09/11/09 HG/SS Fever

This is just in! HeartGold and SoulSilver are awesome.

No, really. Okay, so I've been lazy updating this minipage recently, but if you for some reason haven't heard already: ROM got leaked, people received their pre-ordered games, Serebii has a discovery thread, PokéBeach is also having a running commentary, Eevee ripped the sprites, the games are AWESOME. There's a Johto Safari Zone, a couple of new routes leading to it, the new music remixes sound great, all 493 Pokémon will follow you around if they're your first party member and show up as shiny or female where appropriate, the game has a much better proper touch screen interface even while allowing the old button combinations to be used exactly as we're used to, Kanto Gym leaders are leveled up, Gym leaders and Elite Four get stronger teams for a later rematch, Red is back and is the most powerful trainer in the series again, any tree whatsoever can be Headbutted, the Rocket admins who took over after Giovanni now actually have names (they're named after rockets, which is pretty cool) and personalities and thus feel a lot less half-hearted, you get to disguise yourself as a Team Rocket member, you can toggle running on or off on the touch screen instead of having to hold down B all the time, you can trade with D/P/Pt immediately without getting the National Pokédex, you can get ALL the Kanto/Johto/Hoenn legendaries except the Regis, you can get Kanto and Hoenn starters later on in the game, Viridian Forest is actually properly there, et cetera. Basically everything we ever hoped for and more. Best Pokémon games ever without a doubt.

Though I don't like to listen to complainers so I haven't been actively looking for what people manage to find wrong with it, I have heard a few complaints that I will address here.

"The Gym leaders still have the same Pokémon!"

*gasp!* You're kidding me! They have the same Pokémon? It's almost as if this is a remake or something! Oh, wait.

No, seriously. What was wrong with the Pokémon they had before? The levels have been adjusted, so the difficulty is not the problem. Did you just want change for the sake of change or what? They have new Pokémon in the rebattles, anyway.

"The Elite Four's levels are the same!"

Okay, I see where you're coming from on that one, fine. But think about why they did it this way. In the original Gold, Silver and Crystal, Kanto was a lazy afterthought where the Gym leaders were way behind your Pokémon in levels by the time you got there. Now, however, the Kanto Gym leaders' levels have been raised - they all have Pokémon in the fifties the first time around - making Lance honestly just a halfway point in the game. If they'd given Lance Pokémon on par with the newer generation Champions, they'd have had to either make the Kanto Gym leaders pushovers again - and nobody wants that - or give them even higher-leveled Pokémon, and they'd have ended up with the main quest not over until your Pokémon are in the eighties. That's really a bit much. Red would have had to be raised ridiculously much as well.

Then think about why it was so annoying that they were low-leveled in the first place. It was to a large extent simply because it took so long to get good EXP from the Elite Four post-story. Now that they level up, that problem is gone. All that might be off about it now is the difficulty curve. I've yet to see how that plays out exactly since I haven't gotten that far, but I don't really worry much.

"The Kanto Safari Zone is still gone!"

So? We have a new one. It doesn't even have added annoyances like the Great Marsh (well, not to my knowledge, anyway), and it does have the added convenience of rearranging the areas so that you won't have to walk through a bunch of other areas before getting to where the Pokémon you're looking for is found.

"The Battle Frontier is the same as in Platinum!"

Okay, fine, that was kind of lazy.

I'm off to play my, ahem, totally-not-a-ROM HeartGold. See you.

06/11/09 A Rush of News

First of all, there is Melée! Pokémon Scramble, an upcoming WiiWare game that is to feature the crude 3D models from Everyone's Pokémon Ranch battling it out in a real-time action battle system. It has both a story mode and multiplayer battling.

It looks like it could be fun; even though it is obviously watered down (Pokémon only know two moves and the mechanics will probably be simplified a la Mystery Dungeon) and the Pokémon will not look that great, it could probably be amusing. I wonder if this is the "action element" that Junichi Masuda spoke of wanting to add to the series or if he really meant adding one to the RPGs. (If they do add one to the RPGs, I dearly hope it's a minigame and not an addition to the actual battle system; I like how Pokémon is exclusively turn-based.) Apparently the game will also be available for DS Download Play.

See a few screenshots from the game here at the Imageboard.

Then we have an abundance of new HeartGold and SoulSilver information. First, it will come with a "PokéWalker", a real-life pedometer that allows you to raise your Pokémon by real steps instead of your player character's steps. The device can communicate wirelessly with the DS to let you raise your HG/SS Pokémon with the PokéWalker and then put them back onto the game. Apparently it will have minigames as well.

Of course, be aware that the chance this will be exclusive to the Japanese version is considerable. It's an unnecesary gimmick addition that Nintendo of America might well decide we can simply be without. But we could still get it. Who knows?

Anyway, then we have this month's CoroCoro. First of all, we have a page showing the new artwork for Professor Elm, Silver (who has not been significantly redesigned) and the female Team Rocket grunt, as well as some screenshots: one of Gold talking to Elm in his lab, presumably about to receive a starter Pokémon; one of Gold starting a battle with Silver (I like Gold's new back sprite - but is it just me, or is the pose of Silver's sprite amusingly similar to Coronis's sprite of him?); and then two cut off ones that I find interesting. The first, right by the Team Rocket grunt's side, seems to show a beach with a mountain below it - is it post-eruption Cinnabar Island or am I jumping to conclusions too quickly? In the lower right corner, we then have a small portion of a screenshot of a cave with water in it, which I'm fairly certain must be Tojho Falls. I think the full version of this scan must have some information about HG/SS's Kanto, which should be interesting.

Then, we have with the a scan with the box art for both versions. Unlike normal DS games, they seem to be in more GBA-style boxes in order to contain the PokéWalker with the actual game - I'm guessing there is a normal DS case inside the box. Let me just say that I love the box art - it's different art of Ho-oh and Lugia than the normal Sugimori art seen in the recent Famitsu scans, and I really love especially how Lugia looks. Also, in the background, instead of just being a shiny swirly pattern or something, it's a faint map of Johto focusing on the homes of the respective legendary Pokémon, which is pretty neat.

(The above two scans were obtained from the Imageboard.)

Apparently both Arceus and Cynthia will appear in HG/SS (though of course, odds are there will be an event to active that part). Finally, it seems that Kyogre and Groudon will be making an appearance in HeartGold and SoulSilver respectively - no, not the other way around. Possibly, they replace each version's non-box legendary - that is, in HeartGold one would find Kyogre instead of Lugia at level 70 after the Elite Four, and in SoulSilver one would find Groudon instead of Ho-oh - in order to make the box legendaries version exclusives as in the more recent games, but I hope not; though Kyogre being in Whirl Islands could work, I really can't see Groudon in Tin Tower (how in the world would it get up there?). And not having anything in Tin Tower in SoulSilver would be kind of lame. At least, if you have both Groudon and Kyogre on one HG/SS game, Rayquaza will somehow appear, which should be kind of neat.

The last bit of news is that there will be a Jirachi event - presumably for Platinum, since it appears to be a Wi-Fi event - and this Jirachi will unlock a special area in HeartGold and SoulSilver if traded there (called "Edge of the Night Sky"), similar to the special shiny Pichu that unlocks the Notched-Ear Pichu event.

05/14/09 HeartGold/SoulSilver CoroCoro and Famitsu scans

The new CoroCoro feature about HeartGold and SoulSilver has been revealed.

The most immediately noticeable is the fact that the character designs are modified after all. Gold looks mostly the same as he used to, with modifications to his clothes and slightly changed hair (although that has admittedly been subtly different in every incarnation of him), but instead of using the perfectly serviceable female character from Crystal or anything remotely based on her, they have a new girl with brown rather than blue hair, although the sticking-out pigtails could be deduced to be inspired by Kris. She has a silly huge hat - what's with all the playable characters in Pokémon having silly huge hats nowadays? - and an even sillier bow on it. Okay, male character for me.

According to they are also introducing a secondary rival thing like in R/S/E and D/P/Pt: the opposite-gender playable character will have some sort of a role in the game. I'm not overly fond of that decision either, since it seems like an unnecessary modification to the original plot, but eh; if they think they can do something good with it, it could work out.

Another noticeable feature is that the screenshots show the trainer being followed by his starter in later locations - it appears this is not just, as I initially believed, a temporary gimmick for when you're going to Mr. Pokémon's house for Professor Elm. Presumably it will be possible when the starters have evolved as well - unless they go the full Yellow route and don't allow you to evolve the starter, but that seems absurdly unlikely - but I don't believe it will be possible for other Pokémon. It would be way too much work to make walking overworld sprites for all 493 Pokémon, besides that the starter deserves to be able to be somewhat special.

Also hidden on these pages is a screenshot of both the top and bottom screen of the DS - which can be seen clearer in the top left on this Famitsu scan - which shows that rather than the PokéGear being on the bottom screen as I had thought, the bottom screen normally shows what we know as the Start menu, plus a "check" button essentially corresponding to the A button, which presumably allows the game to be controlled fully using only the D-pad and the touch screen. I really like this; it always struck me as awkward in Diamond and Pearl how inconsistent the interface was, with most of the game requiring the use of the buttons on the DS but then battles, items, the Pokémon menu, etc. randomly utilizing the touch screen. This seems a lot more sensible to me. I'm guessing the menus open on the bottom screen and allow you to navigate them there; I'm still hoping the PokéGear will entirely open on the touch screen and for it to be possible to utilize it while traveling around the overworld on the top screen.

A shot of Sprout Tower shows we will have big, pretty images of dungeons as we enter them, like in FireRed and LeafGreen. The starter selection is now all 3D and fancy. The shiny Pichu given away for Platinum in an event can apparently activate an event in HG/SS involving the "Notched-Ear Pichu" from the twelfth movie in Ilex Forest. Interesting. Then we have a screenshot of Gold and his Totodile talking to a Team Rocket goon outside Slowpoke Well, as well as one where he is in front of Sprout Tower with his Cyndaquil, and a whole lot of new Sugimori art for Johto Pokémon.

Courtesy of PokéBeach, we also have scans apparently coming from Famitsu. One is linked above and contains nothing noteworthy about HG/SS other than the screenshot of the touch screen menu. The other is here and shows the player characters, and bigger versions of the Slowpoke Well, Sprout Tower and starter selection screenshots. Still nothing new or remarkable, but it's nice to see the bigger screenshots.

05/09/09 HeartGold and SoulSilver what the aforementioned remakes have been confirmed to be called. PokéBeach has a translation of an article regarding it.

The names are rather cheesy, but personally, I like them better than the "DuskGold" and "DawnSilver" that people were insisting had been trademarked and so on a while ago. Not only do they appear like they would only make sense for the mascot Pokémon the other way around, but they also completely fail to have a relevance to the actual name. FireRed and LeafGreen aren't called that to represent something about the Pokémon in the game - the Pokémon on the covers happen to be a Fire and Grass type, but why would remakes add the "Fire" and "Leaf"? They were not thinking, "Hey, now that we're remaking the games, let's make the names allude more to the Pokémon on the box!" The remakes have no more to do with the Pokémon on the box than the originals did. It's to strengthen the name - instead of just being red, it's fire red, and instead of just being green, it's leaf green. The colors are reemphasized to bring them out more, make them seem fresher, renewed. That's what the remakes are doing to the originals: freshening and renewing the old, making it prettier and, well, more. It makes sense.

The names "Gold" and "Silver" are not emphasized or freshened by putting "Dusk" or "Dawn" on them. It's trying to squeeze relevance into it, relevance that is strikingly unfitting among the main series Pokémon games' universally abstract names that only portray a color and a vague connection with the cover Pokémon. What do Ho-oh and Lugia actually have to do with gold and silver, honestly? Nothing - they're not even remotely gold or silver in color. They're just nicely parallel names portraying colors that Ho-oh and Lugia can look pretty on.

HeartGold and SoulSilver emphasize the original names, if in a different way than FireRed and LeafGreen did. They bring to mind figures of speech: heart of gold, soul of silver. The prefixes as chosen for the sake of the original name, not the color of the Pokémon. They bring the original name out more while adding new connotations to it. I think they had the right idea, even if talking seriously about "Heart and Soul" feels odd now. It will stop feeling odd.

Now one's mind inevitably jumps to "What should the remakes be like?" Personally, I'm hoping for the following:

EDIT: Whoa. Apparently, we've got some screenshots now that the Pokémon Sunday show has aired. Your starter follows you around?! Elm's lab looks curiously unlablike; maybe they've changed it to being his home now or something.

05/02/09 Remakes

Apparently Japan has decided to drop some anvils about upcoming Pokémon Gold and Silver remakes. If the games to be announced are not Gold and Silver remakes, they are officially toying with us. I mean, come on. A gold and a silver ball?

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