We all remember that one kid in our group of friends. The classic character archetype of “My Dad works at Nintendo!” There was one in every gang of children in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. They would claim to be in the know, but nobody would take them seriously. Back then, before the magic of the internet spoiled everything for us, before we knew about new games coming out years and years before their intended launch date, we had to get our information the slow way, through magazines, TV commercials and …word of mouth. So when a kid that lived on my street came running up to us one summer day back in 1999, claiming that he had a copy of “Pokemon 2” nobody believed him. Who would? He convinced us to come to his house and check it out, and boy were we glad we did. We crowded around him and his Game Boy Color and to our total shock, he was playing a japanese version of a full color, brand spanking new Pokemon game, with monsters we never saw before. Turns out his grandmother had gone to Japan and brought him back a copy. As a certified 90’s Pokemon fanatic, my entire world turned upside down. There were MORE OF THEM and I needed to catch them all, again.
A few months later, the secret was out. Real ad campaigns were in full swing, TV, magazines, bus ads, news reports, cans of Campbell’s Soup even had the new damn monsters on them.My Mom gave me my very own copy of “Pokemon 2” which we had since learned was called Pokemon Gold & Silver and I wasted no time in jumping right in.
Fast forward about 18 years (Jesus Christ) to this past weekend which saw the re-release of Pokemon Gold & Silver to the eShop on Nintendo 3DS family of systems. Friday morning I downloaded Silver, my prefered version so I could play right when I got home, and thats exactly what I did… for like, the whole weekend. Gold & Silver is one of those rare sequels where everything is just as fantastic as the first, but bigger and better in almost every way, Lemme break it down for you:
The overworld of G&S, while still limited by the technology, was grander and wider than that of Red & Blue, basically doubly so, because you get access to the entire previous region of Kanto from Red & Blue as the post game, which is a feat that no Pokemon game since has tried to match. There were times while replaying it where I got lost due to not just having one set A to B path to follow, There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore to see if you can find rarer monsters, or even just to train up your team.
Johto has always been my favorite region, there was always just this haunting moodiness to it all, like a built in history that follows the “show, don’t tell” mindset of design that the later generation games of Pokemon had lost. The townspeople talk of these legends, a great fire, a protector of the forest, a sea spirit. But you also get to walk through these old towns and see that the places the legends called home actually existed there. We see the Burned Tower, and learn that Lugia, Silver Versions mascot (the best legendary, fight me) once called it home, but fled when it caught fire. The legendary beasts Raikou, Suicune and Entei were created at the same time when three helpless Pokemon were trapped inside, but reborn by Ho-Oh, Gold Versions mascot. Compared to the newer games this is incredible lore, the most we get in the new games are things like “A black hole created this Pokemon and also there is a god Pokemon and he created everything, because he did.” I’m not knocking the new games, because I still love them, but story and reasoning has definitely become an afterthought at this point. There are no ‘just because’ gods of time and space here, no mirror dimension demon bugs, just some powerful birds and the legends they left behind.
Simple and to the point, Team Rocket is back to their old tricks again and somebody has to stop them. Why not collect sixteen (That’s right, SIXTEEN) gym badges along the way and become the world champion? Along the way you’ll meet some interesting characters, as well as your rival, Giovanni’s son.
Being a Game Boy Color game, you can only squeeze so much out in the graphics department. The original entries in the Pokemon Series, Red & Blue, did what they could with the original Game Boy hardware,the overworld was created in a simple way that was easy to understand what was going on, where you needed to go and what you could interact with. Gold & Silver is very similar looking in the overworld department, but the real noticeable jump in quality are the battle screens. The Pokemon are rendered in full color, the colors the GBC could render anyway, and the sprites are adorable. The best improvement in my opinion are the sprites of your Pokemon in battle. In R&B, the back sprites looked like a pixelated foot, here thankfully, you can actually tell what Pokemon is being used thanks to sprites that look like they bothered to take more than 8 minutes to create.
After this weekend I feel that the newer games have conditioned me to be a weak sniveling little bitch of a Pokemon trainer, for the first time in my life, the rival actually put me in the ground.I have grown far to used to your rivals actually being friendly, and doing things like picking the starter that yours has advantage against. Giovanni Jr. is a dick, and will be treated and prepared for as such for the rest of my playthrough. Like I said before, not only do you have Johto’s gyms and league to conquer, but the Kanto region as well which makes for quite a lengthy game., As I write this I am preparing to fight the cheapest gym leader of all, Whitney and her Miltank, pray for me.
Johto’s dex always held a special place in my heart, maybe from the shock of seeing new Pokemon for the first time after being so convinced that there were only 151 for such a long time. They’re a little more complex than Gen 1, but simple enough to not be as over the top as later generations, its a good mix. Some gen 2 favorites of mine are, Ampharos, Donphan, Totodile, Gligar and Lugia, to name a few.
There must be some negatives with this game right? Sure there are, and its called the PokeGear phone. Having trainers that you previously defeated be able to call you for a rematch is an awesome idea, what isn’t an awesome idea is having those trainers call you every 10 minutes to tell you the beat a tough Kakuna, or that their Rattata is making headway to not being awful.
To wrap this up, if you feel like going on a grand nostalgic journey with sixteen (yes, again thats SIXTEEN, I can’t emphasize this enough) badges to collect, and a great world to explore, crack open your 3DS and smash that download button and head back to Johto for the weekend like I did.
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Dom Mahoney is Wicked Good Gaming's resident graphic designer, degenerate journalist, and co-host/super producer of Not Another Gaming Podcast. When not talking about games on the internet, you can find him yelling about New England sports, exploring breweries, and perfecting his chicken wing recipes.
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