Genre: Role Playing Developer: Game Freak Publisher: Nintendo Classification: PG Release Date: 25th Mar 2010 Platforms:
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Pokémon, for those who have been living under a rock/on another planet/another suitable cliché for the past fifteen years, is a franchise about the sport of animal fighting. The main series takes the form of a JRPG in which the player is tasked with capturing 493 Pokémon, gaining Gym Badges to symbolise your progress, and defeating some sort of menace along the way. HeartGold - and its companion game SoulSilver are remakes of the second series, built using the latest engine and featuring a lot of updated features not capable on the
If you have ever played a Pokémon title before, and you aren't:
1. Below the age of 12.
2. Captivated by cute things.
3. Interested in playing for 30 years breeding the perfect Gardevoir.
HeartGold and SoulSilver are probably not for you. They won't change your mind, and they aren't intended to. Game Freak and Nintendo have hit upon the winning formula, and it will no doubt stay the same until the well runs dry. That's not to say a casual teenager or adult fan won't get any enjoyment out of them - Gold and Silver were when many of the first generation of Pokémon players stopped, and there is certainly a welcome feeling of nostalgia to the remakes. Once the nostalgia wears off however, it will be difficult to maintain interest if you don't fall into one of the three listed categories.
I am no longer a child so I can't speak for that demographic, and I can barely work out the time on clocks with hands so I can't speak for the Rain Men min/maxers. Fortunately I am definitely captivated by cute things, and Pokémon delivers cuteness in spades. I've played the game for 40 hours now, and I still grin when Wooper pops out of his Pokéball and looks at the screen.
The enhancements to the cute factor have benefited significantly from the updated graphics. Alongside the updated sprites and 3D environment, your lead Pokémon now follows behind you, and you can turn and talk to them at any time. The player can then talk to them, and they do a variety of cute things, along with letting you know how they feel. While in previous games in the series it was easy to forget about your Pokémon's health and leave them in a critical state (gradually making them more and more unhappy), you are now constantly reminded of at least one of your team's status, giving you incentive to take better care of your team.
While happiness is a very important goal in Pokémon (with some Pokémon only evolving when they are feeling very happy) other non-battle oriented stats have also gained influence - through the introduction of the Pokéathlon. The Pokéathlon has your Pokémon competing against other Pokémon in ten different Track and Field style events. You control your team's performance with the stylus, although their various non-combat stats and their nature influence just how well they can possibly do. The Pokéathlon is more of a sidequest than an integral part of the game however, good news for Pokémon fans not interested in recapturing and leveling their Marill just because their original has a relaxed nature.
A new mini-game called Voltorb Flip takes the place of the slot machines in HG and SS, and while many have speculated this is because of the negative connotations of gambling, it should be a welcome alternative to the waste of time and money the slot machines were. Playing as a cross between Sudoku and Minesweeper, it is a lot of fun and easy to get lost in - any time I went to the Game Corner I swore I'd only play for 10 minutes and go back to adventuring only to look up and realise I'd been at it for two hours.
Adventuring is a lot better with the upgraded touch screen menu as well. While on previous DS era Pokémon games I would alternate between the touch screen and control pad depending on what menu I was accessing, the new touch screen controls are easy and well set out for almost every aspect of the game. Moving the character and advancing dialogue is still easiest done with the control pad, but the placement and large design of the touch screen menus make them effortless to handle with a thumb or finger - the stylus should now only be necessary when playing one of the mini-games.
New copies of HG and SS come with a tamagotchi/pedometer type device called the Pokéwalker. The Pokéwalker uses infra-red to transfer a Pokémon from your DS, and walking increases its experience, happiness, and generates watts - currency used to buy specific tools, items and Pokémon. Nintendo have bundled it with the two games without raising the price, making the item unnecessary but not an annoyance. While clipping it to your belt will no doubt reduce anyone you meet to fits of laughter, keeping it in your bag or your pocket is a very easy way to raise and capture Pokémon.
Possibly the best new thing to hit HeartGold and SoulSilver is the ability to auto-run. Once you get the running shoes you can finally keep them equipped for eternity, meaning you no longer have to hold down the B button every time you go anywhere. It is downright astounding it took seven different series for them to add it in, but they finally did, making the game much more tolerable. Running still attracts more monsters however,
but it's difficult to go back to the snail pace of walking once you start running. Besides, regardless of whether you are walking or running, you're still going to get plenty of random encounters.
The biggest drawback in HG and SS is without a doubt the random encounters. Partly because they're so frequent, and partly because they don't seem random at all for the first five hours of the game. There seems to be about a thousand Rattata to every Pidgey, and about a million to every Wooper. And even if they just watched your Pokémon drop another Rattata in the blink of an eye two steps ago, they'll still attack with fervour. If you level up in one area too much, it can get to the point where the battles are shorter than the experience points count - although you certainly aren't going to get enough experience to make it worthwhile.
Fortunately you can buy repels in any town, and there is no shortage of cash to be had throughout the game. Now they have finally fixed the auto-run, perhaps Game Freak might drop the encounter rate for the next generation of games, and hopefully by 2013 the game will actually have some decent music. These are minor annoyances overall, and certainly not enough to overwhelm a fan of cute little animals. If you are looking for a way to kill time with a wide-eyed idiotic grin on your face, Pokémon HeartGold is an excellent choice.