Taking the Pokémon Gold

I get this urge when I play a new Pokémon game to play other Pokémon games. Sometimes, like with White, I don’t get around to it but usually I feel a desire to play older Pokémon games I haven’t played or haven’t played enough. While I make a decent effort at completing the Pokedex in Pokémon Y, I decided it’s finally time to play the one Generation of Pokémon I’ve never really played. So I started up the copy of Pokémon Heart Gold I bought a year or so ago.

The most important thing with Pokémon games for me is the experience of playing. While they all play largely the same, somehow I get vastly different things out of them. Nothing has matched my first encounter with Pokémon Red. I got into Pokémon early, using the money from my 13th birthday to buy a copy just a few weeks after it was released. I was already savvy to the whole RPG thing, having played Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger among others on my SNES, but seeing an ad for it running on the kiosk at Wal-Mart convinced me to splurge with my birthday money.

While not as complex as those SNES games, the first time through Pokémon Red was a revelation. There were no guides and no previous games to base my expectations. Each new area was a discovery. First there are just simple animal Pokémon, birds, rats and bugs. Then it gets to the more outré ones, poisonous rabbits and electric rodents and the like. I was hooked. My already well trained video games sense paid off. I just knew the useless fish Pokémon would turn out to be useful. I played that game forever and came as close to completing the Pokedex as a boy without a link cable could.

Then came Silver and Gold. I was excited. My brother and I pooled our money and bought a copy of Silver as soon as we could. Unfortunately, sharing a copy of Pokémon game worked out about as well as one would expect. Which is to say one player got left out. That player was me. I was annoyed, but I was getting too old for Pokémon. Or so I thought. I sat out Ruby and Sapphire. I never really considered buying it. I was too busy with “mature” PS1 RPGs to waste any time on that kiddy stuff. The same went for the remakes of Red and Blue. I was done with Pokémon. Sure, I’d spend hours playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but not Pokémon.

Then in college, my roommate bought a copy of both Diamond and Pearl. I thought he was stupid, so I took Pearl and starting playing it. And didn’t stop, not for almost 400 hours. Maybe it was just enough time had gone by, maybe I was just eager for an excuse not to do my homework. I also bought copies of Fire Red and Emerald, just to help me complete my Pokedex. So I played through those as well. Pearl was the only game since Red to really pull me in like that. I nearly completed the Pokedex again, coming up just short a few stragglers and a depressing number of event only legendary Pokémon. It also was the source of my proudest Pokémon memory, beating the Champion with a team a full 15 levels lower than hers.

But then I was out again, again skipping the Gold and Silver games, as well as the improved Platinum. I did hop right on Pokémon White and enjoyed it for the fresh experience of playing through a game with no guide and all new Pokémon to use. While Pearl was the culmination of three generations worth of cruft, White cleaned it all away for a fresh game. White 2 brought all that stuff back. Now Pokémon Y gave the whole thing a seismic shock.

High off that experience, I am finally jumping into HeartGold. I am two gyms in and … it’s Pokémon. It is a little slower than I’m used to, the leveling up a lot more difficult than Y, but still fun. It definitely has a much better selection of starters than Y did, that’s for sure. Cyndaquil and Totodile are both awesome through all three evolutions and Chikorita is okay. It will feel good to finally have played every generation of the series, but the main draw is to build up a stable of Pokémon to transfer into the Pokémon Bank and fill out my Y Pokedex.

2nd Quest: Wind Waker

Yes, I know I’m jumping around like crazy instead of beating these games in order, but I play what is available. I’ll get to Majora’s Mask and the Oracle games soon, but Wind Waker HD just came out and I was excited to play it again. So here it is.


Wind Waker is an odd, contradictory game. More than most games in the series, it feels as though it were created with a specific vision. A vision somewhat different from the rest of the series. The original, A Link to the Past and Ocarina were all variations of the same on progressively more powerful hardware. Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask were very clearly side stories. Wind Waker has all the trappings of the main games: Zelda, Gannon and the fate of Hyrule in the balance, but the rest of the game is wildly different like the side games. It feels like a real evolution for the series. This feeling is helped by the divisive art style. This is the Zelda team changing the rules of what it means to be a Zelda game. At the same time, this game seems compromised on a fundamental level. There are spots where dungeons appear to be missing. The wide open seas feel lifeless and empty. It feels rushed, which is generally not the case with Nindendo’s “delay it until it is done” policy. Still, despite its occasional compromised bits, Wind Waker is far from mediocre.


Calling the graphics divisive is giving the brainless naysayers too much credit. The graphics are terrific. They are timeless, as the HD rerelease really showcases. Sure, there are some touch-ups and new lighting, but it still looks excellent even after ten years. The squat, expressive Link is the series’ most memorable. Likewise for the tough, sea-faring Zelda and somewhat tragic Gannondorf. Despite its somewhat empty sea, the world feels more real and lived in that most. This is largely due to the colorful, expressive graphics. Sometimes the characters in a Zelda game are just freakishly weird. Like Twilight Princess. This may be my favorite version of Hyrule.


Honestly, Wind Waker is my standard answer to what is my favorite Zelda game. I might actually like some others better, but I never felt like Wind Waker got the love it deserved. The response to Wind Waker HD has been overwhelmingly positive, though. It really warmed my heart. That is the reaction that the game deserves. It still feels fresh. A lot of that is because the reaction to this game caused Nintendo to overcorrect and hew too closely to the Ocarina model for the next games. Nintendo’s attempt to move the series beyond its initial trappings was rejected. On the negative side, it does suffer from a lack of dungeons. The first couple are a little basic, but the latter ones are really good. There just aren’t enough of them. There are two sets of two dungeons that really feel like they should be sets of three. Still, the last couple dungeons are really great. The HD version really sands down the original games rough edges. Speeding up the speed bump triforce hunt is greatly appreciated and the swift sail makes exploring a lot of fun instead of a somewhat tedious hassle.

Wind Waker hammers home that with one exception, the Zelda series is great all around. I love this game.