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DS

North America

Pokémon HeartGold Version

by Zachary Miller - March 28, 2010, 5:08 pm PDT
Total comments: 31

9.5

I can't quit you.

Zach: Pokémon was introduced to our country in 1998 with Red and Blue versions. Those games were actually remade for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 as FireRed and LeafGreen. The popular opinion was that Nintendo would remake the next games in the series, Gold and Silver, originally released in 2000.

Neal: For some odd reason, I skipped every Pokémon game after the originals until Diamond and Pearl. After that, I went back and tried out some of the ones I missed, and while I didn't spend too much time with Pokémon Gold and Silver, all I heard was how it was one of the best in the series.

Zach: Gold and Silver are largely responsible for bringing all the modern Pokémon concepts to fruition: a day/night cycle, Pokegear, male and female versions of the same Pokémon, breeding, Dark and Steel types, a move deleter, and separate stats for non-physical attack and non-physical defense. Breeding, of course, opened up a whole new world of strategy, and competitive training was suddenly more appealing to people with lots of time to burn. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the only original Pokémon games on the GBA, introduced double battles, but it's hard to call that as much of a leap as Gold/Silver had over Red and Blue. Nintendo recently released Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, the remakes of those revolutionary 10-year-old games. While the novelty has worn off by now, the games are still unbelievably fun to play, and really speak for the timeless appeal of collecting pocket monsters.

Neal: Exactly. I think everyone has it wrong now, though, because Gold and Silver aren't the best games in the series anymore; HeartGold and SoulSilver are. The two games update one of the most ambitious titles in Pokémon history with a smooth interface and crisp graphics while retaining everything that made Gold and Silver so great. All the content from the originals is packed away inside these little cartridges of joy, and then some.

Zach: Still, despite its similarities to Gold and Silver, it's pretty clear that this is Pokémon Pearl/Diamond/Platinum again. Requisite aesthetic changes are here, but the gameplay is, overall, identical to the previous DS iterations of the franchise. And that's fine, because I declared not long ago that Pokémon Platinum was the definitive Pokémon game. While I may never get the itch to "catch 'em all" as I did in Pearl, the core experience of fighting and leveling up a perfect team of six remains satisfying and enjoyable.

Neal: It adds more than that, though. Now, a Pokémon will follow you on the screen for the majority of the time. You can talk to this Pokémon, bolster your friendship with them, and they even pick-up items from time to time. Another large addition is the Pokéathlon, which is a series of touch screen-based mini-games that test the skill of your Pokémon. It's not too engrossing, but it's a fun timewaster that allows you to purchase certain items. While these aren't major changes, they're pleasant additions. It's amusing seeing a Diglett follow you around, and it's entertaining to talk to a Gastly, especially when it does something goofy.

Zach: It was nice to see old date-based Gold/Silver stuff with a new coat of paint, like the Bug Catching Contest, Pokémon swarms, and the reworked Safari Zone.

Neal: Yeah. I especially like the Safari Zone. It seems more forgiving than in previous games, though the rarer Pokemon, like Murkrow and Larvitar, seem unusually hard to capture compared to every other Pokémon in there.

Zach: The big new feature here is the PokéWalker, a Pokéball-shaped pedometer that comes with every copy of the game. This is Nintendo's not-so-subtle way to get fat gamers off their couch-laden asses, and it works, sadly. You are introduced to the concept in the game itself, where you find yourself walking with the first Pokémon in your party at all times, bringing to mind Pokémon Yellow. The PokéWalker allows you to do the same in real life.

Neal: It's very reminiscent of the pedometer in Nintendo's Personal Trainer: Walking, where I imagine the technology originated.

Zach: It wirelessly connects to the DS game card, where you can transfer one Pokémon from a PC box into the device. Your steps are counted through the day, and at random intervals your Pokémon may find items. You can also play little random-chance games on the Pokéwalker, like Pokéradar, where you find a Pokémon (which changes based on the route you take at the beginning of the day) and play a thinly veiled version of ro-sham-bo to capture them. There's also Dowsing, in which you choose a random patch of grass and hope an item pops out. These items are often rare or expensive in the main game, like Guard Spec. or Stardust. You can hold onto three captured Pokémon and three items per walk. When you’re finished, just re-connect the Pokéwalker to the game card to import all the pocket monsters and items.

Neal: As you walk, you gain Watts, which are used to unlock new paths, possibly gain a level for lower-level Pokémon, find items, and search for other Pokémon to capture. Each of the numerous paths includes a few different Pokémon to find, some of which can only be captured using the device. If you use it early on, you can find Pokémon that you wouldn't normally find in a game until much later. For example, I came across a Magby and an Elekid early on. Additionally, if you walk around without a Pokémon strolling with you, a random Pokémon might join you. It's not a game-changer, but it's a really neat little device that is well worth the $5 premium attached to the game.

Zach: Definitely. It is insanely fun. I've got Sceptile in my pocket right now. Though I can't say much for the step accuracy of the device, that's hardly the point. Nintendo has suckered me into taking longer walks with my dog in the hopes of unlocking another route and catching a Sunkern or a Gastly.

The main game offers little new content to players who have been Pokéfanatics from the get-go. In fact, it's surprising to see just how little the series has evolved in 10 years. We've all been playing Gold and Silver for a decade, in fact, and this remake just brings that irony to the forefront. Almost nothing has changed, and if anything, certain aspects of the game now frustrate even more given their ancient roots in the face of potential progression. My biggest complaint about the series is its strict adherence to Hidden Machines. These are overworld moves that you teach your Pokémon to progress in the game. Every new Pokémon game has stacked on more HMs, and the problem is that an HM move simply replaces what could be a useful slot in that Pokémon's repertoire. The fact that there are so many HMs that are required for progression is insane—you must either cripple half the Pokémon in your party by teaching them one or more HM moves OR create one or two HM "slave" Pokémon and drag them everywhere you go. I'm subscribing to the latter method. I have no interest in teaching "Strength" to my Hitmontop, thank you, but my Bibarel is able to use four of the eight HMs necessary for travel in this world. If I'm to get any practical use out of Fly (the warp HM), I'll have to fully train a good Flying type. If I want to move effortlessly in the water—which requires three HMs—I'll have to make a second HM slave. Somebody will have to take the bullet, and the point is that my actual team will be down to four Pokémon, not six.

In the next game, I really do hope that Game Freak changes their asinine philosophy on HM’s. They simply get in the way at best, and cripple your team at worst.

Neal: The HM stuff is the lowest it gets, though, and it isn't as bad as it was in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum. To me, these games are without a doubt the strongest in the series, as they are refined, familiar, and awesome. It will rekindle nostalgia for Gold and Silver in longtime players, while drawing in new or lapsed players just as easily. It's more than just a remake; it is the best Pokémon game to date.

Zach: I agree and I absolutely love HeartGold/SoulSilver. The original games have always been my favorites, and these remakes are wonderfully well done. However, it is clear that the formula is showing its age, and I think it's time for a radical upheaval in the next iteration of the franchise.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 8 9 9 10 9.5
Graphics
8

The games look identical to Pearl/Diamond/Platinum, which is fine by us. It's about time the Pokémon sprites did more than quiver during fights, though. Maybe some actual animations next time?

Sound
8

The soundtrack is largely comprised of remixed Gold and Silver tunes, and some holdovers from Platinum. Interestingly, the random battle music is Zach's least favorite remix of that particular tune, just FYI.

Control
9

The streamlined menu system is much appreciated, as is the simplified Pokégear tool.

Gameplay
9

Aside from the heavy reliance on HMs, there's nothing quite like Pokémon. An adorable, unassuming chocolate shell hides a complex, stat-driven gooey center, just like a Cadbury Egg.

Lastability
10

This game is virtually endless, especially if you're trying to catch 'em all.

Final
9.5

Previous mandates that Platinum was the definitive game have been reneged. HeartGold/SoulSilver are the best Pokémon games we've ever seen.

Summary

Pros
  • Addictive, timeless "gotta catch 'em all" gameplay
  • Everything the originals had and then some
  • Excellent interface
  • Pokéwalker is a fun addition
Cons
  • Gameplay additions more neat than necessary
  • HMs still suck
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Quote:

Cons:
- HMs still suck

In-freaking-deed, gentlemen.

TJ SpykeMarch 28, 2010

Only some HM's suck. Surf is actually a really good battle move, Fly can be good for also making your opponent use up a move (nice for long battles), etc. It's true that Whirlpool and Waterfall suck, but thankfully they are rarely needed (in the original G/S/C, Waterfall was only used in Tohjo Falls and Whirlpool was only used in Dragon's Den and the Whirl Islands). My only problem with HM's is that you have to go to a in-game guy to delete them rather than just having the Pokemon naturally forget them like with regular moves and TMs.

The Safari Zone is back? Is it the one is Fuschia City? It was not in Gold/Silver/Crystal (the door to the building had been removed, and talking to the warden's daughter revealed that it was shut down after the warden decided to go on vacation). Does it work like the one in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum?

It's next to Cinnibar now. After passing a couple of tests, you can rearrange the terrain to catch different Pokemon from different kinds of environments. So you can swap out Marshland for Mountains, Rocky Beach to Desert, etc. It's pretty cool. Most Pokemon are pretty easy to catch, but there are a few that can only be caught in the Safari Zone that take pure, unadulterated luck to catch...like Larvitar and Murkrow.

TJ SpykeMarch 28, 2010

Is there a guide somewhere that details all of the changes between Gold/Silver/Crystal and HeartGold/SoulSilver? I plan to get the game as soon as I get a DS again. I am currently re-playing Crystal in the meantime (I miss the air shoes so much, I rarely actually used the bike in Diamond thanks to them).

BeautifulShyMarch 28, 2010

While some of the HMs aren't good battle moves such as Rock Smash and Cut. There is some use in non battle situations. Rock Smash can break rocks and there was something added into this game. When you rock smash a rock an item may be revealed.
Cut can cut down grass where wild pokemon live and if your pokemon are hurting can save you from having to battle.

Anyway I am enjoying my play through the game. Oh some of the HMs have in battle use. Whirlpool can be used to stall out your foe and use something like toxic and whirlpool can win a stall match.
Waterfall is an excellent physical attack. Say a Gyarados has Dragon Dance and Waterfall.Dragon Dance makes the user's attack higher and speed as well. With Waterfall getting STAB for Gyarados and its already high attack well that combo can cause lots of problems.

greybrickNathan Mustafa, Staff AlumnusMarch 28, 2010

Quote from: Shaymin

Quote:

Cons:
- HMs still suck

In-freaking-deed, gentlemen.

Slave pokemon work well, though. What would be awesome is if you could keep an extra pokemon with all of your HM's in your pokewalker and just press connect every time you needed to use one. What would be even more awesome is if HM's existed outside of the four main moves a Pokemon can have, what would be the awesomest (*word?) is if HM's didn't exist.

Exactly. Your Pokegear should double (triple?) as an all-purpose HM. You get upgrade cards by defeating Gym Leaders.

StratosMarch 29, 2010

Going from Gold/Silver to Emerald felt oddly like the game had gone backwards in some ways. Plus it was just so alien with all of these throw away copy pokemon that I lost interest in it until close to Platinum's release.

TJ SpykeMarch 29, 2010

Generation 3 (Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald) was terrible in terms of new Pokemon. First, you have clones of Pikachu in Plusle and Minun. The three Regi's lookd almost exactly the same as well. Generation 3 was also riduclous in the amount of legendaries, I think it was something like 11 or 12 legendaries. I lost interest in Ruby and never actually beat it, I just didn't care about Hoenn. I did like the double battles though and some of the new Pokemon were really good.

yoshi1001March 29, 2010

Quote from: Maxi

While some of the HMs aren't good battle moves such as Rock Smash and Cut. There is some use in non battle situations. Rock Smash can break rocks and there was something added into this game. When you rock smash a rock an item may be revealed.
Cut can cut down grass where wild pokemon live and if your pokemon are hurting can save you from having to battle.

Can you still do that? I tried it in the national park and it didn't seem to work.

Quote from: Maxi

Anyway I am enjoying my play through the game. Oh some of the HMs have in battle use. Whirlpool can be used to stall out your foe and use something like toxic and whirlpool can win a stall match.
Waterfall is an excellent physical attack. Say a Gyarados has Dragon Dance and Waterfall.Dragon Dance makes the user's attack higher and speed as well. With Waterfall getting STAB for Gyarados and its already high attack well that combo can cause lots of problems.

Waterfall is probably the best physical Water move. Fly is okay but it's been mostly replaced by Aerial Ace (I still like making Selfdestruct/Explosion miss, though).

BeautifulShyMarch 29, 2010

I guess Game Freak took out that Cut feature.
Aqua Tail is probably the best physical water attack but it has 90 accuracy and 90 attack while Waterfall has 80 power and 100 accuracy. So it is a matter of power vs accuracy.

KDR_11kMarch 29, 2010

I'm pretty sure the HM restrictions are to prevent you from ditching an HM ability in a place where you would have needed it to get to a town and get stuck.

Curse you Zach, now I want to pick up yet ANOTHER Pokemon game.

Mop it upMarch 29, 2010

The reason why Gold/Silver is so highly regarded is because it provided a lot of NEW experiences for players. Although the later iterations are more technically sound, they offer little new in the way of gameplay conventions. No Pokémon game will surpass Gold/silver until it can offer radical changes.

StratosMarch 30, 2010

They need to add new types I think to truly make a game similar to Gold/Silver. Though there seem to be few types you could create at this point. Crystal and Digital are potential types I could imagine in the series. Porygon could easily become a digital type.

Quote from: NWR_Lindy

Curse you Zach, now I want to pick up yet ANOTHER Pokemon game.

Hey! Curse me, too. I co-authored this bitch!

BeautifulShyMarch 30, 2010

I liked this type of review Neal and Zach.

Maybe some of the staff can do a similar thing in the future.

Quote from: Maxi

I liked this type of review Neal and Zach.

Maybe some of the staff can do a similar thing in the future.

We generally only do it for these kind of double games (Pokemon, Transformers DS movie games, Pokemon...), but I think they do work pretty well.

ArbokMarch 30, 2010

Quote from: Stratos

They need to add new types I think to truly make a game similar to Gold/Silver.

I'm pretty sure they haven't added new types because that would greatly increase the complexity of the game. There are a LOT of types as is right now anyway.

Creating new types would get some buzz, and people excited, but in the long term there would probably be a demand to "simplify" later down the road to the days of old.

Rather than introducing new types, a better idea would be to just improve old ones. Grass is pretty lackluster, and poison is worthless as an attack type and a defense type (unless your name is Koffing and you can scoff at Earthquakes).

Patchkid15Patrick Barnett, Associate EditorMarch 30, 2010

I picked Pokemon up launch day and still only have beaten the first 4 gyms. I just cant find myself too engaged by pokemon anymore. I think they need some newer ideas for the series in general to make gamers everywhere more interested. However Gold was always my favorite of the games so i will pribably finish it up in a couple weeks.

BeautifulShyMarch 30, 2010

I have been playing Pokemon since the Red and Blue days Patchkid15.

In my playthrough of Soul Silver I have decided to play through the game using only one team.
When you have played pokemon for as long as I have you need to try out new things to make the series fresh again.

Try something different. Try out different pokemon that you haven't used before.Go wild with the game!

Patchkid15Patrick Barnett, Associate EditorMarch 30, 2010

I've been playing since the red / blue days also... And I do try to change it up a bit, especially with this title and the ability to catch stranger pokemon with the pokewalker. It's just the 8 gym system and level grinding is getting old. I just feel that their should be some new elements introduced.

The problem with introducing new elements is that Pokemon continues to get more complex, more excessive. I think Nintendo should forget compatibility with past versions, dramatically slash the number of Pokemon (and types), and streamline the interface, especially for things like developing your Pokemon with new moves and evolutions. Make the systems more transparent (no EV crap) allow players to develop long-term attachment to a smaller, more customizable set of monsters.

ArbokMarch 30, 2010

I don't think they should slash the number of Pokemon, as that's part of the allure is the huge number, or so much types... but I'm fine with them getting ride of Dark since its really ambiguous and was created more as a anti-psychic at the time that's no longer needed.

I agree though that the EV crap has to go. It's such a cumbersome and annoying process, along with IVs. Having to do that really zaps the fun out of super competitive play.

TJ SpykeMarch 30, 2010

The games are designed so that EVs and IVs only matter if you plan on playing in tournaments. If you just play the computer opponents then you don't have to even think about them (I don't play other in tournaments since none ever come here and I don't even think about EV/IV when playing).

I'm with Arbok about not getting rid of Pokemon (that is a terrible idea), just limit how many new ones get added (GSC were good in that they only added 100, RSE added 135, DPP added 107). I don't think any types should be eliminated.

Maybe they should give each Pokemon a 5th move slot, but have it be only for HMs. This would allow people to avoid having a HM slave in their team.

ArbokMarch 30, 2010

Quote from: TJ

The games are designed so that EVs and IVs only matter if you plan on playing in tournaments. If you just play the computer opponents then you don't have to even think about them (I don't play other in tournaments since none ever come here and I don't even think about EV/IV when playing).

If you play online, EVs become a huge factor. IVs? Not so much, that is when you reach that super competitive cusp. EVs? Those are far more important.

Quote from: TJ

Maybe they should give each Pokemon a 5th move slot, but have it be only for HMs. This would allow people to avoid having a HM slave in their team.

I really like this idea.

StratosMarch 30, 2010

Quote from: Arbok

Quote from: Stratos

They need to add new types I think to truly make a game similar to Gold/Silver.

I'm pretty sure they haven't added new types because that would greatly increase the complexity of the game. There are a LOT of types as is right now anyway.

Creating new types would get some buzz, and people excited, but in the long term there would probably be a demand to "simplify" later down the road to the days of old.

Rather than introducing new types, a better idea would be to just improve old ones. Grass is pretty lackluster, and poison is worthless as an attack type and a defense type (unless your name is Koffing and you can scoff at Earthquakes).

True. I guess I'm looking for some new mystery like when I ran into my first dark type opponent wondering what those creatures were or how steel type forced me to change my play style from red/blue.

Revamping types does help. I feel that bug type got a great boost in gold/silver that made them much more viable for competition with some great new moves like mega horn.

I'm also pretty sure that there are some dual types that have not been explored yet (are there any ghost/water or fire/bug types?)

Mop it upMarch 30, 2010

Grass types are bad because they are weak to common types and super-effective against uncommon types.
Poison type seemed useless to me. Is it weak or strong vs. any type?

StratosMarch 30, 2010

Quote from: Mop

Grass types are bad because they are weak to common types and super-effective against uncommon types.
Poison type seemed useless to me. Is it weak or strong vs. any type?

Strong versus plant and weak versus psychic and ground. It's the reason the attacks Psychic and Earthquake are so devastating to Ghastly/Haunter/Gengar even though they were ghost types. Ghost types were supposed to be effective against psychics. I remember the day I realized this weakness. I was so pumped.

BeautifulShyMarch 31, 2010

As Stratos said Poison type moves are effective against Grass types. However most Grass types have the poison type as a second type. So at most you can only do normal damage to those Grass/Poison types.

Ghost/Poison types now have the Levitate ability so Ground type attacks aren't really a concern now.

Poison makes a decent type for attacks that have normal damage to most types.Anyway I figured that poison types have more use as a status inflicter that attacking type.

ArbokMarch 31, 2010

Poison got nerfed pretty bad, and never really recovered.

It used to be super effective against Bug types, but from Gold/Silver on that was removed. Then they added Steel which was immune to Poison and it reduced an already lackluster attack type to just being for Toxic (although to be fair, Poison didn't have any good attacks until Sludge Bomb and other things were introduced much later).

As a Defensive type, it can be very good as long as the user can avoid Earthquake. So Weezing, Gengar, and the Poison/Flying Pokémon are all good choices there.

As for Grass? Eh... that's not good defensively or offensively, which in itself makes Poison even less useful since that's all its good against.

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Genre RPG
Developer Game Freak

Worldwide Releases

na: Pokémon HeartGold Version
Release Q2 2010
PublisherNintendo
jpn: Pokémon Heart Gold
Release Q4 2009
PublisherNintendo
eu: Pokémon HeartGold Version
Release Q2 2010
PublisherNintendo
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