Pokemon Heart Gold Soul Silver Review

HG Title

Title: Pokemon Heart Gold / Soul Silver
Developer: Game Freak, Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: Nintendo DS

The Pokemon franchise is huge and has gotten into the idea of remaking their older games, ever since the Game Boy Advance generation.  When Game Freak and Nintendo remade the original Pokemon games in the form of Fire Red and Leaf Green, I was beyond excited.  I still remember going to a local store and seeing them both in a case, loving the art of Charizard they’d put on the box.  Re-discovering Gen 1 with Gen 3’s enhancements and graphics was a great trip.

Now, these things are more or less a normal thing.  One of the first 3DS reviews I did was for the Generation 3 remakes, Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby.  People are already starting to guess when the remakes of Diamond and Pearl are going to start development.  It’s just been that much of a pattern.

Before we can think ahead, though, we need to take a look back.  The Generation 1 remakes came out on the Game Boy Advance, and the Generation 3 remakes came out on the 3DS and 2DS.  So, that just leaves the original DS for the other remakes and something I’ve been seeking for months to do a review on.  Now that we’re here, let’s take a look.  Here is my retro review of the Generation 2 remakes, Pokemon: Heart Gold and Pokemon: Soul Silver!

Story

HG Story
What they are so freaked out about?  It’s a secret

Unlike the Generation 1 remakes, Soul Silver and Heart Gold strictly follow the story of the original Silver And Gold games.  While there are many events that have been added for game-specific features, there is no extended storyline like there was with the extra islands in Fire Red and Leaf Green.

Knowing this, we follow a trainer who lives in the Johto region, beginning a quest to capture Pokemon and eventually take on the Elite Four to put their name in history.  On the way, he has major dealings with the revival of Team Rocket, whom had disbanded after the events of Generation 1, but are attempting to come back and search for their missing leader.

As I said above, some events were added for game features.  Pokemon following you is brought back from Pokemon Yellow, and some of the beginning story events were changed to make sense out of this feature, rather than relying on the anime’s Pikachu’s refusal to be inside a Pokeball.

The lack of new story may put some people off, but there is a ton of content to do, regardless.  Veterans are well aware that Generation 2 is large enough that you do all of the content in the Johto region and are given the opportunity to continue further by re-exploring the entirety of the Kanto region that you explore in Red, Blue, and Yellow, as well as challenging all of Kanto’s Gym Leaders and a fateful encounter with the Main Character from those games, Red.

Considering how much content was already there, the lack of new expansion can be forgiven.

Gameplay

HG Game 1
Any Pokemon following you is something they seriously need to bring back in Sun and Moon

Like all Pokemon games, Heart Gold and Soul Silver are turn-based RPGs set around exploring a large world, catching and taming Pokemon to fight through trainers and gym leaders.  This is how things were during the original games and it still is like that in the new games.  It’s what Pokemon has always been about.

Since this is a remake, there are a lot of gameplay changes.  We have a lot of new features that were added in Generations 3 and 4, from Pokeball creation to double battles of 2 pokemon vs 2 opposing pokemon.  Like any fan would expect, Soul Silver is like taking the original Silver and Gold and applying all of the enhancements from the previous generation to it.  As such, Heart Gold and Soul Silver play just like Diamond and Pearl.

Some things have changed, though.  Story progression requirements are different.  Many things that were completely optional in the original games you have to do for story purposes, such as getting the Radio Card in one city and even seeing and facing the two Legendary Birds, Ho-Oh and Lugia.  It gives players more to do and adds a bit to the plot in a similar way that Generation 3 did with the storyline between Kyogre, Groudon, and Rayquaza.

The most noticeable and cutest enhancement is the fact that Pokemon can follow you, like Pikachu did in Pokemon: Yellow Version on the Game Boy/Game Boy Color.  Although the story scene specifically sets this around your Starter Pokemon, you can have any Pokemon follow you and their unique sprite will be walking or flying behind you for whoever is in the first slot.  Any of the 493 Pokemon available can do this, from small Pokemon like Pidgey and Marrill to larger Pokemon like Zapdos and Lugia.

HG Game 2
The Great Battle of Gen 2, remade

All in all, though, the same journey happens.  You still travel through Johto to challenge the Gym Leaders and Elite Four, but it’s enough that it really does feel like a new adventure.  The fact that you can capture more than Kanto and Johto Pokemon enhances this, as does the ability to catch the four primary Legendary Pokemon from Kanto when you visit that region(Articuno, Moltres, Zapdos, and Mewtwo).

Heart Gold and Soul Silver also sported online multiplayer, though that is all but useless now.  When I tried with various hotspots, it wouldn’t even register as a usable hotspot.  Play the game and enjoy single player (or do the hassle of tossing Pokemon between versions to eventually get them onto X and Y and the Pokemon Bank), but don’t expect online multiplayer to happen.

There is only one feature that really bugged me.  With your gear, you got the ability to re-challenge trainers and had them calling you with updates on their journey.  This is a great way to help you train for the Pokemon League, but the calling feature is over-used.  It got to the point where almost every battle I had ended in a call on my Gear that was a copy-paste job of something the same trainer had sent me several times even that very same day.  It happened so often that I started completely ignoring it, not realizing that some calls were important for the story.

With length, you’re in for a long trek.  On average, I’d put this game at least as a 40 hour adventure, if not more.  As with all Pokemon games, you’re going to be spending a long time in your initial trek, and that extra trek through Kanto adds a lot more hours to the journey.

Controls

The game’s controls are pretty easy, and also had a big focus on touch controls.  While everything can be done with physical controls, all of the menu options are on the touch screen.  This was to encourage players to use the stylus pen for menu options as well as registered heavy-use items, like the bicycle or running shoes.

Aside from touch controls, you can use the D-Pad or Circle Pad to move around and the L/R triggers to cycle sections when looking at menus.  With the face buttons, you can use the A button to select options or interact and the B button to cancel options.  X is used for pulling up the menu and Y is used for registered items.

It’s a pretty simple way of doing things and offers versatility in the form of using touch for menus and battles or traditional button controls.

Presentation

HG Pres
Like the GBA games but on the DS

Visually, don’t expect to see anything here you didn’t see in Diamond and Pearl.  The visuals of the game (outside of the 3D intro) basically look like the Gen 3 GBA games, but with more in-depth and 3D-ish battle animations.  This worked well for Diamond and Pearl and it does help the retro feel.  However, the renders lack polish.  Even on the 2DS, there are jagged edges and blemishes all over the place on the battle renders.  It just looks unpolished and more like a GBA game than a DS game.

Performance has no issues, though.  Unlike the 3D Pokemon games on the 3DS, we don’t have any frame drops to worry about.  Everything in that regard functions very well in the Generation 2 remakes.

Summary

Pokemon: Heart Gold and Soul Silver are some of the hardest games in the series to find these days.  Aside from visual blemishes and an annoying call-back feature for the PokeGear, this is a refreshing take on an old tale from the Game Boy Color.  Fans of the series and specifically of Generation 2 should definitely grab a copy if they have the chance. 

8/10

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