than Pokémon Black. I wonder if this is a sign that the game will be longer in length than before (makes sense, since there’s more areas to explore than before) or if we’re being forced to explore a Pokémon’s natural moveset before hijacking them with TMs. In addition, you can take any item, including TM/HMs, and assign them into the Free Space, which is an extra box you have in your bag that has all your “bookmarked” items.
This makes easy finding and usage of healing items and other handy stuff like your Lucky Egg, Lucky Amulet, or your Max Repels. I really enjoy abusing this bag.
The third (and last) change I discovered by accident when I was using my Max Repel. After I used one, and I ran out, the obligatory “You ran out,” message appeared on screen. Just as I was about to go into the menu to pull out the next spray can from the Free Space bag, imagine my surprise when another message popped on screen. “Would you like to use another can?”
I cannot put my gratefulness into words.
Back to the story, Opelucid City doesn’t appear to be much different. This place was one of the few locations that were different in the previous Black & White, with Black’s being much more technologically oriented. There’s nothing much to explore other than the next Route, which is rather tiny (although the game does suggest you do so for some training first) which leaves the main attraction the Gym and its animatronic dragon statues.
Like all the other Gyms, this one’s been redesigned too. There are still two dragons, but this time, one is reared up against the wall, while the other is lying on its stomach, waiting for you to board. The objective is to control the dragon statue’s head by stepping on the D-pad on the back of the head. Pressing the Up button raises you some height, and then you choose Left or Right for some impressive animation as your Dragon attacks the other Dragon carrying the trainers.
Only the pads that are lit will work, and that only happens after you’ve fought the trainers on that level. This means that there isn’t really so much a puzzle as a lot of impressive animation. The swoop as your Dragon dives in actually carries some oomph to it, unlike some 3D animation where the actions don’t seem to be fully carried through.
For all the lack of puzzle in the Gym, though, the battles are a conundrum in and of themselves. After all, winter hasn’t passed yet (that’s next month), so there’s no Ice Pokémon, and the only Dragon Pokémon available thus far are Axew and Altaria. Admittedly, I’ve limited my options by my resolution not to use any Pokémon from previous run-throughs so I’d stuck with Altaria, but this also means that without Axew or his evolved forms, you’re stuck facing Dragon Dance and Haxorus with whatever options you have left.
Coming up with different strategies was really fun, and I’m actually really glad I didn’t use Axew in the end. Serperior really shined here, too.
After some talk after the Gym battle, the game suddenly kicked plot into high gear. After a long period of silence from Team Plasma, they return with an airship and transform Opelucid from a technologically advanced city into a replica of the Ice Caves in the early games, complete with slipping and sliding.
I’m looking forward to the next showdown with Team Plasma. After all, though they’re never much of a challenge, something like an airship seems more in tune with what you’d expect from the anime, to me, rather than from the main games.
Food for Thought:
My strategy for the Dragons—Magneton’s Thunder Wave, Golduck’s Soak, and then Serperior’s Giga Drain. Haxorus had to have an extra helping of Toxic Spikes, though, from Drapion. The strategy was too slow to counter the Dragon Dance.