The Pokémon franchise is one of those things that needs little introduction. Even people who've never played the game know that it revolves around catching monsters to fight other monsters, and generally these monsters are more cute than scary. Gold and Silver were the second installments in the series, sequels to the Red and Blue games that debuted almost 14 years ago. Cementing Game Freak as the developers of a multi-billion dollar gaming franchise, Gold and Silver went on to do just as well as the first generation of pocket monsters, and just like Fire Red and Leaf Green were made to celebrate the game's origins, HeartGold and SoulSilver have been created to celebrate its future.
The overall theme of Pokémon has always been collection. Players start off choosing their favorite Pokémon to start with (either a fire, water, or grass type) and then wander off into the world to make their own adventure. Battling Gym Leaders, levelling up their favorite Pokémon, and making their favorite team combination is the central focus of the game. Newcomers to the series will be immediately comfortable with the game's simple controls: movement takes place from a third person perspective while battles are done in a very traditional turn-based rpg style. Players simply choose moves, see the fight play out and repeat until the enemy is beaten, captured, or wins.
While the core mechanics of the game are still intact, this title is supposed to be more then just a rehash of Gold/Silver. Including Pokémon from every single other game released, HeartGold and SoulSilver allows players to catch up to any generation of Pokémon they may of missed, including a few legendary Pokémon from past titles. The game also features every other mechanic introduced into the series so far including EV points, adjusted stats, advanced evolutions, the national pokedex, fashion dress up, and custom pokeballs are all featured in the game. Prior Pokémon battle mechanics are back as well, such as weather effects and double-battles, which only serves to highlight the sheer variety of moves and abilities that each different Pokémon brings to the table.
In addition to this, players are also able to trade with past versions of the game (either from the DS or GBA), which means HeartGold/SoulSilver also features the online network that prior games have supported. Allowing players to go online and trade with people around the world adds a nice twist to the typical 'meet and trade' that the Pokémon franchise typically supports. The game also comes with a pedometer dubbed the 'Pokewalker', where players can send their favorite Pokémon. Inside this pedometer players Pokémon will accrue watts that can be spent on finding wild Pokémon or special items. It's a fun way for players to continue the game outside of simply playing it, as well as giving players another way to trade/swap Pokémon with one another.
HeartGold/SoulSilver's major pitfall however, lies in the fact that this reboot doesn't offer anything new to the series. The story alone isn't really compelling enough to drive the game, and anyone looking for new Pokémon will be disappointed as the game brings no new creatures to the table. While it's nice to see the overall combination of the series' accomplishments it would have been even better if a little more content was added. As it stands right now the game is more of a way for players to prepare their Pokémon collections for the next generation of the series, as well as a means for new players to catch up on what they may have missed.
Graphically the game looks nice, though it doesn't challenge the typical formula the series is known for. Towns and sprites are nicely detailed while combat takes place completely in 2D, with limited effects and occasional actions giving combat a bit more flair. The sound is nothing to get excited about, but it never becomes grating on the ears. Scary areas of the game sound spooky, and happy sunny areas of the game sound cheerful which is about as much as can be asked for from any DS game.
In the end HeartGold and SoulSilver might not add anything new to the series, but it certainly does a wonderful job of summing up everything that makes the Pokémon franchise so much fun. With the ability to catch almost every single creature and experience every element of gameplay introduced so far, HeartGold/SoulSilver is definitely worth purchasing, even if you've already experienced the originals. Online connectivity and the impressive length add to the game's value, but ultimately the game serves as a tidy bridge for players to move their virtual monsters into the next generation of Pokémon. Even so, it's a fun bridge, and one that any fan of the series (or of simple RPGs) should cross.