Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal
  • Genre:
    • RPG
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Color
  • Developer:
    • Game Freak
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 10/14/1999
    • US 10/15/2000
    • UK 04/06/2001
Score: 80%

This review was published on 07/07/2014.

Pokemon Gold and Silver is a role-playing game developed by Game Freak and released by Nintendo for the original Game Boy. The game was first released in Japan as Pocket Monsters Gold and Silver on October 14, 1999. It then got released in North America on October 15, 2000, Europe on April 6, 2001, and Australia on May 11, 2001. Around a year later, a special edition named Pokemon Crystal was released. Even though the game was designed to work on the original Game Boy, it had enhanced features that could be accessed on the Game Boy Color, which is the platform the game was marketed for. Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal are all pretty much the same game, with only minor differences separating the three. This game is considered to be the second generation of Pokemon, as it's the sequel to Pokemon Red and Blue. Considering the monumental success of the original games, it's easy to see why a sequel was made. Pokemon Gold and Silver brings many minor improvements to the formula pioneered in Red and Blue, overall making for a better experience. Many fans consider Gold and Silver to be the best Pokemon game ever made. While that might be giving the game too much credit, the reason for that claim should become obvious further into this review.

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Three years after the events of Pokemon Red and Blue, in the region of Johto, a new legend is about to be born. The game begins with a short speech by Professor Oak, world renowned Pokemon expert from the previous game, as he explains a few basic concepts of Pokemon. During this brief introduction, you are prompted to provide a name for the protagonist, a tradition that every Pokemon game carries. In Pokemon Crystal, players can also define the gender of the protagonist, which is the first time in Pokemon history that such an option became available. How progressive of them. The story of this game is basically the same as the first: you play as a kid who sets out on a journey to become the world's greatest Pokemon champion. To accomplish this task, you become a Pokemon Trainer, an individual that catches and uses creatures called Pokemon in combat, and you go to gyms to battle against other Pokemon Trainers known as Gym Leaders. Beating a Gym Leader earns you a Gym Badge, and after collecting all eight badges, you can then proceed to the Elite Four, where you will battle four of the best trainers in the land. If you beat the Elite Four, you will become the champ. The only difference between this game's premise and the previous game is that it takes place in a different geographical region in the world of Pokemon. As one would expect, Pokemon isn't really about the plot. The story is merely an excuse to let players embark on an epic journey, and it works well in that regard.

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Animal rights activists will be delighted to know that battles are the biggest part of Pokemon. Battles against wild Pokemon are randomly encountered in tall grass or dungeons, while battles against Pokemon Trainers are initiated whenever you enter the trainer's line of sight. Fights are turn-based, one-on-one affairs, not far off from the original Dragon Warrior. Despite only being able to fight one-on-one, you can have up to six Pokemon on you at a time, and you can switch between these six Pokemon anytime during battle. Not a whole lot has changed about the battles, though there are a few subtle things that make for a more convenient experience. A small, but very helpful change is the addition of an experience meter that lets you know how close a Pokemon is to leveling up, even in the heat of battle. Another helpful addition is the indicator that indicates whether a Pokemon you're facing has already been caught. Pokemon Crystal is also the first game in the series to give each Pokemon its own signature animation in battle. As small as all these changes are, they go a long way to improving the battle system. Sadly, that's where the changes and additions end. Everything else is exactly the same, except for the graphics being ever so slightly better. It would be nice if there was more meat to the battle mechanics, but that's a complaint that could be attributed to every game in the series.

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Types are back and they are as important as ever. Every Pokemon has one or two types that determine its weaknesses and resistances, kind of like elemental affinities in standard RPGs. All the types from the previous game return and most of them still function the same way, like fire still beats grass, electric still beats water, and so on. Moves also have types associated with them, so it isn't just Pokemon that have types. It's possible for a Pokemon to use moves of a different type than its own, but doing so comes at a decrease in damage. Two new types are introduced in this game; dark and steel. The addition of these new types slightly alters the weakness order, as the new types must be accounted for in the type chart. For the most part, the changes to the weakness order are positive, as they fix many of the imbalances that existed in the previous game. The psychic type is no longer as invincible as it once was, thanks to it now being weak against ghost types and not effective against dark and steel types. If it weren't for the type system, battles in Pokemon would be way less interesting, so this is an important mechanic. The added types and improved balance make the battles of Pokemon Gold and Silver better than they were in the last game.

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New to this Pokemon game is the element of time. Every Pokemon Gold and Silver cartridge comes with a special battery equipped timer that allows it to keep track of time, even when the game is turned off. The game has a one-to-one correspondence to real time, so when it's five o'clock in real life, it's also five o'clock in the game. On top of that, the game even keeps track of the day of the week. All of this is exploited to a great degree within the game itself. Different Pokemon can be encountered in the wild depending on whether it's morning, noon, or night. The day and night cycle can effect things like picked berries growing back on certain trees, or some shops taking a day to make you an item. There are also special events that can happen on certain days of the week, like how Lapras can only be caught on Fridays, or the bug catching contest that is only held three times per week. Some shops only open during certain days and times, as well. This is all a mixed blessing, though. On the one hand, this is an innovative mechanic that was very ahead of its time, but on the other hand, it's incredibly inconvenient. If you only play games at a certain time of day, like at night, then you're locking yourself out of a ton of content. Altering one's life schedule to be in line with what the game wants is too unreasonable a request for most people. The real time mechanic is a perfect example of something that's better on paper than it is in practice.

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Another new feature introduced in this game is the ability for Pokemon to hold items. Some items, like berries, will activate automatically when certain conditions are met while Pokemon are holding them. Most berries will restore a bit of a Pokemon's health when they're weak, but some will have other effects, like curing poison once inflicted. You can also just use items on Pokemon yourself, but this wastes a turn in battle, whereas items used by Pokemon do not. Lastly, items held by Pokemon can sometimes act as accessories or equipment, in that they can boost the Pokemon's stats or bestow a special effect. For example, EXP Share gives experience to the Pokemon holding it, even if they don't participate in battle. Charcoal, on the other hand, will increase the damage output of fire type moves. Then there's an item that grants the holder the ability to regenerate a little bit of life on every turn. There are countless other items like this in the game. In a way, this can serve as a highly simplified form of customization. It's far from a game changer, but it does add a little more strategy to the proceedings.

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Catching Pokemon is still a major part of the game. Just like before, you throw a Poke Ball at a weakened wild Pokemon for a chance to catch it. Different types of Poke Balls have different catch rates, and inflicting certain status ailments, like sleep, can make Pokemon easier to catch. Special Poke Balls can also be custom made to increase the odds of catching Pokemon in certain circumstances, like a ball that is better at catching heavy creatures. There were 151 of the blasted things in Pokemon Red and Blue. Pokemon Gold and Silver raises that cap to a grand total of 251, meaning there are 100 new ones. This time around, Pokemon actually have genders and can breed. That's gross, so let's not think about it too much. While the new Pokemon are the stars of the show, Pokemon Gold and Silver still feature many of the old Pokemon from the previous game. Plenty of the fan favorites are still here, like Pidgey, Rattata, Pikachu, etc. Fans of Pokemon Red and Blue should feel right at home, even if they don't like the new Pokemon too much. Speaking of the new Pokemon, their designs aren't as iconic as the original 151. A lot of the new designs are weird, like this pink bulldog thing called Snubbull. It's cool that there are so many new Pokemon, but their designs aren't as memorable as the originals.

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With two Game Boys, two Pokemon cartridges, and a Game Link Cable, you can trade and battle Pokemon with friends. The ability to trade between two Pokemon Gold and Silver carts opens up fairly early in the game, but trading with the older Pokemon Red and Blue carts becomes available a little later. Trading between Gold and Silver is easy, but there are a lot of stipulations when trading between the new and old games. For one, you can't trade any of the new Pokemon from the new games to the old games. Also, if an old Pokemon knows any new moves, then those can't be traded to the old games, either. That's kind of a bummer, but it makes sense, given that those Pokemon and moves didn't even exist back when Red and Blue were made. The fact that you can trade with the old games at all is pretty cool. Pokemon Gold, Silver, Red, and Blue all have Pokemon exclusive to them, so trading with all four versions is necessary to acquire every single Pokemon. It's kind of a jerk move by Nintendo to get obsessive collectors to buy multiple versions of the same game, an underhanded tactic that works way better than it should. Still, none can deny the excitement of trading and battling with friends.

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Skip this paragraph if you don't want to see a massive end game spoiler. You've been warned. Easily the best part of Pokemon Gold and Silver is the fact that you can return to Kanto, the region of Pokemon Red and Blue. After gathering all eight badges in Johto, Kanto becomes available for exploration. Almost all of the major areas from the first game have been faithfully recreated here. Not only that, but you can actually get all eight badges from Kanto's gyms and even challenge the Elite Four there. This effectively doubles the length of the game and is freaking awesome. Many of the old Pokemon can be caught here, too, allowing players to flesh out their monster collection. The concept of being able to revisit these old areas is why Pokemon Gold and Silver is considered by many fans to be the best game in the series. Putting two giant worlds into a single, tiny cartridge is quite a feat. Dragon Warrior III had a similar concept, so this isn't a wholly original idea, but it's still a fabulous notion nonetheless. When it comes to post game content, Pokemon Gold and Silver is king. Games should do this more often.

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Convenient is the best word to describe Pokemon Gold and Silver. This game takes everything that was introduced in the originals and makes it more convenient, such as listing the effects of Pokemon moves, better item management, a button for quick item use on the field, context sensitive actions for HM moves, and more. There are, however, a few things that actually make this game more inconvenient than its predecessor, like the time element. Having to make changes to your life schedule to get certain things in the game is inconvenient and dumb. The game makes up for its shortcomings by having the whole world of Pokemon Red and Blue in it. That alone makes this game great. Other than that, Pokemon Gold and Silver is pretty much the same thing, just better. Don't fix what isn't broken is the motto of Pokemon.

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