–The RaT Project Reviews–
—-Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver Versions—-
It’s been a decade since Pokemon Gold and Silver Versions were released on the Game Boy Color (though it could be played on the original Game Boy as well, albeit without the newer color palette). In that decade, we’ve had two major new portable platforms from Nintendo, and quite a considerable bit added to the Pokemon world. Despite all of the advances in the Pokemon franchise since Gold and Silver Versions have been released, many Pokemon fans still consider Gold and Silver Versions to be the best core franchise Pokemon games. Considering this, how do the remakes for DS fare compared with the originals? Find out in my review of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver Versions.
To be fair, the only version of this pair of games available currently are the Japanese games. The North American localized release is set for Spring 2010, with the European release soon thereafter. However, I don’t expect too much to change between these localizations, so I’m proceeding with a review based upon the Japanese release of the games.
The core game from Gold and Silver Versions remains very much intact. The game’s story, as much as there is one, takes place a couple years after the events of Red and Blue Versions. You start off in Johto, collecting the eight gym badges in the Johto League, taking on a reorganized Team Rocket in the region. After dealing with Teams Aqua and Magma in Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, and Team Galactic in Pearl/Diamond/Platinum, it’s nice to see the original villainous team again. If you’ve played through Gold/Silver Versions, you know the story, you know where to go, you know what to do. Not much has changed there.
Also making a welcome return is the Day/Night system, along with the weekly calendar. The day/night system was partially worked into Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, inasmuch that you could get the Umbreon evolution for Eevee, and a few other timed events, but the lighting in the game’s world never really shifted to reflect the time of day. Just as in Gold/Silver Versions, the lighting in HG/SS does vary depending on the time of day, which is very nice to see. Of course, this does affect gameplay, as there are certain Pokemon you can only catch during the day, and others you can catch only at night. In addition to this, HG/SS uses the weekly calendar used on G/S Versions. Throughout the week, there are certain events that only occur on certain days, and certain Pokemon that only appear one day a week at a certain location. An example of this is the fact that Lapras appears in the Slowpoke Well on Fridays. The weekly calendar adds an appreciable amount of gameplay depth.
The PokeTech Device also returns, bringing with it the map, cell phone, and radio features that were used in (and only in) Gold/Silver/Crystal Versions. It works essentially the same; the only difference I’ve noticed is that there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how many numbers you can store on your cell phone.
All of the Pokemon in Gold/Silver Versions are back, and the rules for getting them are unchnaged. Each game’s specific legendary bird (between Ho’oh and Lugia) will be the lower-leveled of the two.
The first question with HG/SS Versions is what is new this time around? These games incorporate the Global Trade Station (GTS) as seen in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum Versions, which allow you to trade Pokemon to anyone anywhere in the world. The same rules apply as before, including that you have to have seen a Pokemon before requesting it in trade. The Pal Pad is also included in these games. The Battle Frontier makes a return in HG/SS, and is much the same as it appeared in Platinum Versions. Touch-screen controls return from Diamond/Pearl/Platinum Versions, and receive a much-welcome redesign.
D/P/Pl Versions had a touch-screen interface, but it was only really used during battles. During over-world travel, menu navigation was delegated to button control, with the menu appearing on the top screen. In HG/SS, the menu has been moved to the touch screen, meaning you can easily navigate via touch screen. This is another welcome improvement, as submenus are now much easier to navigate.
HG/SS makes use of a feature that was previously used only in Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition: The lead Pokemon in your party will follow your character around on the overworld, and you can turn around and check on its condition at any time.
Another nice upgrade I’ve noticed involves the save system. A complaint I had about D/P/Pl Versions is how long it took to save if you had moved Pokemon around via the PC. That delay is gone this time around, and all saves take only about two seconds. This is a small nuance, but a nice fix from the previous games.
Another nuance involves the Mystery Gift. This feature is present by default, and doesn’t need to be unlocked, as it needed to be in D/P/Pl Versions.
The battle system is more of the same. If you’ve played Pokemon games, you know what to expect; there are no changes here. Then again, if it isn’t broke, why fix it? There’s no reason to make any significant changes to the Pokemon battle formula, as it is actually quite deep as it is. Those who are serious about training Pokemon know this. If you’re in that group, you’ll be pleased at the addition of new items that provide you more control over EVs. There are also new items that let you control EVs that are passed on to hatched Pokemon.
One serious gripe I have with HG/SS is the exclusion of the VS Seeker. This makes training Pokemon a bit more difficult than in recent versions. The VS Seeker, introduced in FireRed/LeafGreen, is an item that lets you challenge practically any overworld trainer whenever you want. This item’s absence in HG/SS is especially obvious, and especially frustrating.
The only drawback with this is that there’s nothing significantly new. Essentially, it’s the same game as Gold/Silver Versions, but you’d expect that as this is a remake. However, dismissing this as a simple remake is to disregard the generation gap that exists between the first two generations and the latest two generations in the Pokemon franchise: you can’t trade Pokemon from either R/B/Y/G/S/Cr over to the newer games. That leaves a considerable number of Pokemon that are extremely difficult to obtain on the newer games. With this release (and Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen Versions on the GBA), the generation gap is gone, and the world of Pokemon is complete again.
Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver Versions serve to reintroduce the second-generation to the DS crowd, and does an exceptional job updating two games that are dated by today’s standards. The remakes definitely live up to the standards set by Diamond/Pearl/Platinum Versions, and pave the way for how I hope future Pokemon games will be. As far as maintaining the legacy left by Gold/Silver Versions, that has been accomplished in style. These two games are my two new favorite entries in the Pokemon franchise.
I give Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver a well-deserved 5 out of 5.