It’s hard to remember a time when a Pokemon product release wasn’t an immediate success. 2010, however, was a much different time for the franchise. The heights he had seen during the peak of Pokemania in the late 90s and early 2000s were just a melancholic memory at this point. Trading Cards had seen sales drop significantly, going from being made by Magic Wizards of the Coast publishers to an in-house team. The third generation release of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire in 2003 began a slow downturn for the series. Games released on the GameBoy Advance are in good numbers, but down from the original GameBoy and GameBoy Color titles.
In 2009, the remakes of Pokemon Gold and Silver, Pokemon Heartgold and Soulsilver, were released with average sales numbers (at least by Pokemon’s incredibly high standards). Due to both declining sales and massive interest in the years that followed, the resale price of games skyrocketed incredibly. Bargain prices for a full boxed version of either game have reached $300. One of the most notable aspects of these second-gen remakes was the accessory that came with the game, the Pokewalker.
The Pokewalker is a fascinating piece of video game history. The device is a legit pedometer – a device that counts steps – and a very good one, with a study by Iowa State University finding the Pokewalker to be more accurate than many other pedometers available at the time. “Comparing all of these measures, the Pokéwalker performed very well,” said Lanningham-Foster, who studies the measurable health benefits of active video games. “It’s very fair and precise. So as a tool that can be used to actually change behavior and a child can use to really understand and learn how much they walk, this could be a good tool. Along with encouraging physical and social interaction to make full use of it, the Pokewalker was a great game feature.
By earning “watts” through regular use of a pedometer, players could catch Pokémon and find items that could be transferred to their Nintendo DS. The device also made interacting with other gamers effortless. If you’ve ever used a Nintendo DS in its lifetime, you’ll remember what a nightmare it was to grab people’s friend codes in order to play with them online. Connecting your Pokewalker with other players would allow you to shuffle records, unlock their current player info, and have an active party in the Trainer’s House – a nondescript building in the later post-game stages.
One of the other core features was Pokemon which actually tracked you, allowing you to interact with them. The ability to turn around and interact with your Pokemon at any time was a nice addition. While this could technically be done in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, it could only be done in a specific area of the game. HeartGold and SoulSilver were the first time the feature had a full-fledged return since Pokemon Yellow on the original GameBoy. .
Two things really unique to those games were the Pokeathlon and Voltorb Flip. The Pokeathlon replaced the contest system of third generation games and offered much more involved gameplay compared to contests. The Pokeathlon is a series of mini-games in which you can use your Pokémon; you play the games, you earn points, and then you redeem those points to unlock hard-to-get items. Game Freak hasn’t put much effort into creating a similar feature since. The minigames themselves are pretty straightforward, but offer a lot of variety in how you approach the games and the Pokemon you use. Each game’s varying stats encourage you to use Pokemon sitting in storage that might not have seen the light of day otherwise.
Voltorb Flip, meanwhile, only really exists because of a technicality.
Due to restrictions imposed by gaming laws in Europe, typical slots that exist in older titles cannot be featured in PAL versions of the game without showing the ESRB rating. Rather than produce another version of the game for this region omitting the mechanic (which still exists in the original Japanese release), they opted to make a game to replace it. Voltorb Flip has been described as “a cross between picross and minesweeper”. Using the stylus to tap on maps reveals information about the nearest Voltorb. Using this information, you can determine which slots contain endgame Voltorbs or safe spots that could advance your game. The game is actually a lot of fun, and I think most gamers would like to see Game Freak at least try to do something similar rather than just omitting the problematic game corner with each release without offering a substitute.
These games had a huge amount of content. While the regular Johto section has a decent amount to do before battling the Elite Four, you also have a remastered version of Kanto from the original Pokemon Red and Blue. After completing the Johto section of the game, players can head off to explore a whole other region.
This section ends with one of the toughest battles in the entire series. After climbing Mount Silver, the highest point in the game, you meet Red, the canonical trainer from the first game. Although technically a different character, Red’s team is based on Ash’s team from the anime. Red’s team is best known for their level 88 Pikachu, the highest level Pokémon encountered in a battle in the entire series.
It’s hard to explain what an amazing moment it is. Most players will wander all the way to the top of Mount Silver expecting nothing, or maybe a cut-and-paste legendary encounter. The fact that Red encountered a boss at the very end of the game brought back some of that word-of-mouth factor that games haven’t really had since the original Red and Blue, as everyone learned the nuances of the game. for the very first time. Not only is there a whole chunk of gameplay after the Elite Four, but it culminates in a totally unexpected battle with a Pokémon legend! It really is the pinnacle of the series.
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver were a breath of fresh air when they were released and have not been matched since. The last Pokemon games released on the Nintendo DS were Pokemon Black and Pokemon White, both games having been panned at the time (the fact that they came directly after Heartgold and Soulsilver didn’t give them back). service). After the mess of Pokemon Black and White, the series saw a significant shift in design philosophy going forward. Smartphones started to become more popular and Game Freak became quite open about the need to change their design to keep up with modern kids and the kinds of games they had access to at the time.
While the Pokemon games released since have their audiences and advocates, it seems the effort to create new content and build as complete a package as possible isn’t the priority it once was for Game Freak. Until that changes, Heartgold and Soulsilver will likely continue to be considered by many to be the last great Pokemon game.