Pokémaniacs will probably be far too busy actually playing the game and raising solid teams of Pokémon to read any reviews about the game on the internet. Really, writing this review is cutting into my play time too…
I played Pokémon Blue when I was younger for hours on end. I also played Pokémon Yellow, then Silver. The first time I got Pokémon Silver, I rushed home in the early afternoon and played it. The next time I looked up, the sun had disappeared, six or so hours had vanished, it was dark outside and my mum was telling me off for playing without the light on. With every version, I’ve purchased it and sat down with it for hours on end, defeated the evil Team set on using Pokémon to take over the world, raised the best team possible and triumphed over the Elite Four. I’ll do it again with this one, and will enjoy every minute of it, because it’s Pokémon.
There’s something about Pokémon that keeps fans going back to it. Think about it, stripped down to its core, this game is essentially an update of a previous Pokémon game. Not that I, nor millions of other fans actually care. This, to us, is both a new Pokémon game and a way of reliving the joy of booting up Gold/Silver for the first time and realising that the time of day affected the Pokémon that appeared. The RPG elements are all there, as are the cute characters. Pokémon has always been very good at striking a balance between the complex and the simple which rewards both seasoned and new players. If you were hardcore, you could really get into breeding and effort values etcetera, but you’ll have just as much fun playing through the story and simply exploring, encountering new Pokémon to fill up your Pokédex.
HeartGold/SoulSilver has the same semi-3D graphics first used in Diamond/Pearl, giving the game a colourful and highly appealing look. Little updates have the menu fully displayed on the lower screen of the DS, a neat touch. Unfortunately, HeartGold/SoulSilver’s gadget is the Pokégear with its annoying mobile phone feature; trainers will be ringing you with pointless chatter which sort of proves you should never give your number out to strangers you meet in forests. Still, it can be useful once upgraded by friendly people you meet in typical RPG fashion but the most useful feature will always be the map.
The cutest of the updates to the game is that now the first Pokémon in your party will be out of its Pokéball and walking behind you constantly. You can turn to talk to it, which is generally adorable, and if your Pokémon is particularly large you’ll probably find it funny how it almost dwarfs your trainer. It’s sweet, and maybe a little pointless, but still a nice touch, and reinforcing the feeling of Pokémon as your little companions. Travelling and training is a lonely life after all, especially if your mum keeps spending your hard earned cash on useless items.
Of course, the most important thing about this game is the Pokémon. I’ve lost count of how many there are, but you’ll still have fun battling, catching and raising Pokémon to either create your perfect team or complete the Pokédex, something made much easier by the continuation of the Global Trading System, which allows you to trade Pokémon all over the world so it won’t matter too much what exclusive Pokémon you have in your version of the game. Even after completing the story, the main gym challenge and beating the Elite Four, raising and collecting Pokémon will take up the most time and be one of the most absorbing elements of the game.
Then there’s the Pokéwalker. It’s a little step-counter device, which allows you to take a Pokémon with you. It’s pretty useless for trying to level up your Pokémon, although you can use it to do so. The main point of it is to build up ‘watts’ by walking which you can spend on mini-games that give you the opportunity to get rare items or rare Pokémon. It’s a bit of a gimmick really, an actual Pokémon virtual pet would have been more fun, but then I probably would have forgotten to feed it and seen it float off towards happier places.