Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Johto Memories: Happy Anniversary, HG/SS! おめでとう!

Flashback to five years ago, this past weekend: the newly remastered second generation Pokémon games, HeartGold and SoulSilver (HG/SS), hits North American stores. Pokéfans of all ages spend countless hours exploring the Johto region on the Nintendo DS, with some experiencing it for the very first time, and others enjoying a bit of nostalgia from 10 years past. Most notably, however, wasn't necessarily the improved graphics or the addition of the DS' touchscreen and stylus to gameplay; it was the inclusion of a pedometer sold with the game that truly took the game to the next level.

Taking my Poliwhirl out for a (very long) stroll along Tokyo's Kappabashi-dori
Known as a Pokéwalker, this pedometer wasn't the first virtual Poké-pet. The Pokémon Pikachu was released in the late 1990s as a standalone toy amid the virtual pet craze à la Tamagotchi, and the Pokémon Pikachu 2 GS followed soon after, featuring infrared communication with that era's current Pokémon games of Gold, Silver, and Crystal. Trainers looking to receive Mystery Gifts from their Pikachu 2 GS had to make a separate purchase; unlike the Pokéwalker and HG/SS, the GS did not come bundled with the games.

The integration of the Pokéwalker with HG/SS put the nostalgia off the charts for me, and was one of my favorite features of the game. As an adult, it not only hearkened back to my childhood days of wishing Pokémon were real (well, I still wish that!), but it also encouraged me to be more active. As you can see in the picture above, it wasn't difficult for me to rack up thousands of steps per day in places like Tokyo...but in my Indiana city, where foot traffic isn't as common, practical, or safe, it became a challenge: can I break 10,000 steps a day? 15,000? 20,000? Ultimately, that gamer mentality of "leveling up" helped push me toward a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, due to the Pokéwalker's small size and slippery case, many a soul stored within became lost: whether met with the watery grave of the washing machine, or stealthily jumping out of pockets in pursuit of freedom, many of us mourned the loss of our beloved virtual pets. Through several strokes of luck, I still have mine: not only did an especially tenacious Furret survive a trip through the wash (Furret used Surf!), he made it through what I mistakenly thought was a permanent separation at the San Antonio airport, instead spending a few months hiding out under the driver's seat of my car. Nowadays, my Pokéwalker and my Pikachu 2 GS spend most of their days in relative safety on my dresser, not because I've forsaken my active lifestyle--but because I'm terrified of losing such nostalgic relics.

Do you still have your Pokéwalker, or Pokémon Pikachu? Comment here and share your adventures! Also, don't forget to check out some of my favorite Johto-inspired designs, currently on sale in my Teepublic shop!

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