Pokemon Emerald Reader Review
The Pokemon series is a weird anomaly in the video game market; a market where the consumers are constantly demanding fresh new approaches to traditional games, the rise and rise of western RPGs such as Mass Effect, the increasing 'DIY' style games like Little Big Planet, Scribblenauts and of course Nintendo's own up and coming Wario Ware DIY. It seems nearly all game developers are jumping on the band wagon but Game Freak has decided to bring back a 10 year old 8-bit Gameboy game, which of course will not be the game to re-invent the Pokemon games. But it's still a very worthy purchase, with tonnes of things to do, see, catch, train, beat, meet, err... swap? That will take even the most veteran die-hard Pokemon fans an absolute eternity to achieve.
The beauty of this deceptively colourful RPG is partially down to the depth of things to do that was alluded to earlier, but for the benefit of those that have been living on the moon; eating Jam & Doughnuts all day with ear plugs in their ears and have never heard of a "Pikachu" or an "Ultra ball" - Pokemon is simply put a game about catching Pokemon; training caught Pokemon by battling, defeating gym leaders to earn badges until you defeat the elite 4. That is Pokemon at it's purest, but that's only explaining Pokemon well... at it's purest.
Each Pokemon has a type; such as fire, water or grass. Pokemon type has advantages against certain other Pokemon types such as fire Pokemon being stronger then grass, while at the same time a Pokemon type has a weakness such as fire being weak against water, it's like a giant version of Rock, Paper and Scissors. Bear in mind that there are 16 types of Pokemon, then there are dual-type Pokemon; basically Pokemon with more then one type such as Fire and Ground. Saying that does make the battle system seem intimidatingly deep; and it's bordering on that. Every now and then we had to stop and think if this type of Pokemon would be good against Pokemon x, couple that with the fact that there are 493 Pokemon to catch, 16 gyms to beat and tonnes of trainers to battle and you'll realise the battle system is an integral part of the Pokemon experience.
If you've played through the Sinnoh region of Pokemon games, that's Pokemon Diamond, Pearl or Platinum then you may be disappointed at the easy gyms that are put in Johto. We were on route to the second gym but were surprised to see level 6 Pokemon attack our level 15 Typhlosion. And that imbalance is present throughout the game with the elite 4 champion using loads of Dragon type Pokemon at level 40`s. Again those just coming off beating the Sinnoh Region may be disappointed with the difficulty. Stick with the game how ever and you'll be in for an even harder elite 4 as they level up the more you beat them, gym leader rematches with there Pokemon at higher levels and a battle with a Pokemon trainer you may have seen on those TV shows who uses a very high level Pikachu!
Pokemon is not made up entirely of battling, even though that's a huge part of the Pokemon experience, you also have to raise the Pokemon and that's one thing Heart Gold and Soul Silver do right. For the first time since Pokemon Yellow a Pokemon can follow you around - however this time you are not just limited to a Pikachu. Any kind of Pokemon can follow you around, even giant legendary Pokemon can walk quietly behind you as you say, walk through a town or explore some caves and that adds a whole level of intimacy to the whole catching, training and collecting theme. This is possible because Pokemon are shrunk down to size while following behind you, so a Steelix or Dialga will not be giant colossal creatures walking behind you. Some might see that as a missed opportunity, but at least that means your favourite type of Pokemon will be allowed to follow you around.
Also included to help the raising of Pokemon is a little device called the Poke walker, it's basically a pedometer that converts your steps into exp points for any Pokemon that's been beamed over to the Poke walker. This is possible because the game card it self has a little infra-red beam and so does the Poke walker so, so that's a big feature R4 gamers and users of similar cards will loose out on.
A new addition to the Pokemon repetoire of things to do is the Pokethlon, an Olympic style event containing mini games. Without spoiling too much your going to be usung the touch screen to control your selected Pokemon to try and earn the most points in a round, the team with the most points after a few rounds wins. Again not spoiling too much, there are quite a few different mini games to compete in and legendary pokemon are allowed to compete. But there is a trade off to this new Pokethlon, the trade off being that the Pokemon Contests have now been removed, which is sad news for the people that really dig that kind of thing.
There have been a few more small but noticeable improvements since Platinum, the battle system seems to be faster, so those disappointed by Diamond and Pearl's speed and saw an improvement in Platinum will be pleased to know that the battle speed is faster yet, with animation off it's right up there with the GBA games with there animation off. More subtle improvements, the graphics are a bit better, the majority of the menus including the Pokedex have been put on the touch screen for faster navigation, two items can be registered as a short cut, you don't have to hold 'B' any more to run, migrating Pokemon from the GBA games no longer has the 6 every 24 hour restriction, a safari zone has been included and you can hear your foot steps as you run or hear the sound of the sea, lake, lava etc. which just make the world that bit more believable.
Strange omissions from the game being that the awesome bike we had in Platinum with the two gear system has now been replaced by a hard to control bike with one gear, honestly it feels like the bike from Platinum but with only the high speed gear selected so turning corners can be tricky and you can go too fast and go past stop points. We also found ourselves missing the Poke watch, that thing had some cool apps such as the map, Pokemon vs. app that displays all Pokemon type strengths and weaknesses etc., what we wish Heart Gold and Soul Silver had is both touch screen menus and the Poke watch, now that would have been awesome!
Another point to make about this game is that there are an optional 8 badges to compete for in the Kanto region. Now this can count as a plus or a minus just depending on your point of view, the Kanto region has been included although it has been modified to the point of at times the region feeling almost tacked on. Yes an extra region means extra value which were all for, but if your one on the many people that was not impressed at the original Gold and Silver take on the whole Kanto region, don't expect your mind to be changed. Basically if that part of the Kanto region was changed in the original, it's the same here.
Overall we had a really fun time with Heart Gold and Soul Silver. The Pokethlon and the Poke walker help make this game more fun to play than the majority of the Pokemon entries over the years, but with the Pokemon still making there 8-bit growling noises, the lose of the Poke walker and the generally speaking low level Pokemon, there is still room for improvement.