Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pokémon Soul Silver journal - entry one

I've decided to revisit the Pokémon franchise, starting right back where it all began. I watched the television show and greedily collected the trading cards almost immediately after they hit US shores, but I didn't get into the games with Red, Blue or Yellow versions. At the time, I only had my Nintendo64, and my first handheld - a turquoise Gameboy color - was a few years off. I played some Pokémon here and there, whenever friends would let me try battling wild Pokémon on their Gameboys, but most of my early exposure was through the two previously mentioned mediums - television and cards. I did rent Pokémon Snap about three or four times from my local Blockbuster, though, and at the time the 3D-rendered Pokémon blew my mind.

My brother and I shared a copy of Gold Version, which we purchased not long before Crystal was released. We poured hours into it, trying to catch Ho-oh, battling through each gym leader and the Elite Four, and giving some of the most ludicrous names to our Pokémon (including a Jynx named 'I'm Ugly' and a Murkrow named 'Elmo Dunbo' - apparently we had something against Sesame Street's Elmo at the time, and were so vehement about it that we rushed in spelling the word 'dumbo'). But as time passed, I found myself less interested in the series. There were too many new faces to keep up with, and I found a lot of them to be lackluster in comparison to the first two generations. While some of my friends kept up through Ruby and Sapphire, none of us really cared to stick with the games past Emerald.

That is, until the reviews for Black and White started pouring in, gushing about how these were considered two of the best Pokémon games to date. That, along with my growing distaste for many new-age RPGs, piqued my curiosity enough to lead me to look into the recent entries. I still wasn't sold on Diamond and Pearl, and while Platinum seemed a better option than either of those two, I wasn't willing to jump in blindly after having been gone for nigh on ten years. I was genuinely interested in trying out Black and White, and though some friends of mine chimed their positive experiences with it, I wanted to take things slow. How happy I was to know that Nintendo had listened to the calls of gamers like myself.

My brother and I are currently revisiting the glory days through the DS remakes of Gold and Silver - he is tackling Heart Gold, while I'm trekking through Soul Silver. These journal entries will serve as part personal progress, part thoughts thus far (which I can refer to when writing up my final review on the remakes). One standout quality of Heart Gold and Soul Silver that I love is how much more user-friendly the gameplay is. Leveling up happens at a much quicker rate, and every one of the trainers belongings is much more easily accessible - items, Pokémon, Pokedex, radio, map, and phone - thanks in large part to the dual screens. The game is also flexible to players. When choosing attacks in battle, you are not required to use the stylus. You can just as easily turn to the Gameboy-style controls of the buttons and D-pad. It's all a matter of personal preference, really. And when your Pokémon want to learn a new move, you can look over what kind of move it is before choosing to teach or not to teach it to your Pokémon - the attack power, percentage of accuracy, and element are all presented in one place for you to compare and contrast before making any decisions.

The gyms have seen an aesthetic update. They still play out largely the same, though getting to the gym leader sometimes requires players to solve short puzzles and even participate in a handful of double battles (carried over from generation III and IV). Buildings are much more distinct than they were on the Gameboy Color. Instead of scouring a city for the two buildings that read 'Poke' and 'Mart', you need only seek out the building with the red and blue roofs respectively. The Pokemart also has a spinning gas station-style sign next to it, making it even more recognizable. Same goes for the gym - instead of being one unnecessarily large building, it's a piece of modern architecture, in a semi-dome shape. I realize all of this is due to the fact that Heart Gold and Soul Silver are running on the same engine used to make Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, but it doesn't make any of it any less welcome.

I turned to the same starter Pokémon that I did almost a decade ago - in fact, so did my brother. I have nothing against Totodile or Chikorita, but I have a soft spot for Cyndaquil. Plus, I gravitate toward fire Pokémon in general, so it really only made sense. And the first Pokémon beyond Cyndaquil that I added to my party was a Sentret. Yes, Furret might be an HM hoe, but he's my HM hoe. I also picked up a Hoothoot and a Weedle. Last time around I focused on Butterfree, and I'd honestly never tried working with many poison types or bug types in the past. Getting a Beedrill was one of the first challenges on my list of personal achievements in-game this time around. Geodude was also an early addition to my party, and has since proved invaluable on a number of occasions. Mareep was caught not long after the first gym, with the intent of ultimately adding an Ampharos to my lineup (I'm getting there, slowly but surely - Flaffy is one of my most prominent team members).

After a pretty terrible beating in Ecruteak City's gym, I focused almost exclusively on leveling up my Evee and Gastly. The former panned out quite nicely with an Umbreon now at my disposal, while the latter has been put on hold. I still want a Haunter - he's one of my favorite first-gen Pokémon. As much as I like ghost types though, I'm not great using them. Plus, I'm past Ecruteak, currently in Olivine, so the need currently isn't as dire. Magnemite is the most recent addition and quite useful - since I've gained the ability to surf, he's been frying one Tentacool after another and stacking the exp. I guess I had forgotten how strong some of his electrical attacks are. He's only a handful of battles away from becoming a Magneton.

The Safari Zone has just opened up, and I think I'm going to take a bit of a break from the main game to search for some Pokémon that I cannot get through other means. As a whole though, Soul Silver is treating me very well. There is some grinding that needs to be done from time to time, and part of that is due to the fact that I try to keep my party as balanced as possible, while still mixing it up every so often. I'm really glad Nintendo chose to include all the areas past Johto - Kanto was fun to revisit in Gold version, but the fact that I can now go beyond even that to get some of the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald Pokémon is icing on the cake.

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