When the MyGamer staff was deciding which Pokemon video game to pick for the Top 20 Game Boy Games of All Time article, the final decision came down to Pokemon Yellow and Pokemon Gold and Silver. While Yellow ultimately got picked, and ended up being declared the best Game Boy game of all time, that “GSC” generation of Pokemon was as good as any other game on a Nintendo handheld. While, like any other remake, HeartGold and SoulSilver lack a bit of the flare from their original iterations, they are still solid, entertaining and addicting games that break up a bit of a dull streak for the DS.
Pokemon HG/SS remains almost exactly the same game from 2000, though it does add some of the modern Pokemon sensibilities. You still traipse around the Johto region, and collect the various exclusive-to-the-area Pokemon. Team Rocket returns as the primary antagonists for the game, and your goal remains visiting each city around Johto, defeating Gym Leaders en route to the Pokemon League Championship. A lot of the various special features that gave the game its unique flavor return, specifically time-and-day-specific events like the bug-catching contest and encounters with rare Pokemon. A lot of the things that made the game special back in 2000 are now standard in the Pokemon series, like the expanded Pokedex, the “baby” Pokemon and the previously unknown new evolutions like Steelix and Porygon, however it still stands out as a unique experience in a series that some would contend has been milked past its time.
If you have ever played a handheld Pokemon title, you already know the gameplay drill…though I’m basically contractually required to restate it. You start in a small town, grab a “starter” Pokemon (either a fire, water or plant type) and have to battle your way through the country. You can hold up to six beasties at a time, and each victory lets you level them up RPG-style. You capture new Pokemon by beating the crap out of wild breeds, then hitting them with a Pokeball. You can spend plenty of time with the AI of the game, but the real fun comes when you’re battling another person, which can be done by both local or Wi-Fi multiplayer (though Nintendo’s goofy friend code system remains a hindrance to the entire experience). The game has insane replay value…though you really don’t even need to start over, with plenty of post-story fun to be had.
Graphically, the game isn’t astounding, but has well-crafted environments and quality presentation. The game also has a new set of sprites that are different from Diamond, Pearl and Platinum titles. They’re new and different…but not necessarily better or worse. Sound follows the same path, with the same catchy tunes from other games in the series, though with some light remixing.
So now the all-important question…should you buy this game? Well, it’s obviously a somewhat tough call. There are already a trio of quality Pokemon titles on the DS in Diamond, Pearl and Platinum. Then again, SoulSilver and HeartGold hold plenty of value themselves. There’s also the Pokewalker to consider, which is a fun little thing, especially if you’re going to be constantly congregating around other gamers (the Penny Arcade Expo, just as an example, had “clouds” of people come and go, swapping items with their Pokewalkers). If you’re a hardcore Pokemon fan, who breeds for IVs and plays through the game multiple times just to get TM 89s, you’ve already got this game. If you’re somebody looking to just get into Pokemon, SoulSilver or HeartGold are more newbie-friendly than the other DS titles. If you’ve been around the block and just want to get one specific Pokemon game, Platinum is likely the best bet. Regardless, Pokemon SoulSilver is a quality game if you take it on its own merits, and it’s a safe pickup if you’re looking for either a casual play-through, or want to go the competitive battling route.