Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pokémon Gold & Silver Review

Pokémon Gold and Silver are the sequels to the original trio of Pokémon games; Red, Blue, and Yellow. They were developed by Game Freak and released on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color in 1999 in Japan, nearly 4 years after Red and Green. Gold and Silver just came out on the 3DS Virtual Console on September 22, 2017, so what better way to prepare for Ultra Sun and Moon than replaying one of these and catching some some old Pokémon. I went with Silver, since that’s the one I played back in the day.

I wouldn’t normally replay an old GB Pokémon, but these games will be made compatible with Pokémon Transporter soon, so you will be able to transfer your Pokémon to Pokémon Bank, and then use them in the newer 3DS games. This is cool, because you’re not just taking a stroll down memory lane, you can get some rare Pokémon out of it too. There was never a way to transfer GB era Pokémon into the GBA games, so this will also be the the first time you’ll be able to get Gen 2 Pokémon directly from the GBC versions into the newer games. Using Pokémon Transfer and Pokebank to transfer these Pokémon is actually a lot less of a hassle than bringing over Pokémon from Heart Gold and Soul Silver, since that involves transferring to the other DS games first, since only the B&W and B2&W2 games are supported by Pokémon Transfer.

Pokémon Gold and Silver take place 3 years after R/B/Y, in a new region named, Johto. You play as a new Pokémon trainer, whose canonical name is, Ethan. Much like in other Pokémon RPGs, your goal is to be the very best, like no one ever was, and become the Hokage Pokémon Champion. You again have a rival trainer, Silver, who isn't just a jerk, but also the son of Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket. Silver is by far the nastiest rival in the series. He actually steals his starter Pokémon from Professor Elm. There is also a side story about the remaining members of Team Rocket trying to use a radio tower to broadcast a signal to enslave Pokémon. This part of the story helps connects different areas together and gives you a reason to go into a few more dungeon-like areas. It was a nice change of pace, but didn’t seem as important as the team stories in other games.

At the start of the game, you get to pick one of the 3 starter Pokémon; Chikorita, Totodile, and Cyndaquil. Chikorita is a grass type, Totodile is a water type, and Cyndaquil is a fire type. The rival trainer will always pick the Pokémon that is strongest against your starter’s type, so this decision will affect the difficulty of some battles. I went with Totodile for my playthrough. This made a few parts of the game harder, because, aside from Cyndaquil, fire Pokémon are kind of hard to come by in Silver. I ended up finally getting a Vulpix halfway through the game, but couldn’t evolve it into a Ninetails, because there are no Fire Stones in Johto.

The selection of Pokémon and the evolution methods for a lot of Pokémon are both pretty bad. Gold and Silver adds 100 new Pokémon, but most of the Pokémon you encounter during the main quest are from the original 151. It’s kind of a letdown fighting all those Rattatas, Pidgeys, and Zubats. There’s usually only 1 or 2 new Pokémon in each area. The evolution methods and requirements are very inconvenient in this game too. A lot of those Gen 1 Pokémon have to be traded or require a special stone to evolve. I never even found a stone in Johto, and I didn’t have anyone to trade with, so I played through the whole game with Pokémon stuck in their first or second form.

These games added quite a few elements still present in modern Pokémon games. Gold and Silver introduced held items, shiny Pokémon, a night and day system, the Pokerus, and most importantly, Pokémon breeding. Pokémon breeding allowed you to get a Pokémon egg by leaving 2 like Pokémon together at the Pokémon daycare for a while. After getting an egg, you carried it around in your party, and it would hatch after a certain number of steps. The egg mechanic was actually introduced during the first quest in the game, in which Professor Elm sends you on an errand to get an egg, which eventually hatches into a Togepi.

Gold and Silver also made a lot of improvements to the graphics and UI. The game still looks a lot like R/B/Y, but all of the original Pokémon sprites have been redrawn, and since this was a GBC game from the start, it has a much better color palette than Pokémon Yellow. The UI does have a lot of little improvements over the first game’s, but it’s still very clunky and slow. They’ve added pictures in the Pokémon box screen, separate pockets for different item types in your bag, and a way to reorder your Pokémon’s moves. The UI needed a complete overhaul, though, which we got in the GBA games. You still had to manually change Pokémon boxes in your PC when you filled them up in this game, because you couldn’t catch more Pokémon if your selected box was full. They wouldn’t automatically go to the next box.

Gold and Silver play a lot like the Gen 1 games. You still go from town to town, talking to everyone, and battling gym leaders. In between towns, you battle trainers, explore caves, and catch wild Pokémon. It’s like a simplified Dragon Quest in a lot of ways. The biggest difference between G&S and R/B/Y is that the world feels a lot more streamlined. The caves are generally shorter and have better layouts, the outdoor paths are not as maze-like, and the quests are easier to follow. The Johto campaign is pretty linear, without a lot of room for exploration, but the post game gives you a lot more freedom. After beating the Elite Four and becoming champion, you can go to Kanto, the region in which the Gen 1 games took place in. All thanks to former Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata. He was the one who made it possible to fit the first game’s map into G&S with his compression techniques. He didn’t even work at Game Freak! He was still at HAL back then.

HMs were still in and they even added a couple, Waterfall and Whirlpool. I hate HMs. I never felt like I could take the team I wanted, because I never knew when I would need to cut a tree or move a rock. Since HMs can’t be overwritten with new moves, and most HM moves suck in battle, I teach as many HMs as possible to a single Pokémon. People call this an HM slave. Sometimes you have to bring a couple of HM slaves with you, leaving you at a tactical disadvantage, and throwing your Pokémon party’s level balance out of whack. I’m so glad they got rid of HMs in Sun and Moon.

Going back to GB games is tough, and going back to an RPG with a bad UI is even tougher, but I had fun playing through this game again. I just love the collecting and leveling aspects of Pokémon. This was a fun trip down memory lane for me, and I think other longtime fans of the series getting ready for US&UM will enjoy it too.