In the late 90s, Pokémon was a global phenomenon. Pokémania was in full swing as the trading cards, merchandise, and video games sold off the shelves. The anime also made waves in terms of ratings as children across the globe could not get enough of Ash Ketchum and his latest adventures. The world was eager for the sequels to Pokémon Red and Blue.
Back then, I had no choice but to skip this generation of Pokémon due to my family’s financial situation, so I never touched these titles until the day they each released on the 3DS’s virtual console. Before that, I played through Johto in the 2010 remakes of these titles, HeartGold and SoulSilver (which I consider the best games of the franchise) but that is a story for another day. But regardless, all of this begs the question; how do you follow up on this tremendous success? Well, Game Freak already had an answer: expanding on everything with Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal.
Set in the Johto Region, players are tasked to run an errand for Professor Elm of New Bark Town. He asks of them to set off for Mr. Pokémon’s house to find out what exactly is he so excited about and gives the player one of three Pokémon, Chikorita, Cyndaquil, or Totodile, to aid them. It’s discovered to be a Pokémon Egg which Mr. Pokémon passes onto the player for Elm to study, but before the player races off back to New Bark, a red-haired kid stands in their way, revealing he had stolen a Pokémon from the Professor’s lab and challenges you to a battle.
Upon defeating him, players return to the lab and offer the name of the boy to both Elm and a police officer who investigated the disturbance. Afterward, the Professor encourages the player to challenge the eight Gym Leaders scattered across Johto to become the champion of the region. From this point on, the goal becomes very similar to that found within Red, Blue, and Yellow; Head to a Gym, challenge the Leader, collect the badge, do this for seven more times until it’s time to face the Pokémon League’s Elite Four all while facing the returning Team Rocket who wish to have their vengeance for their fallen leader.
Beginning with this Generation, rather than majorly overhauling its gameplay mechanics, the developers expanded on what worked in the past. There are 100 new Pokémon to find bringing the total of monsters available to 251, but like before, not all of them can be caught with a single copy. Want any of the Kanto starting Pokémon like Charmander, Squirtle or Bulbasaur? I highly recommend owning one of the Generation I titles in that case. The same applies for any Johto creature not found in a certain copy. Trading is very important to completing the Pokédex but now it’s more of a challenge this go around.
Battles still play out in the same rock, paper, scissors format as they did in the previous titles, but under the hood, Game Freak added a few changes. For the first time, two new battle types were introduced into the franchise: Dark and Steel types to further balance out the overpowered Psychic type from the Gen I games. Genders were added which is mostly for the new breeding feature but still offered differing stats for either male or female Pokémon and now, each little creature can hold items, changing up how trainers approach battling as certain items give benefits in battle.
But let’s talk about Johto, the new region introduced into the world of Pokémon. Located directly west of the Kanto region, Johto’s culture is notably more old-fashioned than Kanto’s and has a heavier emphasis placed on mythology and tradition. Because of this, these games are the first in the franchise to flesh out the Legendary Pokémon and their relationship to one another. Johto was also the first region to introduce a built-in clock, allowing for in-game events to be affected by the time of day and the days of the week, meaning certain Pokémon can be found in the day and night. And, for the first and last time ever, two regions can be played through these games! Johto and Kanto! While Kanto is stripped down (because Game Freak could not fit the entire region on one card) from its debut appearance, it’s still nice that the region is in offering even more Gym Leaders to face and more Pokémon to find.
As mentioned earlier, breeding for eggs was yet another feature brought to the table. Players can place a male and female Pokémon, within the same species or Egg Group, into the Day Care and receive an egg after some time. This egg will eventually hatch into a low level Pokémon of the same species as its mother. Some Pokémon such as Pichu can only be found using this feature.
Gold, Silver, and Crystal brought a lot to the table and I can definitely see why they were praised so much back in the day. They’re jam-packed with many features (I haven’t even talked about the new shiny Pokémon or the friendship mechanic!) and loads of game changers. A long time ago, I had the Generation III title, Pokémon Ruby and was very envious of the features these games had but Ruby did not. Ugh… we’ll get into that during my Generation III writeup… anyway, these titles are magical and worth the playthrough. However, after these titles, Pokémania had finally died, the original creator of the franchise stepped down and Game Freak had an uphill battle of where to take the series next…
Until next time! Thank you for reading!