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Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are misleading to the untrained eye. Despite coming at the end of the DS’ life, and after the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum set of games that brought the roster of catchable critters to an eye-watering 493, these two titles are actually remakes from the GameBoy Color era. They were released nine years ago, putting this reviewer at the tender age of twelve when first played. It’s at this point where I might now explain to you how much things have changed, and how much the series has bettered itself over the years, but, really, it hasn’t.
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The key, core mechanics have never changed. You still have an uncontrollable urge to catch ‘em all, there’s still bastard legendary Pokémon that run away if your team so much as breathes near them, and you still traipse through the tired eight gyms, Elite Four formula.
But that doesn’t matter.
These DS outings show how advanced Pokémon games were and still are, at first being a showcase for cute animals – any of which now follows loyally behind your character – but at most being a deep, number-crunching RPG full of attack and defence stats, effort and individual values, and so much more. You can go as far down the Poké hole as you want. I’m in it because I can get a special Pichu, not because I could turn that little mouse into a tank. And, crucially, the game never criticises me for doing so.
Nevertheless, the game’s repeated nature does show, especially as there are two islands and sets of gyms here. Enter the latest refresher for the series: the Pokéwalker. Blending together a pedometer and minigames, the Pokéwalker allows you to literally take your team out for a ‘stroll’, giving them EXP in the process. It’s a neat touch and one that creates an over the top bond between you and your Pokémon, especially when your Chikorita beeps at you (yes, thank you for finding me a potion, and, no, my lecturer doesn’t want to battle). You soon forget that you’re doing the same thing you did nine years ago because Pokémon is still hugely immersive in its character.
Another fact worth knowing is that you can now catch all but a handful of Pokémon by yourself without the use of other versions. Every trainer will have no problem catching first or fourth generation Pokémon on the same cartridge, and that’s exactly as fun and helpful as it sounds.
From these refreshers, HeartGold and SoulSilver succeed in creating the ultimate, most personal playthrough yet, in one of the best dream worlds ever created. This is something everyone should experience.