We've written many thousands of words about Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 in the build-up to their release, but one thing we've perhaps not touched upon is the sense of finality they generate. These are games that feel like a full-stop, or a line - two, even - being drawn in the sand.
Playing them is like attending a brilliant farewell party, a celebration of all things Pokemon to which a number of familiar faces have been invited to wave off the series as it sets off on a voyage towards a brave, new world. Or perhaps just the same old places in shiny, futuristic 3D-o-vision.
Whatever awaits the series in the future - don't worry, it's not disappearing, even if this spells the end for the game in its current form - Game Freak has ensured this will be one hell of a party to remember. It's a close-run thing, but we might even be tempted to put them ahead of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver as our favourite Pokémon games ever.
Those who read our Pokemon Black and White review will know that each got a higher mark and you may be thinking, how come the sequels get a lower score. Well, you should know that we agonised over the tally for these two. The main problem with Black 2 and White 2 is that they represent refinement, rather than revolution and the former is never the more exciting of those two.
It might be the one you settle down with, but you'd always choose the other for a whirlwind affair. Black and White represented a fresh start for Pokemon, a new beginning, a reboot that kept what everyone liked about the older games, while giving it a bit of spit-and-polish for a contemporary audience. Black 2 and White 2 are more like a really good director's cut: the changes and additions are all great, but it's an experience you have had before.
Boldore And The Beautiful
It's only fair to point out that they offer the most significant changes in a generational follow-up. Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, Platinum: good games, all, but they were retreads with a few fresh features and a couple of new locations. Black 2 and White 2 see Game Freak throw in a brand new narrative, a number of different gym battles, several new forms for selected Pokemon and a welter of asides and additions that make these the definitive Generation V games. If you didn't play Black and White, you can happily jump straight to these two, safe in the knowledge that they beat their immediate predecessors in almost every way that counts.
So what ways are we counting here? Well, for starters, there's a much bigger regional Pokedex. You've got 301 Unova Pokemon to be precise, including all the newcomers from Black and White and a generous selection from other regions. They're solid picks, too, even down to the weaker monsters. Low-level Pokemon are rarely worth hanging onto for too long, but when Mareep, Psyduck and Riolu are leaping out of the grass at you in the opening hour, you might be forced to reconsider your prejudices. Sure, venture into the sewers and you'll experience that familiar sinking sensation in your stomach as you encounter hordes of Rattata, but your stay underground is mercifully short.
It's quicker to get started, too. Previous games have been a little too eager to show you the ropes, then show you them again, before checking that you're totally sure that you understand the ropes and are capable of handling them. Here, newcomers are still catered to, but explanations are much briefer, and you're sent off into the big wide world without even a hint of being patronised. Well, not much, anyway.