SparklingBlue Plays Pokemon Soul Silver

Last May, Pokemon fans the world over received a pleasent surprise that was 10 years in the making: remakes of the beloved second generation games Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver. In addition to the classic plot, there would be new characters (such as a new playable female character), new twists to a classic story, the ability for every Pokemon to follow you, a Battle Frontier, and many more surprises. But is all of that worth the return trip to Johto?

There will be spoilers in here, so if you want to be surprised, click away now.

Still with me? Let’s return to that whole new world we live in…

Story: Good

The addition of a new female character adds another dimension to a classic story. Unlike the familiar red-haired rival (who is also back), she serves as more of a cheerleader, teaching you how to interact with the Pokemon following you and occassionally giving you items. The Kimono Girls play a larger role in the story as well, with your first encounter being in Violet City. In addition, Eusine and Buena (from Pokemon Crystal) also make an appearance. To review, it’s still your classic “collect eight badges and stop the evil team” tale typical of the Pokemon series, but the number of faces both old and new breathe new life into a well loved generation.

Graphics: Very Good

The Pokemon team put a lot of effort into sprucing up the old graphics, and the sheer detail really shines–every human and Pokemon looks lifelike (or as lifelike as possible on a handheld) and the environs are richly detailed, especially the Gyms–Azalea Gym looks very much like a forest, with you riding on Spinarak platforms to get to Bugsy. Ecruteak Gym is a narrow trek through a shadowy void to get to Morty, and Cianwood Gym consists of two mountains and a “waterfall” (which you must turn off in order for Chuck to even battle you). Even the 3-D image of Lugia flying at the title is fluid and realistic, and shows no sign of the blockiness seen in other DS titles with 3-D. The attention to detail really feels like you are questing across two regions with your team.

Sound/Music: Excellent

Every classic track from Gold and Silver is remixed for the DS, and there are some new songs as well–for example, Ho’oh and Lugia now get their own battle themes, as do the other Legendaries. Both the old tracks and the new sound very nice, and fit their environs perfectly, with some so good, you want to hear them again and again (such as the final showdown with Lance/Red)

Gameplay: Excellent

Both Heart Gold and Soul Silver offer plenty to do outside of the main quest. The Bug Catching Contest, the radio shows, the Trainer House, and even the Safari Zone (a feature absent in the originals) return; but there’s also some new events, namely the Pokeathlon–something like a mini Olympics for your Pokemon (complete with your character changing into a jersey) and a Battle Frontier–and many more daily events. Even the games come with a fun extra–a pocket pedometer called the Pokewalker, which allows you to build up a Pokemon simply by going about your routine.

While some, like the Pokeathlon, might be fun to do once or twice (the stylus controls for many of the games will take some practice), others will keep you coming back again and again.

The menu has been relegated to the bottom screen, and the Pokegear has been tweaked–no more will you have to pain over deleting someone’s phone number. The menu being on the bottom screen may feel awkward to those that have played the originals, but I got used to it rather quickly. The sheer number of things to do will keep fans and newcomers busy for quite some time.

Final Score: Very Good

If you played the originals and loved them, get these games. If you missed out on the second generation, definitely pick these up. If you’re just getting into Pokemon for the very first time, this is a very good place to begin your adventure. Either way, the remakes of the Johto era were well worth the 10 year wait.

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