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Originally announced on Pokemon Sunday, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver brought a huge amount of excitement and speculation about what would and wouldn't be in the games. For months the people of Smogon discussed every detail that was released via CoroCoro and other means. Subjects like new evolutions and move tutors were common, and even alternate forms to Ho-oh and Lugia (lol?). Another common topic regarded pre-release pictures showing Pokemon following the trainer in the overworld (like in Pokemon Yellow). This interesting addition was loved by some and groan-inducing for others. When the games finally were released, all of the wondering was replaced with nostalgia and joy as players all over the world raced through Johto to find out what had been brought back from Gold and Silver and what was added.
In my opinion, all of the hype of HGSS was met and exceeded. There weren't many faults in the games, and any faults were trivial enough where they were completely outweighed by all the fantastic features. Specifically, I found that the graphics and music of HGSS to be beautiful, from great eyecatchers when entering a new place (like the Slowpoke Well) to the sound of your feet splashing through a puddle.
Another high point of HeartGold and SoulSilver is that a lot of the fan favorites from Gold and Silver were brought back. Day-of-the-week events like the Bug Catching Contest and Lapras appearing in the Union Cave were brought back in all of their original glory. Events like the Red Gyarados, Team Rocket taking over the Radio Tower, Apricorns, treking across Kanto, and even Eusine from Pokemon Crystal all returned. HGSS didn't just bring back old favorites though, it also added a ton of new gameplay, including new locations to explore, new attacks to use and abuse, and some new designs to conquer.
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver introduced a few areas that did not appear in the original games. Along the West coast of Cianwood City, Route 47 and 48 bridge the way to the Safari Zone, as well as leading to the Hidden Tower in which Kyogre (HeartGold), Groudon (SoulSilver), and Rayquaza (which appears when you have both Kyogre and Groudon) can be captured. Johto’s Safari Zone is quite different from past Safari Zones in that it is customizable and has a far wider range of Pokemon available. Players may change the ordering of many different areas as well as put accessories in them to manipulate the encounter rates of Pokemon. Like with the previous Safari Zones, the entry fee is 500 Pokedollars and the player obtains 30 Safari Balls and 500 steps to use in the facility.
Northwest of Olivine City sits the Battle Frontier, consisting of five different facilities: Battle Tower, Battle Factory, Battle Arcade, Battle Hall, and Battle Castle. These facilities are exactly the same as the ones in Pokemon Platinum. Battling and winning in these facilities, as well as fighting Cal in the Trainer House in Viridian City, awards the player with Battle Points. These Battle Points can later be spent on the rare items which are only sold in the Battle Frontier, or be used to pay the Move Tutors to teach your Pokemon moves. Interestingly, TM 30 and TM 59, Shadow Ball and Dragon Pulse respectively, can be bought here, making them the first two TMs that are given as Gym Leader victory prizes than can be bought again in the same game.
North of Johto, in an unknown land, lies the Shinto Ruins. This short strip of land can only be accessed with the movie Arceus on the player’s party through Ruins of Alph. Inside the Shinto Ruins, the player commands Arceus to give birth Dialga, Palkia, or Giratina, and a bizarre yet wonderful cutscene awaits you after the selection. These three Pokemon will be at Level 1 and hold their respective Orbs. It is interesting to note that this is the only legitimate method of obtaining Giratina-O in HeartGold and SoulSilver, as the Griseous Orb can not be traded in any way without an Action Replay.
Far into Kanto, the Cerulean Cave opens and gives players the opportunity to capture a Lv. 70 Mewtwo. Be sure to bring Flash as the cave is very dark, but it is still possible to navigate without it. West of the charred Cinnabar Island lies the Seafoam Islands, and unlike in Gold and Silver (where the Seafoam Islands were "destroyed") there is a ladder that leads deeper into the cave where Articuno can be captured.
One of the most discussed topics of HGSS were whether there would be new level up/egg moves or move tutors. Many people thought there would be tutors that taught Zap Cannon, Curse, among other moves that were originally TMs in Gold and Silver. Others thought that there wouldn't be any new moves. When the games were released the data for level up and egg moves was quickly ripped and translated for all to see. Smogoners quickly saw the moves that stood out from the rest, such as Head Smash Aggron, Bug Bite Scizor, Brave Bird Ho-oh, Nasty Plot Mismagius, and Aqua Jet Feraligatr (among others). People quickly started making new movesets and EV spreads to fully utilize all the new moves; as far as I know, no one was disappointed with these new developments. Not everything about new moves was good though...
As HeartGold and SoulSilver edged closer to the release date, rumors began to spread around as if they are confirmed information. A notable rumor during these times indicated that these games houses move tutors that teach moves like Encore, Ice Shard, and Aqua Jet. A roar of hype ensued – many people feared that the metagame would be in chaos if Ice Shard is widespread. Likewise, several people feared that Blissey might get Encore and destroy Calm Minders even more. The uproar continued until the actual moves from the move tutors were leaked out in 2ch, and later on, Smogon.
These moves are Super Fang, Pain Split, String Shot (what is this?), Tail Wind, Gravity, Worry Seed, Magic Coat, Role Play, Heal Bell, Low Kick, Sky Attack, Block, Bug Bite, Defog, and Headbutt. As you can see, a majority of these moves are terrible and useless. Even moves like Gravity are only worthwhile on really specific teams. Most people wished Gamefreak would've at least included the exlusive GS TM moves (Zap Cannon and Curse!), but alas, they did not.
Hype and questioning surrounded many people once more as they thought to have created game breaking sets from these moves. Super Fang Crobat, Super Fang Walrein, and Pain Split Forretress received the most attention during these times. The thought of a lightning fast Pokemon and an insane stalling machine in Hail with access to a move that cuts half of the target Pokemon’s current HP mortified quite a few. The viability of Pain Split on Forretress was questioned – can it replace an entry hazard in its moveslot?
As these new moves are slowly ingrained into people’s minds, the hype slowly fades into an evanescent wisp. Many people currently believe that these new moves had very minimal impact on the metagame, at least compared to Platinum’s spread of Outrage and Superpower.
Some of the gyms from Gold and Silver had their layouts re-designed for HGSS. The Azalea, Cianwood, and Blackthorn gyms all were revamped. The Azalea Gym now features a maze of spider webs which the player must cross using Spinarak vehicles. Chuck's Gym still requires Strength to move boulders, but instead of just moving boulders out of the way, the player must part a waterfall that Chuck is meditating under. The complicated two-story Blackthorn Gym was replaced with a lava-filled complex that the player must cross. Some of the Kanto Gyms were changed too; Erika, Misty, Blaine (who now resides deep in the Seafoam Islands), and Gary (I refuse to call him Blue!) all changed their gyms in the time since Gold and Silver. The Seafoam and Viridian Gyms specifically were drastically changed. What used to be a small room inside a magma-covered island is now a large red maze filled with trainers who block the player's path. The ho-hum GSC Viridian Gym was replaced with a futuristic and stylish gym where the player must navigate warp tiles to move ahead. These new gyms were very cool in my opinion; I'm glad HGSS didn't change all the gyms (for the nostalgia factor if anything), but some of the layouts were a lot of fun to play through.
We really feel that HeartGold and SoulSilver lived up to the hype that surrounded them. They had the perfect mix of nostaglic favorites and new material. Now if only Gamefreak brought back the Berserk Gene...
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