Tempest’s Downpour – Pokemon Gold: Then And Now

Posted on Sep 04 2011

The last Pokémon game I played was Pokémon Crystal on the Gameboy Color. It’s not for a lack of interest — I’ve always loved the games. Everyone else in America does too, though, which makes them pretty expensive for a half-broke gamer like myself.

I typically dust off my Gameboy Color every two years and set playing the original six games. But this past week, I craved something more modern. While riding on the draft of nostalgia this past week, I caught myself ogling the recent remakes: Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver.

For those of you who don’t know, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are remakes of the classic Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal. And it is pretty much the same game with every aspect improved. I’ll recount the details of my three-day, 7-hour trial of Pokémon HeartGold.

The game makes good use of the DS’s dual-screen abilities, without forcing too much onto the player. The bottom screen is typically used for selecting actions in Pokémon battles, but will switch to the “Press A” “Press B” system if you find yourself falling backwards into nostalgia (or completely inept at learning a new system). The bottom screen also acts as Inventory and Options, which is so much better than scrolling sideways through a menu.

What the bottom and top screens look like

The graphics are very obviously different. On top of clearer, more detailed pictures, brighter colors and more defined character models, there is an illusion of 3-D elements. The thing that struck me most ludicrously as wondrous was the fact that the trees all moved at a very slightly different pace than the other objects on the screen: the tops of the trees lingered in the shot for just a half-second, giving the impression of a camera angle taken from a helicopter. I kid you not, I giggled like a maniac and immediately ran to show my grandma so she could gasp in delight as well. I was so stupidly pleased.

The graphical differences are obvious from the start of the game

That’s nothing compared to the Pokémon Gyms, though. The moment I stepped onto the platform in Falkner’s gym, it jolted me upwards via a series of gears and cogs. Like an astounded 5-year-old, I walked on and off the platform several times just to see the animation again. And when I assumed that would be the last of that, Bugsy’s gym had me ride mechanical spiders WHOSE LEGS MOVED. I haven’t seen anything that cool since the singing, Vocaloid-powered robot.

Of course, since this game is a remake it had its fare share of gameplay improvements. Whichever Pokémon is at the top of your party gets to travel around with you outside its Pokéball. That leaves an opening for interaction, which I completely forgot to participate in. I think it smiles at you or something, I dunno. An awesome change is that starting in the second town, you’re given running shoes that are about as fast as the bike was in the old games. To top that, the bike in the remakes is INSANELY fast and I’m a pretty terrible driver. If the trainers in different patches of grass were particularly squishy, there would have been no survivors.

They also added bits of light in the dark caves, which, in my mind, is reminiscent to the pen light James had in Silent Hill 2. It casts a small circle of light that shows enough detail to render the FLASH HM completely useless. I don’t quite get why the developers did that, unless there were a lot of complaints from parents.

Another bonus was in battling the twins: they both sent their Pokémon out at the same time, so the game had me send two of my Pokémon out at the same time as well. I forget what the term is (Tag-team duel? Wait, no, that’s Yu-Gi-Oh!), but this was my first taste of a double-Pokémon battle, and I LOVED it. Keeping to this new tradition of adding awesome from newer games, they included an enormous battle tower for, I assume, online Pokémon battles. However, I’m playing with a dinky DS Lite that has no Internet access, so I didn’t get to explore that. On the other hand, I did get to dress up my Bellsprout to look like an anorexic Santa Claus and took a picture of it.

The dress-up or “Visual Styling” booth

In all honesty, the music and sound effects have improved. The strength lies in the clearer quality, and the nods to the originals. The Pokémon cries remain the same bizarre mash of notes, only a bit clearer. The background music, meanwhile, takes heavy influence from the original, but has expanded upon the music that started these games. The songs are catchy and familiar, and the battle music gets the heart pumping. I found the Rival’s music the most exciting.

Speaking of the rival, whenever you encounter him, the screen flashes “Vs.” in big letters and shows you a full-body shot of him. And he’s pretty smokin’. Just putting that out there. (I named mine McPants after my favorite Let’s Play.)

The gameplay, when you get down to it, is the same old thing I’ve always loved. There’s a certain thrill to catching, raising and battling Pokémon. With the improved graphics, I enjoyed the familiarity of the town layouts while immersing myself in the visual stimulation of music, color, detail and, of course, the trees.

As in the previous incarnations, the game started slowing down and losing appeal for me around Goldenrod City. That’s just fine, because the point is to go out and catch new Pokémon to give yourself a new challenge. I look forward to playing more.

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  • Zero Gravity September 6, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    If you enjoyed HG/SS you should check out Black/White.
    As for Flash, although it could be useless outside of battle, in battle it gives Psychic/Electric types a good way to reduce stats, and also a good was to bred a legend hunter (A pokemon that stat hurts Legends weakens them).
    Great review though! made me wanna play Crystal again

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