Review – Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver [DS]

Posted: February 27, 2012 in DS, Pokémon, Reviews

It’s hard to write something new about a game series, which for the majority has changed so little. The formula with Pokémon has always been the same: catch, battle, become a Pokémon master. Unlike the Final Fantasy series, for example, where the mechanics are generally the same but the storyline differs majorly within each game. This isn’t meant to sound like a complaint…

It kinda is though – the storyline remains the same, which for anyone under a rock for the past decade and a bit: You start off as a young boy/girl, are given a Pokémon and decide to take on the eight Gym Leaders that span Johto, the land in question, all the while thwarting the schemes of a group of evil criminals – Team Rocket, which after being decimated in Red and Blue have decided to come out of the woodwork and create more mischief.

Guess who’s back, back again…

The duo of titles have been given a 3D makeover, with all the three-dimensional benefits Diamond, Pearl & Platinum received, with a few minor tweaks here and there – the Pokémart has a rotating sign outside (wow!) and new Pokémon sprites. Meanwhile, concepts that were introduced in the original Gold & Silver make a welcome return, such as the Apricorn, which can be used to make Pokéballs if given to the right person, plus gear such as the radio and the mobile phone. The radio can play some random tunes if you get bored walking down a long route, along with some random tips most veteran Pokéfans will already know. The mobile phone is both a blessing and a curse, after a battle with a trainer, they may ask about exchanging numbers. The majority of calls you’ll receive are from trainers who want to talk rubbish: “Hey, I tried catching a Rattata but it ran away, bye!”, but some you will get are from trainers who wish to re-battle you, their ‘mon keeping a similar level to your current squad’s and saving you from going into the tall grass again to battle the same Pokémon just to level up.

But these titles don’t just contain the best from previous titles. Even from early screenshots it was obvious HeartGold & SoulSilver had several important differences: firstly that the top ‘mon in your squad now follows you around. The Pokétch has also changed, reverting to its original name, the Pokégear, with the pause menu now a permanent fixture on the touch screen. This gives easy access to your inventory and save menu, but at the sacrifice of some once-convenient features, such as the Pokétch app which showed how your Pokémon in the Day Care Centre were doing, the all important presence of an egg, and the map app, essential to those who are hunting the Legendary Dogs. You now have to now go into the Pokégear and select the map, a most time consuming exercise. The inventory seems more cumbersome to navigate, showing fewer items in one screen, although you’re given two extra “shortcuts” on the touch screen, in addition to a quick tap putting you into permanent running mode (when you obtain the running shoes). One shortcut will be whatever is assigned to the Y shortcut button (the bike, for example), and another for a third item (which for me was the Fishing Rod) to help you cut down the time spent menu-searching.

Another new element added is the Pokéathlon, which lends its roots to the Game Corner of old (which has also returned). The Pokéathlon has a selection of ten different touch screen activities for you and your Pokémon to participate in to earn points which can be traded for some rare and valuable items.

Friendship seems to play a more important part to the game, not essential to the storyline, but featured more so than previously. The logic behind you receiving your initial Pokémon is that you are testing friendship based on Pokémon being out of their Pokéballs, and one of the most obvious new additions is that of the Pokéwalker peripheral. Transferring a Pokémon to the Pokéwalker, you go out for your daily business and the pedometer within counts your steps and turns them into “Watts”, which can be exchanged in mini games for the chance to find some items and even catch some Pokémon, the more steps you take, the more chance a rare Pokémon can be encountered.

The Pokémon on offer via Pokéwalker depend which “route” you select. To start with only two routes are available, but the more you walk, the more routes will be unlocked and the opportunity to catch more Pokémon is available. This isn’t a portable Day Care Centre, you cannot go for an afternoon stroll and expect your ‘mon to have gained ten levels. Only one level is gained per visit, and any Pokémon you catch are transferred to a box on the computer and any items discovered placed into your bag. It is easy to get bored of what is essentially a gimmick – after taking a Flaafy out for the first few days, it began to get a little dull going through it all over again for the sake of one level and maybe some items. But this swifter approach for gaining friendship can make those happiness-dependent evolutions not as difficult as before.

What made the original Gold & Silver truly special was the ability to visit the old land of Kanto, where the original games Red, Blue, & Yellow, (not to mention Fire Red & Leaf Green) were set, to take on the Gym Leaders there after already completing your first quest. The opportunity to own all 493 Pokémon is possible, but only the first and second generation of Pokémon are available to capture (arguably the better generations). This gives a taste of nostalgia to those who played the originals and an introduction for the latecomers to how the original ‘mon used to kick it. The usual Wi-Fi and wireless features make a welcome return, so you can trade and battle with your friends, whether they’re in the same room or a different country.

Nostalgia can always come in several ways, you can “remember” something, only to realise it wasn’t how you remembered it when you relive it again. For me, Gold & Silver was the best of the series. After replaying them through again in Heart & Soul, I feel my belief has been reaffirmed.

Gameplay 4/5
Playability 4/5
Sound 4/5
Graphics 4/5
Lifespan 5/5

Pr0’s
A] Revisited and revamped Johto and Kanto
B] Brings the older ‘mon back into the limelight

Con’s
A] Same old formula
B] No new Pokémon. Wait your turn!
C] Pokégear isn’t as smooth as the Pokétch.

TOTAL
8/10

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