Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver

Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver
Pokémon HeartGold Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Catch 'em all again RPG
Score 8.5  Clock score of 8
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The “Pokemon fad” died about ten years ago, but the franchise is still as strong as ever as Diamond and Pearl sold over 17 million copies worldwide.  In order to satiate the appetite of rabid Pokemon fans anxiously awaiting the next generation of games (which were recently announced as Black and White), Nintendo decided to remake the second generation games, Gold and Silver.  Pokemon has changed a lot in the ten years since the release of Gold and Silver, but fortunately Nintendo has added every single innovation into the remake, along with a few new ones.


Super Effective

Land of adventure: Many Pokemon fans consider Gold and Silver to have the best story and adventure, and it still holds up today.  Yes, all the tropes are there.  You are a young kid who is given a starter Pokemon with a goal of becoming an expert battler.  Before you can do that, you must fight gym leaders, stop evil criminal organizations, challenge your rival, and catch a few hundred creatures along the way.  But the setting still stands out after all these years and four generations of games.  The main game is well-paced, has memorable characters and places, and the traditional cultural atmosphere of Johto, which is largely based on the Kansai region of Japan known for famous cities such as Osaka and Kyoto, is still unique from the other Pokemon regions.  The main story even has a few new additions that make it seem fresh for even diehard fans. 

Enough content for four generations: HeartGold and SoulSilver are completely packed with content.  You can become world champion after about 30 hours, but that’s just the start of your adventure.  The originals had one of the best rewards for beating a game ever, and the remakes give you even more things to do.  A revamped Battle Frontier makes its way to Johto, which will give hardcore battlers a run for their money.  There are also Pokemon contests for those who aren’t so bloodthirsty, daily events, Gym trainer rematches, an addictive minigame center called Pokeathlon, a new Safari Zone, more in-game obtainable Pokemon than any other title, WiFi events, a useful peripheral called the PokeWalker and a lot more.  There are dozens of hours of additional things to do in this game, and it’s really up to the player on how he or she wants to spend it. 

Exercising for your Pokedex: The game is bundled with a PokeWalker, a small pedometer that counts how many steps you take.  You can put your Pokemon in it, and it can level up depending on how far you walk.  It sounds immensely gimmicky, but the device has a slew of amazing rewards and bonuses such as exclusive Pokemon and rare items.  After a while, you won’t leave home without it (just keep it in your pocket if you’re going on a date).

More DS than NES: The original games were released on the Game Boy, which roughly had the power of an NES.  But after playing this game, the gameplay restrictions one would expect from that console are completely gone.  It not only got a new coat of paint to make it look similar to Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, but there are many other aesthetic changes that make this the sleekest and best looking Pokemon title to date.  After playing SoulSilver and going back to Diamond, the menus and presentation looked so archaic.  Plus, any Pokemon can follow you as long as you put it on the top of your party.  It may sound like it’s nothing special, but it’s awesome to walk around your home town with a Lugia following you.

It’s not very effective...

Pokemon Heartgold Soulsilver Pokeball ChikoritaWhat’s old is… still old again:  HeartGold/SoulSilver and Diamond/Pearl/Platinum are two sides of the same coin.  They feel like companion adventures, and this means that they share many flaws.  Everything you didn’t like about the gameplay mechanics from D/P/Pt, such as slow battles, random natures, brain-meltingly slow breeding, the sheer number of random battles etc. all appear in HeartGold/SoulSilver.  Nothing is really enhanced except for the visuals and presentation.

Time Paradox: In terms of the storyline (yes, Pokemon has a real storyline, take that Zelda!), HeartGold/SoulSilver take place at the same time as Diamond/Pearl/Platinum.  But you wouldn’t know it, since in D/P/Pt you had a Poketech device which had a dozen uses, but in HG/SS you have the primitive Pokegear, which is basically a radio and a phone.  This is taken straight out of the original G/S games, but I have to wonder why Nintendo decided to keep the inferior device in the remakes.  And speaking of time, while the date/time system works wonders most of the time, Nintendo decided to horribly abuse this with the new Safari Zone mechanics.  In the new Safari Zone, different Pokemon appear if you put certain items on the field.  Sounds decent, right?  You can decide what Pokemon you want to catch!  But in reality, you have to literally wait weeks before some of these Pokemon appear.  Do you want to catch a Gible in the Safari Zone?  You have to wait 100 days.  Seriously, look it up.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve never played a Pokemon game before, HeartGold/SoulSilver is a great place to start.  I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better than Diamond/Pearl/Platinum since they have almost the exact same game mechanics, but I can understand if some people prefer HG/SS’s story and superior presentation.  Diamond and Pearl was the ultimate Pokemon experience, so I guess one could call this the “other” ultimate Pokemon experience.  But strip the Pokemon name off of it, and the game is still a strong RPG adventure that can keep you entertained for months.  This game has more content than most games on the market, and I’m not just talking about handhelds.  While the nagging issues the DS generation’s Pokemon games are still here, Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver is a memorable adventure in one of gaming’s most interesting worlds.

Final Score: 8.5