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20120829

Review: Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver (DS Retail)

Message reputation : 100% (6 votes)
A remake of two of the most beloved Pokemon games, but do the revisions make it worth revisiting the Johto region?

Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Ratings: E - Everyone (ESRB); 3+ (PEGI); A (CERO); G (OFLC)



Back in the late 90s, the Pokémon franchise finally left Japan, with Pikachu and other critters taking the world by storm (pardon the pun). In 2000, the franchise got a sequel in the form of Pokémon Gold and Silver Versions, widely regarded as two of the greatest Pokémon games yet. With various new additions to the formula including Pokémon genders, breeding and the ability for Pokémon to hold items, it was a refreshing change of pace for the series. Now, at last, both games have been revised and upgraded. Read on to find out if it’s worth playing all over again.

Story

The story of Pokémon HS is a near-exact replica of the original games. At the start of the adventure, you are tasked with visiting Mr. Pokémon by Professor Elm, your hometown’s resident researcher of Pokémon evolution. He briefly explains that his acquaintance has discovered something big, though he comments that “it’s probably just another Pokémon Egg”. After choosing one of three Pokémon (the adorable Chikorita, the echidna-like Cyndaquil or the crocodilian Totodile), you leave on your journey to meet Mr. Pokémon. After you arrive and collect the Egg, you meet Professor Oak, who gives you your own Pokédex to fill with data on all sorts of Pokémon. You barely manage to take two steps outside when Elm calls you on your Pokégear, who is in a panic after one of the remaining two Pokémon was stolen! Before returning home, you encounter the thief, none other than Silver from the original Gold and Silver. After battling him and returning to the lab, Elm is surprised that you have been given a Pokédex by Oak, and allows you to take the Pokémon Gym Challenge, travelling to the eight Gyms of the Johto region and collecting a badge in each one. The story’s unique in its own way, but follows the same general structure as most other main series Pokémon games. Other story elements are interwoven as you go, such as the return of Team Rocket. As is the case with the original GS, your first task is to drive Team Rocket out of their manufacturing of SlowpokeTails, which are being sold for a ridiculous 1 million Poké Dollars.



The remakes have some new storyline additions of their own, with one of the most interesting being a much bigger role for the Kimono Girls. Throughout your travels you encounter Zuki, Naoko, Miki, Sayo and Kuni one-by-one, each one with a problem which is causing them trouble. By helping them, you earn their respect bit-by-bit, and eventually you earn the right to encounter the Legendary Pokémon on your copy of the game (Ho-oh in HeartGold and Lugia in SoulSilver). The Kimono Girls help you to summon them with a beautiful performance, followed by one of the first instances of a dramatic, 3D cutscene in a Pokémon game. These elements of the storyline ooze with a distinctively Japanese charm, coupled with appropriate music to draw you in.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver is not unlike that of other games in the series. You may carry up to six Pokémon with you at any time, with additional critters generally caught in the wild. Pokémon can be found in many different locations, including patches of tall grass; dank, rocky caves; bodies of water both fresh and salty; and even inside the Johto region’s three towers. Catching a Pokémon involves sending out one of your Pokémon to weaken it without knocking it out, then throwing an empty Poké Ball and waiting for it to wobble three times. If you are successful, tiny stars fly out of the Poké Ball, and you are greeted with a victory fanfare, making for a satisfying relief once you catch a rare or difficult-to-capture Pokémon. Different Poké Balls offer different catch rates. The standard Poké Ball is better to use on weaker Pokémon early in the game, such as Pidgey and Bellsprout; Great Balls offer a much higher catch rate than Poké Balls, and are best for the higher-levelled Pokémon you encounter later on in your adventure; Ultra Balls are necessary for the Pokémon you find later on in the game, whose levels reach Lv. 40+; and the Master Ball is the ultimate Poké Ball, which can catch any Pokémon without fail. In addition, there is a variety of specialty Poké Balls you can buy or find, such as Quick Balls, which are best when used at the start of a battle; and Dusk Balls, which are perfect for catching Pokémon at night. The first Pokémon in your party follows you outside of its Poké Ball, a returning feature from Pokémon Yellow Version, and you can talk to it to see how it’s feeling or gauge its reaction to the current location. If you talk to an Ice-type Jynx in the Ice Path, it’ll dance with joy, whereas a Dragon-type such as Dragonair will shiver and look sad due to the unbearable cold.



Berries make a return in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, items which a Pokémon can hold and provide a one-shot effect in battle. There are numerous kinds of Berries to find, such as Pecha Berries, which instantly cure a poisoned Pokémon; Oran Berries, which instantly heal 10HP of a Pokémon in a pinch; and Persim Berries, which instantly snap a Pokémon out of confusion. In the original GS, Berry trees were scattered around Johto, which could be harvested of Berries once a day. Due to the restructuring of the Berry system in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, none of the original kinds of Berry are available in the remake, meaning all of the Berry trees in Johto have been replaced by Apricorn trees. Apricorns were a special kind of Berry found rarely in the original Pokémon Gold and Silver, which could be picked and stored like any other kind of Berry. Their original purpose was one of the most creative in the Pokémon franchise: by taking an Apricorn to Kurt, a resident of Azalea Town, he could turn it into a special Poké Ball; the colour of Apricorn determining what the new Poké Ball could do. Each of the seven colours of Apricorn produces a unique benefit when turned into a Poké Ball, such as White Apricorns becoming Fast Balls, which are perfect for catching a Pokemon with a great Speed stat, such as Sneasel.or Fearow. Other Berries are given to you by some of the people you meet, or by earning them in the prize draw at Goldenrod Department Store.

One of the key aspects of the Pokémon franchise has been battling other Trainers, and HeartGold and SoulSilver don’t disappoint in that regard. Once a Trainer makes eye contact with you, the battle starts without question. The goal of a Pokémon battle is to send your team of well-trained companions to defeat all your opponent’s critters one-by-one, using their various moves to knock them out. There is a considerable amount of strategy in determining the outcome of a Pokémon battle. Each Pokémon is one or two of seventeen different elemental types, which determine its strengths and weaknesses against other types; for example, Water-type Pokémon are resistant to Fire and Ice, but take increased damage from Electric and Grass. Each move is also one of these types, meaning that an Electric-type Shock Wave attack is sure to deal a lot of damage to a Water-type Seel. In addition, a move’s power is increased by 50% if it matches the Pokémon’s type, so a Seel which knows Surf will deal greater damage to an opponent’s Pokémon than a Rhydon which knows Surf, since Seel’s type matches the move’s type and neither of Rhydon’s types match. Each move also has Power Points, or PP, which determine how many times that the move in question may be used; for example, the move Fly has a PP of 15, meaning it can be used a maximum of 15 times. There are various recovery items which can be used in battle; a Potion will restore a Pokémon’s HP, an Ether will restore the PP of a move, and the various restoratives such as Awakening and Antidote will cure a Pokémon of a special condition such as sleep or poison. If you take your Pokémon team to a Pokémon Center, found in virtually every city you visit in your travels, the kindly Pokémon nurse will recover the HP, PP and health of all your Pokémon free of charge. Using the wireless features of the Nintendo DS, you can even connect with friends both in the same room and on the other side of the globe to battle with them. Linked battles work the same way as in-game battles, except you cannot use items in battle.



There is one very big no-no in a Pokémon battle: it is illegal, and impossible, to catch an opponent’s Pokémon. If you try to use a Poké Ball to catch a Pokémon owned by an opponent, they will swat it away and sternly scold you! Fortunately, there is a way to gain a Pokémon owned by somebody else, and that is through trading with a friend. Using the same wireless connection in a Pokémon Center, you may trade Pokémon with your friends, which is the only way to add certain Pokémon to your Pokédex. Each version of the game has a number of Pokémon which can’t be found in the other version; for example, while it is possible to find Growlithe and Phanpy in Pokémon HeartGold Version, it is impossible to find and catch Vulpix and Teddiursa, respectively, meaning you must trade with a friend who owns Pokémon SoulSilver Version if you want those Pokémon. There are also some Pokémon which are rare in one version and common in the other; Weedle and Ekans are common in Pokémon SoulSilver, but are only available in certain events in Pokémon HeartGold. This system of connecting with friends in numerous ways no matter where you are really brings about a sense of community in a way that most other multiplayer games lack.

The biggest addition to Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver is the Pokéathlon, a massive sporting event which has come to Johto. The Pokéathlon is split into five courses designed to test Pokemon in one of five fields: Speed, Power, Skill, Stamina or Jump. Each course has three minigames chosen from a pool of ten, with each one designed for Pokémon trained in one of these fields. The minigames all use the touch screen and stylus, meaning there’s no need to swap between touch screen and button controls, keeping everything moving at a steady pace. Before each event, the player chooses three Pokémon from his or her collection to participate as a team. In each event, all three Pokémon are controlled by the player, either simultaneously or switching between them. The events are all quite enjoyable, with themes such as a relay run, a block-smashing competition, and even a football game. Teams earn points in each event which contribute to their final score; the team with the highest score at the end is declared the winner and earns a medal. The player also receives Athlete Points, which can be redeemed for a number of rare items such as Heart Scales and evolutionary stones. The inclusion of the Pokéathlon alone is like playing a completely new game. It is a well-crafted and entertaining diversion from the main storyline, and you can even play it with up to three other people in the same room.



The remakes have their very own Safari Zone, located west of Cianwood City. Shortly after completing an errand about halfway through the main storyline, you have access to this reserve for various species of rare Pokémon. Pay 500 Poké Dollars and you can roam the various areas and catch whatever you like with the 30 Safari Balls provided to you. There are ways to change the catch rate of the Pokémon you encounter. If you throw bait to a Pokémon, it’ll make it harder to catch but less likely to run away. If you throw mud at a Pokémon, it’ll become enraged, making it easier to capture but also more likely to flee. There are 12 possible areas that can be used to customise the Safari Zone, ranging from desert and forest to marshland and mountain, and you can mix-and-match between them, up to a maximum of six areas at any one time. This allows you to customise a Pokémon reserve of your very own, with different species than others’ Safari Zones. Using a local area connection, you can visit your friends’ Safari Zones, allowing for some extra mileage on your multiplayer experience.

Like Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, HeartGold and SoulSilver are bundled with an accessory. Each copy of the game includes a new gadget called the Pokéwalker, a re-imagining of the classic Pokémon Pikachu virtual pet. By sending one of your Pokémon from the game to the Pokéwalker using an infrared connection, you can take it for a walk in the real world. Before sending your Pokémon to the Pokéwalker, you may choose a route to explore within the device, such as Refreshing Field or Beautiful Beach, each with its own theme. Each step you take counts up like a pedometer, and every 20 steps will earn you a “Watt”, which is the Pokéwalker’s form of currency. By spending Watts, you can play two different minigames on the gadget. The Dowsing Machine minigame costs 3 Watts and allows you to find an item. Six patches of grass are displayed on the screen, and you have two chances to find the item. If you choose the wrong grass patch the first time, one of two messages will display on the screen: “It’s near!” indicates that the item is in a patch of grass next to the one you chose; whereas “It’s far away…” indicates that the item is at least two patches of grass away from the one you chose. If you choose the right one, the item is yours and stored on the Pokéwalker. The second minigame costs 10 Watts and allows you to battle and catch a wild Pokémon. The battle system is very simplified compared to the game itself, with each Pokémon having 4 HP and one basic attack. There are three actions you may perform: Attack, Dodge and Poké Ball. By using Attack, your Pokémon attacks the wild Pokémon. If the attack hits, the wild Pokémon loses 1 or 2 HP. If the wild Pokémon dodges, it will avoid the attack and then strike your Pokémon. If both Pokémon dodge, they clash, meaning nobody takes any damage. Once the wild Pokémon is weakened, you may throw a Poké Ball to try and catch it. If you are successful, the Pokémon is yours to keep; if the Pokémon breaks free, it will flee from the battle, meaning you will be unable to catch it. If either your or the wild Pokémon is knocked out, the battle ends immediately without a chance to catch it. The Pokéwalker’s memory is able to store three caught Pokémon and three items. If you catch another Pokémon or find another item after the maximum amount is reached, you must choose a Pokémon to release or an item to discard. After using the Pokéwalker, you may send your Pokémon back to the game. All of the Pokémon caught, items gathered and leftover Watts are also transported to the game. As you save up Watts, you gradually unlock new routes to explore on the Pokéwalker, each with its own rare Pokémon and items. This feature really encourages you to take your Pokéwalker with you wherever you go.



Graphics

Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver use a modified version of Pokémon Platinum’s graphics engine, providing 3D-rendered graphics in a top-down perspective. The improvements to the visual style in comparison to the original game are noticeable: buildings and ground now have added textures; characters have additional detail; and water now ripples with an aquatic pattern. Battle graphics have been upgraded as well; each battle scene has a background depending on the location, and Pokémon display animations as they enter battle. Moves have additional particle effects not possible on the Game Boy Color, making for a dramatic scene every time a Pokémon uses Aurora Beam or Flamethrower. The graphics are gorgeous, making for a visual treat every time you play.

Verdict

Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are every bit as fun as their original counterparts. With revisions such as the sudden abundance of Apricorn trees, additional gameplay in the form of the Pokéathlon, and a refreshed graphical style, it’s definitely worth returning to Johto for another playthrough.



Story: 9
Defeat Team Rocket as you strive to become Pokémon League Champion. It’s a virtually unchanged formula, but the additional story elements make for some new twists to the classic adventure.

Gameplay: 10
A massive adventure which will take you many hours to complete, and that’s only the first half of the game!

Graphics: 10
A classic graphical theme updated for a new generation. It’s absolutely brilliant, particularly the cutscenes before encountering Lugia and Ho-oh.

Fun Factor: 10
It’s one of the most enjoyable Pokémon experiences yet.

TOTAL SCORE: 9.75

Credit goes to Wikipedia, Bulbapedia and Serebii for the screenshots


Last edited by GamerZack on September 7th 2012, 3:59 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Comments

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This game is over $200 on Amazon now. Even Ebay is cheaper for pete's sake.
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For crying out loud...Game Freak, now would be a good time to release Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal in the 3DS eShop! Neutral
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on May 23rd 2016, 4:40 pmRena Ryuugu Fanboy
Message reputation : 100% (1 vote)
Great review @GeekyGamerZack!
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on May 23rd 2016, 6:04 pmRena Ryuugu Fanboy
Message reputation : 100% (1 vote)
@GeekyGamerZack You're welcome dude!
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Awesome review @GeekyGamerZack! Very Happy
Are you going to review #SuperMarioMaker at some point?
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@Otaku wrote:Awesome review @GeekyGamerZack! Very Happy
Thanks! Happy
Are you going to review #SuperMarioMaker at some point?
That's the plan. Well, once I've finished writing my features, anyway. For some reason, the Internet browser on my Wii U won't let me upload screenshots to WiiWareWave at the moment. Once I'm able, I'll upload part four of the feature.
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@GeekyGamerZack The screen capture feature is broken. The images don't show up on any website at the moment. You should just write up that #review of #SuperMarioMaker while the feature is down.
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