Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver Version -- Nintendo DS -- MSRP: $39.99 -- Release: March 14th, 2010
10 years ago, the original Pokemon Silver/Gold sucked up months of my time. The interlocking regions, the addition of a cell phone and radio, updated visuals, the list goes on and on as to explain my obsession. At this time, people also started to put on their nostalgia caps and claim that Red, Blue, and Yellow were the best, and nothing could beat the original 151 Pokemon. Years went by however, and the number of available Pocket Monsters has reached almost 500. Some people claim that these Pokemon over-saturated the platform, and turned people away, while others enjoy the additions of new faces.
Where you stand on that debate, does not matter. For the past few days, I have been completely bed-ridden after a surgery, with only Pokemon games and Antibiotics to keep me company. These remakes bring you the best of both worlds, literally, with the Kanto and Johto regions, the original and the second respectively.
The Pokemon games were always known for their old-school feel. 2D sprites, text boxes, and thousands of trees that look exactly the same all come to mind. The games have been building upon each other ever since their first introduction, and this one definitely looks the best. Everything has a pseudo-3D look to it, while still retaining that good old-school feeling. The sprites and character models still look as charming as ever, but everything could look a bit better with a little effort. The very first town you start in has some real nice wind blowing effects and windmills, but after leaving the world mostly seems very static and unmoving, save for a few really nice atmospheric exceptions.
The menus are a little nicer, but become pretty cluttered as you collect more and more objects. The buttons for items are much larger than before, supposedly for easier touching, but seem too big and bulky for such a small screen.
In battle and out, all the Pokemon are very vibrant and detailed, with little details of personality that the artists meticulously created. The combination of cuteness and character provide the feeling that Pokemon, and only Pokemon, can provide.
If you have ever played a Pokemon handheld title, you know the sounds. The little jingles and chimes have been implanted and burned into your brain. The Pokemon Center (duh, duh, deh doh DUH!), receiving an item (duh duhduhduh die die die doh!), even the battles (deh, doh, deh doo doo dah! repeat 50 times). I could continue, but trying to read those sounds out loud is tough enough.
All the songs, noises, cries, jingles, and chimes have been remastered. Each new region you waltz into plays a highly catchy tune, be it somber, upbeat, or even foreboding. You can feel the music digging into your soul every second. Its unnerving, yet satisfying and graceful.
When you reach Kanto (the "original" region, but it is the second region you visit within the game), there is an item that will play the original, untouched music, instead of the slightly remixed ones. You can feel the nostalgia oozing into you, provided you played any previous Pokemon games. If you haven't, then you likely won't care about the audio, and frankly, you may find it annoying.
The bread-and-butter of the Pokemon series largely remains the same. Run around, beat gym leaders, obtain badges, stop Team Rocket, save the world. You have been doing this for years now, yet somehow, it still does not get boring. You know that the mysterious man looking into the window is up to something, you know that Team Rocket will be doing something every 10 minutes to impede your progress, you know your rival will pop up at any time and fight you, lose, and complain about how weak you are, yet you don't care. This is even a remake, with story left untouched, and you still won't care. There is something completely unexplainable about the Pokemon formula, with its complete innocence and charm, that everyone grows to love. All the good things present in the games return, the berries, the apricots, the HMs and TMs, even grinding for hours walking around tall grass may not get boring, because of the sense of personal achievement. Every one of your creatures depends on you, and you raise them from birth to become killing machines. There is something immensely satisfying about leveling your starting Pokemon all the way to 100. What could they possibly add to make the formula better?
The Pokewalker. The name sounds ridiculous, it looks ridiculous, and by all means it IS ridiculous. It is a pedometer that communicates between the game cartridge and itself, transferring Pokemon and items between them. You choose a Pokemon from a box to take out on a "stroll", and it measures your steps and turns them into "watts", for getting items, catching Pokemon etc. It is quite possibly the nerdiest thing to ever grace the Pokemon franchise, but I'll be damned if I didn't carry it around everywhere with me the past week. This little gimmick will keep you entertained for awhile, as it levels up your Pokemon, catches new ones, and gets you items, but it is not good at keeping your attention, and may prove more work than its worth. Still, it is always nice to pull it out and mess with it at a party.
Saying that this has some of the most innovative and interesting Wi-fi options currently available on the Nintendo DS is almost an understatement. The online component is shoved to the side, completely optional, and most people will probably never try it, but it is completely genius.
There are 3 main portions to the online play, building off of the previous titles. There is the GTS (Global Trading System), a Craigslist type system for Pokemon, the Wi-fi club, where you can meet a few friends, battle, and trade complete with voice chat, and the all new Wifi Plaza, which returns from Platinum, the combination of Diamond and Pearl.
The Wifi Plaza is a theme-park style place where you go to... I haven't quite figured out exactly. You cannot battle or trade your Pokemon while visiting the plaza, you simply walk around dazzled and amused by what is going on around you. That is not to say there isn't much to do. There are players everywhere, mini games, surveys, annoying instruments you can play, fireworks, parades, chats, and more I can't begin to describe. You can talk to people, exchange information arbitrarily, play minigames to boost the size of your "tap toy" to make louder noises, take part in surveys asking about the game, check the news, see locations where people are connected from, and in about half an hour the lights go dim, fireworks go off, and you are brisked away on a float during a parade. The first time I went through the whole process and I was returned to the Pokemon Center, I just sat there, completely speechless for a few moments. Then I quickly ran back and joined again.
Is it pointless? Sure. But it is hours of entertainment like nothing I have seen on the DS, much less a Pokemon game.
Overall, this is the definitive Pokemon version. It includes 2 regions, the ability to acquire every single Pokemon, Wifi play, radio, upgraded visuals and audio, and a number of improvements that will go completely overlooked but taken for granted. If you were to go out and buy one Pokemon game, make it HeartGold or SoulSilver.
Online Play: 10/10
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