Pokémon. This is a word that is synonymous with my childhood. Heck, I don’t remember how old I when I got Pokémon Blue Version for my birthday. But you know what? Thanks to that little blue square and the purple see-through rectangle I was supposed to stick it in, I became the gamer I am now.
Well, I’m sure that’s jumping the shark, but that’s simply how I feel. Pokémon means a lot to me. When I play it, it is one of those rare instances in my teenage life when I completely become a child again. I go on planned “adventures,” sleep at night with fond dreams of venturing across the Orre region (Pokémon Colosseum / Gale of Darkness), and have a good time during the day playing with my friends. When the remakes of the Silver/Gold/Crystal games were announced, I looked at one screen shot on Serebii (Possibly the best Pokéfan destination) and went “Hey, sweet!” My DS and I have a mixed relationship, but this game helped rekindle my fondness for it.
- “It’s a whole new world” – That quote is from the anime cartoon’s theme song when the series went to the Johto region, and I find it fitting because the Johto region was almost completely forgotten by me. See, the Hoenn region from Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald is fresh in my memory because I played that almost daily for years. The Sinnoh region in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum is memorable as well, being the last region I trekked across. Kanto, the setting of the first Game Boy Color games, was also in my memory because of its iconic nature, and the Fire Red and Leaf Green remakes for the GBA. Johto was exclusive to G/S/C and I felt like I was in a place I’d never been to, thanks in part to the complete graphical overhaul of the region to make it look nice on the DS.
- Touch It – The first DS Pokémon titles seemed to hardly use the feature outside of a few in-game gimmicks, most of which were simple touching on the lower screen or blowing into the mic. This disappointed me and kind of put me off in those games. But now, HeartGold and SoulSilver have been made very compatible with the DS. The controls are relatively the same, but the touch screen is a quick access menu and while still rather simplified, it was nice to see the game being designed specifically for the DS.
- Three Dimensions – The graphics are very nice throughout, and I actually thought some areas were nothing short of beautiful (The Autumn Forest that leads to the Bell Tower). They take a page from previous titles, not only having a more 3D look to the world, but also going a bit beyond that. Some areas have a more depth added in: going down stairs looks like you’re actually going lower and walking down into a pit or cave looks like you’re going through a small window, as opposed to regular two-dimensional graphics. With the recent announcement of the 3DS, I wonder if this implies more games will be compatible with it than previously thought.
- PokéWalker – Part of the gimmick behind these games is the in-box pedometer. Using this, you can transfer a Pokémon from your in game PC to the pedometer, and with every step you build up little points referred to as “Watts”. For every three watts, you can scan the area in a little mini-game for items. For ten watts, you can pit your Pokémon against a wild one and potentially catch it. This sounds tacky but is actually kind of fun, and I enjoyed the extra encouragement to bring the DS places – and in a way, I can see parents telling their own kids about how, if they walk around more and get more exercise, they can unlock new stuff (A flying Pikachu!? Thanks Nintendo!). Then again I am no parent, but it seems like a nice incentive.
- It’s Still Fun – Again, I’ve been with this series since I was maybe… four? These games are still fun to me, a sixteen year old high school student. They are easy to pick up and play, and are something fun to enjoy in between time on my consoles. I can still say I giggle with glee when I whoop one of my friends’ rear end with my old pal Totidile. I’m sure not everyone still even plays the games if they once did, and I’m sure a lot of “hardcore” gamers scoff at the concept of it, but this game is very enjoyable and is probably my favorite RPG series alongside Mass Effect, .//Hack and Knights of the Old Republic. There is also a lot for fans of the series to see and laugh at, from inside jokes to familiar faces.
- “Follow Me” – Having your Pokémon first in your party now means it will follow you around the game’s Overworld. I found this to be pretty fun. It doesn’t dramatically affect anything, except making your Pokémon like you more, but it does look pretty cool walking around a city with a giant bird flying behind you. Just sayin’.
- Story – Yeah, I know… criticizing Pokémon for its story is like criticizing the sun for rising: it’s moronic. But hear me out here. In Pokémon Platinum, you were facing off against “Team Galactic,” a gang of thugs that wanted to literally destroy the entire universe and create a perfect one, without the “filthy” emotions we carry with us. In something of a dark twist, after hearing the Team’s leader, Cyrus, give a speech about this goal, you learn that he doesn’t even care about those fighting for his dream (“I seek an entirely new world solely for myself. If not, it could never a complete and perfect world. You’ve seen my minions of Team Galactic. You yourself must know that they are uniformly useless and incomplete.”). That sounds innocent enough, but think about it for a second – he pretty much wants to exterminate everything that exists, just so he can have some peace and quiet on his own world with absolutely no interference being possible. Sounds kind of badass, but then we come back to “Team Rocket” in Pokémon Soul Silver/Heart Gold. Team Rocket in this romp, are a bunch of annoying bullies who whine about their boss having left them after losing three years ago (See Fire Red/Leaf Green) and are trying to get him back. Anticlimactically, their plan almost succeeds but then they just vanish. Thanks to a special (Japanese only as of this writing) event, a time-traveling Pokémon takes the player around through time and you learn that the message that Rocket wanted to get out actually made it. Unfortunately, due to the intervention of “Future You,” their boss decided to pansy out of it. Thanks, Game Freak.
- Kanto – When you beat the Elite Four at “The End” and unlock the Kanto region, you are probably expecting, like me, for there to be a second sort of storyline. Not so much. No more Team Rocket (well, okay, one who missed the memo and his story ends almost as anticlimactically as the previous time) and only the Kanto Gym Leaders to take on. This adds some features and time to the game, and also, lets you unlock one last area that features a cameo of the main character from the “first” games. Unfortunately, there’s almost nothing to do beyond that. Exploring and nostalgically having some shenanigans is nice, but it’s just so . . . well, boring. It also makes the game feel kind of like a colorful rehashing which G/S/C kind of were when they first came out. But still, there’s little excuse for a lack of features.
- The “Pal Park” – Man, eff the effin’ pal park. I want to refrain from using the F-Bomb in my reviews, but my god… Okay, to transfer Pokémon from the Game Boy Advanced games, you need to plug it into a DS/DS Lite’s bottom loader and hit up the icon for transferring Pokémon on the main menu before you start your game. You choose six Pokémon in your box, and then save, and start up. Now, instead of them going into your PC, you have to go to Kanto’s Pal Park in Fuchsia City. Basically, you talk to some guy, and run around in some water and grass to re-catch your Pokémon. Don’t worry, you won’t have to battle them. You just throw a Pokeball and catch it. You have to nab all six you chose, leave and save your game. To add further insult to it all, you’re asked if you “would like to keep the Pokémon you caught.” Well no shiz I wanna keep the effin’ Pokémon! That’s why I’m here! And now I get to reset my DS and do this all again. Oh and by the way, if any of your Pokémon know a HM move, one that has to be removed by a Move Deleter, it can’t be transferred, meaning you have to hunt ‘em down in the GBA title you’re using. This is tedious and doesn’t even need to be here. I can understand the HM thing, and maybe the technical issues with the six Pokémon at a time limit, but running around for about ten minutes just to re-catch my Pokémon was excruciatingly annoying and repetitive.
- Voltorb Flip – Okay, so in past Pokémon games, “Game Corners” (little casino-like areas) were around in certain cities. You could play slots, get some coins, and go buy yourself some rare Pokémon or items. In Pokémon Platinum’s European release, the British (I believe) government had made some new laws about gambling. This lead to the Brits getting a modified Game Corner featuring a machine where you basically walked up once a day, poked it, and got coins. Whoop-de-effin’-doo. In the original G/S/C, there was some card game along with the slots. And now a reimaging is here: Voltorb Flip. It’s a mixture of Minesweeper and ripping out your hair. The Japanese copes if HG and SS keep the slots, but everyone else gets this annoying as hell card game that is nearly impossible to win without an online fan-made calculator. It’s hell and almost encouraged me and my friends to toss our DS’s against the wall.
In the end, most of my beefs with these new games are nitpicks. This series has always been mainly aimed at children, and children will love this game, especially if they loved previous titles. This is a good DS game, and a good game in general. While Pokémon White and Black were recently announced, this is a good way to help stem the boredom until their release. It’s just that as a fan of the series, I kind of liked Platinum, and even some of Emerald on the GBA better. And as a certain cartoon hedgehog that I watched along the same time as Pokémon once said, that’s no good.
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were produced by Game Freak and Nintendo for the Nintendo DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, and as of yet unreleased 3DS.
AMMIH Score: 3/5
Sick’s Motion Sickness Rating: 1/5