It may have fallen out of fashion in the last few years - to be replaced by the likes of Bakugan - but Pokémon still has a rabid legion of fans who know the difference between Lugia and Yu-Gi-Oh.
But before getting into this new Heartgold Version
with it's health-rewarding mix of pedometer and Tamagochi let me digress with a tale of fear...
There is nothing more tragic than bad cos-playing. I went to Comic Con last year and had an incredible time. I met brilliant people, saw amazing TV shows months in advance, made new friends, but the one thing that will stay with me until the day I die will always be 'That Guy'.
'That Guy' who must have been in his mid-40s if he was a day. 'That Guy' who hadn't shaved for a nearly a week and had obviously treated the four days of Con as an excuse to find all the alcohol in San Diego and hide it inside his body.
'That Guy' who was dressed as Ash Ketchum, the youthful child with a dream of becoming the World’s Greatest Pokémon Trainer. I hate 'That Guy'. I still have nightmares about him.
Scare stories aside, when it comes to the long running Pokémon series, you fall into one of two camps: you either look forward to each update every couple of years, wandering around Johto or Kanto looking for new beasts to capture and fight (like 'That Guy'), or (like most other “normal” grown-ups) you dismiss Nintendo's huge, money-making franchise as utter rubbish that is fit only for kids.
As tradition dictates, each instalment of Pokémon is released as a pair – this time is no exception as Nintendo has given us Pokémon HeartGold
, updating the original GameBoy Colour Gold
editions. It’s exactly the same as it was when released back in 2000; think of this less of a new game and treat it as a extended remix.
Both versions are near-as-damn-it identical aside from the Pokémon contained within – there are 15 exclusive monsters in each version, ostensibly to encourage friendly trading between trainers, not to wring that extra few quid out of obsessive collectors and bratty kids who get everything they want…
Since its inception, the series' premise has stayed constant. You begin as a rookie with one solitary Pokémon, travelling around to find more monsters, challenge other trainers and Gym Leaders, in a bid to eventually become a Champion trainer.
Combat is still little more than an over-complicated Rock, Paper, Scissors affair (water-type Pokémon are effective against fire but terrible against earth-types, for example). There is, however, such a huge range of types and abilities that you’ll always have a fighting chance against whatever your opponents throw at you.
isn’t just a cosmetic remake, though. Like all of the DS remakes that have been released, the simple two-button interface is still there; you now have the option of using the touch screen to access the various items that assist you. Everything is pretty much a single touch away, making the game even easier to use.
I must admit to thinking the bottom screen was overly busy, but after a while the whole system seemed to fall into place. Instant access to the various items makes an already solid game even easier to play. You don't have to use the screen, but it'll certainly make life simpler.
Both new editions come bundled with the new PokeWalker peripheral: a tiny little hybrid of a pedometer and Tamagotchi. You can wirelessly connect your DS to the device and upload a Pokémon of your choice to bring around wherever you go. Each step you take builds up Watts, a currency you can spend on two inbuilt games which allow you to hunt out hidden items and more beasties to add to your collection.
Anything found on the PokeWalker can then be transferred back and used as normal in the regular game. As well as that, a Pokémon that you’ve put onto your PokeWalker also gains in-game XP for every step you take. Having the PokeWalker is by no means necessary, but I think it really adds an extra element to the game, especially as you can level your monsters just by walking around.