Prepare Pikachu for his close-up in Pokemon Black 2 and White 2's newest mode.
Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 are the first direct sequels in the Pokemon line and remain locked into the Unova region, but that isn't stopping Nintendo and developer Game Freak from introducing a few seemingly fresh elements to the long-running series.
The biggest change comes in the city of Virbank, a new location modeled after Hollywood. Even the gym leader in Virbank is fueled by star power — poison master Roxie heads up a band whenever she's not battling rival trainers.
But the real feeling of Hollywood comes through the PokeStar Studios, a new locale that allows you to create movies starring your Pokemon. PokeStar Studios plays out like a choose your own adventure novel, where you stitch together scenes based around specific genres.
For example, the first script available is a simple, two-scene superhero action film placing you opposite Brycen-Man, a villain based off the goofy gym leader from the first Pokemon Black and White. Brycen-Man threatens your character, and you choose whether to confront him or cower in fear.
Whether you're putting together a horror flick or a romantic comedy, each film inevitably leads to some Pokemon fights. Going into a script, you can bring your own collection of Pokemon or choose from rentals that will have the right abilities and strengths to ensure a successful movie.
World Tournament mode allows players to take on every previous gym leader
Once you've finished filming all the scenes in a movie, you can sit back and watch it play out. The movie rolls on the 3DS' top screen while the bottom screen features animation of theater-goers who alternate between happy, upset, excited, or bored based on the choices you've made. Want to tell Brycen-Man you're afraid of him instead of challenging him to a fight? You'll probably lose some audience members.
PokeStar Studios presents a nice change of pace for when you need a break from regular capturing and battling, but that core gameplay that keeps fans addicted will have some new polish as well. The World Tournament mode allows players to take on every previous gym leader from the 15-plus years of past Pokemon releases. Black 2 and White 2 will also release with launch downloadable content that adds the real world 2012 Pokemon Video Game World Championship winners into the game as rivals to battle, as reported earlier.
Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 will also come packed with methods to help Pokemasters catch even more of the adorable critters. Pokemon grottos - secret areas that often contain powerful Pokemon with hidden abilities - will be more common, and the games will be packed with a variety of Pokemon from across every previous release, including some long-time rarities. The expanded Pokedex now has a habitat feature that lists off every Pokemon available in each area you visit, giving you an easy check list to monitor as you try to catch ‘em all.
Nintendo will also be releasing a downloadable 3DS app called Pokemon Dream Radar. This augmented reality program allows you to find items and Pokemon in the real world and then transfer them into your game, including some monsters who will only be available by using the app.
Players who sunk time into the original Black and White can use the memory link feature to upload their save data from the previous game. This upload will unlock short story vignettes that give a deeper look at what has happened to some characters since the first game. Unfortunately, memory link will require two DS or 3DS units to unlock.
While the quirky PokeStar Studio provides the biggest departure from the normal Pokemon formula in Black 2 and White 2, some hardcore fans may be put off by a big new feature not focused on the actual gameplay. Smaller tweaks like improved grottos and the World Tournament mode may be enough to satisfy, but we'll have to wait to decide for sure until we get the game into the hands of resident Poke-expert Griffin McElroy in October.