Review by Raizer8689
"Gotta Catch 'Em All Over Again, but most of you won't mind!"
Ah, Pokemon... Where would the RPG world be without it? And for that matter the Nintendo handheld division? Pokemon Red and Blue single-handedly saved the then failing GameBoy platform, something The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening couldn't (Though it made a valiant effort!) Since the original release on US Shores in 1998 Pokemon has spawned an EMPIRE of Cards, Anime, Toys,and blah, blah, blah. You couldn't care less right, because the most important aspect of Pokemon is the GAMES. Yes! Those tiny little GameBoy cartridges that held huge and vast worlds sprawling with tiny little creatures we called Pokemon (pronounced Poe-Kay-Mon)! You could train them, battle them along the way to different towns and in Gyms, even fight your friends via Gamelink Cable, and befriend them to work your way up to face off with the Elite Four, and ultimately your Rival to become the best Pokemon trainer in the world!! (And by world, I mean the one on that tiny little cartridge.)
The newest installation is actually a remake of the Sequels to the original Red and Blue, or Fire Red and Leaf Green... though those are just remakes of the originals, but I digress. Gold and Silver (and sometimes Crystal) have had the distinction of being called the best in the Pokemon RPG series, and since their terrible battery deficiency that left most owners without a good copy to play and save their file, we are rejoicing for the new remakes of The best of the series!
Before we begin I must issue the following warning:
Warning! The following review may contain such carefully worded phrases that will make you want to go out and purchase one or, in the most extreme cases, both of the games. If you plan to buy these games understand that, like the rest of us who play, you may experience a lack of a life, and assume all responsibility herein and understand that the author is not at fault if the reader purchases the game and loses track of valuable time because he/she just cannot catch that darn [Insert Pokemon name here]! All views are strictly those of the author and the author thinks that Gold and Silver were the best games in the series, as do many people, and hopes that he can convey said sentiments to you, the reader. Viewer discretion isn't advised or necessary.
If you're a veteran of the series (Platinum and/or all the way back to Red and Blue) then you will find nothing new here, except a few short and really fun mini games. However, if you are new to the series then boy are you in for a treat! The game starts you off in your home in New Bark Town where you are then tasked with going on an errand for Professor Elm, one of the lead researchers in the study of Pokemon. You then get a choice between a Fire-type, Water-Type, or Grass-type Pokemon. These are respectively Cyndaquil, Totodile and Chikorita, some of the most memorable characters from Gold and Silver (and Crystal). From there your epic and looooooooong journey begins of battling, training, catching, breeding, evolving and raising your Pokemon to be the best in the land of Johto, and then later Kanto, the continent of the Red and Blue games!
The battle mode interface is really simplistic but is where the game truly takes place. There is the large Fight! button, which opens up commands for your on-screen Pokemon to attack your engaged enemy. Next is the Pokemon button, which allows you to switch between your active member and any of the other 5 you carry with you (And before you newbies ask, yes there are more Pokemon, in fact there are WAAAAAAAY more Pokemon than there were 10 years ago for Gold and Silver!) Then there is the Run button which lets you do just that; run away from a battle, but only wild Pokemon battles. Any fight involving another character is a match to the death, and if you lose your Pokemon will think less of you and you will be out half of your money! (So be sure to save OFTEN!) And finally there is the Bag button which lets you use items to help your Pokemon heal, cure status problems and do many other things like use Pokeballs to catch wild Pokemon. Best of all, it all takes place on the lower DS screen, so the fight scene can go undisturbed without the menu covering up a portion of your screen and shrinking/stretching your Pokemon and uses Stylus functionality! Although if you are prone to losing that pesky little stylus, then all of the game can still be played by using the A, B, X, and Y buttons. Doesn't play any slower at all.
When not in battle mode, Pokemon takes place in a living, breathing universe and the game encourages exploration, which is one of the best qualities of any Pokemon game but especially HeartGold and SoulSilver. Just a quick note, the games do not present a full 3D landscape like Diamond, Pearl and Platinum did as many people seemed to dislike that the world was 3D and the battle sequences were not. However the sprites of your characters and textures in the overworld are on a 3D engine so they look like solid 3D GameBoy Advance graphics, and it still looks amazing! There are many towns, caves, ruins, fields, and oceans to explore, and even when you think you've seen it all you'll find there's still so much more to do! Walk into tall fields of Grass, go in a cave, or Surf in some water and you'll be battling Pokemon all the time! Capture them and you'll add them to your sidequest of filling up your PokeDex (that's a digital Pokemon Encyclopedia) for all to admire and be jealous of your mighty traveling and capturing skills! With the added capabilities of Nintendo WiFi Connection from the previous DS titles, the game has expanded beyond your close clique of friends into the WHOLE FREAKIN' WOLRD!!! This means you can play some kid down the street or in Japan... though I'd rather say you shouldn't, those kids will destroy your Pokemon lineup and make even the toughest man shed a tear for his beloved Pikachu. But I'll elaborate more on that in a bit.
These games, HeartGold and SoulSilver, return the time function, where the game plays in Real Time (if it's 8:00AM in the real world, it's 8:00AM in the game, if it's 6:00pm etc...) and only at certain times of day, or night, will you find specific Pokemon to catch. You'll know you're addicted to it when you set your alarm to get up at 6:00AM just to catch an elusive Pokemon to add to your collection. Also they have reinstated the original Berry system with some added perks, and some of the most beloved Pokemon in ALL the franchise! While there's about 200 or so you catch in the first half of the game, you can capture, trade and find all 493 Pokemon in the 2nd half, provided you have the right equipment to do so.
Overall the gameplay is solid! The franchise continues to bolster the gameplay with an engaging story, funny little quotes (Critical Hit! It's Super Effective!) and over 450 Pokemon to battle, trade and collect. Yes, that is not a typo. There are now 493 of those guys running around and getting up in yo' buisness! And that just ain't cool bro, so beat it down with your Charizard and get going, this game takes well over 30 hours to complete in full, and that's because this game has one of the best features of any Pokemon RPG, the ability to play on two continents! Johto is the continent you start out at, and face the 8 Johto Gym Leaders and finally you go and defeat the Elite 4 and beat your nemesis (because the word Rival doesn't cut it. Seriously this kid is a Jerk!) and after laying a good ol smackdown on him, you are the Pokemon League Champion and the game is over. But wait! There's more!! You will the be presented with the ability of traveling through the Kanto region from the FireRed and LeafGreen universe with a newer PokeDex called the National PokeDex to collect more than the close to 250 available to catch at the start of the game. Once this happens you'll able able to trade with Diamond, Pearl and Platinum to get your high level Pokemon off of there onto your game to dominate any and all challengers! It's two games/adventures in one tiny little microchip! What's not to love about that?
Final Thoughts on Gameplay/Controls: 10/10 -> Superb!
Again, those familiar with the games know how [most of] these games start. You begin in your room (with the exception of Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald), say Hi to your Mom then head out to meet the local Professor who will give you a choice between 3 Pokemon of different types. Fire, Water, and Grass. Each one has their own perks and determine what your Rival character picks (always the one that has the upper hand against yours) and certain other aspects within the gameplay. From their you set off on your quest to capture and raise different kinds of Pokemon to battle the Elite Four and become Pokemon League Champion.
Where this game differs from the others is the depth to which they start the game. Your Rival (unnamed in the beginning of the game) is staring into the lab suspiciously. After you go on your errand with your newly selected Pokemon, you'll get an urgent call from Professor Elm of the Pokemon Lab who tells you that something awful has happened and you need to get back to him right away. You bump into your Rival and a battle ensues with, guess what, a STOLEN Pokemon from the Lab! Oh! The Humanity of it all! This really sets the mood for each time you encounter your Rival because you will truly feel the evilness in his presence.
Also, fans of FireRed and LeafGreen will feel a sense of Deja Vu as Team Rocket makes their return. This time, those dastardly scoundrels are cutting of the tails of Slowpokes' in the beginning of your adventure and it is your duty to stop them. As you progress through the game, you realize they are still struggling to return to the prominence they held in the past, and that your defeating them will forever disband the gang of misfit Pokemon Trainers. There's much satisfaction to be had at the end of that!
But what really makes this game great is the return to the Kanto region of Pokemon Red and Blue/FireRed and LeafGreen. As the first adventure seems to come to a close, a whole new adventure opens after defeating the Elite Four. You set about on an all new quest in the Original land of Pokemon, facing the same guys from yesteryear but with all new and WAAAY more powerful Pokemon than in the last games. As I've said before it's really 2 games in one and that makes this game so much more worthwhile than even Diamond/Pearl/Platinum.
Final Thoughts on Story: 8/10 -> Not original but still engrossingly fun!
If you are prone to, and hate, getting catchy little jingles stuck in your head (insert Mario theme here), then this game is not for you. The music is very catchy and REALLY sets the mood for whatever location your character stands in. The Routes you walk are really peaceful or powerfully heroic depending on which Route you are on, the caves and scary places have very ominous music that conveys a slight sense of paranoia, the surfing and biking music is energetic and lively, as are the wild Pokemon battles, trainer battles and Gym leader battles. Plus the music from Red/Blue/FireRed/LeafGreen have been included as well with updated sounds and tempos. This is where the game really draws the player in and where it really shines.
Another thing that sets a standard in the gaming industry as that each Pokemon has a distinct and unique sound when you encounter it. Unlike in the Anime, they do not call out their own names. No other Pokemon has a call exactly like another, and therefore makes it fun to know not only their names but their calls. You'll find friends who hear you playing the game, and without seeing it correctly determine you're facing off with a Pidgey because they heard its distinct call. It's really cool. They're still 8-bit sounds from the GameBoy days of Yore. You'd have thought by now they could have digitized all the Pokemon voices with the technology it's currently running on, but that really makes it so that anybody can know what you're doing, even if they've only played one of the games, and help you enjoy what you're doing even more!
My one beef is that the original 8-bit GameBoy music contained more simplistic rhythms that still had a very powerful presence within the context of the game. While these updated tunes may be lively and catchy, the originals still hold more prominence by being simple in comparison. I have sometimes found it hard to catch what sound is the melody and what sound is the harmonic/rhythmic support, and that bugs me only because the music and sound is what really sets the games' atmospheres apart from the other riffraff on the market today. However, music isn't the sole reason why you play a Pokemon RPG and if that's my one problem with these games then these are VERY solid games!
Final Thoughts on Music/Sound: 6/10 -> Pretty Good But Could Have Been Better...
Additional Features/Online Interactions:
Two things make this game OUTSTANDING: 1. The PokeWalker and 2. Nintendo WiFi Connection.
Remember back in the late 90's these tiny little things called Tamagotchi, Digimon and Pocket Pikachu? Well these helped to inspire the latest innovation by GameFreak. The PokeWalker isn't by any means a Tamagotchi, but it is a useful item to be used in the Real World to help train your little Pokemon, and to encourage exercise to gaming couch potatoes. This little dealy functions as a pedometer that counts your steps as you carry it on you. You transfer a Pokemon from your in-game PC Storage Unit via the Infrared-Enabled game cartridge that's in your DS to your PokeWalker, and carry it around while you walk. You can train your Pokemon on here in a wholly different way than on the DS game. Each step you take adds 1 exp. (experience) to the Pokemon you currently have on the PokeWalker, however you can only level up 1 time per Stroll.
(And make sure your Pokemon isn't about to learn an invaluable move. If they grow a level on the PokeWalker they DO NOT learn moves if that level enables them to learn a move. I accidentally did this with my Cyndaquil, and she ended up not being able to learn Ember early on in the game, which made her pretty useless for awhile. You've been warned.)
As you walk and it counts your steps, you gain Watts. You obtain 1 Watt for ever 20 steps you take. These Watts can be used either on the little gizmo or in the DS game to unlock more Routes for your Pokemon to walk with you on the PokeWalker. On the pedometer itself, you can catch extra Pokemon, at a cost of 10 Watts at a time, to transfer back to your computer, of which some are only obtainable through the PokeWalker depending on which version you have bought. You can also use the Watts to use the Dowsing machine which helps you find items in the grass. Sometimes you'll see a musical note in the background of your PokeWalker. If there's a Pokemon on the screen and you press the center button, it will find more Watts or an item or two. If you don't have Pokemon currently on there and you see the note, sometimes a random Pokemon will join you for a walk and you can transfer them back to your game cartridge. It's a really unique and creative way to get kids (and adults) outside and getting some exercise. For example, today I walked 11,266 steps with my Spearow I caught early in the game and gained 540 Watts. It's a really unique and fun experience, and is well worth the investment in this game, but it isn't a replacement for the game by any means.
Nintendo WiFi Connection:
The wonders of the Internet Age never cease to amaze me. Now, with your DS, you can fight, trade and play the game with ANYBODY, ANYWHERE, AT ANYTIME... provided you've followed the proper parameters first. It's really cool, and you shouldn't shy away from this either if you're a parent looking for a safe game for your kids. There's not much interactivity besides trading and battling. The only way you can interact with people is if you have their Friend Code registered on your game cartridge. This is Nintendo's way of providing a safe online environment for you and your kids. If your child has a friend who wants to play, all he/she needs to do is put in their Friend Code into the game, and they'll be able to battle, trade, and chat in no time. If you're a young adult/adult and you want to play online with random people, there are message boards, such as here on GameFAQs, where people will post their Friend Codes so you can battle it out, or trade for the elusive Pokemon you are searching for. That's really all there is to it. It's a unique experience and is worth checking out.
Final Thoughts on Additional Features/Online Interactions: 10/10 -> Very Unique and Really REALLY Fun!
If you want to start your game over, you are more than welcome to. But I highly doubt many people will, unless they get bored and feel they need a fresh start. There's SOOOO much to do and you most certainly will NOT beat the game 100% of the way through. Even after you've achieved the main goal of beating the Johto Leaders, the Elite Four, the Kanto Gym Leaders, and Red (the protagonist from Red/Blue/FireRed/LeafGreen), there's still the option of trying to complete your National PokeDex and that is REALLY hard to do, seeing as some of the Pokemon will require you to travel to a Nintendo-Hosted event to get specific Pokemon. This is one of the only series of games I would call Neverending and mean it in a VERY positive way! Plus you'll have worked so hard on your team that it will be really hard to just end it and start over. Most people will go out and buy the other version of the game, or Diamond/Pearl/or Platinum, which is what I would personally recommend. That's all I have to say about that!
Final Thoughts on Replayability: ?/10 -> You won't start over... you just won't.
Overall this is a solid reentry into the series! It has the best storyline, the best additional features, the best in-game continents, the best everything! Again my only beef with the game is that Japan needs to learn when it comes to using more instrumentation due to better hardware, less is more. The tunes themselves aren't ruined by any means, they just aren't as quality as their 8-bit counterparts.
Beyond that I'm still having a fun time and I hope I've convinced you, should you be on the fence about buying a copy, to go ahead and make the expense because I truly believe it's worth it. Even though it's just a game, you will make tons of memories in this Nintendo/GameFreak Masterpiece!
Final Thoughts on Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver: 9/10 -> It's worth it! It truly is!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/25/10, Updated 03/26/10
Game Release: Pokemon HeartGold Version (US, 03/14/10)
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