Pokemon Gold Version and Pokemon Silver Version were highly anticipated games. The previous games sold over 23 million copies by the end of their production in Japan, America, and Europe. I was a kid back then and while we assumed sequels would be made, we had no way of knowing for sure. This was before the internet was big. This was back in the time where video game rumors spread like wildfire on the playground instead of GameFAQs. When they were finally announced, we all collectively lost our minds. It was hard to imagine though that we were getting a sequel so soon. Everyone I knew (myself included) had put hundreds and hundreds of hours into their games. We had started new games repeatedly. We had completed all three cartridges–numerous times. Kanto was our new home and it was difficult to believe we’d be going somewhere else and catching new Pokemon. Our collective breath was held with excitement and anticipation. The hype was unbelievable.
There are no words existing that can properly explain how excited I was at Sam’s Club with my Dad to buy Pokemon Silver Version. I had my birthday money in hand that I’d been saving for months and my Dad kept cracking jokes about how I should help buy the family a new microwave since I was “loaded with cash”. I didn’t have time for my Dad’s crap though. I had $40 and was there to buy the bundle that included the game and the full color and detailed official strategy guide. I still remember the struggle in attempting to rip open the tough plastic that held the guide and the game. My dentist may have disapproved but I ripped that open with my teeth and flipped through that guide the entire way home. I was careful to just take in the fact that I was holding a new Pokemon game and not learn any spoilers. It was the thrill of a lifetime.
There are gamers everywhere that have similar memories I’m sure and like me, they probably have a warm place in their heart for these games almost twenty years since their release. I stopped keeping track when I was a kid but I know throughout one summer alone, I played Pokemon Silver Version almost 700 hours–and that was with my Mom attempting to keep me from playing too many video games. I’d pretend to be asleep when she’d put laundry away in my room in the morning when in reality I was just sneaking in an extra hour or two of catching Pokemon that would remain off the record in my Mom’s mind. She’d send me outside to “get away from games for a while” but I didn’t care. I’d just snag my Game Boy Color on the way out the door and climb up the tree in our yard and just play Pokemon Silver with the comfort of shade and no adults for hours. This series has always been an ongoing adventure for me and they continue to be to this day but these games will always be among not only my favorite Pokemon games, but also among my favorite games period. These are magical games that are filled with wonder and discovery every step of the way.
Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal all begin relatively similar to Red/Blue/Yellow with the protagonist living in a small town sans Pokemon however we get a twist this time that helped strengthen the opening. There is someone suspicious looking in Professor Elm’s laboratory. It’s unnerving but not entirely disturbing. At this point, the character has done nothing wrong but it’s mysterious and unnerving all the same. You can’t ask about him. He’s just there and you’re forced to accept it. When you speak to him, he simply tells you off and kicks you a few feet back. After speaking with Prof. Elm, you’re asked to perform an errand for him and he gives you the choice of one of his three Pokemon to aide you along the way. It’s different enough from Red/Blue/Yellow and it also helped flesh the world out and give it the illusion of it being alive with real people and events.
I mean, you weren’t just handed a Pokemon and told to go collect them all and save the world. You’re tasked with an errand and given the tools you need to do it. You aren’t promised anything but Elm is your neighbor and so you help him out. It’s kind of how Gold/Silver/Crystal go. They feel much more lifelike than the previous games. They have a sense of character about them. Red/Blue/Yellow was quirky and there was a story but these games just have more happening and there’s this constant conversation happening across the world with events, things, and people when you both talk to people and listen to the radio. It’s very refreshing and let me just say that back when it released, it was mind blowing.
On your way back from the errand, you encounter the mysterious individual that was peeking through the windows of Prof. Elm’s laboratory. He runs his mouth and then demands a battle. He talks about what it means to be a true Pokemon trainer and that Pokemon are essentially tools for us to use and instruments for controlled destruction that we can use against those who oppose us. It’s a lot more refreshing than Blue from Red/Blue/Yellow. Again, there’s more life to the character. He comes across as more real and has more motivation and determination. He speaks to you like you truly are an obstacle in his way. When you get back to Elm’s lab, there’s a police officer and they request information from you, which is where you end up naming your new rival. After a quick speech and after learning that while on your errand for him you received a Pokedex from Prof. Oak, Prof. Elm encourages you to keep the Pokemon you borrowed from him and go on the Pokemon Gym challenge.
With that you’re on your way and while the formula may feel familiar, Game Freak (now known as The Pokemon Company) added plenty of unique characters, new features, and some nice surprises that will help make these games not only technically superior but also much more memorable than Red/Blue/Yellow. One of the first great new features is the PokeGear, which was basically an Apple Watch but back in 2000. You’re able to collect upgrades for it that add new functions to aid you along your way. It possesses a map, watch, radio, and phone. The map is self-explanatory and no different from the previous games but the watch will absolutely come in handy. Smartphones may be everywhere now but it was great having the watch on the PokeGear because so many things are time and day specific in Gold/Silver/Crystal. I specifically remember waking up before 6 AM on certain Mondays to buy bitter medicines for my Pokemon (hey, they may not have liked them but I was broke. It was during the recession!) or remembering to head to Union Cave on Friday once I had the proper HM move so I could finally catch Lapras.
The time specific and day specific events were no gimmick at all. It added a lot of life, longevity, and just made these games feel so much more rich with content. It was immersive to talk to certain people on certain days or head to specific areas at night. It added another element when leveling up an Eevee but being aware that it wasn’t quite night time yet and so you had to stop it from evolving if you were wanting an Umbreon. I loved keeping track of all the different things that happened at different times and just doing all that this game offered content wise.
The phone added an interesting element as well. Some Pokemon trainers would ask you for your phone number after a battle so they could call you for rematches. This added another layer of life to the games and also helped pad the replay value in a more meaningful way. Crystal Version specifically added even more to this by having even more reasons trainers would call you, like to offer you an elemental stone for example. The radio was really cool as well because there were different radio shows (this was before podcasts so shut it! I’m not old!) that happened at again, different times, which would provide information that would be of use to you. It would either be helpful for secondary objectives like catching certain Pokemon or simply just to jam to some good tunes.
The gyms in this game were better than Red/Blue/Yellow in my opinion as well. There were surely some memorable battles in the previous games but the characters felt more fleshed out this time around. For example, Jasmine can’t battle you right away because she’s concerned about Ampharos’ health. You see, Ampharos usually sits at the top of the lighthouse illuminating the way for incoming and departing ships to see but she currently isn’t feeling well. In order to battle Jasmine, the player needs to travel to a nearby city across the ocean to get special medicine from the Cianwood Pharmacy for the sick Ampharos. More meaningful side quests are one of the reasons that I love Gold/Silver/Crystal so much and this is definitely one of the standout examples.
Taking on Team Rocket is also a treat in this game as players will often work with the Elite Four Champion known as Lance the Dragon Master which is simply awesome. The objectives of Team Rocket feel more meaningful than the previous games as well. They’re working together and more cohesively and actually seem like a real and functioning crime organization. In Gold/Silver/Crystal, they’re hoping to get the attention of former Team Rocket crime boss, Giovanni and have him lead them again. There are a few encounters throughout the game before you’re finally able to take them down for good and it’s a hell of a fun time.
The core story isn’t too much different. The player will collect all badges before taking on the Elite Four once again but they’re a bit different though. The passage of time has changed some things within the world and that’s even more emphasized once you beat the Elite Four and get to travel to Kanto. The region of Kanto has gone through quite a bit of changes and it’s interesting being able to revisit the area. Even though there wasn’t a lot of time between the releases of Red/Blue/Yellow and the Gold/Silver/Crystal, it was still a nice treat to get to check in on the Kanto region and see how it’s changed in the last few years. There’s even some character developments you’re able to witness, like with the previous antagonist Blue and even changes to the region, like Cinnabar Island having experienced a volcanic eruption.
While in Kanto, you’ll do much more than just visit. You’re able to experience much of the world, minus a few things like the Safari Zone. Satoru Iwata actually helped compress enough of the game to allow for most of the Kanto region to be experienced and I cannot emphasize how much fun it is. If you haven’t played Red/Blue/Yellow then I would highly recommend playing at least one of the games before jumping into Gold/Silver/Crystal. It’ll make it a much more meaningful visit and you’ll appreciate it so much more. You’re also able to battle all eight Pokemon gyms in Kanto before rebattling the Elite Four. Once you finish beating the Elite Four one more time, you’re able to go to Mt. Silver where Red, the protagonist from Red/Blue/Yellow, is waiting to battle. There may be a lot of fan service here, but it’s a such a good time and adds so much more life to the both the world and the games themselves. They’re just as much fun to experience from a story and exploration standpoint as they are from a gameplay perspective.
Battling Pokemon is even more fun this time around. Your bag is organized into sections so you can access the items you need much more quickly. Pokemon can hold items this time around to use during battle. These can be one time use items, like berries, or stat boosting items that give the positive effect as long they’re holding it. Bitter Berries make confusion something that you can heal which makes Zubat encounters much better but also of course improves battles as a whole. Everything just feels more tight this time around and while some things have been changed, they’re certainly welcome improvements.
Many of the mechanics aren’t that different but there are just so many little touches that are added. For example, when you encounter a wild Pokemon, if it’s one you’ve already captured then a little Pokeball icon will appear to remind you that you already have one. There’s no reason to go around catching Pokemon like Ash catches Tauros. You can also see a bar that represents the amount of experience points needed for your current Pokemon to level up. In the previous games, you had to go to the stat screen to check this information. Now you can see in battle and make decisions accordingly.
The music of this world is incredible. There’s more epic tracks that help add to the present danger or tension the main character is currently going through and there’s a deeper range of emotions in general as well. Somber and sad music will tug at your heartstrings and there’s plenty of pep to be put in your step as your travel across the different routes and regions. Sound effects are sharp and help add that missing edge to attacks and of course graphically, everything looks much, much better as well.
The biggest thing improvement to the graphics is the increased use of colors (if you’re playing on Game Boy Color or Game Boy Advance) and the attack animations. Flamethrower, Flame Blast, Hydro Pump, Ice Punch, Psychic, Hyper Beam, Fly, Dig, and so many more attacks are more defined and polished in how they’re shown on screen. There are some attacks that I didn’t necessarily use too often in Red/Blue/Yellow but just due to how damn cool they looked this time around, I ended up using them on a regular basis. I’m looking at you Flamethrower and Psychic! Red/Blue/Yellow looked good but these games just pop right off the screen.
The use of color is also put to very deliberate use. The world looks as lively as it feels. Pokemon Crystal Version experiences the biggest boost in this department as it was exclusive to the Game Boy Color. That’s right–it wouldn’t even work on the Game Boy so Game Freak could go all out on the expansion. Pokemon have animations in battle, different sprites, and even more color packed into them.
These games are absolutely incredible and I still find myself replaying them start to finish every few years. The remakes available on DS are great too but I love these games so much more. Call it nostalgia if you want but I replay these games specifically much more than many other games that I played as a kid–and that includes Red/Blue/Yellow. It pains me to the core that Nintendo and The Pokemon Company aren’t re-releasing these on the 3DS eShop because they’d be INSTANT purchases from me, no matter what they chose for a price point.
From the epic story to the time specific events to the sweet spot of 251 Pokemon for you to catch, these games are a real treat. While I love later releases (including Sun and Moon), I will always keep coming back to these three games. If you’re only going to play one of them then I’d highly recommend Pokemon Crystal Version as it contains everything that the other two games have with plenty of extras, including some nice additions to the story. You’ll need to trade to collect all of the Pokemon but the story and feature additions definitely help give Crystal Version a definite edge over the other two games.
Pokemon games would go on to sell millions of copies with each and every release and I love all of the new games but if I had to recommend one set of older games in the series, then it’d definitely be Gold/Silver/Crystal. There’s so much heart and passion along this roller coaster ride of a story and the time specific events and new features, along with two regions to explore help give these games more magic and character that we typically see in many of the games released today.
Hey everyone! If you liked what you read here then make sure to check back every two weeks for my newest Retro Review! We have one published every single Friday between myself and fellow writer Jerry Dobracki. There’s a lot of great modern games I love playing but there’s just something so special about old school Nintendo and Playstation games that keeps me coming back to them. For current coverage and news, make sure to check BagoGames every day and follow us on Twitter @BagoGames. To keep up with what I’m playing, make sure to follow me on Twitter @MrJoshNichols! See you in two weeks! Happy gaming!
- Bright, colorful, and more detailed graphics
- 100 more Pokemon to collect
- Fun and exciting story
- Incredible music that rivals the previous games
- Ability to go to experience Kanto again
- Encounter rate is much higher than current games (may bother some players)
- Two more HM moves may frustrate some