Review by Error1355
"A solid remake, but a step down from Platinum."
Pokemon Gold and Silver, I remember Christmas of 2000 getting Pokemon Silver, and my cousin and younger brother getting Pokemon Gold. We spent hours upon hours in these games over the years and it marks quite a nostalgic feeling when I recall these memories. Can Game Freak rekindle the old feeling in this remake of arguably the best generation of the Pokemon series? How true to the originals did they stay?
The game formula hasn't changed much over the nearly fifteen years that Pokemon have been invading the pockets of children. You start off as a young boy or girl with one low leveled Pokemon and are told to pretty much do anything you want. Much like the original you still get a Pokedex that fills in the information of all the different Pokemon you meet and capture during the lengthy game. You also still set out to get all the gym badges to take on the Elite Four and become the Pokemon League champion. This formula hasn't been touched since the start, and they sure left it the same in the remake.
From the moment you start the game you'll notice that they really made an effort to involve the stylus much more than they did in even Pearl/Diamond/Platinum. They made all of the menus, Pokemon team, Pokedex, PC, Items on the bottom screen. This means that you no longer have the bottom screen for your Pokegear like in P/D/Pt. So if you are like me and loved the step counter for Pokemon breeding and hatching, or the party screen when it shows you little HP bars of your entire party, you're out of luck.
Really though, the menus work as to be expected. Though I really don't like what they did with the Pokedex. The new way is almost like your PC works. You see a list of the small Pokemon sprites and you can scroll down it. The old way in Pokemon P/D/Pt was a lot faster to move through from my experiences. With 493 different Pokemon the Pokedex has become something of a joke to look through. I must say though that they did create a much better search. Overall though, the Pokedex has lost its luster over the years with me. I rarely go into it and reading the entries grows tiring.
The gameplay hasn't really changed at all either. You still toss out one of your Pokemon to battle the opponents Pokemon. It's really a complicated game of rock paper scissors when you get down to it. Each Pokemon has it's own typing that has strengths and weaknesses. It gets much more complicated than that obviously, but the overall gist of it is a game of rock paper scissors. One huge issue is the level curve of this game, the reason for that is that they made the second generation of Pokemon less linear. There is a part of the game where you can go to three different towns with no real order forcing which ones you go to first. That caused the game developers to lower the levels of all three gyms below what they would have been if they followed a set path. That means that by the time you get to the Elite Four, you'll only be around level 35/40 and the highest level you will actually see in the Elite Four is 50. That's the highest! To put some kind of a perspective on that, the lowest level you'll see in the Elite Four in Pokemon Platinum is 49, and the highest is 62. There is quite a large difference there.
What is even worse is that despite these low levels, you still find yourself grinding in order to not fall behind the level curve. There just simply isn't enough trainers to keep your team getting leveled up at any good rate of speed. Even worse is that the wild Pokemon levels are woefully low. I am sure I spent more time grinding in the game than anything else in order to keep my team at a level that I felt comfortable with.
Another feature that really was a big deal back when the originals came out is the inclusion of the Kanto region from the very first game. One of the problems that the original development crew faced when making the game is that the Gameboy Color carts simply didn't have the data space that they needed to put everything into the game that they wanted to. I guess that is one of the things I looked forward to the most in this game. Seeing what they could have done with the whole other half of the world. They weren't going to have that limitation that they did back then. However I found Kanto to not be much different at all from what I remembered it in the originals. I guess they added more trainers and such, but it still feels like a tagged on section of the game like it did back in 2000. You go through the eight gyms and get all the badges again while looking at all the changes since the Red and Blue storyline two years ago. The major issue here is that the only way you're going to level up in Kanto is battling and re-battling trainers. The reason for that is the levels of the wild Pokemon in Kanto are the exact same as they were in the original games. Seriously. If you walk around Pallet Town, you're going to run into level 3/5 wild Pokemon. There isn't any way you can train your Pokemon up that way. Even after you get all eight badges again, the main challenge now isn't to beat the Elite Four (however you can re-battle them with higher levels this time), it is to battle Red. Which is the highest leveled trainer in the history of Pokemon games. Yes, that means you'll go from battling gym leaders in Kanto who have Pokemon levels of around 50-60 to going to battle Red, who's lowest Pokemon level is 80, average is around 85. What on Earth were they thinking?
The Pokegear is a major downgrade to me over the Poketch from P/D/Pt. The device is nearly unchanged from the originals, which is mind-blowing since the Poketch from P/D/Pt did so many other things. You get the map, cell phone, and radio card. The map is well, exactly the same as every other map the Pokemon series has had. Nothing really breaks the mold there. The phone is really more of an annoyance than anything. You'll get the same exact pointless calls from trainers you meet up over your journey and it'll be really annoying. Around the 10th time Joey calls you and lets you know that his Rattata is the 'top percentage' of Rattata you'll be wishing you could block or delete numbers. Around the 50th time you'll be already in the crazy bin and will start a personal vendetta against all Rattata. They also replaced the VS Seeker with the phone card. Instead of using steps to automatically recharge trainer battles, you have to wait until trainers want to re-battle you. That's a downgrade in my book. Really the only thing that was changed at all from the originals is fact that you can change how the Pokegear looks.
Now Game Sprites follow you around, which is really a feature that I am in love with. The first spot in your party will always follow you around. All 493 Pokemon will work, though the larger Pokemon remain in their Pokeballs when in a building. You can chat with your Pokemon and gather items from them. The overall graphics in the game remain unchanged from the style in P/D/Pt. 2D sprites on a 3D world. Personally I was never a big fan of moving any of the game to 3D, but that's just a personal bias for good sprite art.
This game keeps all the new features from the other 4th generation games. Such as the Global Trading System, the battle tower, and a new Safari Zone. The Safari Zone is so complex now. I believe you have to wait honestly 100+ days for some Pokemon to show up. It's really a mess that I haven't found time to really research into it. It makes me miss the good 'ol days of just walking to an area and waiting for that rare Pokemon to show up, even though how frustrating it could be.
The music is so true to the series and the original games it's amazing. It's really pleasing to the ears to go into a town and hear the same music, just upgraded to fit the better gaming device. However if you find yourself missing the old school tunes, Game Freak added in a nice item to bring them back for you. After getting all 16 badges in the game you can get an item that will turn all music back to the original Game Boy Color versions. It really tugs on the nostalga strings when you start up a battle and hear the old battle theme...
Really, when it comes down to it, the majority of the problems that this game has is simply because the game stayed too true to the originals. The level curve, the Pokegear... These are all issues from the earlier game that they really were at a catch-22 with. If they fix the issues, they are not being true to the originals, and they would get much complaining from the community that they did so. However by not fixing them it almost comes off as lazy. It's funny though, how I see the originals to be better. I guess at my young age when I played Gold and Silver I was able to look past any issues like that. The only problem with that is now I have grown accustomed to the level of quality that Pokemon Platinum has brought to the table. Don't get me wrong though, this game is really good and I've sunk a good hundred hours into it so far, but I just don't have that 'feeling' that I expected to get from it that the originals had. After beating Red I just found the game to be a stepping stone to finishing off that Platinum Pokedex.
I would give this game a decent 7/10. It's not the best entry in the series by far, but it's still a fundamentally great game.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/24/10
Game Release: Pokemon HeartGold Version (US, 03/14/10)
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