I firmly believe that there are two types of Pokemon videogame fans: those that play on a surface level, and those that really dig deep. Insert joke here about the damage-dealing Ground-type move called Dig. Nah. I’m most assuredly the former despite my love for stats and intricate systems in RPGs like Fallout: New Vegas, Borderlands 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Suikoden II, Grandia, and so on. But with the pocket monsters? I just like collecting them to fill out my Pokedex, giving them cutesy nicknames like Birdbutt and Trashy, and then exploring towns for silly side stuff. That’s about it. I don’t have friends that also play to battle against or participate in tournaments or breed to get the best of the best attributes Gattaca style. And I’m not really sure if Pokemon White 2 has the makings to change me in this regard.
But first, I failed. My goal was to jump back into Pokemon White, grind like mad, and defeat the Elite Four before moving on to the sequel. Alas, no. A few test battles against the first member of the Elite Four showed me just how much further I needed to crawl, and it looked dire. There’s actually a limit to the amount of grinding I’m willing to do for a game, and the rewards did not seem to justify the time spent doing battle after battle after battle, resting when needed, and then getting right back to it. No thanks.
So I went into Pokemon White 2 without knowing how Pokemon White ended. After about six to seven hours, I can safely say: it doesn’t matter. At least not yet. Everything plot-wise so far is follow-able; you begin anew, picking your gender, the name of your “rival”, and then a starter Pokemon. Last time, I went with Snivy, the grass-based beast, naming it Snape. This time, I switched things up, picking Tepig, the fire-based one, dubbing it Hamstring. He’s pretty good. And then you’re off, to fight Gym Leaders and keep those pestering Team Plasma grunts at bay. It’s going pretty well. With four gym badges collected, I’ve also gotten further into the game to open that silly side stuff that I secretly croon over.
The two big ones are Join Avenue and Pokéstar Studios. I like them both, but have really only just dabbled in each. For Join Avenue, you become the owner/manager of a long stretch of space between two towns. Here, you can ask people passing by to open shops or visit shops you’ve already opened, and doing so raises the shops’ rank, as well as the overall rank of Join Avenue. There’s a reason for all this, because as the shops increase, so do the benefits. Right now, I have two beauty salons, a cafe, and an antique store opened, ready for business. It seems like a neat idea that I’ll be revisiting in between gym battles to see how things are evolving. The other main side activity is Pokestar Studios, which has the player filming a script for a big theatrical release. You go through a bunch of decisions and then even get to see your film in a theater. I’ve done it once, but plan to sink more time into later. A few other mini-games carry over from Pokemon White as well, like participating in a play and dressing up with props.
If that’s not enough, Pokemon White 2 introduces…Achievements. Well, they call them Medals, but we all really know what they are. You get them for everything: walking, saving frequently, purchasing 10 Pokeballs at once, nicknaming X caught Pokemon, and so on and so on. You even get hint Medals to help you figure out just what you need to do. It’s a nice addition even if, ultimately, just like Achievements, they are meaningless. Unless something crazy good happens if you get them all–I don’t know, I’ve only gotten around 18 or so at this point.
While I picked Hamstring as my starter Pokemon, he’s definitely moved aside to make room for Genesect, a special robotic bug ‘mon that initial purchasers of the game can download for free. It is mighty powerful and considered “traded” so you immediately get a boost to all its EXP earned. Can’t go wrong with that. No way, no how. At first he felt extremely overpowered, but I just got my butt whooped at the fifth gym, so he is not all that and a bag of rice. Need to find some water-based Pokemon to help out in that fight…
I’m already planning for the future, meaning the final battles. I want to keep at least four of my chosen pocket monsters all around the same level, all different in tactics and nature and powers. It’s working out okay so far. I really don’t want to hit the same wall as I did in the previous game, and, as can be expected, a whole bunch of other content unlocks once you finish the game.
For me, it’s a great game to play a little bit of before turning in for the night, so while I’m playing it slowly, I’m also playing it methodically. At least, I hope I am. There’s so much in this game–these games, really–to take in. Layers upon layers of stuff, from berries to held items to the difference between TMs and HMs, to learning a new move or keeping old ones, to evolving or not evolving, to raising a friendly pocket monster, to earning money, to riding a bicycle, to playing mini-games, to using C-Gear, to withdrawing and depositing team members. At times, it’s like getting lost, and the safest way through is just to stay on the main path and do only what is necessary. Again, this is why I’m a surface level player; any more, and I’m just burying myself.
Okay, enough writing; back to training.