Review by Desulated

"Who cares if it's the same stuff, it's fun with new features!"

It's hard to ignore the international phenomenon/craze that is Pokemon-somewhere, sometime, you'll often find yourself overhearing kids talking about the latest trend and popularity that is Pokemon. It can be either at school, the playground, or at your local mall-but it's too late-if it's got a slight grasp of your interest, welcome to the club.

Pokemon all started off with the release of Pokemon Red and Blue back in September 30, 1998 for the Game Boy, and Yellow a while later. Ever since that very fateful day, the craze has nailed the world like a sledgehammer-it has created a craze that has resulted in a chain of toys, trading cards, clothing, and even its very own cartoon series. Can you imagine just how successful the series is?

It's so successful that the creators are literally creating new Pokemon and games with every passing month-there's been quite a number of games. Gold, Silver, Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond, Pearl, Platinum are just the mainstream of the games-spinoffs aren't counted, as there are far too many.

We've seen Pokemon Red and Blue get remade with the release of FireRed and LeafGreen for the Game Boy Advance, so it wasn't really much of a surprise when Game Freak decided to restore Gold and Silver (not Crystal, unfortunately) to its once famous glory. The notion of "Gotta catch 'em all" retains in this game, even though there's more to that now with the addition of more minigames, challenges and errands.

Story:

Is there a story? I don't really think so...but for any newcomers that haven't played a Pokemon game yet for some reason, here is the story.

It all starts out wit a humble boy living in New Bark Town where he is called down to Professor Elm's lab for an errand. Because of potential dangers of attacking wild Pokemon, he hands you out one Pokemon as a starter to your collection-you get to choose between Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile.

The errand is simple, and as you return, a shadowy individual decides to challenge you with yet another starter-defeating him, you return to the lab and realize that the person you fought earlier had stolen one of Elm's Pokemon! No worries here, as you'll be able to whip him a new one whenever he challenges you. (if you don't know, this random guy is your rival in the games and will periodically challenge you at the most random times)

And the rest involves the main character battling Gym Leaders, Team Rocket, and various other trainers in his quest to become the Pokemon League Champion. That's all there is to it. Aside from encounters with legendaries, there isn't much to say.

There isn't much of a story, but Pokemon is a game where storylines don't really matter.

Gameplay:

You won't find much of a difference here if you've played the Pokemon Red and Blue games. It's the usual 6 Pokemon Teams and battle other trainers and wild Pokemon treatment. You pick 6 Pokemon of your choice (once you've caught plenty of them, you'll have to decide) and this pretty much makes up your fighting team against other trainers and wild Pokemon. Advance through the game by fighting Gym Leaders, which are a key if you want to unlock more areas in the game, eventually.

Each of your Pokemon can learn four moves-if they want to learn a new one (or you want to teach them a new one) they'll have to forget one once their technique queue is full. Be careful when choosing to learn moves, as you may regret deleting a move that you wanted to keep.

Explore Jhoto and seek out challenges and Pokemon to catch-that's pretty much it. There are a total of 16 gym leaders to fight, each coming with its own challenge and tricks. Even better, you can fight them once again later in the game, adding quite the replayability value. Wait...you thought there were only 8 badges? Well, guess what?

You'll get to explore Kanto later on in the game! Yes, you'll get to relish the good old times in Pokemon Red and Blue by visiting the eastern side of the Pokemon world and fight even more gym leaders there-essentially, the original 8 leaders from Red, Blue and Yellow! What more can you ask for?

There are plenty of minigames to add dozens of hours of replayability, such as the Pokealathon, Battle Frontier, Bug Catching Game and the nostalgic Safari Zone. Each comes with its own charm-I've poured dozens of hours in the Pokealathon, and it's quite amazing, I'll say-it tests both your skills and your collected Pokemon. It's not about who's the strongest, but more of well-rounded skills. Battle Frontier follows the same rule, as you'll need a well-balanced team to defeat other opponents of the same skill level.

If you have a copy of Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, FireRed or LeafGreen, you can even further your chances of completing your PokeDex by migrating your Pokemon from the GBA games to the Pal Park. Owners of the old GB and GBC games will be disappointed here, as you know, the DS doesn't have backwards compatibility when it comes to GB and GBC games. This is essential in terms of completing the PokeDex as you won't be able to catch Sinnoh and Hoenn Pokemon that easily, but with Pal Park, it makes it all the much easier in terms of completing the game to its fullest.

Got a friend that's almost as crazy for a fanatic as you are, and they happen to own either one of the DS releases? Then you've pretty much added a heck lot more hours into this game. With the cable, you'll be able to battle and trade with your fellow Pokefan-that's right. You can pit your well trained and hard-bitten teams against each other to see who'll come out on top. This is a great way to see if your team is doing well against an unpredictable opponent, as most AI opponents have predictable teams (swimmers will obviously use water-types, while martial artists will lean towards the fighting types so it's a no brainer). Fighting against a varied team will test your own squad's ability to adapt and win.

There's also another reason it's nice to have a friend like I described above-version exclusive Pokemon. In the two versions, you'll be able to encounter certain Pokemon you won't be able to do in the other. If you want to complete the Pokedex or just want to get some rare ones, trading and comparing the Pokedex with a pal is essential to success.

HeartGold is different from SoulSilver for a variety of reasons-the first one is what kind of Pokemon-especially the legendaries-you will be able to catch. Opponents also vary slightly, although it may not be noticeable at first glance.

The gameplay is what really makes this game and its predecessors shine-its varying playstyle. The flexibility to construct your own team according to your desires and likes allows for balanced gameplay that will suit and please gamers of all types.

Graphics, Sounds and Music:

There isn't really much to say about this, as music and sounds weren't an important part of Pokemon. No special points here.

Difficulty:

Pokemon games have never been known to be extremely difficult or outrightly easy-sometimes it's a breeze and sometimes it can be a hectic fight. The Gym Leaders can present a challenge if your Pokemon aren't prepared, but even then, they aren't too overly difficult to the stage where fighting them becomes impossible. With a well-balanced and well trained team, you'll be presented with a fair challenge where the battle won't be impossible but at the same time won't be a walk in the park for you.

Be prepared, though, as the later opponents can put up quite a fight. Catching some of the legendaries, if you choose to, can also be frustrating at times.

The varying difficulty, but never too easy or too brutal, means that players will be in for a fair challenge but at the same time won't make them bored or extremely frustrated.

Bonuses:

Included in this game is the Pokewalker-a funky little pocket toy that allows you take your Pokemon-literally-on the go. By connecting your version of HeartGold to the device (for those who acquired this game through, well, let's just say, immoral means, you missed out) you can transfer a Pokemon over to the device. Whenever you walk with it, you'll earn EXP points for your pal and not only that, you can acquire free items and even catch some rare Pokemon you normally don't encounter in he actual game! It is definitely worth a try if you get bored of your game and want to play around with your Pokemon via alternative means.

To sum it all up:

Take a trip down memory lane or start fresh with this remake is pretty much HeartGold is all about. There hasn't been much of a change to the formula ever since the release of Pokemon Red and Blue back in the 1990s, but then, both newcomers and veterans will find something they love in this game.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/20/10

Game Release: Pokemon HeartGold Version (US, 03/14/10)


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