Pokemon is back, and this time it’s in the form of a remake of what many people consider to be the best installment in the core series, Pokemon Gold and Silver.
Even if you have never played the original Gold or Silver on Game Boy Color, HeartGold will still feel very familiar if you have ever played through any other titles in the series. You still start off your adventure in a small lazy town with one of three starter Pokemon, you still battle your way from city to city collecting gym badges, and you still cut, surf, and fly your way through numerous locales. The battle system in HeartGold is the same glorified turn-based game of rock-paper-scissors (perhaps I should say fire-grass-water) of the previous Pokemon titles as well. In other words, HeartGold follows the same addicting formula that GameFreak has been using since 1996. That said, even if you have never picked up a Pokemon title before in your life, HeartGold will still do a great job of easing you into the experience gently.
Okay, HeartGold is similar to every other game in the core series, so what’s new? Game Freak usually does a good job of revising their Pokemon formula with every new installment, and HeartGold is no exception. Perhaps the most helpful improvement in HeartGold is the revised menu interface; everything is located completely on the bottom screen of the DS, meaning that pretty much every menu in the game utilizes touch controls. Navigating your inventory or trading with a friend online has never been quicker. In the same vein, battles in HeartGold also unfold at a quicker pace, with less lag between button presses and action than we saw in Diamond and Pearl. These small quality of life revisions may not sound like much, but they definitely add up when you’re playing a massive game like this one.
If there’s one obvious new addition to HeartGold, it’s the PokeWalker. The PokeWalker is a device that comes bundled with HeartGold and SoulSilver that is designed to allow you to take one of your pocket monsters with you wherever you go in…what else…your pocket! The PokeWalker communicates with the game via a small infrared strip on the top of the HeartGold cartridge, and it is quite simple to transfer one of your Pokemon over from the main game into the little Pokeball-shaped pedometer. For the most part, the PokeWalker is just a simple way to level up one of your monsters while you are too busy to actually play the main game; you simply walk around with the device in your pocket and it does the rest for you. However, you can also play some simple mini games on the PokeWalker that might score you some useful items or even allow you to catch a new Pokemon that you can then transfer back to HeartGold. The PokeWalker is a neat but largely inconsequential addition to HeartGold, but it does, along with the fact that your lead Pokemon follows you around as a sprite in-game, help you feel a little more attached to your creatures, as nerdy as that might sound.
Pokemon HeartGold is a huge game; most Pokemon titles feature eight gym badges to collect, a few rare legendary Pokemon, and then a battle with the “Elite Four,” a group of bosses that stand between you and becoming the next Pokemon Champion. Usually, all of this takes place in one large region. In HeartGold, there are two regions, Johto and Kanto. That means that there are 16 badges to collect in all, and a staggeringly huge number of Pokemon and trainers to encounter. When all is said and done, most people will probably spend at least 60 hours completing HeartGold, and that is not including any time devoted to online trading or battles and a host of other side activities such as the new “Pokeathlon” mini games, which happen to be quite fun on their own.
There is no getting around the fact that HeartGold is an epic game, even compared to the other lengthy Pokemon titles. When all is said and done, HeartGold doesn’t do much to change the core Pokemon experience, but that’s not what the game was made to do. Since the beginning, Pokemon has been a fun and addicting series, and HeartGold exists just to provide more for people who love it. HeartGold is the most refined and epic Pokemon game to date, and a wonderful way to either revisit the series or take your first step into the world of Pokemon.
Plays Like: Every other core Pokemon title
Pros: Huge, lengthy game; menu interface improvements; PokeWalker implementation
Cons: Wasting move slots on your Pokemon for those annoying HM moves