Gamers enjoy fresh adventure in "Pokémon Black Version 2," "White Version 2"

Released Oct. 7, “Pokémon Black Version 2” and “Pokémon White Version 2” continue the tradition of an excellent turn-based strategy game that also enhances player enjoyment with new features aimed at both new and veteran trainers.

Before catching either version for yourself, it’s important to note that these games are direct sequels to “Pokémon Black Version” and “Pokémon White Version” and the transformation of the Unova region of the Pokémon world, and the story reflects this.

The story in this sequel presents a more concise and realistic adventure. With fewer adult themes present, such as animal abuse, and none of the distracting plot holes that plagued the first games, a player looking for better story now finds a home in the new Unova region.

A huge flaw in this story exists, however, in that the protagonist is completely overshadowed by the first hero’s accomplishments. The player in both versions is constantly compared to “that trainer from two years ago” – as if they are neither unique nor meaningful enough to be thought of as different, but they are equally powerful.

The Memory Link feature reinforces this sense of following in the original trainer’s footsteps. This feature allows a “Black 2” or “White 2” game to hook up, either by Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or close-range wireless between two Nintendo DS systems, to an original “Black” or “White” game. The advantages are a few tough battles from old foes and interesting flashbacks or conversations.

Game play has improved, though, in that casual trainers and those who have been with the franchise since it first hit American stores more than 15 years ago both find something worthwhile to keep playing for.

A first for Pokémon games, yet regularly requested by fans, is the addition of a key system, which can modify the difficulty of the game. Now friends – since keys can be traded – can set the game to easy, normal or challenge modes that are immediately and directly apparent. Those with challenge mode face trainers with extra, stronger Pokémon whereas easy mode allows for a relaxed experience where enemies are simple to defeat.

The problem is that a player must beat the Champion before their game’s key is even accessible. Keys do not carry over if you start a new game, either.

Thus, for a player to enjoy challenge mode on their own “Black 2” game, they have to beat the Champion, trade the key to a different person’s game and have that person trade the key back after deleting the original save file. This feature, while a long-time request, could have been executed better.

Another major addition that serves both types of trainers is Join Avenue, a completely customizable personal mall. Players may invite nonplayer characters or representations of their friends to join their avenues as shopkeepers, which in turn offer a wide variety of purchasable goods. Shops, as well as Join Avenue itself, can be upgraded through a popularity system too, enabling access to better services over time.

Nintendo improved the soundtrack with a wider range of battle and scenic music. Specific places or battles, such as the catwalk in Nimbasa City’s Gym, even feature small clips of voice acting, another first for the Pokémon series.

Whether you’re familiar with the turn-based mechanics or have only heard of Pikachu in passing, “Pokémon Black Version 2” and “Pokémon White Version 2” offer a fun experience for everyone. The new features, which only add to or improve upon the game loved by many, give an experience Pokémon fans have not had for a long time.