Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal Retrospective (GameBoy Color)

When I first got on at NintendoFuse and decided to do these retrospectives, I had told myself I would only do 1 retrospective per week at most. This was partially to prevent them getting stale and partially to prevent me from overworking myself with everything else I had to do. With that said, the recent rumors about Pokemon Sun and Moon has me feeling a certain type of way. Almost all of the games I am writing about in these articles make me feel nostalgic in one way or another, but the Pokemon series makes me feel something else. It’s been such a big part of my life, and I’ve met people through it. From the friends I met playing, to the cubone skull permanently etched into my right calf, this series is a part of who I am. Ever since I started playing it, it’s one of the only things that has remained a constant through my childhood, adolescence, and even now as an adult. This feeling isn’t nostalgia; it’s love.

 

So why did I choose to talk about Generation II instead of the originals? I’ll admit, it’s partially favoritism but also because this was technically the first generation I played. On my 10th birthday the only thing I asked for was a GameBoy Color and a copy of Pokemon Silver. All my friends were playing it, and I wanted in. I wound up receiving the special edition GameBoy Color, Silver, and also Yellow. I experienced Generations I and II simultaneously, but due to it being the newer one everyone was playing, and also just having more content, I spent much more time playing Generation II. I vividly remember my cousin helping me start the game. My first Pokemon was Totodile. Normally in these retrospectives, I pick a memory of particular impact or importance with with Pokemon’s second generation, I just have way too many to pic from. I could tell you about the first time me and my cousin discovered breeding, my first shiny Pokemon (a silver Krabby), when I explored the Ruins of Alph, the first time I cleared the Elite 4, I could even tell you about how coming from a religious background almost rendered me unable to play the game because it was labelled as Satanic, but none of those memories would equate to the value of what these games mean in my life.

 

Art from the Pokemon Adventures Manga written by Hidenori Kusaka and illustrated by Satoshi Yamamoto.

A lot of people regard Generation II as not bringing much new to the table because it only brought 100 new species into the game, but it did so much more than that. The new typings, stats, and attacks changed the metagame on a fundamental level and the single player content is pretty expansive, but we’ll go over that part in a bit. The first games definitely hooked a lot of people, but this was right after the release of the first movie when Pokemania was at at its highest point. Schools began banning Pokemon in any form, treating the trading cards like paraphernalia. If you got caught with a GameBoy in your backpack, you better have had a damn good excuse, because you weren’t getting that back until the end of the school year. As much as I would love to be able to be a Pokemon hipster and say I was there from the start, I wasn’t, but I think I came in at the best possible time.

What were probably the 2 most exciting new features for veteran were the introductions of genders, which allowed for breeding, and the day/night cycle. The cartridges for the second generation were the first to feature internal clocks, allowing the game to mirror the real world. This only effected some evolution trees and which Pokemon were available in certain areas. I don’t recall any buildings being off limits regardless of the hour of day. This cycle really did make the world feel more alive and organic, which did wonders for making you feel connected to your Pokemon on an emotional level.

While Pokemon’s Story, with rare exceptions, has never been all too important, if you wish to avoid spoilers, please scroll until you see text indicating that the spoilers have ended.

*****BEGIN SPOILERS*****

The second generation of games starts out very similarly to the first set of games with your character, a 10 year old boy (or girl if you have Crystal and select that option) waking up. As you go downstairs you are greeted by your mother who reminds you that Professor Elm next door wanted to see you today. On your way, you notice a kid about your age with fiery red shoulder length hair looking in the window on Professor Elm’s lab. If you try to engage him, he just tells you to mind your own business. Entering the lab, Professor Elm tells you that he has an important errand for you to run, and he needs you to go meet Professor Oak, but it would be dangerous for you to go alone and so he gives you pick of 3 Pokemon; Chikorita, Totodile, and Cyndaquil. Cyndaquil is my favorite, but Totodile was my first choice. So you go and meet Professor Oak, battle some Hoot-Hoots or Sentrets on the way, depending on what time it is, and he gives you a Pokedex and and a Pokemon egg to take back to Elm. On your way back, you’re encountered by the red haired guy from earlier who challenges you, using one of Elm’s Pokemon (he will choose whichever one has type advantage over what you picked). After you defeat him, you’re given the option to name him. We’re just going to call him Silver. After making it back to the lab, you’re greeted by a police officer. You tell him the person’s name and what happened. Elm suggests you keep the Pokemon egg and sends you on a quest to fill the Pokedex. Come to think of it, did anyone in this game’s universe ever question sending children out into the world to capture and battle monsters, some of which are extremely dangerous and capable of destroying cities?

Anytime you make eye contact with another trainer outside of a town, you will be prompted to do battle with them as you did your rival. Pokemon is a turn based RPG, and while you can have up to 6 monsters in your party, only 1 may be active at a given time. The idea is to use type advantages to get the upper hand, especially if you can trick the computer into sending out a type that has advantage and then get one over on it with an attack that actually has the type advantage (just because a Pokemon is fire type doesn’t mean it can only learn fire type moves, for example). Along your journey of filling out the Pokedex, you will also be competing in a regional tournament of sorts in which you do battle with powerful “Gym Leaders” who will reward you with badges upon defeat. Having all 8 of the badges allows you to try your shot at the Elite 4, and then the champion.


The first Major City you enter is Violet City where the 1st gym Leader, Falkner, awaits. He’s a bird type leader and is pretty simple to defeat, and if you find yourself having trouble you can obtain and Onix early via trading with an NPC and completely destroy him. Before you leave this town, you also ascend Sprout Tower defeating sages. Sprout Tower is an excellent introduction to the contrasts between the Johto region and the Kanto region of the first games. Johto is much more traditional in its architecture and mindsets. Johto is also much more steeped in its mythology. For example, the Sprout Tower’s main pillar is thought to have been formed from a 100 foot bellsprout and most of the region’s legendaries are treated as gods.

 

Your travels will next see you to Azalea town, which a quaint little village. Here you will meet Kurt who makes special Pokeballs out of nuts called apricorns, but first you’ll have to help him save some Slowpoke that are being terrorized in a nearby Well by Team Rocket. You might think after being thwarted by a 10 year old, the terrorist group would have called it quits, but not, they’re at it again in Johto. This is also where you battle the bug type gym leader, Bugsy. You’ll make quick work of him if you have any rock type pokemon or you chose Cyndaquil at the start. You’ll also run into Silver one more time before you head into the Ilex forest.

On the other side of the Forest is Goldenrod City, which has a large shopping mall, a radio tower (currently being held up by Team Rocket) and is also home to the 3rd gym leader, who will likely be your first real challenge, Whitney. Whitney is a normal type trainer, so not only does she have a lack of weaknesss, she also has a Miltank that is pretty much designed to make you hate your existence. At this point of the game, a well trained Miltank is a nightmare. After you finally take her out, and rescue to radio tower from Rocket, you’re off to wait is arguably the most important town in Johto, Ecruteak.

Ecruteak is a village steeped in mythology.  Ecruteak is home to 2 towers, the Bell Tower and the Brass Tower. Ho-Oh once perched in the Bell Tower while Lugia resided in the Brass tower. However, the Brass Tower caught fire and Lugia fled. Threee unnamed pokemon died in that fire, and were revived by Ho-Oh as Raikou, Entei and Scuicune. Exploring the remains of the burned tower, you will encounter these ebasts, who flee at the sight of you. From this point onward it is possible to encounter them in the wild, though they will always flee immediately. The gym leader in Ecruteak, Morty, is a ghost type leader. Before leaving Ecruteak, you must also go to the Dance Theatre and defeat all of the Kimono girls so that you can teach a Pokemon surf.

                      This image is also from the aforementioned Manga series

The next location on your list is Olivine, home to the steel type leader, Jasmine. But there’s a problem; Olivine is a port town and the lighthouse’s light actually comes from am Ampharos’ tail. Unfortunately, that Ampharos named Amphy because the Pokemon series NPCs are ever so creative, is ill and not producing light. Using that newfound surf ability, you travel across the sea to Cinawood city to fetch Amphy some medicine. But of course you also take down the fighting type gym leader, Chuck, because you have more important goals than saving a dying Pokemon, as a person who has devoted your existence to forming bonds with and understanding these creatures. I really need to stop trying to apply logic here. After Amphy is all better, you also do battle with Jasmine before heading off to Mahogany town.

Mahogany is where things start to get interesting. Just north of town is a large mass of water called the Lake of Rage. Surfing to the center, you will do battle with a red Gyarados. Since this was the first time color was used to full effect in the series, they created extremely rare alternate colors of Pokemon which became known as “shiny”. For most, this red Gyarados would be their introduction to alternate color Pokemon. After catching or defeating it, a trainer named Lance will be waiting for you at the shore. This is the same Lance who was a member of the Elite 4 in the first games. He tells you that a mysterious radio broadcast is forcing the Magikarp in the lake to evolve. You meet him at a souvenir shop in town where he opens a secret passage to the Team Rocket HQ, and of course, this horrifying terrorist group is once again dismantled by a 10 year old. The local gym leader commands a team of ice type Pokemon and to get through it you have to figure out this ice sliding puzzle. The game places this gym at this point to prepare you for the upcoming Ice path I haven’t talked much about the forests and caves between each town, but oh man, was the Ice Path one of the main sources of my 10 year old self’s frustrations.


The Ice Path is essentially 4 floors of ice that you slide around on and have to figure out specific patterns to get through. It’s not overly difficult for me now, but when I was a kid I wanted to scream. I’m pretty I actually did scream. Emerging on the other side, you find yourself in Blackthorn. Team Rocket is down for the count again, and there isn’t really anything going on in this town. It’s just you and that final gym leader, Lance’s cousin, Claire, who also favors dragon types. It’s a fairly tough fight, but with some persistence, you’ll come out on top. Claire won’t just fork over that last badge, however. She wants you to also go into the cave behind her gym and bring back a dragon fang. This is also your chance to speak to a dragon master and receive a Dratini if you answer his questions correctly. You might think you could just do this ahead of time to have it out of the way and get a type advantage on Claire, but the Dragon’s Den is guarded and they won’t let you in without permission. After getting the fang, Claire actually comes to meet you and give you the final badge, and it’s off to the last stretch of the game.

After you make it through the game’s final cave, Victory Road, you’ll find yourself at the Elite 4. Before you can fight them, you do battle with Silver 1 last time. You actually encounter him more times than I’ve mentioned, usually between cities or around Rocket. After this final defeat, he begins to question his treatment of Pokemon, and other people. The Elite 4 are much like gym leaders, but with larger, and more diverse teams with much more strategic move pools. The first member is Will, who wields Psychic Pokemon, followed by Koga (the gym leader from generation 1). Koga Still uses Poison Pokemon, but he’s got plenty of bug and dark moves to offset their Psychci weakness. The 3rd member is Bruno, who deals in the Fighting type, and finally Karen, the Dark type trainer. I recall Karen’s Gengar giving me quite a bit of trouble. After all that, you finally do battle with the champion, who turns out to be Lance. Lance is one tough fight, featuring 3 dragonites, who at the time was considered a pseudo legendary. Upon defeat, he isn’t angry – he’s proud of you for coming so far, and I was proud of myself, too. My heart was pounding when I battled Lance, and I’d lost several times over. When that last Dragonite’s health hit 0, I dropped my gameboy into my lap. I was exhausted…and then the credits rolled. I will never forget that chiptune song, or the little dancing Pokemon sprites that accompanied it. That credits sequence is burned into my memory forever.

Despite the credits rolling, your adventure isn’t over! Next time you load your save, you’ll be back in your room, where the game started. Just right of your house is a small body of water. If you surf across it, you can enter a cave in which you’ll have to use every hidden ability in the game to get through. On the other side is Kanto, the region from the first game. You can explore the region in full, and even collect the original gym badges. A lot of players like to raise a second team at this point while others prefer using the same party they’ve had all along. A few things are different, such as a train that goes between Fuschia and Goldenrod, and the Pokemon Tower being replaced with a radio tower, but for the most part Kanto is intact and there’s lots of little sidequests here as well. There’s also one final area of Johto you can access now called Mt.Silver. There are lots of really strong Pokemon to catch here, and at its center you can enter Silver Cave, where the single hardest challenge in the game awaits; a battle with Red, the player character from Generation I. Red’s lowest level Pokemon is 73, and his highest is 81. Unless you’ve got a few max level Pokemon, this is a grueling battle, and it’s a real sense of accomplishment to win.

***END SPOILERS***

There really isn’t another series like Pokemon. Pokemon is like music, it breaks through barriers. Age, language, nationality, none of those things matter to Pokemon fans. A fellow trainer is a fellow trainer. My generation is growing up now, and starting families, and introducing their own children to this magical world. I’m sure younger people enjoy the games just as much as we did, but I also feel like they don’t get it on the same level, because they weren’t there when it was such a big deal. When I was about 12, my folks told me that Pokemon was a fad. That I was going to grow out of it,and one day, I wouldn’t care about Pikachu, or Charizard, or Lugia (what I named my bass guitar, by the way). Well, I’m going to be 25 next month, and here we are…

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