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Pokemon HeartGold Review

KevinS By:
E What do these ratings mean?

Life can really burn you up, If you're a Poké-maniac!

My god, honestly, how many Pokémon games have there been so far? Colors, metals, jewels, followed by pinball and cards and puzzle games... probably a dating sim, I don't really know for sure (but really, why not?). It's amazing how long the series has lasted, and with consistantly good games in the line. See, Army Men? It is possible to have a hundred games come out without going stale!

click to enlargeEven if this game's really at heart a remake (reimagining?) of the classic Game Boy Color versions, enough new material has been brought in to make it worth revisiting. The gameplay is completely unchanged from the original versions: Run around the world, stop Team Rocket, and work to make yourself the greatest Pokémon trainer of them all, defeating gym leaders and wild Pokémon along the way to make yourself an enslaver of cute animals stronger.

Battling characters is easy to understand and to work with, and with a steady learning curve, even people who don't play games can easily jump in and fight with the rest of the world. And the collecting, my god... over 200 Pokémon are running around, waiting for someone to throw a Pokéball and enslave raise them as one of their own. And once again, both HeartGold and SoulSilver have their own batch of game-specific characters that must be traded around to complete the massive Pokédex you've been asked to fill.

It's the best RPG for the OCD gamer with a love for cockfighting I've ever known, and remains in top form with every release, but one thing that hurts me to see is the actual battle screens. They might have gotten slightly prettier over every incarnation, but they haven't changed at all over the past decade. With the capabilities of the DS, why haven't we seen anything on the level of the Pokémon Coliseum games yet? They can be done – we all know that – but we're still stuck in the same static, four frames of animation per attack fights we've seen since we could barely see the Game Boy's screen. Might be a small gripe, as it's still basically the same fighting style, but why not make it more visual on a platform that can support it?

click to enlargeThis new version also comes with its own accessory: the Pokéwalker. It's more useful and interesting than the Pokémon Pikachu of yesteryear, as it's filled with different capabilities. Besides being a pedometer, you can port one of your caught Pokémon to it to do a bunch of little things. You can battle (and catch) Pokémon while you're out on a stroll, find items in the bushes, and even play around with other players (provided they've brought their own 'walker' to the party). It might seem like a gimmick – and it really is – but it can come in handy. Grinding in this game can be a bit of a chore, so every step you take on a walk will give experience to whomever you've elected to walk with. That's right... walking can level up your character (one level a stroll). Best part? It's not a digital pet. That idea shipped sailed years ago, thank the Poké-gods.

What's also not a gimmick is the online capabilities. Nintendo and Game Freak have dropped enough in here to keep a wireless connection busy. Each Pokémon Center is equipped with portals to the standards of wireless battling and training against a local friend, but downstairs in each Center are two additional connections: one of the Wi-Fi Plaza and another to the Wi-Fi Club. The Wi-Fi Club allows you to battle against friends over the Internet that you've logged (those Nintendo friend codes again), while the Plaza is just a small area with a few mini-games and a collection of players from around the world.

The mini-games aren't really that fun, however, and they take a long time to fill up and get started, so they're not worth the hassle. They're not even head-to-head games, just a matter of “who gets the higher score” or “throw the balls". They might as well be rejected Mario Party games. Still, maybe this is a good step forward, as you are playing with players from around the world. And the connection feels solid; I was never once booted or I never experienced any noticeable lag.

click to enlargeThe most distracting feature online is being able to communicate with other players, and it's obvious in the Wi-Fi Plaza. You don't actually talk to anyone, even in the way of something like Pictochat. You're given a set of options that you can talk to them with, which feels so impersonal and impractical; you can't even ask how the weather is on their side of the world. I can understand if Nintendo and Game Freak couldn't find a way to utilize the microphone, but c'mon now, if you're going to offer communication between people through the Plaza, give us something to work with!

Even with those gripes, this version might very well be the best of the series since the original Red and Blue, with a completely engrossing world, ability to link and trade to earlier versions as far back as the GBA (no version of the DS reads the original Game Boy carts, so SOL on that front... but do you really want that Missingno you caught so badly?) and a few amusing – if lackluster – online games on top of being able to battle any of your friends anywhere. I'd forgotten how easy it is to be completely sucked in, and it's a beautiful feeling to want to catch them all again.

Right after I take my Magicarp out for a walk. Is it wrong that I like to see him just flop around on the tiny LCD screen?

B Revolution report card
  • Overhauled to near-perfection
  • Graphically gorgeous
  • Pokéwalker is actually worthwhile!
  • Online play is stable and available
  • Online mini-games available but lackluster
  • Battles could use an overhaul
    Reviews by other members
    No member reviews for the game.

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Also known as: Pokemon Heart Gold

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