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Pokémon™ HeartGold

Disclaimer: Today’s post is in no way influenced by networking done by the author over the past few weeks, and is more a reflection of games that have actually been played recently.

That being said, HeartGold is a very fun offering from The Pokémon Company, if a rebranding of a previous title for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance™. The graphics have been updated to reflect the capabilities of the Nintendo DS, but the basic storyline is the same as in Pokémon Gold.

Actually, nearly every Pokémon game follows the same basic storyline. You play as a young new trainer, get to choose between a fire, grass, or water type Pokémon to start the game, and then you wander around the country finding Pokémon and fighting other trainers. Your mother calls occasionally, but seems content to let you travel alone for weeks at a time. However, this is branded as a game for children, so any discrepancies must clearly be because of the point of view of the individual player. After fighting the eight gym leaders and collecting the eight gym badges, the player defeats the “Elite Four” and unlocks another area with eight new badges to collect, and which opens the collection of Pokémon to “whole world” instead of just “Johto Region.” The companion game, SoulSilver, introduces different rare Pokémon to capture, but once the main game has been beaten, players can trade with other versions of the game to complete their PokeDex.

This version also requires the use of the PokeWalker  to find and capture all the new Pokémon. The PokeWalker is a pedometer that connects with the game and counts each step taken per day towards a unit of energy that can then be used to unlock games and fight Pokémon. The same Pokémon can be sent back and forth to the DS, and it can turn into a quick, if annoying, way to level up Pokémon without making them evolve.

However, as with any highly lucrative property, DRM pops up in the most unlikely of places, and the PokeWalker has been created so that each device can only be used with one game once synced. Supposedly, this will decrease the resale value of the games, because the parent company apparently has no plans to sell the PokeWalker by itself, and the device is sadly easy to disable. If one were to accidentally wash the PokeWalker because one forgot to check the back pocket of a pair of capris, for example, not only the record of the Pokémon on the device is lost, but also the ability to do anything with the device whatsoever. The screen does not do well even in a cold water wash, and taking it apart to drain the water is hampered by the desire not to break the thing.

That all being said, however, HeartGold is still a good game for people with OCD and those who like to collect things. The timing of achievements is as well done as with many more sophisticated XBox games, and there are enough mini-quests that players can wander around without advancing the plot for quite a long time. Pikachu is merely one of many (493) Pokémon available, and Team Rocket is a collection of amusing and mostly ineffectual trainers wearing black.

One of the few things that might deserve improvement would be the ability of players to change the outfits their trainers are wearing, and the need to use the stylus to interact with certain sub-games. The new PokeAthelon has a few “jumping” and “bouncing” games which require one to control several Pokémon at once, and having only one stylus makes that somewhat problematic, especially when playing against the computer. For younger players, however, with smaller fingers and quicker reflexes, this issue is probably not even noticeable. And really, isn’t that the majority of the target market?

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Posted in Friday: Game Review.