As a franchise, Pokémon is rated as the second highest grossing game franchise in history, having shifted approximately 193 million of its various incarnations. So basically, if you’ve never heard of it, then it’s probably because your Oceanic flight crash landed on a polar bear infested island in the middle of nowhere.
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are the latest releases in the series, following the trend of Pokémon to have their games named after various jewels and colours, although quite how you can call the above proper colours I’m not sure, possibly the amount of money they’ve made from little kids over the years has allowed them some incredibly expensive (and ultimately disturbing) transplants? However, rather than original creations, these two titles are in fact remakes of previous games released on the Gameboy Colour (unsurprisingly titled Gold and Silver). This seems to be rather a trend with the Pokémon Company after their re-release of the original titles Red and Blue, on the Gameboy Advance.
Despite this, Gold and Silver are generally regarded as the best games in the series and perhaps an updated version of these games is a nice nod to the fans who have constantly barraged Nintendo with e-mails, asking them to do so. The games will undoubtedly do well, drawing in both the newer gamers who missed out on Gold and Silver the first time round, and those of us who fancy some nostalgia and a chance to re-live the glory days of Pokémon.
So, the basics. Pokémon games tend to follow the same underlying gameplay mechanic. You play [insert name here], an up and coming Pokémon trainer who lives in a world where young children are forced out of their homes at a young age to wander homeless, forbidden to return until they have hunted down and caught innocent wild animals called Pokémon. They then force these animals to engage in gladiatorial style combat to the death, eventually becoming good enough to beat the masters of this blood sport, the ‘Elite Four’.
… Okay, well maybe it isn’t as macabre as that, but the basics are there. The actual principles are that you form bonds with your Pokémon, who share in your adventures, as you become friends and team-mates on your road to becoming a Pokémon master, and learning all about your world and the Pokémon you share it with. It is a game that somehow manages to instill its players with a genuine sense of care and concern for your Pokémon friends.
In case you really have been trapped on a desert island, the actual gameplay is a simple grinding / experience points mechanic. For every battle you engage in, your chosen Pokémon gain experience points. After they have gained enough experience points, they level up, and as they level up they learn better moves and gain points to their stats (attack, defence, speed etc). Some Pokémon, after leveling or meeting special conditions may evolve, transforming from the cute little thing they were, into stronger and fiercer Pokémon, much like Bruce Banner becoming The Hulk.
These latest games bring very little new to the series, since they are remakes, however they do keep much of the charms of the originals, whilst bringing updated graphics and a whole host of in-game activities and secrets to be discovered through special events, available via download during the lifespan of the game, or through transferring Pokémon from the older games. The game is also one of the largest, giving players the chance to not only conquer the Johto region, but also the Kanto region (the setting of the original Red and Blue games) with its own set of locations, events and battles to be fought.
… What? You say I’ve missed something important? Aaaah yes, you might have heard of a nifty new piece of kit included with the new games, known as the ‘PokéWalker’. Essentially it is a Tamagotchi with a built in Pedometer (you may remember the craze of teenage girls carrying these around with them as replacement for real pets, since animals being neglected – as Tamagotchies tend to be – is you know… fatal). The game allows you to transfer a Pokémon from your game, to the walker. As you walk around, your Pokémon levels up and grows fonder toward you. It also collects ‘Watts’, these can then be used to find items and rare Pokémon on a range of different routes you can walk, with special routes downloadable via special events.
I think the games are incredibly fun, providing a large number of hours gameplay; good humor, bright and colourful scenery and a well thought out battle system. If you’re a long standing fan of the series then you’ll love it. However, I do believe it is time that Pokémon perhaps thought about a renovation? So far all of the main games have followed a similar vein and story line, and whilst they say ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ I get the feeling that rather large cracks are going to be found if the next game is identical to the others. If you like, Nintendo, I have the number for an excellent interior decorator?
MLG User Review Rating: 8/10
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