Before I begin, let me preface this review with a few facts.
- I am male
- At the time of writing this review, I am twenty-two years old
- I love Pokémon
- There is no shame here
First thing some people might have problems with when it comes to Pokemon SoulSilver and HeartGold is that the main roster of Pokemon is a deviation from the original 151 Pokemon. Being a Pokemon purist, myself (Pokepurist, if I may), I started playing SoulSilver expecting to hate the new Pokemon. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised.
No surprise to anyone is that HeartGold and SoulSilver are essentially remakes of Gold and Silver, which were widely hated by the Pokepurists for having new, strange Pokemon that seemed totally foreign. However, this doesn’t sting me as much in HeartGold/SoulSilver like Gold/Silver did.
The gameplay remains the same as the originals (however, this hasn’t changed much at all in any of the many iterations of the franchise) so right off the bat you’re hit with plenty of nostalgia to spare, which is a crucial point to nail for us adult gamers who have specific memories; memories which usually involve a GameBoy Pocket and link cables, and lots and lots of playground frustration. Read more on Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver after the jump.
For the Gold/Silver fans, most of this game will feel very familiar, due mainly to the fact that HeartGold/SoulSilver take place in the Johto region, so the world, as well as the Pokemon, are nearly identical to their GameBoy counterparts. The story is slightly different, but I’ll be completely honest here and admit that I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the plot. For me, Pokemon is less about Team Rocket and more about catching ‘em all. Not to say that I’m completely ignorant about the story; but it honestly wasn’t anything original or captivating in any respect. Team Rocket wants to steal Pokemon, and you have to stop them.
HeartGold/SoulSilver don’t offer much in terms of graphical advancements, at least in battles. There are a few cleanups of the attack sprites, but you still have the (mostly) stationary battling Pokemon.
One major graphical improvement is the overworld, which is now rendered mostly in 3D. For the most part, this is an awesome change to the typical 2D layout of the overworld. This has a few minor drawbacks, however. First of which is a lack of consistency. You have 3D terrain, but all the character sprites are still 2D. Not a huge issue, but it’s one of those things that I notice. The next problem I notice with the 3D overworld is that it gives you a false sense of depth. Certain walls, buildings, and other terrain will trick your eye into thinking that you can (or should be able to) walk behind certain things, only to lead to frustration when you can’t. Again, not a huge issue, but it’s a design flaw, nonetheless.
For those who were fans of blowing away your huge stash of money on the slot machines, let me say this: I am sorry.
The slot machines that I grew up going broke on are no longer included in Pokemon, due to “controversy” with gambling. At the same time, you no longer throw rocks at the Pokemon in the Safari Zone – you throw mud. These changes, while minor, tear away slightly at my Pokesoul which grew up on throwing rocks at animals in a protected zone and playing gateway games which could lead into addictive habits. What was Game Freak thinking?
The DS’s touchscreen also gets some additional use compared to the previous Pokemon titles. In HeartGold/SoulSilver, the touchscreen is used at any time in the overworld to access your menus such as your bag, Pokegear, Pokemon, and other items. You can also “bind” certain items to a spot on your touchscreen for immediate use at any time, as well. This is especially helpful for the Dowsing Machine, which can find hidden items, and saves you the time of having to slowly navigate to your bag, and then to your Key Items pocket, and then choosing the Dowsing Machine, and choosing “Use”… etc. Having this quick access definitely streamlines the gameplay and allows for you to focus more on the game and less on the menus.
One of the major selling points for me was the fact that the game is far more vast than than I previously imagined. One problem I had with previous Pokemon titles was that once you learned Fly, the world felt incredibly small since you can get to just about any point in a matter of seconds. Not so much in HeartGold/SoulSilver. After you complete all of the main objectives, you actually leave the Johto region completely, and travel to the epitome of nostalgia, the Kanto region.
For those unaware, Kanto is the region that Red, Blue, and Yellow all took place in. And the Kanto region is recreated perfectly; you’ll instantly remember where everything is without having to check your map. I think the Red/Blue gameplay has been forever burned into my mind because I knew exactly where I was within seconds of arriving in Kanto.
Best of all, all of Kanto’s Pokemon are also still there, and in the exact same locations (to the best of my knowledge; I haven’t fact-checked this claim).
The sound quality in this game is decent, at best. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s “good”, but I think it does well given the hardware limitations. One awesome surprise in the sound department, however, is that once you arrive in Kanto, the soundtrack is slightly remixed for most events, including trainer battles and wild encounters.
With any modern game these days, it’s only natural to have some form of multiplayer support, and HeartGold/SoulSilver has it. However, typical of Nintendo’s recent trend of online gaming, interacting over the internet in any form is very clunky and unintuitive. Allow me to go into some greater detail.
To trade online with somebody not on your friend list, there are two ways to do it. You can either search for the Pokemon you want, where you can specify the gender, level range, and a few other filters. The server returns a handful of users who have submitted the Pokemon you requested, as well as the Pokemon they are wanting in return.
This seems simple enough, but if you’re just looking for some low-level Pokemon to get an easy Pokedex entry, you’d better be ready to part with some insanely-powerful Pokemon. Most of the people are trading crappy Pokemon and wanting level 100 legendary Pokemon. It makes searching for Pokemon impossible.
The other method to trade with people not on your friend list is to submit your own Pokemon, and set a request. Essentially the same as above, but in reverse.
The problem with this method of trading? It’s not live. You can’t communicate with the other player. You can’t barter or negotiate or anything. You’re at the mercy of some 12 year old in Bangladesh who will give you a level 32 Psyduck if you give him a level 70+ Mewtwo.
Needless to say, internet trading need some touching up. Right now the process is far too convoluted and limited as to what you’re allowed to do at any given time.
Trading locally is much simpler. Go to a Pokemon Center, negotiate the trade, done. Way easy and no obnoxious WiFi Connection crap to deal with.
Another awesome feature that HeartGold/SoulSilver brings to the table is full compatibility with Diamond/Pearl. I haven’t had the chance to explore the full extent to this compatibility, but it seems that battling and trading work just fine, which means that there are several hundred more Pokemon for you to hunt down that aren’t even available in either version of the game. Whether this is a good thing or bad is up to you. Personally, I think this is good because it means that you can have a nearly unlimited roster of Pokemon to choose from, and will make for more unique strategies when it comes to battling.
Another feature that you can access later in the game is the ability to import your Pokemon from the Gameboy Advance titles, which is incredibly awesome, considering that I had a ton of really high-level Pokemon on Ruby and Sapphire (which I felt were also decent games). Again, the potential for a huge, diverse roster is just absolutely incredible.
To sum it all up, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are excellent additions to the Pokemon franchise and will keep you busy for a VERY long time. You may complete the main objectives of the game, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever actually run out of things to do. I have over 30 hours of gameplay logged and am still nowhere near completion (and I feel that I’ve actually advanced through the game quickly, at that). Completing this game will take a lot of time and effort, and you will rarely ever get bored during the entire process.
Final Score: 8/10
While Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver aren’t necessarily revolutionary by any means, and is pretty much a complete rehash of previous titles. However, the game still manages to be extremely fun, which is the most important factor to me, and should be to you. If you’re a fan of the franchise, or were a fan ten years ago, go pick up this game.