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Pokémon Black and White 2 import review: Feels familiar, but still delivers

First verdict on the import version...

Permit us, readers, to employ one of those extended food metaphors our Japanese cousins are so fond of. Imagine for a moment you regularly frequent an Italian restaurant. You happen to know they make a cracking spaghetti carbonara - the chef's speciality - which the waiter recommends every time you go.

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The ingredients are all organically sourced, the dish is beautifully prepared, and each time the chef adds a slight twist, whether it be a different blend of cheese, some extra parma ham, or cooking the pasta until it is softer rather than leaving it al dente. It's a delicious, filling meal every time, but no matter how the chef tries to zhush up the dish, you're still essentially getting the same plate of food as your last visit.

You can see where we're going with this. Pokémon Black Version 2 and White Version 2 are arguably the most delicious and almost certainly the most generous helpings of carbonara that Game Freak has cooked up to date. Yet regular visitors to their restaurant may just wish there was something new on the specials list.

It's still a winning recipe, of course. As ever, you collect monsters to bash the face off other monsters, taking on a variety of trainers to eventually become the king (or queen) of monster-face-bashers. Eight gyms and their leaders must be conquered before you ascend Victory Road to take on the region's champion, and occasionally you'll happen across some Bad Guys doing Bad Stuff. Nothing has changed in that respect.

DEWOTT'S NEW?

Your journey through Unova, however, offers a more circuitous route to N's Castle this time. You begin in Aspertia City, a settlement on the newly-developed south-westerly area of the map, before tackling two brand new gyms: an al fresco opening scrap against former buddy Cheren, and then a riotous ruck with poison punk Roxie.

The first fight is unremarkable, but Roxie's dingy home is a wonderfully scuzzy, ramshackle gig venue that's so evocatively realized you can almost smell the stale beer. Another pleasant surprise is that while the tutorial remains, everything happens that much quicker, as if Game Freak has finally realised most players don't need to be told how a Pokéball works.

The starters are the same, but it's not long before you'll notice the Unova Pokédex has expanded quite a bit. There are 300 of the beggars in total, with a number of forgotten species reintegrated into the wild, the likes of Spoink, Vibrava and Banette joining Oshawott and co. for the biggest regional 'Dex ever.

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This brings more variety to early encounters, and it's a pleasure to get reacquainted with a few former favourites, who may still bleep and squawk like a malfunctioning modem, but look more animated than ever before. One or two of them seem to make the opening hours a little easy, mind. Pick up a Magnemite and the second gym is a breeze.

Nab a Riolu early on and within fifteen minutes of back-and-forth on your bike you'll have Lucario, a formidable match for the majority of opponents you'll face. It's an issue exacerbated when you link up with the downloadable Dream Radar app: there you can hook a Tornadus in his beastly new Therian form. Sure, he starts at a lower level than most legendaries, but with his help you'll reach gym three with barely any need to quaff the Potions in your pocket.

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