Pokemon HeartGold Hands-On Impressions

We dust off our Pokeballs, rediscover some old friends, and get competitive as we battle for gold in the Pokelympics.

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It’s kind of hard to miss the Pokemon games when they seem to spawn a fresh instalment every year or two. 2009 saw the launch of the well-received Pokemon Platinum, and with it came some fresh new features to what has traditionally remained a relatively static formula series. While Pokemaniacs will argue about which game in the franchise’s expansive back catalogue has been the best so far, Nintendo has taken it upon itself to relaunch what it believes are the most popular versions with a new lick of paint. Pokemon HeartGold and Pokemon SoulSilver bring the story and monsters from the Game Boy Color versions of Pokemon Gold and Silver into the new decade with updated visuals, an extended story, and new monster friends to catch and battle.

Loyalists can sleep soundly at night safe in the knowledge that while the rebooted HeartGold and SoulSilver bring new lush environments and cutscenes and bump the Pokedex monster counter to 493--including exclusive new types in each version--the combat is still rooted in advanced turn-based rock-paper-scissors battles across the various elemental schools.

Our hands-on time kicked off with a new character. You’ll be given the usual options to name and select your character's gender. It wouldn’t be a Pokemon game if you didn’t play the part of an up-and-coming Pokemon trainer who meets an eager Pokescientist with an important mission to undertake. We accepted Professor Elm’s request to leave our village and head north in search of fisticuffs. We were offered the choice of a fire, water, or grass monster to kick-start our collection, but after selecting a young Chikorita, we quickly set about causing a ruckus by rooting around in the tall grass looking for someone to defeat to help us earn experience points. As you’d expect from the early portion of the game, our battles were cakewalks and saw us tackle some Pidgeys and a Sentret, the latter of which spent more time using its foresight ability to identify us than actually doing damage. Levelling up unlocked the razor leaf ability, a returning grass-type attack with a high chance of landing a critical strike on the opponent. Continuing to battle and level up will grow and evolve your team, rewarding you with new attacks and abilities essential for your travels.

Pick a ball, any ball. Use the stylus to scroll through your squad.

HeartGold appears to be putting a lot of focus on your relationship with your monster crew. Having them travel alongside you and showing them a bit of affection is enough to increase their friendliness levels and improve their loyalty.

In addition to the software, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver will bundle a small hardware accessory called the Pokewalker, which is an evolution of the Pokemon Pikachu 2 GS portable pets for the original release of Pokemon Gold and Silver. The Pokewalker acts as a pedometer which you can use to track your daily exercise as well as store a single monster that can earn “watt” points as a result of your movement. The Pokewalker includes some 20 different virtual paths, and spending watts through minigames on the device unlocks items and battle experience and offers the chance to catch unique Pokemon that can be transferred back into your DS game. Syncing your character is as simple as entering the mode from the main menu, lining up the IR port on the cartridge with the one on the dongle, and waiting for it to transfer. You won’t be able to store a monster on both your handheld and the device at once, but it does mean that while you might not be able to level up during the day, you can be building up experience and watts to spend when you get home. The minigames are very basic and see you quickly moving cursors to select marked bushes to uncover hidden items and foes to fight. The battle mechanics are just as basic and allow you only a single type of attack and the option to evade or capture. Two players with Pokewalkers can also trade items wirelessly without needing to have their DSs handy, while daily gifting can reward players with full free heals and consumables.

The last and most interesting new feature of our hands-on time with HeartGold was the new Pokeathlon zones found in the world. These new arenas are similar to gyms but allow you to compete against the game AI or friends over local ad hoc Wi-Fi to earn medals across a range of disciplines, like speed, power, skill, stamina, and jump. Each Pokemon in your posse is given a star rating, so it’s easy to pick the best group or individual to suit the challenge. Touch-screen controls feature heavily here, and in the speed events you’ll use taps, swipes, and stylus drags to move your characters around the screen, jump over hurdles, collect flags, and race in a horizontal scrolling lap contest. Winning events awards points, and successfully topping the charts at the end of the competition rewards you with medals--though these are purely for bragging rights and don’t imbue you with any additional powers.

Due out in mid to late March on the DS, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are sure to capture the interest of fans of the origal namesake games, as well as bring lapsed Pokeaddicts back into the fold. Stay tuned for our full review of these reworked classics soon.

Discussion

122 comments
Cooliepants
Cooliepants

If anyone wants to be my friend, mine is code name is Ryan and the code number is 0003 1027 7065.

Cooliepants
Cooliepants

This is great. Even though I have this already, I remember when I played pokemon blue and wanted to play gold which my sister was addicted to.

Pipluplikeslink
Pipluplikeslink

Why did they review Alice in wonderland and not this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Read the date if they review this soon..

jch123
jch123

My Second Game of All time was Silver Version i remember i got in like gr.2 and Id play it at recess with my friends. This brings back some awesome memories!!!

The_Magic_Realm
The_Magic_Realm

Oooh... Ahhhhh.... I need something new in my Games Collection and I think this will do nicley!

Willo_10
Willo_10

I miss my old Gold version. Internal battery died years ago -_- so I will certainly pick this up!

moafnsteel
moafnsteel

if they are such a horrible website craig_roberts16 why are you here?

xinoeph
xinoeph

BEST POKEMON GAME YET. Played them all. Twice

craig_roberts16
craig_roberts16

why does anyone bother with gamespot? they hardily if ever review games on time. they are inferia to other game/media websites such as IGN who always review on time. time to move to a more informed game new website.

cliffangel
cliffangel

Just bought soul silver today....geez this brings back memories.....I used to sneak my gameboy to school just to play pokemon. :)

Peach100
Peach100

I got both games simply because Jhoto is my favorite region. Started playing HeartGold and it's awesome.

flomasta33
flomasta33

i have both of them and i bet soul silver aleardy and i love it now all i want 2 do is trade my friend code is markee 4641 1136 1143 so add me so i can trade

JPSMITH97
JPSMITH97

my first eva pokemon game was gold i loved it ! best 1 by far carnt wait till this one cums out :)

goubagouba
goubagouba

when I was 8 I got a game boy color and pokemon silver was my only game ahhh... the memories

henster17
henster17

@ xerotolerant Why do you even watch the show if you said its now got crappy battles? Instead of being a giant douche why don't you shut up and go tell your mum im sure she'll care

Jozo2
Jozo2

@ Memoryitis Maybe because the Pokemon games are fun. Aren't video games made for entertainment? What they have works, so why fix what isn't broken? Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this game. Looks like it has many improvements over the original, which I personally consider to be the best Pokemon game.

Memoryitis
Memoryitis

You pokemon fanatics are nutz. How can you not get tired of playin the same thing over and over again. And playing a downgraded remake, what the hizzles are you kids smoking

mattngc
mattngc

Any one know if the remake still has day/night support?

mtham5
mtham5

i cant wait to trade my pokemon from pearl to this game. wooh go lv 84 lucario

JPSMITH97
JPSMITH97

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

caityful
caityful

I can't wait for the Australian release... Just 7 more days! :D

hemoleech
hemoleech

I love the Pokewalker! I still have my Pocket Pikachu and Pocket Pikachu GS.

Joker_851
Joker_851

Got the game yesterday! I still haven't beaten my diamond or platinum....Oh well. A new adventure awaits! I hope the next pokemon game will have a completely NEW look and new pokemon.

TheFox-13
TheFox-13

Pokewalker, nice! does every copy of the game bring a pokewalker with it??

xerotolerant
xerotolerant

and also the legendaries thing. seriously how many are there now? the legendary thing stopped being fun after you could have all of them which amounts to more than your entire party.

xerotolerant
xerotolerant

this 493 pokemon thing really pisses me off. more so in the cartoon than the game, but it still affects the game. the coolness of one pokemon winning a battle over another is now gone cause i have no idea what any of these pokemon are supposed to be. for example the pikachu x raichu battle was memorable because it was the evolved for vs the other. but now if i see a battle on tv it'll be some blue/ pink blob vs some other blob and some sparkles. i can't enjoy battles because the're are too much damn pokemon to keep track of.

Brennios
Brennios

Wow looking at this game gives me memories from when I was younger and use to LOVE the Pokemon games.. I might actually go out and buy a DS just to play this game, I have the originals and loved them! I'm so happy they're going to remake this addictive game. Very tempting I have to admit, Pokemon has always been good for the games without a doubt in my mind, the formula still works to this day, It's impressive.

VirtualTofu
VirtualTofu

Well, I loved Gold, but I want a new game already! With much better animations in battle, custom character wardrobe, items seen in battle such as potion spraying, and ribbons on Poke'mon. And new Poke'mon! How bout a game set in the future?!! Or at least a tactical Poke'mon game set in the past.

Radiodexx
Radiodexx

I'm also going to have to re-buy a DS. I need to stop selling my friends.

Wolflink001
Wolflink001

I've waited years for this game! I never thought it would get a remake! Guess I was wrong!

AntonSaidWhat
AntonSaidWhat

Will i have to buy a DS for the third time??? I WANT THIS GAME.

xinoeph
xinoeph

Ahh Pokemon, will you ever fail me? I bliddy hope not!!

NaRuTurd
NaRuTurd

This is the best game since Platinum came out. this time this has a accessory for it.

Peach100
Peach100

I think it's awesome that they decided to re-make the Jhoto region versions! I love playing Pokemon Gold! And I can't believe they added the new feature which allows ANY Pokemon to follow your character around. That is so sweet. I am so buying both games.

DeathLinked
DeathLinked

My first ever game was pokémon gold.. re-booting it? Genius.

Cinquler
Cinquler

i wonder if you can trade pokemons from the GBA to newer pokemons versions, just like D,P,P, if not, that would be really lame =/ i thnik the only downside is that in the silver and gold versions you could actually caught both lugia and ho-oh

teknicz
teknicz

Wow, that is absolutely genius. I can see where kids will carry around the Pokewalker to school, and when the other kids see it, they'll ask and then want one themselves. Nintendo has yet another hit on their hands.

shakensparco
shakensparco

Had a lot of fun with gold and silver and haven't purchased a pokemon game since leaf green. Guess it's time to brush up on my training skills.

driftking99
driftking99

Got mine pre ordered!!! loved the gold /silver franchise!!! I've owened ever pokemon game since its release with blue and red versions!! Pokemon FTW!!!! Cannot wait for next gen of them as well!!!

Bibertakus
Bibertakus

This is looking great, I completed Diamond but did not get Platinum cuz it seemed a little too much of the same. This, however, is looking like a fresh, new pokemon adventure. (I've never played the originals.) Might have to pick this one up...

sman3579
sman3579

I wonder how many Generations Pokemon can last

JKMadu619
JKMadu619

A fifth generation is confirmed, and nintendo has my money! I've pre-ordered HG and SS cannot wiat for the realease

Ryhnarch
Ryhnarch

I have always enjoyed Pokemon, it's just fun and i can't wait for it to come out and to those of you who feel that the Pokemon designs after gold and silver are lack lust, i agree to some extent, but i feel that just using that as an excuse to avoid this installment is fairly close minded. I am 19 and have been playing this series since its release and have always just played them for what they were, an addicting handheld RPG that has yet to be surpassed in terms of overall creativity. Pokemon games have always pushed Nintendo's hardware and used all of the Gameboy's and DS' features in innovative ways. So I guess, what I am getting at is basically don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case, its summary because you may never know, you may enjoy it even though you avoided it for so long.

dezzyfiesta
dezzyfiesta

It's seriously time to go back to the drawing with these games. And any fresh things that enter the series should only include the first 150 - 250 pokemon. All the rest are pretty much scraping the barrel... These games are starting to become the definition of milked!

silentdreamz
silentdreamz

the only reason im getting this is because its an updated version of the old gold/silver gameboy color games. im sorry to say this but the new pokemon are kinda lame. the original were so much better! and i'd probably like heartgold/soulsilver even more it they left out the new pokemon that came after ruby/sapphire.

7th_valkyrie
7th_valkyrie

mm well as much as i would like to get one of these games, part of me tells me i should wait and see if they announce a "crystal" version. The crystal version was my favorite pokemon game by far other than yellow.

ghall56
ghall56

i would get this if they left out all the new pokemon that came out after the old gold/silver game :s They are crap and cloud out the old classics!

n0isecore
n0isecore

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]