For my original nomination I was going to pick my favorite game of all time, Lollipop Chainsaw. With a protagonist I relate to, quirky art and music direction, as well as story and game mechanics which are pretty niche in taste, I couldn’t objectively say it was one of the best games of the last generation. As a sequel and a remake, my new pick could be even more controversial.
To those who aren’t fans of the series, each wave of the Pokémon games can seem very much of a sameness. There were 5 batches of releases prior and 4 since, and yet Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver still stand out to me as the pinnacle of the series.
While the nostalgic remember the first generation fondly, it wasn’t until the second generation that the Pokémon games truly came into their own. As well as fixing the weird sprites and uneven battling system of the previous generation (where special attack and special defense shared just 1 stat) developers discovered a way to half the games memory usage, effectively allowing Gold and Silver to become twice the game of their predecessors with Johto and Kanto playable on just one cartridge.
10 years later, HGSS took these already legendary games and elevated them with two generations of improved mechanics. The fourth generation of Pokémon (to which HGSS belongs) brought arguably the single greatest change to game mechanics, the special/physical split, which meant that any type of attack could come in either form, changing the way players built their teams forever. As well as this, the online capabilities of the DS meant that players could challenge themselves on a global scale for the first time.
Based on an already incredible game, and with two further generations of improvements, the remakes of the second generation could have been an easy task for the developers and yet they did so much more. A new addition to gameplay, the Pokeathlon, introduced mini games, which blended perfectly with the training of your main game ‘mons and variance in athletic stats (compared to battling stats), further encouraged you to “catch ‘em all.” A new mini game, Voltorb Flip, changed the in-game gambling mechanic for coins to buy rare moves and ‘mons from pure luck to skill. Clever use of the DS’s internal clock meant you could call up any of the 16 gym leaders at their preferred time for a rematch, each with much improved monsters.
Perhaps the biggest improvement to the series was the inclusion of the Battle Frontier. This is a post main game arena that challenges players to five new kinds of battle, such as double battle tournaments, rented Pokémon battles, tournaments using a single Pokémon and tournaments where luck ascribes advantages or disadvantages to a player’s team.
Pokémon HGSS may not be the first game to many players minds when thinking of the best game of the last generation, but it is a technically brilliant game, with hundreds of hours of content and completely deserving of the glowing reviews it was awarded. It is a game with a real value for money and that’s not even mentioning the revival of the cute tamagochi-esque Pokewalker, included with each game, which brought players as close to owning an actual Pokemon as they may ever get to be.
Maybe it doesn’t have the shiny graphics of Bioshock Infinite or the global sales of Call of Duty 4, but Pokémon HGSS gave Pokémon consumers everything they wanted and more, and that alone allows it to contend for the best game of a generation.
What did you think of this entry into the Pokemon franchise?