The latest in the wildly popular Pokémon series, Pokémon Black and White Version 2 are both games that exemplify why Pokémon is perhaps the most accessible handheld franchise in video game history.
The nice thing is that even though these two games are sold separately, because of the signature way GameFreak releases Pokémon titles, it is still easy to comment on both games while having focused on Pokémon Black Version 2, since its sister title only differs in slight details such as the rarity of certain Pokémon.
At the very beginning of the game, I was somewhat distraught to see that the player was required to look for a character who was wearing a specific color, since this type of interaction would make it impossible for certain types of visually impaired gamers to enjoy this game. However, true to its roots, Pokémon Black Version 2 features an art style that makes everything easily distinguishable, and even when the player is required to find the trainer in the green hat, it’s obvious who this is even if the player can’t see the color, because once you enter a certain area, a cut-scene takes over and she immediately starts talking. This type of interaction throughout the game means that gamers who cannot distinguish color will still be able to enjoy this newest Pokémon title. Players with other sight disabilities will be happy to know that the signature speech bubbles still maintain their good contrast, and the only thing that may make it hard to read is the size of the Nintendo DS screen itself.
Players with hearing disabilities would be able to enjoy Pokémon completely since all of the interactions use text instead of sound communication. Even when using the XTransceiver (a device which lets the player video chat with trainers they meet along the way), players will still read speech bubbles even though they can see the trainer talking to them—their mouths move, but no actual sound comes out. Beyond that, the only other real sound in Black and White Version 2 is the music. Though it is used with great effect to mirror the action in the game, it is still just an add-on.
Finally, those with fine-motor disabilities who can access the DS system need to play Black or White Version 2, because in addition to being fun, it features the classic Pokémon turn-based gameplay which uses no time limit and requires very little accuracy of ones fingers. Beyond that, the touch sensitive feature of the DS is practically unused, since all of the touch interfaces can be manipulated using the directional pad or joystick. There may be some side activities in the game that require accurate use of the stylus or rapid button presses. But these are only side activities and do not enter into the main portion of the game.
If there was one complaint to be made about Black and White Version 2, it would be that it did not live up to what I expected in a new Pokémon game. But this is a problem with content. From the standpoint of accessibility, this game is completely Barrier Free.
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