Review by Neophoton
"A decade's wait and these precious metals remain high in value"
Fans of the original Pokemon Gold and Silver games jumped in joy over the announcement for the remakes that became known as HeartGold and SoulSilver. This reaction is partially due to the fanbase's willingness to buy anything Pokemon-related, but also due to the internal battery issue that plagued Gold and Silver, rendering them unplayable after a certain amount of time.
Regarding the remakes, many fans can possibly agree they're solid if not excellent titles in the series and hold true to the Gold and Silver titles.
Plot was never something that Pokemon dominated in. It's been the same thing time and time again. The fans, naturally, will not give a damn and those who are seriously expecting a dynamic story in Pokemon are looking in the wrong place.
As the resident 10-year old of a small town named Newbark Town that is next door to the resident Pokemon laboratory, you are sent to run an errand for Professor Elm. Feeling you are likely to get mauled by wild Pokemon along the way to Mr. Pokemon (creative naming, right?), he lends you one of his three Pokemon that serves as your starter. This leaves you with the choice of Chicorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile.
Upon delivering a package to Mr. Pokemon and encountering the famous Professor Oak, you encounter a red-haired kid with one of the starting Pokemon (that also just so happens to be your starter's weakness in type) on the route back to Newbark Town. Sure enough, you learn this kid stole that Pokemon for unknown reasons.
Elm then learns the package you have delivered to Mr. Pokemon just so happens to be a Pokemon egg, insisting that you hold onto it until it hatches. He also insists you tackle all of the gym leaders within Johto. And so your adventure begins!
Not exactly a moving story, but it's obviously aimed towards kids, but the adventure aspect and nostalgia is enough to keep you attached to the game. Newer fans will be able to experience the Johto region for the first time and for those of us who have enjoyed Gold/Silver as kids can jump into the fray once more.
The field sprites for this game are just as good-looking as Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, going with the 2.5D look once more. I personally feel this improves the games overall and has allowed the series to step it up from the GBA titles.
Battle sprites are good quality and have always been improving since the very first installments of the series, so GameFreak can't be at fault when they are constantly improving. At this point in the series, animations are to be expected and indeed they come with them.
The environments are well done and definitely high quality, complete with the series' usual touch of bright colors. I particularly was fond of Ecruteak City's array of autumn colors mixed with the oriental architecture that amount mostly to the Tin and Burn Towers, with the Sprout Tower not too far behind.
The remakes sport a redux of the soundtrack of the original releases of Gold and Silver, from the ever memorable route tracks to the cities, such as Violet/Olivine City and Ecruteak City.
Granted, the music in the Pokemon series was never my favorite of video game music, it's still all very well done when looking back 10 years ago and seeing a large jump in quality. Fans of the series are very likely to adore the remake's touched up music, perhaps even taking a preference to it over the original release.
Additional tracks that greet players in HG/SS are of the usual in the Pokemon series, often being lighthearted and catchy. They're nothing out of the ordinary, but it's very hard to not like them.
The bread and butter of the series, the gameplay of the main titles in the Pokemon series have had little to no real tweaks over the course of years. While I believe in the notion "If it isn't broken, don't fix it," it also shows how archaic the gameplay has grown to become within the four generations of the series.
It isn't a bad thing for the series to remain the same way it has been since the very beginning, fixing the real problems such as the type-balancing concerns of the RBY games, but the gameplay doesn't offer much new for fans who have taken a step away from the series quite some time ago and is mostly for the hardcore and newer fans who embrace the series for what it is.
The benefit for the series remaining the way it is simply for the fact the formula works and more or less does not need excessive tweaking, making it easy for old and new fans to pick it up. However, the lack of any change that actually can be implemented can make the titles seem less interesting as the years roll by.
Essentially, the turn-based combat drives the series home, having your critters take turns and fighting amongst themselves. People who aren't too familiar with the series will dismiss it by claiming the battles lack any strategy, which is only true mostly for battles in the story as opposed to facing off against other players, giving the game an entirely different outlook.
Again, facing against other players is what makes the series shine fairly well. Composing effective move sets and carefully planning stat points is the game's only mean of true difficulty as you must think on your toes against other players.
This heavily conflicts with the game's AI, as many CPU opponents are very predictable leading to older players to feel very under whelmed and more or less bored with the lack of a real challenge in the story mode.
An interesting point to make is that the game is actually more difficult as you fill up a full party of six Pokemon, as the game seems to have a hiccup in effective leveling prior to the Elite Four. I found myself cruising smoothly with a party of five as opposed to a sixth member creating a slower pace in leveling, leaving me to be very conflicted in whether I truly wanted a sixth Pokemon or not.
Regardless, the game's story mode is not that difficult to tackle, full party or not, and it will leave the player desiring for a greater challenge. This is a slight disappointment as the game is essentially twice as long as the average Pokemon title, so one might come to expect a greater challenge in the long run.
For the older fans who experienced Gold/Silver, a wave of nostalgia can't always be a bad thing (although your mileage may vary on this aspect) when it comes to returning to Johto in these remakes after ten years and the external battery crisis occurring.
Newer fans will be ecstatic to take a peek at a region they missed out on, whether they initially panned on Gold/Silver or weren't around for them during Pokemon's hey days. While the region isn't exactly as detailed some others, it makes up for it with the inclusion of Kanto for those who are looking for post-game content.
It's a Pokemon game, so simply exploring with a party of monsters should be than enough to reel the younger RPG players in, as well as long time fans. A simplistic idea, but Pokemon is able to appeal to a wide audience for how easy it is to pick up on.
Replay Value: 10/10
If my original copy of Silver's in-game clock running up to 300 hours is any indication, these remakes offer plenty. Granted, the original releases didn't have nearly as much content these titles do, but all the more better as a reason to find yourself playing the game again.
There's always the option to go about training a team of Pokemon for competitive battling a la PvP, which is very time consuming in building up the right stats and move sets. This is arguably the more challenging part of the games as no AI opponent in the game can compete against a human player (unless if the player just so happens to be a complete knucklehead, but I digress).
The Kanto region arguably serves as the game's post content, as the credits roll right after you defeat the Elite Four. It's entirely another region with the original eight gyms from Red/Blue/Yellow for you to face off against, albeit with higher levels and a "super boss" being the player character of R/B/Y. This trainer just so happens to have the highest levels in the game, to which many players looking to grind for a reason will be more than willing to jump at the call.
Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver offer plenty for DS owners to look forward to and are definitely worth a purchase, albeit I personally feel the Pokewalker is unneeded and would have been happy to have $5 off my purchase without it bundled in.
Regardless, both fans and non-fans will highly enjoy this game and can invest countless hours into this game, making it an ideal title to play on the go with its high replay value and portability to double over.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 04/05/10
Game Release: Pokemon SoulSilver Version (US, 03/14/10)
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