Review by ND9k
"A very faithful remake of a great blast from the past."
Unless you've lived under a rock, chances are you know that the Pokemon franchise has grown from a simple trading-based RPG to a near global phenomenon. Since the original Red and Green RPG games were released in Japan in 1996, Pokemon has found its way onto television, movies, music, clothing and even bedroom furniture.
Every few years comes the next "generation" of Pokemon games. They are defined as new games, comprised of a new region and new Pokemon. To date, there have been four distinct generations of Pokemon games. But this review focuses on the second generation of games, which appeared in Japan in late 1999. Although the "second generation" refers to series of various games, the two main games were known as Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver versions. (A third version, Crystal, followed in 2001.) Released in the United States in 2000, Pokemon Gold and Silver were even bigger hits than the original Red and Blue versions. Many long-time fans of the Pokemon franchise consider the Gold and Silver versions the best Pokemon games of any generation, so naturally, the hopes for a extended remake on Nintendo's DS platform was great. Nintendo, seeking a great opportunity to cash in on both old and new Pokemon gamers alike, decided to fulfill the request.
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are very similar to Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen versions, released in 2004. That is, they are extended remakes of the original games. (HG/SS are remakes of the second generation, while FR/LG are remakes of the first generation.) I say "extended remake" rather than "remake" because these are NOT straight remakes with updated graphics and sounds. They are extended because there are many new things that have been added to greatly improve the original games. There are some new routes to traverse, new areas to explore, new things to acquire and many other important metagame changes that didn't exist way back in 1999. Things like weather, physical and special attacks, berry planting, Pokemon natures, Pokemon abilities, etc. have all been added to these extended remakes.
The overall gameplay and plot of HG/SS is very faithful to the original games. You, a Pokemon Trainer, live in New Bark Town, a small town in eastern Johto. You are summoned on a quest by your local professor. He entrusts you with a Pokemon. And from this one moment, you enter the world of Pokemon, attempting to collect and train as many Pokemon as possible in the hopes of being the world's best Trainer.
It's a simple story, but these games are extremely addicting. There are 493 Pokemon in total to catch, raise and train, but that's just the beginning. You'll quickly find some Pokemon are much harder to find and raise than others, while some simply aren't available through normal means. Collecting all the Pokemon requires trading with other Trainers around the world (via local wireless of global Wi-Fi) or even attending various Nintendo-sponsored events.
While no game is perfect, there really are no obvious or major flaws I can find with this game. Perhaps some will find the gameplay tedious, the music repetitive, etc, but that's a problem that exists not just with Pokemon games but RPGs in general.
Speaking of the music, I was really impressed with HG/SS's soundtrack. Every song from the original Gold and Silver games has received very impressive updates. HG/SS feature far and away the best soundtrack yet of any Pokemon game. There are even some new tunes that weren't present in the original games, which I think adds some value to the new extended remakes.
HG/SS also make full use of the DS's touch screen, unlike the truly original fourth generation games, Diamond, Pearl and Platinum. Every aspect of the game, from the menu (which lets you manage items, Pokemon, etc.) to confirming choices can be controlled with the touch screen. The only physical controls you need to use at all is the D-pad. Though it seems minor (not to mention that you'd think the original D/P/P on the DS would have used such a no-brainer setup), once you get used to touch screen controls, you'll never want to go back. It's quicker and much more intuitive than the old system that used various on-screen menus. This new control scheme also has the advantage of making the bottom screen much more useful than it was in D/P/P, which also lets the top screen display some additional information that wasn't possible before.
There is simply too much detail within HG/SS to fit within one review, so I'll keep it short and sweet: If you enjoy Pokemon to any extent, you will enjoy these games. If you played the original Gold and Silver versions, you will really like these extended remakes. And if you haven't played the originals, then these will be entirely new Pokemon games to you. These remakes improve upon nearly every aspect of Gold and Silver, and I don't see any fault with that.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/16/09
Game Release: Pocket Monsters SoulSilver (JP, 09/12/09)
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