January 6, 2012
I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon HeartGold in my free time lately. One thing that I like about it is the user interface. Because it’s on the Nintendo DS it can take advantage of the system’s touch screen. Now you think it working fine would be a no-brainer. A menu heavy role-playing game on a system with a touch screen should work well, and HeartGold does. I guess my whole point in bringing this up is because of how little Game Freak utilized the touch screen in Pokemon Diamond/Pearl.
In that generation of Pokemon games the touch screen was used terribly outside of battles. The normal action took place entirely on the top screen while occupied on the bottom screen were twenty or so mostly useless doodads. The bottom screen was a Swiss Army knife of crap. Navigation of menus could sometimes be done through the bottom screen, but the icons were so small and positioned as to be nearly useless. On the other hand, the bottom screen was utilized well in battles.
In battle there were four options. Instead of the prompts being of equal size and therefore of equal importance, the battle option was very prominent. After selecting it, the next choices are what moves to use and these are evenly divided between a Pokemon’s four options; even when using an item or switching to another Pokemon in battle, the user interface is easy to use.
HeartGold makes no improvements of the user interface in battles but menus outside of battles are totally revamped. In HeartGold (and SoulSilver mind you) the menu is readily available on the bottom screen. Thanks to this improved accessibility, and the navigation that’s miles ahead of where it was in Diamond/Pearl, I play the game nearly exclusively with a stylus. I remember thinking to myself when I played Diamond that buttons were much faster thanks to the poor implementation, not so in HeartGold/SoulSilver.
I grew up on Pokemon games so I have a lot of love for the series, hence this article. Plus, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately and thought I’d write about it. At this point HeartGold is two years old and it’s not even in the most current generation of Pokemon games any more, Pokemon Black/White take that honor. I haven’t played those yet (my thoughts on those two are a whole other article haha) so I wonder what kinds of improvements – if any – were made in those games.