Review by NebulaBlue

"Sure is nostalgia in here."

After years of badgering by fans all over the world, Game Freak finally caved in to the demands of players, making the remakes of the decade-old Pokemon Gold and Silver versions for the Game Boy Color. The road from Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen to HeartGold and SoulSilver was not an easy one. During the five year difference from FireRed and LeafGreen to HeartGold and SoulSilver, other mainstream Pokemon games were released. Pokemon Emerald. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. Pokemon Platinum. But for some, these games just didn't do it for them. Whether they had legitimate gripes with the newer games or they were just yearning for their childhoods, people had something against games from the third generation onward, even going as far as not considering anything after Gold and Silver canon. So after five years of Internet-fueled speculation, fake fan-made games, jokes and wars of words on Pokemon game forums, Game Freak responded, to the delight of the fans. Even if their goal was just to make money for themselves and Nintendo, Game Freak went all out on HeartGold and SoulSilver on everything from the smallest aesthetics to the overall enjoyability of the games, without ruining the memories given to us veterans from the originals.

Game play: 9/10. As I've said in my reviews of previous installments of mainstream Pokemon games, rarely have we seen any drastic changes to the basics of Pokemon battling. Gold and Silver introduced a special stat split from Red and Blue, dividing it into Special Attack and Special Defense. Ruby and Sapphire introduced double and tag battles. Diamond and Pearl introduced the physical and special attack split, which meant that attacks were no longer considered physical or special based on elements, but were defined as physical or special based on other factors ( for example, Fire Punch was considered a special attack until the fourth generation, but became physical because punches need to be physically landed in order to inflict damage). The only real difference in main game play would be the addition of new attacks many Pokemon could learn that they wouldn't have been able to learn in Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, but that isn't very groundbreaking or significant. Individual and Effort Values are also still getting the attention they've been getting since Ruby and Sapphire, so nothing new there, aside from the fact that you can use the Power Anklet, Band, Belt, Bracer, Lens and Weight to pass down the exact IVs of a parent Pokemon to an offspring by breeding. The replacement of the VS Seeker by the Poke Gear's cell phone is also a minor turn-off to me, especially since the VS Seeker made EV training a breeze in Diamond, Pearl and Platinum.

These games, however, introduce a groundbreaking mechanic unlike any other Pokemon game. These games come packed with a device called a PokeWalker, which is reminiscent of the Pokemon Pikachu Tamagotchi device of the nineties. This device allows you to send any Pokemon from HeartGold or SoulSilver into the device, which earns them experience points and even allows them to grow one level per session if you gain enough experience points. Used like a pedometer, you can walk around to gain currency to buy shots at getting items or catching Pokemon that can be sent into your game. While it may seem gimmicky, it's actually a very handy tool for those who seek to complete their Poke Dex. The PokeWalker is also small and easy to lose, so be sure to use the belt strap it comes with.

Game Freak made game play aesthetics an art form in Heart Gold in SoulSilver. In the original Gold and Silver, the Johto region was essentially Red and Blue's Kanto region, but considerably smaller and lacking, and with a rearranged map, cities and atmosphere. Even though the Kanto region was included, it was if Kanto had gone through a nuclear war and was in the middle of reconstruction during the three year difference from Red and Blue to Gold and Silver, with many cities and landmarks either watered down or ultimately wiped off the map (Cinnabar City was destroyed due to a volcanic eruption, Mount Moon and Rock Tunnel were stripped of several floors... I could go on). On top of it all, whatever wasn't watered down was a carbon copy of the Kanto from Red and Blue. HeartGold and SoulSilver managed to fix that, however. While Cinnabar is still gone, some parts of Kanto have made a return, such as the Seafoam Islands, and some new areas were even added to Johto and Kanto. The cities also have an individual feel to them, as though Game Freak poured their hearts into each area and let them flourish. Roads in both Johto and Kanto have been given the royal treatment, and buildings aren't the same from city to city. Game Freak even tossed in a few quirks, such as the Magnet Train becoming a monorail and being able to hear bodies of water when you stand close enough to oceans or water fountains. Game Freak even added the ability to walk with any of the 493 Pokemon in existence, something fans have been begging for since Red and Blue. A coincidence that they include one of the most wanted aesthetic features in Pokemon with what may be the most demanded Pokemon game of all time? Maybe, maybe not.

HeartGold and SoulSilver also make much better use of the touch screen. Using the bottom screen, the player can choose options with a mere touch. The PC system is touch controlled and thus much faster. You can toggle the running shoes to your leisure. The trainer's bag is no longer the abortion of scrolling it was in Diamond Pearl and Platinum, as you can just navigate through pages instead of just using the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum method of holding down "Select", scrolling down and hoping you find the item you're looking for before the day ends. And if you need a key item, you can register not one, but two key items, which appear at the bottom screen during play, a genius move. The Poke Gear also makes its return, used widely by the touch screen. The map, the phone and the radio all make use of the touch screen, as opposed to just being touch screen gimmicks. Why all these handy controls weren't in Diamond, Pearl and Platinum in the first place, I have no idea. But, better late than never.

Replacing the Pokemon Contests from the Hoenn and the Super Contests from Sinnoh is the Pokethlon, a series of mini-games that utilize the over-world sprites for individual Pokemon that you walk with. At first glance, the Pokethlon just seems like a collection of space-wasting mini-games that nobody will play like the ones from FireRed, LeafGreen, Emerald and Platinum, but they're actually pretty nice if you just want to take a break from battling or kill time. The best part about them is that they actually require some level of skill and getting used to. And anything is better than the Super Contests from the Sinnoh region. Anything.

HeartGold and SoulSilver also take a trick out of the hat of Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, giving the Pal Park a welcome return. Inserting one of the mainstream Game Boy Advance Pokemon games into the GBA slot of your DS allows you to upload Pokemon from those games into HeartGold or SoulSilver, and even activates the appearance of some wild Pokemon in the games.

Recycled from Platinum comes the Battle Frontier, which is a carbon copy of the one seen in Sinnoh. Placed west of Cianwood City (where the Battle Tower in Pokemon Crystal once stood), there is no difference from the Johto and Sinnoh branches, aside from the small remixes in music.

Music And Sound: 10/10. Game Freak... wow. Throughout Pokemon's time, I've heard tons of grade-A music, and some music that frankly disappoints me. But HeartGold and SoulSilver's sound track... is without a doubt the best Pokemon game OST, even trumping the amazing music from Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2. Gold and Silver's sound track enchanted me as a child, and this game does the same for me now. Some tracks received rearrangements with the fourth generation sound-front, while some seem orchestrated from scratch. The theme for Ecruteak and Cianwood City was shared between the two cities in the original games, but in HeartGold and SoulSilver, the two cities have beautifully made individual remixed themes. Memorable tracks such as the credits, National Park and popular champion theme also stay true to the originals, while being more than just the bleeps and boops of the past. And if that isn't enough, Game Freak even cut the people who don't want any part of new content some slack and added the music from the original games into these games. The classic tracks can be heard by receiving an item that converts the new tracks into classics by turning the item on, or you can listen to the oldies via your Poke Gear radio after certain requirements are met. Pokemon sound tracks don't get any better than this.

Story line: 7/10. "Pokemon" and "story" are two words that are mutually exclusive, as it's the same thing every time. Get starter, get badges, beat Pokemon League, gotta catch 'em all. The story for HeartGold and SoulSilver seem to be based more on Crystal than Gold and Silver, bringing back characters such as Eusine and plot elements that Crystal had. Aside from that, the only difference would be the introduction of four Team Rocket executives who seek to bring their leader, Giovanni, back into the spot-light after his fall to the hands of the protagonist of FireRed and LeafGreen. Also added to the story would be the role the character of the opposite sex plays in the story in the same vein as May/Brendan and Dawn/Lucas from prior games. This role, however, isn't that big, and doesn't really have a significant part to the story. To sum it up, there aren't any real changes in the story from the originals.

Wi-Fi: 9/10. The online play is the same as Platinum's. The Global Trade Station now has a place in Goldenrod City, and it is compatible with the GTS from the other fourth generation games. The Battle Frontier online capabilities from Platinum also remain, as does everything from the VS Recorder and the method of recording Friend Codes for private trades and battles. Wi-Fi Pokemon events for items, exclusive Pokemon and other downloads also seem to appear more often with these games, thankfully.

With all the content this game brings, it's almost a little overwhelming to think about. While Game Freak and Nintendo are usually infamous for using franchises to spit out rehashes and half-baked games because they know they'll sell, they still managed to craft these games for everyone, while doing a good job on it. Even if you grew up with the classics and got tired of the new games, HeartGold and SoulSilver will fill the empty void that is your childhood. There's really no excuse not to play this game if you like Pokemon (or used to), unless you don't like playing good games. But the standards this game set and doors it opened eave one question - Will Game Freak try to top this, or will it do a so-so job next time?


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/10

Game Release: Pocket Monsters HeartGold (JP, 09/12/09)


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