Pokemon HeartGold Review
If you've stumbled across this review for Nintendo's latest dual entry in the long-running and ever-addictive Pokemon series, Heart Gold/Soul Silver, consider yourself lucky. As a change of pace, I've decided to bring in a special consultant to make this review as complete and well rounded as possible. I could sit here and type out all the ways this new game differs from past entries, what Nintendo has added and what they haven't and all the reasons you should or shouldn't embark on another 100+ hour quest to round up as many of the adorable Japanese critters as possible, but every other review out there will march through that well-worn territory. You'll still get all that standard stuff here, but you'll also get a slightly different perspective on the newest adventure from the only person I know who takes capturing and training Pokemon as seriously as I do – my soon-to-be wife, Wendi. So if you're on the fence over whether or not to become physically and mentally addicted to Nintendo's cash cow RPG again, you'll get double the perspective from this review. Two perspectives for the low, low price of nothing? How can you beat that?
Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver are DS remakes/updates of the Game Boy Pokemon games Silver and Gold, much like Leaf Green and Fire Red were updates/remakes of the original Red and Blue Pokemon games. As an added bonus, Heart Gold and Soul Silver also include segments lifted from the Pokemon Crystal game, and offer the opportunity for players to capture nearly every species of Pokemon in existence, with the exception of a few Legendary Pokemon, some "special event" ones and a handful of others. In a nutshell, Heart Gold and Soul Silver are the most complete, fully featured Pokemon titles ever released, and are the first to make living up to the series' catchphrase, "Gotta Catch 'Em All" an actual, real possibility (In case you were wondering, that brings the total Pokemon count to just under 500). Add to that an exciting new peripheral and you've got what is probably the most complete Pokemon game to date.
I trust that no one reading this needs a primer course in how the Pokemon games are played. They've been around for over 10 years, so I have to assume that you probably already know about the top down RPG style, the rock/paper/scissors battles and the core gameplay that has remained almost unchanged since the original Pokemon Red and Blue. Diving into Heart Gold and Soul Silver, you're going to be disappointed if you expect any great changes to the formula. Instead, Nintendo stuck with what has worked so many times before and just piled new stuff on top of the basic, untouched RPG. Carry-overs such as the Battle Zones from Pokemon Platinum, and new additions like the Pokewalker peripheral and never-before-seen species of Pokemon, assure that the same old, same old never feels like a true rehash of what you've done before. Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver are better compared to a frying pan with a radio on it – you know the basics, but somehow, the addition makes the product feel brand new again.
But just how new the game will feel depends on how long you've been following the series. I've been with the series from the very beginning (I still have the free Nintendo Power VHS of the first few episodes of the anime), but Wendi didn't fall into the Pokemon fold until Diamond and Pearl. You may remember that in those games, a good number of the original 150 Pokemon were not available for capture until after the adventure was finished and they were imported from past Game Boy titles. When I began the newest adventure, it was a bit nostalgic to see Pokemon I hadn't laid eyes on in quite a while. But for Wendi, Caterpie, Rattata, Nidoran, Bellsprout… these were all brand new species to catch and learn. Whether they are old friends or new ones, it's a nice reminder that there are very few Pokemon you won't see in this game and what an improvement it is over Diamond and Pearl.
While the overall number of available Pokemon has been bumped up, not every issue we both had with past games is resolved, though. The most vexing of these is that Nintendo still has not included a method for easily transferring your past captures to your new game. Both of us spent well over 100 hours playing Diamond and Pearl (not quite as much with their beefed-up semi sequel, Platinum), and starting from square one can and will turn off a lot of fans who have already destroyed their social lives with the previous game. Its an even bigger kick in the crotch that two of the unobtainable Pokemon in Heart Gold and Soul Silver are Palkia and Dialga, the two Legendaries from Diamond and Pearl. Granted, it is possible to drag your past Pokemon to your new game, but it requires two DS systems and a time commitment few will find acceptable. For the one each of all 150 Sinnoh Dex Pokemon I collected and the nearly indestructable team Wendi built, Nintendo has basically said, "Thanks for all the hard work. Now start over." Annoying as it may be, this shortcoming probably won't keep any of the most hardcore fans from playing again. Before Heart Gold and Soul Silver came out, I silently swore I wouldn't be pulled back in. And look where I am now.