Gotta catch em all, all over again, in this remake of the 1999 classic. Now packed with a Tamagotchi style pedometer.
Catch ‘em like it’s 1999 with this Pokémon remake.
The original Pokémon Gold and Silver games from the late nineties are remembered fondly by many fans for being the best in the series and it’s not hard to see why. These second second generation Pokémon games brought great innovation to the series: berries, breeding, day/night cycles and both the dark and the steel types, it’s unfortunate that this level of innovation still remains unmatched a decade later. Now these games have now been brought forward into the fourth generation, with nearly double the Pokémon and all the other tweaks we’ve seen over the last ten years.
I could jabber on about the specifics of many of these changes, but before I loose you let me go little into what a Pokémon game actually is. You take the role of a silent child protagonist tasked with cataloging and and capturing Pokémon while also training these Pokémon so you can become the greatest Pokémon trainer. Pokémon themselves are creatures of vastly differing shapes and sizes each made up of one (or two) of seventeen different types which is effective against select other types in battle. Battling is turn based and the type advances give a rock/paper/scissors vibe: for instance, water beats fire, fire beats grass and grass beats water. You use your Pokemon to catch other wild Pokémon and to battle trainers for money and experience which can be used to level up your Pokémon so it may learn new attacks and eventually evolve into a newer and tougher version of itself. There’s a lot of depth to the series that goes way beyond just looking for type advantages, there’s items to hold, breeding and higher level players carefully monitor their Pokémon as they level to be sure they are raising the correct statuses. To learn every aspect of the system is extremely complex but what makes the series work so well is that you don’t need to know all these intricacies to enjoy it.
The most visible change in these new games is the Pokéwalker, a Tamagotchi pedometer hybrid that can connect to HearGold and SoulSilver through an infrared connector build into the cartridge. By walking around with Pokewalker you’ll generate watts that can be spent searching for new items or Pokemon that can’t be found in the main game without trading. The features here are very simple and unlike the heinous Tamagotchis of old you won’t have to play with and feed your creature every few hours and there’s no Poképoop to clean. Despite it’s simplicity or perhaps because of it, the Pokéwalker is one of the more inventive features of the game, being able to level up your Pokémon through your daily activities might be a fascinating idea but the fact that there’s an infrared transmiter and reciever in the top of a already tiny DS cartridge continues to blow my mind.
Other new changes are mostly dragged across from Platinum. Online trading as well as battles in the Battle Frontier are the most welcome carry overs but beyond this many of the menu screens have been redone to work a little better with the touchscreen than the previous DS games. With the exception of using the directional pad to move, the entire game can now be controlled through the touchscreen alone which can be very useful if you should want to walk around while using the item finder or if you’ve developed some kind of unnatural hatred for buttons. There have also been some aspects of recent games that have been replaced with a new feature such as the Pokéthlon; a collection of ten minigames to replace contests and a customizable Safari zone in place of the Sinnoh underground. Finally the slot machines have been replaced with a new card game called ‘Voltorb flip’ that behaves a little like Picross but sadly requiring a great deal more luck.
The story lines throughout the Pokémon series have never really moved far passed their roots, but experiencing the story of this decade old game helps highlight just how over the top the stories have become. In HeartGold/SoulSilver the story is as rudimentary as it ever was and besides a few run-ins with Team Rocket and finding where gym leaders might be hiding there’s not much going on. The story does come across as intentionally basic, with no disillusions of greatness but for some this simplicity might not be too appealing.
Pokemon HearGold/SoulSilver might be great remakes but they offer little in the way of surprises which in itself shouldn’t be that surprising, as ironically evolution seems to be the biggest thing missing from the Pokemon series. This is a game for the fans of the series with fond memories of the originals or for those interested in the new Pokéwalker gadget. For those who never made it through Diamond/Pearl you’ll be unlikely find anything compelling here that the previous games didn’t have.