Liam Ferguson revisits a childhood classic.
Pokémon peaked on the 26th of March 2010 with the release of HeartGold and its sister game, SoulSilver. HeartGold altered my brain chemistry in a fundamental way and is the game that redefined my expectations of not only the Pokémon franchise, but gaming as a whole.
Being a remake of 1999's Pokémon Gold, many adult gamers knew what to expect from the title, but I was the mere age of nine when the title launched and had no idea what I was in for. My brain tingled when I saw the cover art in a Smyths catalog and recognised the legendary Ho-Oh on the box art from my obsession with the anime I consumed in 480p, 10 minute parts on YouTube every Sunday morning. After also noticing that you get a massive guidebook with the game, I immediately convinced my parents that it was something I had to have the day it came out, turning it into the first game that I would ever pre-order. I remember bringing my DS with me to school, picking the title up from Smyths and, after admiring the Pokéwalker and guide briefly, slapping the cartridge into my console as soon as I got back into the car. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a 300 hour save file.
I was also discovering the Kanto region. That was when my brain exploded.
What made this particular title so special was the clear passion put into it by the developers at GameFreak. Sure, it was a remake of a game that sold 23 million copies, but my tiny child brain didn’t understand the monetary reason for remakes and had a blast from the moment I hit ‘a.’ At the end of the day, it’s a franchise made for children and as a child I felt more than satisfied to lose my life to it and discover the Johto region for the very first time.
But after defeating the champion I found out that I wasn’t only discovering the Johto region for the first time, I was also discovering the Kanto region. That was when my brain exploded.
Realising that there was basically another game inside of this already fantastic game excited me to no end. I remember desperately trying to explain it to my parents who nodded their heads along and said “good for you.” My friend and I couldn’t shut up about it in school and would rush home to keep playing and see who could beat it first. When I fought Red at the actual end of the game, I felt like I was never going to play anything as good as HeartGold again. I’m just thankful now I didn’t have that decade old twist spoiled on me somehow and was able to experience it firsthand in such formative years.
Between the inclusion of the Pokéwalker (which at the time was one of the most accurate pedometers ever made,) the variety of Pokémon to catch, the charismatic characters and mind blowing inclusion of a Kanto set after the events of Pokémon Red and Blue, it’s safe to say that Pokémon HeartGold was one of the best gaming experiences I am ever likely to have.
I should probably check up on the Eevee that’s been trapped in my Pokewalker for 12 years though...