I can't quit you.
Zach: Pokémon was introduced to our country in 1998 with Red and Blue versions. Those games were actually remade for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 as FireRed and LeafGreen. The popular opinion was that Nintendo would remake the next games in the series, Gold and Silver, originally released in 2000.
Neal: For some odd reason, I skipped every Pokémon game after the originals until Diamond and Pearl. After that, I went back and tried out some of the ones I missed, and while I didn't spend too much time with Pokémon Gold and Silver, all I heard was how it was one of the best in the series.
Zach: Gold and Silver are largely responsible for bringing all the modern Pokémon concepts to fruition: a day/night cycle, Pokegear, male and female versions of the same Pokémon, breeding, Dark and Steel types, a move deleter, and separate stats for non-physical attack and non-physical defense. Breeding, of course, opened up a whole new world of strategy, and competitive training was suddenly more appealing to people with lots of time to burn. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the only original Pokémon games on the GBA, introduced double battles, but it's hard to call that as much of a leap as Gold/Silver had over Red and Blue. Nintendo recently released Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, the remakes of those revolutionary 10-year-old games. While the novelty has worn off by now, the games are still unbelievably fun to play, and really speak for the timeless appeal of collecting pocket monsters.
Neal: Exactly. I think everyone has it wrong now, though, because Gold and Silver aren't the best games in the series anymore; HeartGold and SoulSilver are. The two games update one of the most ambitious titles in Pokémon history with a smooth interface and crisp graphics while retaining everything that made Gold and Silver so great. All the content from the originals is packed away inside these little cartridges of joy, and then some.
Zach: Still, despite its similarities to Gold and Silver, it's pretty clear that this is Pokémon Pearl/Diamond/Platinum again. Requisite aesthetic changes are here, but the gameplay is, overall, identical to the previous DS iterations of the franchise. And that's fine, because I declared not long ago that Pokémon Platinum was the definitive Pokémon game. While I may never get the itch to "catch 'em all" as I did in Pearl, the core experience of fighting and leveling up a perfect team of six remains satisfying and enjoyable.
Neal: It adds more than that, though. Now, a Pokémon will follow you on the screen for the majority of the time. You can talk to this Pokémon, bolster your friendship with them, and they even pick-up items from time to time. Another large addition is the Pokéathlon, which is a series of touch screen-based mini-games that test the skill of your Pokémon. It's not too engrossing, but it's a fun timewaster that allows you to purchase certain items. While these aren't major changes, they're pleasant additions. It's amusing seeing a Diglett follow you around, and it's entertaining to talk to a Gastly, especially when it does something goofy.
Zach: It was nice to see old date-based Gold/Silver stuff with a new coat of paint, like the Bug Catching Contest, Pokémon swarms, and the reworked Safari Zone.
Neal: Yeah. I especially like the Safari Zone. It seems more forgiving than in previous games, though the rarer Pokemon, like Murkrow and Larvitar, seem unusually hard to capture compared to every other Pokémon in there.
Zach: The big new feature here is the PokéWalker, a Pokéball-shaped pedometer that comes with every copy of the game. This is Nintendo's not-so-subtle way to get fat gamers off their couch-laden asses, and it works, sadly. You are introduced to the concept in the game itself, where you find yourself walking with the first Pokémon in your party at all times, bringing to mind Pokémon Yellow. The PokéWalker allows you to do the same in real life.
Neal: It's very reminiscent of the pedometer in Nintendo's Personal Trainer: Walking, where I imagine the technology originated.
Zach: It wirelessly connects to the DS game card, where you can transfer one Pokémon from a PC box into the device. Your steps are counted through the day, and at random intervals your Pokémon may find items. You can also play little random-chance games on the Pokéwalker, like Pokéradar, where you find a Pokémon (which changes based on the route you take at the beginning of the day) and play a thinly veiled version of ro-sham-bo to capture them. There's also Dowsing, in which you choose a random patch of grass and hope an item pops out. These items are often rare or expensive in the main game, like Guard Spec. or Stardust. You can hold onto three captured Pokémon and three items per walk. When you’re finished, just re-connect the Pokéwalker to the game card to import all the pocket monsters and items.
Neal: As you walk, you gain Watts, which are used to unlock new paths, possibly gain a level for lower-level Pokémon, find items, and search for other Pokémon to capture. Each of the numerous paths includes a few different Pokémon to find, some of which can only be captured using the device. If you use it early on, you can find Pokémon that you wouldn't normally find in a game until much later. For example, I came across a Magby and an Elekid early on. Additionally, if you walk around without a Pokémon strolling with you, a random Pokémon might join you. It's not a game-changer, but it's a really neat little device that is well worth the $5 premium attached to the game.
Zach: Definitely. It is insanely fun. I've got Sceptile in my pocket right now. Though I can't say much for the step accuracy of the device, that's hardly the point. Nintendo has suckered me into taking longer walks with my dog in the hopes of unlocking another route and catching a Sunkern or a Gastly.
The main game offers little new content to players who have been Pokéfanatics from the get-go. In fact, it's surprising to see just how little the series has evolved in 10 years. We've all been playing Gold and Silver for a decade, in fact, and this remake just brings that irony to the forefront. Almost nothing has changed, and if anything, certain aspects of the game now frustrate even more given their ancient roots in the face of potential progression. My biggest complaint about the series is its strict adherence to Hidden Machines. These are overworld moves that you teach your Pokémon to progress in the game. Every new Pokémon game has stacked on more HMs, and the problem is that an HM move simply replaces what could be a useful slot in that Pokémon's repertoire. The fact that there are so many HMs that are required for progression is insane—you must either cripple half the Pokémon in your party by teaching them one or more HM moves OR create one or two HM "slave" Pokémon and drag them everywhere you go. I'm subscribing to the latter method. I have no interest in teaching "Strength" to my Hitmontop, thank you, but my Bibarel is able to use four of the eight HMs necessary for travel in this world. If I'm to get any practical use out of Fly (the warp HM), I'll have to fully train a good Flying type. If I want to move effortlessly in the water—which requires three HMs—I'll have to make a second HM slave. Somebody will have to take the bullet, and the point is that my actual team will be down to four Pokémon, not six.
In the next game, I really do hope that Game Freak changes their asinine philosophy on HM’s. They simply get in the way at best, and cripple your team at worst.
Neal: The HM stuff is the lowest it gets, though, and it isn't as bad as it was in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum. To me, these games are without a doubt the strongest in the series, as they are refined, familiar, and awesome. It will rekindle nostalgia for Gold and Silver in longtime players, while drawing in new or lapsed players just as easily. It's more than just a remake; it is the best Pokémon game to date.
Zach: I agree and I absolutely love HeartGold/SoulSilver. The original games have always been my favorites, and these remakes are wonderfully well done. However, it is clear that the formula is showing its age, and I think it's time for a radical upheaval in the next iteration of the franchise.