As part of Nintendo and Game Freak’s continuing joint effort to ingrain their “gotta catch ’em all” mentality into the minds of todays young (and not-so-young), the recent remakes of Pokémon Gold and Silver included a nifty doodad known as the Pokéwalker. This tiny device’s sole purpose in life it to make sure you never, ever stop playing Pokémon…unless you’re asleep. Quite frankly, their ploy worked. I and countless others are now proudly putting Pokémon in our pants.
Much like HeartGold and SoulSilver are remakes of Gold and Silver, it can be said that the Pokéwalker is a remake of Pokémon Pikachu 2. Both items are pedometers that have the ability to interact with a Pokémon handheld game. Both peripherals award the player Watts for steps taken, and these Watts can be used to play the various mini-games on the peripherals. The biggest difference between Pokémon Pikachu 2 and the Pokéwalker is the Pokémon in the device. Pokémon Pikachu 2 only featured Pikachu who was trapped in an electronic prison forever, but with the Pokéwalker Pokémon can be beamed to and from the Pokéwalker and a copy of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver. The Pokéwalker can hold four Pokémon (one on a stroll and three found with the Pokéradar) and three items found in the DOWSING MCHN mini-game. The only other notable difference between the two gadgets is that the Pokéwalker is harder to cheat. I have many fond memories of shaking the holy hell out of my Pokémon Pikachu 2 to get Watts. While such a feat is possible with the Pokéwalker, it has been designed in such a way that shaking it too fast or too slow will fail to add to your step and Watt totals, so you have to shake it at just the right pace for your movements to be registered.
Just like most things that are related to a Pokémon game, the Pokéwalker has a complex system governing it that is cloaked in a thin veil of simplicity. At first glance it looks like an easy way to level up Pokémon and get some items. However, each route you stroll with your Pokémon on has a pre-determined set of Pokémon assigned to it, and these sets are divided into lists. When you beam a Pokémon over to the Pokéwalker, you are limited to catching Pokémon from one of those randomly selected lists until you beam the Pokémon you are strolling with back to your DS and start again. Also, accumulating certain amounts of steps increases your chances of finding the rarest Pokémon. You can reduce the amount of steps needed for the rarer Pokémon by 25% if you bring one of the correct types of Pokémon with you on your stroll. If all of this sounds mind boggling and confusing, that’s because it is. Especially when you consider none of this information is included with the documentation you get with the game.
So far, the Pokéwalker has proven to be an interesting diversion during times I am not otherwise engaged with my life or my DS. My main complaint right now is the poor quality of materials used in constructing it. Even keeping the pedometer clipped on a belt and covered by a t-shirt seems to leave it with new scratches every day. Putting it loose in your pocket is an even bigger mistake: your Pokéwalker will come out looking like Pruneface from a Dick Tracey comic by the end of the day. I wish I had seen some advance warning about this problem before I bought SoulSilver so I could have bought a universal screen protector for it. My only other complaint is about the sounds the Pokéwalker makes. Each button press results in a beep, as does every other action in a mini-game. Thankfully these can be turned off in the settings menu, but it took me a week or so before I was able to figure out the option for no sound was there.
Coupled with the Pokéwalker, Pokémon HeartGold or SoulSilver has enough depth and throwback value to send even the most reserved of players to PokéRehab. Nintendo and Game Freak successfully collaborated to take players back to what is, for most, one of the most nostalgic generations of Pokémon history. With the launch of Pokémon Black and White basically right around the corner, Pokéfans around the globe are wondering if there will be Pokéwalker support for the 5th generation of pocketable monsters. While we are waiting for something official, let me add fuel to the speculation machine by saying I don’t think the new games will support the Pokéwalker peripheral. In this present age of gaming it takes change and innovation to keep players coming back for more. Game Freak has proven they know this by rarely, if ever, using the same gimmick more than once. It is my sincere hope that if they do bring back the Pokéwalker in some form, something newer and better will be implemented with them rather than the developers regurgitating the same novelty we have now. Personally, I’d rather see more time and energy be put into battle animations than a Pokéwalker update.