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Pokémon Black and White 2 looks to the past for inspiration (preview)

Nintendo knows what you want. For Pokémon Black Version 2 and Pokémon White Version 2 (B/W2), the Game Freak-developed sequel to last year’s pair of games for the DS and 3DS handhelds, the company isn’t aiming to reinvent the formula. It’s simply trying to refine it.

Set to release on October 7, B/W2 returns to the region of Unova two years after the events from the first games. While you don’t need to play the original Black and White to appreciate the sequel (you’ll be walking around Unova with fresh eyes as a brand new Pokémon trainer), the games do reward you if you have a past save file through a new feature called Memory Link.

“If you’ve played Black and White, you can transfer your data into Black and White 2,” said Joel Simon, the product marketing coordinator at Nintendo, “and it will unlock different story vignettes that…kind of fill in the gaps between what happened to those characters [from the first games] in the past, and what is happening now.”

Pokemon Black and White 2, Elesa

Another connection to the past is found in the Pokémon World Tournament (described in detail later below), where you’ll eventually unlock the ability to fight against gym leaders from previous games. The regions of Kanto (Blue and Red), Johto (Gold and Silver), Sinnoh (Diamond and Pearl), Hoenn (Ruby and Sapphire), and Unova are all accounted for, marking the return of classic foes such as Misty, Brock, and Giovanni.

Nintendo is also reaching deep into its massive Pokémon mythos to establish a larger roster of critters for B/W2. In addition to the 150 Pokémon native to Unova, a few fan favorites representing all five generations of the franchise make their first appearance in the B/W series. No specific number has been mentioned just yet, but Simon assures us that the total number of Pokémon in B/W2 is at least 200.

With one foot planted firmly in the past, Nintendo takes a step forward with some brand new additions and locations in the sequel. Here’s a quick look at what the company showed us during last week’s demo:

New locations

PokéStar Studios
As the name implies, PokéStar Studios gives you the option of starring in your very own movie within the game. But there’s a catch: Depending on the type of genre and scene, you’ll have to work within the confines of a script when choosing your dialogue or fighting with your Pokémon.

Simon showed us an action movie with a Power Rangers vibe called Brycenman. As the superhero Riolu Kid, you must stop the evil Brycenman from using his Pokémon to destroy an amusement park. When you confront your arch-nemesis, you’re given two different dialogue options — one aggressive and confident, the other fearful and cowardly — and you must choose which one fits best with the character you’re playing as.

Pokemon Black and White 2, Team Plasma

You then have the choice of releasing the film, with added special effects, to the scrutinizing eye of the public. Audience members are shown on the bottom screen as you watch the finished product, and they visibly react to the choices you made. They can get mad, fall asleep, or even leave the theater altogether if they don’t like what your movie. If you perform well, however, you’ll unlock potential sequels and other genres of film to play with.

Pokémon World Tournament
Tucked away in the new city of Driftveil is the Pokémon World Tournament building, a place to test your Pokémon’s abilities in a series of different formats, including single, double, triple, and rotational battles. At first, the tournament is limited to only local opponents from the city.

But if you’re feeling really cocky, you can take on the winners of the Pokémon World Championships, an annual invitation-only gathering of the top video game and trading card players in the real world. Via a terminal in the tournament building, you can download the exact teams that the winners used during their championship run and see if your Pokémon lineup can contend with the best of them.

Pokemon Black and White 2, Join Avenue #3

Join Avenue
As a way of encouraging you to interact with other 3DS and DS owners in real life, Game Freak created Join Avenue, an empty marketplace that only fills up once you start wirelessly connecting (actively or passively) with other people. Every person who you connect with is added to this space, and they serve as patrons who can either be told to set up new shops or to visit existing stores in the area.

These shops are rated on a points system: The more people you have visiting them, the higher their ranking will be, unlocking rare items like fossils or candies for you to buy. So it’s in your best interest to connect with as many people as you can, whether that means passing them by on the street or actively battling and trading with others in the game.

An expanded Pokédex

Habitats and grottos
To help you manage the expansive list of wild Pokémon in B/W2, the Pokédex now includes a handy Habitat feature. Whenever you see all of the Pokémon in a given area, a faint outline of a Pokéball is placed in that location on your map. If you catch all the different types in that one area, you earn a stamp, which narrows down the number of other places you need to visit so you can fill up your collection.

An alternative way to look for Pokémon is to search for hidden gaps between trees, which lead to the secret Pokémon Grottos. Certain items and Pokémon with hidden abilities, which are unique skills beyond the standard move set of their wild counterparts, can only be found in these caves. Your chances of finding one or the other is completely left to chance.

Pokemon Black and White 2, Colress

Pokémon Dream Radar
Pokémon Dream Radar is almost an entirely different game, and it will only be available via Nintendo’s eShop when it launches the same day as B/W2. Working under a new professor, you’re tasked with capturing Pokémon in the real world — where they’ve inhabited a special plane of existence known as the interdream zone — by using the camera on your 3DS.

The Pokémon you find in Dream Radar can’t be caught in B/W2, and they possess hidden abilities or sometimes show up as special versions of themselves, as is the case with the three genies from the first B/W games: Thundurus, Tornadus, and Landorus. Once captured, these Pokémon, as well as any items that you found, can be transferred back to your roster in B/W2.

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