Review by Cenedarprime
"Not all that glitters is gold...some of it is silver."
Back in 2000, the USA was in the first throes of Pokemon mania. After Red and Blue had swept over the nation (with nice helping of Yellow on the side) word began to get out on the official second advent of the colorful critters. With Gold and Silver versions came around 100 new species of Pokemon, a brand new region to explore and conquer, and established a real time clock system where different Pokemon would appear at different times of the day, and weekly events became popular. These and other systems that continue into Pokemon games today were established. All of these put together lead many fans to praise the 2nd generation of games as the peak of innovation in the series.
Well, just as Red and Blue were remade into FireRed and LeafGreen on the Game Boy Advance, now Gold and Silver have been reborn on Nintendo's dual screen handheld, the DS. Johto returns in all its colorful glory, but is the return to the legendary region worth the admission?
If you're looking for massive innovation in the Pokemon series, this is not the game to buy. After all, this is a remake of a game almost ten years old. However, most Pokemon fans appreciate the stability and tradition of easy to pick up, tough to master strategy involved in raising your own personal squad of Pokemon. That's not to say the system is completely unchanged though, quite the contrary.
Your character, a young boy or girl of about 10, travels in a large overworld known as Johto, in which there are several towns and cities for you to visit. The routes between these towns are often covered in large beds of tall grass, inside of which wild Pokemon will appear and attack you. But fret not, weary traveler, for you have protection! During an encounter with a wild beastie you will send out one of your own and have the two battle until one side passes out. Battles are turn based and simple to operate, as all your options during your turn are listed on the bottom screen. Attacks, items to heal/power up your Pokemon, and Pokeballs to capture wild Pokemon are a stylus tap away. And if your team is completely knocked out or is feeling the pain, there is a special Pokemon Center in each town that will heal them completely, for free. And for every match you win your Pokemon gain experience, and even evolve into more powerful forms sometimes.
Anybody who has played a Pokemon game before knows how things work. But HeartGold and SoulSilver have been updated with a fresh coat of Diamond/Pearl/Platinum innovation. Your Pokemon now each have innate abilities that can either help them in battle, or even hinder your opponent. Double battles can now also occur for some two on two action. And there is always much excitement to be found online, as you can now battle and trade with trainers all across the globe.
Gameplay has remained largely unchanged between the leap from the standard Generation 4 games (Diamond/Pearl/Platinum) to these remakes, but Nintendo has added one more piece of incentive to buy a copy. The game now comes packaged with a small, pedometer-like device called the Pokewalker. This device can take any one of the Pokemon in your PC boxes in-game, allowing you to literally take your critter for a walk. The more you walk, the more experience it gains and the happier it becomes with you. There are some wild Pokemon and items that can only be found while using the Pokewalker.
The consistency of the gameplay in this series is both a blessing and a curse. While there are no real sidewinders to throw players off, some may find the gameplay to be a little stale. But seeing as these are remakes of games from 2000, this is honestly to be expected and does not serve to take away from the game's enjoyment factor.
Right off the bat, this is where the biggest changes from 2000 to 2010 are seen. The structure of Johto remains the same, but the entire world has gotten a fresh coat of paint and now comes to life with vibrant color. Each town varies from the others in various ways, subtle and grandiose in nature. Whereas your hometown, New Bark Town, is a tiny, homey, forest knoll of a town with only a few houses, Goldenrod City is large with some towering buildings and paved walkways, with the Magnet Train track looming above the main street. This graphical overhaul carries into battles as well. Pokemon still stand like cardboard cutouts during fights, but all the different creatures are animated in 2D with precise detail and vivid color. Attacks have wonderful lighting effects and can fill the screen with action sometimes.
Where the presentation really shines is in the smaller aesthetic changes that can be found all over the game. The main menu is now no longer accessible by pressing the X button, but rather is out at all times on the lower touch screen, becoming much more easily accessible and pleasantly streamlined as it is easier to rifle through all your items with the stylus than it is having to use the directional pad and buttons. A nice little bonus comes in the item registration system, where you can now assign two items for quick access to the Y button and another button down on the touch menu. No longer will you have to choose between your bike and fishing rod, now you can assign both to quick buttons (this makes much more sense if you have already played a Pokemon title)!
And possibly one of the neatest little tweaks is in the partner Pokemon system. With this new addition, the first Pokemon in your party will now walk outside of their pokeball, running behind you as you explore the world. Any one of the almost 500 different species can follow behind you, each with their own custom mini-sprite. You can even talk to the Pokemon, occasionally it will find items for you. It looks small, but serves to flesh out the world and the relationship with your team so much more than before.
Now if only battles had some more animation, maybe even some 3D...
This is another point where the remake far outshines the original...most of the time. The music has all been remixed into more contemporary versions, reminiscent of the styles found in Diamond and Pearl. Some of the tunes during battles are especially catchy and spirited, perfect for a fun, competitive battling game. This does not, however, carry over to the Pokemon themselves, who still have the sound bytes they were originally assigned in the Game Boy/Color/GBA versions. This could either be a point for or against the game, as many have grown up with these sounds and automatically relate them to the Pokemon they come from. It can be nostalgic or stale, that call is up to you.
This is where Pokemon becomes Pokemon, as opposed to being other turn based RPG's. Even after you defeat the eight gym leaders in Johto and triumph over the Pokemon League, there is plenty to keep you playing. There is an entire second region to explore and conquer, the Kanto region from Red and Blue. In addition to providing another 8 gym leaders, more wild Pokemon, and more opportunities to kick pocket butt, it adds to the visual scope of the game and opens up new gameplay options, like the Battle Frontier and Fighting Dojo in Saffron City. What do these hold? Well you'll just have to play and find out yourself.
And in the end, even after all these, there are 493 total species of Pokemon to catch and train. So "catching 'em all" has become quite the challenge, one that many continue to embrace with each new generation. You will be playing this games for hours, and will continue to come back to it a little bit almost every day if you're dedicated to making that perfect ace team.
When I played the original Silver version, I was in junior high and just barely reaching my terrible teen years. I just graduated from college last month, and I still am playing Soul Silver since I got it in March. And I'm not alone, millions of players around the USA alone have gotten their "Poke-freak" on and have delved into Johto, some for the first time, and some for the first time since their childhood. These games are gems in the series and have seen new life in the DS, and are definitely, in this reviewer's humble opinion, worth the price of admission. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go train my Scizor.
Replay Value- 10/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/21/10
Game Release: Pokemon SoulSilver Version (US, 03/14/10)
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