Review by Sui89
"Making the best games of the series even better"
Ten years ago, Nintendo came out with the sequel to one of the hottest cult status games of all time: Pokemon Gold and Silver. These games were loved heartily by fans of the original games, and even today, are praised to be the best games of the series. Ten years later, Nintendo gives us the remakes of these games: Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver. These remakes were practically demanded by the fans, and Nintendo certainly didn't disappoint. Heart Gold and Soul Silver took what made the original games awesome and made it better.
I'll be frank. Pokemon has a story. It's vague and fairly unimportant, and I will maintain until eternity that the lack of a concrete and well thought out story does not hurt these games, which aren't made to be played for the story in the first place. If you really want to know about the story though, basically what happens is you go around to the eight gyms around the Johto region of the Pokemon world getting badges so that you can become the champion of the Pokemon League. Along the way, there will be some interferences by Team Rocket causing trouble, trying to reband themselves from their disbandment three years ago, but that's about it.The main gist of it is that you're trying to be a Pokemon master. It's by no means a good story (yet still manages to be better than certain game's stories. Dark Cloud 2, I'm talking about you here), but the story element is so unimportant for Pokemon games, the lack of a decent story tends not to really hurt the game that much.
Pokemon has always been a game that's been fun to play. It's turn based, but the characters are little creatures you go out and catch yourself, making it the game with easily the most customizable team of any RPG on the market. Heart Gold and Soul Silver stay true to this tried and true formula, upgrading Gold and Silver's game mechanics to match those in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum.
The main difference the upgrade made is that it made the game marginally more difficult than the originals due to the presence of Pokemon abilities. There's many Pokemon that have Static and Poison Point, and I felt like I was constantly curing status effects, whereas I hardly remember needing to do this at all from the original. This being said, the game was still fairly easy, and I had absolutely no trouble beating anyone in the game, aside from the Elite Four Champion, who was using Pokemon ten levels above the Pokemon on my team, and the final boss, who was using Pokemon 30-40 levels above mine when I faced him. So the difficulty isn't frustratingly difficult, and it's a good game for casual playing. This being said, GameFreak added some things to keep the veteran players entertained. Namely gym leader rematches and a second run through the Elite Four, where the leaders and Elite Four Members will be using upgraded teams with their levels greatly increased.
Another one of the major additions to the game was the addition of a Safari Zone. Many people will remember that in the originals, when you got to Fuchsia City, the Safari Zone would be closed for renovations. In the remakes, the Safari Zone has moved to the Johto region and is reopened. Luckily for us, it's not the Great Marsh from Diamond and Pearl (which was horrible in every sense of the word). The Safari Zone in Heart Gold and Soul Silver is easily the best Safari Zone in the series, and has hours of things you can do in it. The basic concept of going in with 30 Pokeballs and catching as many as you can is the same. However, there are a total of twelve different areas where different Pokemon may appear. You can move each of these areas to any location you wish, to save yourself time walking and so on. After you unlock all the areas, you get things called blocks, which are essentially items you can place in a certain area to lure certain Pokemon into coming there. Because of this new and refreshing concept to the Safari Zone, the amount of Pokemon you can catch in there is massive (I'm not even sure how I can describe how many there are, since there are just SO many), and you can easily spend a couple days in there using the different items you get to try to see what you lure into the area. The new Safari Zone is good. One of the new high points to the game. Not to worry though - the Bug Catching Contest which took the place of the Safari Zone in the originals is still in the game and works exactly like it did in the originals.
Aside from the Safari Zone, one of the new additions to the game is the ability to do some type of triathalon type thing with your Pokemon. These are basically courses based on different things (speed, power, jumping, etc) that you use the touch screen to tap, slide, and so on in order to win. Winning these gets you points, which you can use to purchase a variety of items (similar to how to get prizes for winning in the Battle Tower). This part of the game is actually fairly well done, and you probably won't mind going through several of the courses every once in a while.
Another one of the additions to these games is the ability to catch a wide variety of legendaries you couldn't in the originals. This basically means that you have a lot of sidequests you can do after certain points in the game when they become available, and the effort to put as many Pokemon in this game as possible is appreciated. Makes it so you don't have to do so much trading from other games.
This being said, there were some things that seem really lazy, especially considering that they made the effort to make all of those said legendaries available. What I'm specifically referring to is the lack of the ability to evolve certain Pokemon that evolved by location in Diamond and Pearl. Leafeon, Glaceon, and Magnezone are some of the ones I'm talking about. Right now, these currently don't have any way to evolve in this game (unless one is in the game and hasn't been found yet, which is still possible, but getting to be unlikely). Milotic also doesn't have any way to evolve because of the lack of contest stats. This just seems really lazy that GameFreak would overlook such an obvious flaw.
Basically the only other complaint I have about the game other than the lack of evolution methods for some things was a flaw in the original too. Kanto is still really cut down from the original region in Red and Blue. They made it a LITTLE better in these remakes with the addition of the cave by Cerulean City, along with some other small things, but things like Cinnabar Island being non-existent and Mount Moon being one screen long and other things like this are still in effect. It was lazy in the original. It's still lazy now. Speaking of lazy, the Battle Zone/Tower is in the game, but it's a direct copy and paste from Platinum. So don't expect anything original there.
All these things said, the flaws in the game are really relatively minor flaws, and the overall flow and feel of the gameplay is excellent. If you liked the original games, or if you liked another other Pokemon game in general, you definitely won't be disappointed with these games.
There's not much to say about the graphics really. The redone sprites and environments for the Johto region look absolutely fantastic, to say the least. The game reminds me of a lot of Emerald in that the environments are really colorful and nice to look at. Ecruteak City is especially well done, if you ask me. This said, Kanto is a lot blander, uses less colorful colors, and just doesn't look as stunning. This is mostly due to the fact that there is just not that much in Kanto to detail, but it's notable.
My other complaint about the graphics is that some of the new sprites just look pretty bad. I'm not going to heavily complain about this - they make new sprites for each game, after all - but you'll probably notice there are a few that don't look so good.
Other than this, the in battle animations look as good as they always have. Pokemon still don't move while attacking or anything, but this isn't necessarily a good or a bad thing. Overall, the graphics in this game are great.
I'm going to be completely honest. These games have some of the best remade music I have ever heard. Anyone complaining about the music (that it's too remixed or something like that) is completely full of themselves and obviously can't recognize a well done soundtrack for the life of them. All of the tracks have been redone, fit the atmosphere of where they're placed extremely well, and are overall just better than the original songs.
And if the awesome music wasn't enough, GameFreak even anticipated people whining about it and put in an item that allows you to hear all of the music as if you were playing the original games, in 8 bit quality and everything. So if you're a whiner and don't like the fantastically redone music, you don't even have to listen to it.
This soundtrack is really as excellent as they come. You will not be disappointed with it.
Is there any game that's really as replayable as a Pokemon game? After you finish the events of the main story, there are still tons of legendaries to catch and places to explore, not to mention nearly 500 different Pokemon to go catch. Several of the game's main features aren't even opened up until after you beat the main game, so there will always been plenty to do in Pokemon Soul Silver and Heart Gold (not to mention the plethora of daily and weekly events to keep you busy). If this wasn't enough, and you're itching to go through the game again, it's fairly easy to go through the game again using a completely different team from the previous time you played, making replayability essentially unlimited in opportunities. These games are excellent in this category.
Final Rating (9/10)
Realistically speaking, if you liked the original games Gold and Silver, or if you liked any Pokemon game in general, you'll love these games. Even if you're just a regular RPG fan who's never played a Pokemon game before but is looking for something new, you'll love this game. Soul Silver and Heart Gold take what was awesome about the best generation of the series, improve upon it, and then go above and beyond. This is currently the best Pokemon game on the market, and you definitely will not be disappointed when you buy it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/09
Game Release: Pocket Monsters SoulSilver (JP, 09/12/09)
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