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I just realized that I had a save file on my black 2 where all that was left was beating Iris. Once I beat her, I got that key for challenge mode. I went to the unova link in the menu and set the game to challenge mode. What do I do now? The save file is still there. Do I have to start a new game before I can play on the harder difficulty? I don't want to start a new save file because I'm gonna be really pissed if I delete it and I lose the challenge key

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You don't lose the Challenge Key when you delete your save data. Unova Link exists outside your "main" save file.

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After beating the Champion and after the credits, the Challenge Mode Key is given to you if you are playing Black 2. In order to play Challenge Mode (or Easy Mode on W2,) unfortunately and ridiculously you have to delete your save file, like the Team RR Blaziken said.

The only way to start a new game on challenge mode is to erase all your data, then have someone transfer over challenge mode to your game using their game.

However, you can turn it on as soon as you unlock it, and it will be activated in your game. It won't give a notification or anything when you open the game up, but Pokemon levels will have increased and so on.

Game Freak kinda be dumb

Sources: experience and here

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Jesus bloody christ. I'm betting that whoever made the challenge modes like this is also the same guy at gamefreak who added trade evolutions
And Galarian yamask.
So if you turn it on but do not delete the save file, will that affect any trainers in the save file that you didn't delete?
Yeah, any trainers that you haven't battled will raise the Ai and levels of their team
okay thanks