Pokémon HeartGold

Nintendo's Pokémon series hasn't changed much since its humble beginnings on the Gameboy, although it has nonetheless managed to sell well in Japan and beyond. After the series landed on the Nintendo DS with the Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum versions, Nintendo announced remakes of the Gold and Silver versions on the Gameboy entitled Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver, which retain the franchise's addictive gameplay, in spite of their flaws. This review is based on the HeartGold version.

With some exceptions, the battle system is almost the same as it was in the Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum versions. Random encounters occur in grass patches and in caves, with the player picking one of up to six active Pokémon to appear at the start of combat, facing off one-on-one against an enemy Pokémon. The player has a number of options, including using one of the Pokémon's four abilities, using an item, attempting to escape, or switching with another Pokémon.

Most attacks, and Pokémon themselves, are of a particular element (sometimes two, in the case of Pokémon), with certain attacks strong against certain Pokémon types and weak against others, adding an element of strategy throughout the game. The player can also switch Pokémon during combat, although doing so wastes the player's turn, a step down from the character-swapping systems of other RPGs such as Final Fantasy X and Breath of Fire IV. Defeating a Pokémon nets all Pokémon the player used to defeat it experience, with level-ups, and sometimes, opportunities to learn a new skill (with a Pokémon needing to forget one it has if it has four skills), happening occasionally.

Trainers that the player frequently faces throughout the game usually have more than one Pokémon, and will send in another when the player defeats one. Defeating all of a trainer's Pokémon will net the player some money they can use to purchase items at shops. However, losing to a trainer will cost the player money. The player also has a phone, and will sometimes receive calls from trainers who want rematches. If the player is facing a wild Pokémon, they can attempt to catch it with a Pokéball, with a better capture rate for Pokémon that are sleeping and/or are low on HP.

When leveling, Pokémon may occasionally evolve into more powerful forms, with certain consumable items necessary to evolve certain Pokémon types. The player can also trade Pokémon via Wi-Fi, with trading necessary, as well, to get certain Pokémon to evolve. A new feature is the Pokéwalker, a pedometer into which the player can put a Pokémon, which will level depending upon how far the player walks, with the Pokémon simultaneously walking on a selected Pokéwalker route, and more routes occasionally unlocked.

Overall, the battle system can be fun and addictive, though like in the Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum versions, fights can feel a bit slow, even with attack animations turned off, since again, the player has to sit through the HP meters rolling to indicate damage and recovery, which can needlessly drag out battles late in the game. If ever the player tires of combat, they can nullify encounters with weak Pokémon with repel-type items. In the end, combat is still the main drawing point to the game as it was in previous Pokémon generations.

The controls are also solid, with an always-welcome save-anywhere feature, alongside easy menus. However, there are some points where it's unclear on how to proceed, and going back and forth between visited towns can be difficult until the player acquires the Fly skill later in the game. Still, interaction in Pokémon HeartGold is more than adequate.

Story, as usual, is the low point of the game, with no real character development or depth to the rivalry between the player's character and his or her rival. The translation, though, is largely spotless, in spite of some compressed names for items at time, and overall, the plot isn't a reason to purchase the game.

The quality of the music, while there are many decent tracks such as a few battle and town themes, is still below par for a Nintendo DS game. The graphics are also largely the same as they were in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, combining 2-D and 3-D elements, but hardly pushing the system to its visual limits.

Finally, a straightforward playthrough of the game can take as little as forty hours, although completing the goal of catching every Pokémon can take well over a hundred hours. Ultimately, // Pokémon HeartGold// provides an experience largely on par with the rest of the series, what with fun combat and tight control but its other aspects, such as its story, hardly being reasons to experience the game. Those who damn each of the franchise's subsequent entries to be more of the same likely won't find anything to celebrate, while fans of the series will likely have a good time.

The Good:
+Strategic battle system with lots of Pokémon to catch.
+You can save anywhere.
+Endless lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Combat can feel slow.
-Light on plot.
-Weak musical and graphical quality.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 4/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Varies
Playing Time: 40+ Hours

Overall: 6.5/10

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