For most fans, Pokemon Gold and Silver represented the pinnacle of quality within the series. From the new gameplay features to nearly doubling the amount of Pokemon, Gold and Silver is cherished by old Pokemon players to this day. With the announcement of Heart Gold and Soul Silver being remade ten years following the original release, there was an understandably divided opinion in the fanbase. The Pokemon series has been known for re-releasing their games to the point of redundancy, but that is not the case in Heart Gold and Soul Silver.
Gold and Silver (abbreviated for convenience) follow the story of a young boy on a journey to prove himself to the world by becoming the best Pokemon trainer in the land. The story is your typical 'insert the player into the shoes of the protagonist' deal, but that's how Pokemon should always be. Along the way you have to fight with the revived Team Rocket and your jerk-ass rival, as well as the Gym Leaders in both Johto and Kanto. You have a pretty heavy journey ahead of you, but as a wise old professor once said, with Pokemon, anything is possible. So go and enjoy ruining the natural order of things for the sake of personal glory. It's okay, it's not like we wanted to live long as a speices anyway.
Graphically, Gold and Silver is comparable to the other 4th generation Pokemon games-Diamond, Pearl and Platinum-in their pseudo 3D style, and even when compared to games released just a few years prior, Gold and Silver shows a noticable improvement. Each city has it's own unique look, from the sandy beaches of Olivine, to the autumn themed Ecruteak, which has a stunningly beautiful trail to the north to the Bell Tower, filled with red and gold leafed trees. It's a visual joy, and strolling with your Pokemon under the shadow-filled canopy of the forest or craggy mountain trail creates a delightful atmosphere of adventure. On that note, one extremely welcome feature brought back in Gold and Silver is the ability for the first Pokemon in your party to follow behind you. Aside from being extremely adorable, your Pokemon can be interacted with, such as playing simple games and getting items it picks up. It's not all sunshine and roses though, as my Arbok decided it was a cute idea to start nipping at my feet. After an hour of party burying later, he stopped doing that, thank goodness.
The music is all remastered versions of the songs from the original games, the battle themes just as catchy and epic sounding as ever. The fight with Red and Lance especially have intense sounding fight music, and it never fails to get me pumped to knock their Pokemon skyward. One thing I felt was a great throwback to the retro players was the extra item you can get when completing the game: an add-on to your radio that changes all the music back to the 8-bit tunes most of us grew up on. While transitioning back may be a little painful to the ears, it's still a nice thing to have if you want to relive the glory days. Other cool additions in the remakes are the increase in ambient noise. It made the world feel much more alive when I could stand by the beach with my Pokemon and hear the waves crashing in the distance.
Aside from the additon of a few new egg moves and move tutors, the gameplay has remained almost untouched since Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, which, in turn, has remained almost untouched since the first game. Those of you who have an issue with the grind-factor in Pokemon, don't worry, it's here in full force in Gold and Silver. The level gaps between regular trainers and Gym Leaders is enourmous, and requires an annoying amount of time to level up your Pokemon if you fall even a little behind. The gap between wild Pokemon and trainers is even worse. Before the Elite Four, you have low thirty level Pokemon to train with for the near fifty leveled trainers in Indigo Plateau. It's extremely aggrivating, and easily the worst example of grinding in the entire series.
Pokemon's story mode takes a solid 30-40 hours depending on how you play. If you need to hammer out your team to near perfection before defeating the Elite Four, you might be in for a long haul. That being said, Pokemon's main draw has always been it's post game longevity. While it's not the traditional definition of replay value, you can easily sink hundreds of hours into this game if you have a few friends to battle and some team ideas floating around in your head. Unlocking the newly refurbished Kanto after you defeat the Elite Four, which has a ton of new features due to the (obviously) increased cartridge size of the DS, Gold and Silver feels like it actually spans two regions, rather than one and a half.
Heart Gold and Soul Silver offer a solid, two pronged attack on the Pokemon fanbase. It is a fantastic remake of a gaming classic, while offering plenty of new features and improvements to make it stand out as it's own game, especially for those who were not around for the original game's release all those years ago. As a seasoned Pokemon veteran from the days of Red and Blue, I was able to enjoy these remakes on multiple levels, and feel it works well as both a trip down memory lane and an introduction to the series.