Review by The_Real_Gte
"Most Pokemon related fun I have had in a decade."
I came to this game very skittishly. My copy of Pokemon Pearl and Platinum still sit in my desk drawer with not even all 8 gym badges collected. Until the month of the release of HeartGold and SoulSilver I knew only they were Pokemon games and they were remakes of Pokemon games at that. No matter how worried I might have been that this would be more of the same, as a devoted fan of the traditional Pokemon games I went through the motions and got my copy the day of release. What I found was more than I expected and this recreation of a classic stands above many of the generations of Pokemon games since the Silver and Gold originals.
The story is the same basic thread of every main Pokemon game so far. Pick your Water/Grass/Fire Pokemon and through of series of escalating trainer and gym battles fight your way to the top of the Elite 4. Throw in a few encounters with Team Rocket or a Team Rocket-esque group and there you have the driving story line. This simple story has rarely hindered any of the games because the driving force of the game has never been a character driven story. The Pokemon what compels you to play these games. With around 500 Pokemon in either of this pair there are plenty to fight and befriend.
If the review ended here it would be nothing more than any other Pokemon game, all I have mentioned so far is what bind HeartGold and SoulSilver to the previous games. What sets these apart? Thankfully a surprising and satisfying amount. Pokemon has always had a formula of tweaking and perfecting things here and there between generations. This pair as expected relies on the same strategy but to more success than before. There are few if any big changes to the games, but there are several big and small additions which make for a much more fun playing experience.
The most notable addition and one of the biggest publicized selling points for this iteration of the series is the PokeWalker! I have had a lot of fun with this piece of plastic. It is a pedometer which allows for a similar concept to the Daycare Centers in the game, each step gives 1 exp to your chosen Pokemon, but now they are the steps you take in real life. No more biking up and down the bike paths in game to spam my Pokemon Daycare training, although since the Daycare is still in the game I could very well do both. The PokeWalker has two mini-games as well. You are able to search for items or even try catching Pokemon. If successful they can be transferred to the game! The battles for catching Pokemon are extremely boiled down versions of the in-game battle with only the option to Tackle, Evade, or use a Pokeball and even though I have not gotten the swing of it yet it is a great thing to be able to use on the go apart from your DS. The item searching mini-game is even simpler and is more luck than anything but it plays well as a good quick game of chance with some nice rewards.
There are several routes you can send your Pokemon on while they are with you in the PokeWalker with different Pokemon to be caught in each. Some websites have done the math of how many steps needed to unlock all these would take around 200 days if you averaged the 10,000 steps a day recommended. I appreciate some of the features taking a good amount of time to unlock. After one day of heavy use of my PokeWalker I already had several of the routes unlocked so I am happy to know there are still more to work towards. You will have to keep track of your Pokemon's leveling because it will stop gaining exp each time it hits a new level. Your steps will still go toward the unlocking of future routes or chances to play the two mini-games so do not fret if you missed some exp. This little device has added a wonderful new dimension to the series.
As for some of the other notable changes:
- One of the first things you notice in the game is the first Pokemon in your party following dutifully behind you. No matter which Pokemon you put first in your party of six it will become the one behind you. The best laugh I have ad so far was watching an "F" Unown following me and then become a black line when I walked to the right. Such a small update but such a great one. It feels good to see your Pokemon rather than know in the back of your head they are with you in some Pokeballs on your belt.
-This is not the first Pokemon game for DS, yet it is the first to fully utilize the touch screen. It is completely possible to play using only your left hand on the D-Pad and right hand holding the stylus. It is unlikely you would do so the whole game of course, but I find myself often switching between button and stylus control. It is designed so well it makes the DS Pokemon game developers seem lazy or foolish for not doing this sooner.
- The Pokeathlon! I was never a fan of the Contests of the old games. They lacked any appeal to me because they seemed so pointless and without fun. This pair of Pokemon games sees a new style of contest-like games. This time your Pokemon compete directly in a set of mini-games to prove their worth. This is much more enjoyable and engaging than showing off your moves for a judge and posing for a picture. There are 10 mini-games with 5 categories to win medals. Some of the games are much better than others. All 10 use the touch screen some to better effect. There are up to 12 Pokemon playing at a time, 3 controlled by you. In such a small space this can become cumbersome and cramped on such a small area. Despite these flaws for some pieces it is an addition I am glad to see and can imagine myself using when I want a break from battle but still want to play some Pokemon.
- Apricorns and Berries. These are not new to this game, but they are changed for the better. No more do I have to try keep track of 30 berry trees and get sick of it in a week leaving all of them to wither and die. Berries are grown in pots you keep in your key items bag and Apricorns grow in trees around the game world without need of your care. RPGs can be forgiven for some grind, but I could never shake taking care of berries feeling more like a chore with not enough reward.
Graphics: 9/10 The same lovable sprites in better detail traveling in beautifully redesigned towns and countrysides.
Story: 6/10 It is a Pokemon game, I do not come here for the insightful plot. I cannot hold this lacking of story against it.
Sound: 10/10 Such simple tunes should get grating, but they never seem to get old. More than just a pack of beeps and whistles.
Controls: 10/10 Little improvement needed here, but I look forward to seeing what future games will do especially with rumors of a motion-sensitive DS! They have the touch screen mastered, lets hope they can do as well with other mediums faster than it took them with the touch screen.
Gameplay: 10/10 If you enjoy the Pokemon series this is everything you like about it developed for the better.
Overall: 10/10 I am not someone who would give a perfect 10 to many games, but I do believe a handful of games deserve it. I am happy to say I believe Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver belong in this prestigious group.
Pokemon games are not meant to be games you play through in a week and set aside. This game embraces well the long life a Pokemon game can live. Aside from the never truly over style of the main game great replayable portions such as the Pokeathlon and the PokeWalker hardware I easily see myself clipping to my belt every day make this game a worthwhile investment. Whether it be HeartGold or SoulSilver I wholehearted recommend you buy this game.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/22/10
Game Release: Pokemon SoulSilver Version (US, 03/14/10)
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