Review by RavenousGuy

"The golden era of Pokemon gaming"

Circa 1998, the Pokemon Red and Blue games for Game Boy were a massive success, so much so that the Pokemon franchise eventually became Nintendo's top marketing cow. In a short time, a great variety of Pokemon products was unleashed to the whole world; TV series, movies, trading cards, comic books, plush dolls, various merchandises, and some spin-off games from the RPG root. It was one of the greatest cultural phenomenon ever, and I seriously think that no other video game will be able to produce that kind of effect.

In the end, however, the only thing that really matters is the RPG game. And, in Pokemon Gold and Silver (make no mistake, though; the two games are essentially the same, bar several version-exclusive Pokemon), I believe that we have the greatest product in the whole franchise. Released for the Game Boy Color at the time when Pokemon's popularity was reaching its peak, the games brought the delightful and addictive concept of capturing and raising Pokemon, that was first introduced in Pokemon RBY (Red/Blue/Yellow), toward perfection.

Also known as the ‘second-generation' or the ‘metal-generation' of Pokemon RPG games, Pokemon Gold/Silver is the first and only Pokemon game which utilized a real-time mechanic; it also introduced the whole concept of Pokemon gender and breeding, tweaked some aspects in the battle system, added some other new features, and improved the overall quality of the whole game.

Needless to say, it struck gold.

Gameplay

There's a reason why Pokemon RPG games were selling like hotcakes, and it's all about the gameplay. In Gold/Silver, the foundation from RBY games remain strong; you're still a Pokemon Trainer, dedicated to capture as much Pokemon as possible, use them in battles, and earn glory by defeating other Trainers with their Pokemon. Every species of Pokemon (there's now 251 of them) had its own strength and weakness, became stronger and acquire techniques by leveling up, may evolve through various ways, and compete in one of the most effective turn-based battle system ever created.

Now, on to the new features that this sequel has in store. As mentioned above, we're playing in real time; there's an internal clock which is adjustable to the time you're playing, complete with day/night feature. The game even keeps track of the day, and the entire idea was executed pretty well. Some events will only happen in certain days (say, you can only participate in Bug-Catching Contest on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) while the day/night feature affected the way you capture Pokemon; now, some Pokemon are early birds who like to enjoy the morning sun, while some others are nocturnal creatures who only appear after the sun sets down. To keep track of the time, you have a new gadget called Poke'Gear, which can also function as a map, radio, or phone; each with their own miscellaneous purposes. Your old trusty Poke'dex (the tool used to record the data of all the Pokemon you've seen or captured) is also back with more features, and your backpack can now hold items in classified sections, so you can organize them better.

Battle system is the core of the Pokemon games, and I'm happy to report that Pokemon Gold/Silver has successfully improved the mechanic inherited from its predecessors. A new and much-needed variable was added to the Pokemon's battle stat (Special is now divided into Special Attack and Special Defense), and two new types (Dark and Steel) were introduced to the whole elemental-type scheme based on rock-paper-scissor concept (which already consisted of thirteen different types, and plays a very large part in the battle mechanic) If there was complaint about how the Special-types, especially Psychic, were way too powerful in the past games, it is now balanced up nicely in this installment. To spice up the battle even more, there's an advent of held item; certain kind of items that automatically help Pokemon in battles. There are also plethora of new techniques/moves to learn, while a few flawed moves in the past games has been fixed.

Let's get on to the Pokemon themselves. With 100 new species thrown to the fray, the Pokemon selection is more diverse. Now, there is a Pokemon who really specialized in defense; a Pokemon who only has one natural move, but able to copy any moves in the game with a certain way; there are even some Pokemon who are really bad in combat, but have specific uses in other areas of the game. In addition, each Pokemon now has a happiness indicator, which may affect and can be affected by various things. It also served as a new means of evolution for some Pokemon; and you may be surprised when you discover that now, some Pokemon from the old roster has a new post/pre-evolutionary forms.

Another very important new feature is the introduction of Pokemon gender. See, Pokemon now has gender (although some species are male-only or female-only, and some are even genderless...which is logical, since I can't imagine creatures like a ball of electricity or a magnet to have a gender), and they affected several things But, the most significant thing they're related to is in terms of breeding. Yes, Pokemon now can ‘mate' and produce an offspring, who will be the same species as its mother's yet inherited the father's moveset. This has a great implication to the battle system, since certain species of Pokemon can learn certain moves only via breeding; and with a careful planning and calculation, you can produce a very strong offspring.

How about the exploration part of the game? For the most part, it remain largely unchanged from its predecessors; your objective is to defeat eight strong Trainers known as Gym Leaders, defeat four other stronger Trainers known as Elite Four, and finally challenge the strongest Trainer known as Red (the main protagonist from Pokemon Red/Blue) You progress through various towns and cities to achieve that, while confronting Team Rocket (the antagonists) along the way. Despite suffering from the lack of variety to do beside capturing, raising, and battling Pokemon, the game makes up for it by having an expanded setting (there are now two huge regions to explore), many secret areas to find and explore, and sometimes even a sense of non-linearity to the path you can take.

Combine the great and tweaked battle system with a real-time mechanic, breeding system, and an expansive amount of exploration; and you've got an awesome gameplay. The only flaws that I can found is the aforementioned lack of variety, and that the challenge is more on the low side (although link-cable battles with human opponents will easily fix that problem)

Storyline

Well, there's also a reason why many people looked down on Pokemon games, and it's because of the lame plot. It is set in a new region called Johto, three years after the events in Pokemon RBY; but apart from that, you might as well have the same storyline as in the previous games. Your protagonist (a mute one with no personality whatsoever) is still a boy who aspired to be the greatest Pokemon Trainer, there's still a bad organization called Team Rocket who is always up to no good, and there are still rows of Gym Leaders and Elite Four waiting to be beaten in your path to glory. If there's one thing the developer neglected to improve upon the prequels, it's the plot.

However, the localization is perfect (unlike some other games for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color), and at least the plot doesn't pretend to be something that it isn't. It's clean, simple, and you better accept it in your Pokemon games.

Graphic & Sound

I don't think the game offered much of a visual improvement. Most of the design are lifted straight from Pokemon RBY; although it now looks sharper, thanks to more colors and variety. The Pokemon design, however, is top-notch; you can sense personality and charm oozing from every single artwork of the Pokemon. The visual effects in battle also improved dramatically, it' done in a more convincing and less awkward way than before.

The music, for the first half of the game, consisted of bland audio and less-than-inspiring tunes. In the latter part, though, the quality of the music soared up (to my personal taste, at least); especially in the Kanto region, where most of the music are nice remixes of the classic tunes found in RBY games. Sound effect in battles fared similarly with its visual counterparts, as it's also improved considerably. Pokemon's voices are still consisted of a short squeak or growl, but it's nice to see the effort made in personifying every single of them.

Replay Value

100 new species. 2 regions. Breeding. What more can I say? This is a game that lasts for a very long time; the main hook to keep playing it again is just how addictive it is to try and raise different Pokemon. With a party consisted of six Pokemon, you can make countless permutations in building a different team out of 251 different species, 15 elemental-types, and just an infinite amount of possible movesets. Heck, you can even raise two Pokemon of an identical species into two completely different fighters!

As I have mentioned before, you have 2 whole regions to explore. The region of Johto, the starting point of your adventure, is a vast land with many areas to explore. Backtracking and investigating for nooks and crannies is much more fun now, thanks to the attention paid to make so many pathways that will be inaccessible until you acquired certain skills needed to traverse them. But, that's not all! After you have the Elite Four beaten, you'll gain access to the region of Kanto, the land from the previous games. Although many places of interests there are no longer available (you can only fit so much in a cartridge, after all), but it's still loads of fun with its own sub-plot, Pokemon, and Gym Leaders.

And of course, there's always the daunting task of completing the Poke'dex by capturing every single species of Pokemon. With 251 in offer, it will takes a lot of effort to capture them all, and linking between versions is needed as usual; you even need to link to the previous games (Red, Blue, or Yellow) to complete your collection, as there are 18 species which can't be gotten from the Gold/Silver version. The backward compatibility is provided by a new linking feature called Time Capsules, which let you trade Pokemon with the past games (no new Pokemon, techniques, or items can enter, though)

The main quest will take no less than 30 hours, which is a pretty hefty amount by itself . Add some more inevitable hours of Pokemon training, hunting, and link-battling; and you'll got a game with a nearly immortal lifespan.

Recap

The Good Points:

(+) The battle-system is even better, deeper, and more balanced than before
(+) New Pokemon....new mechanic...new region...new techniques....
(+) The real-time feature is implemented nicely
(+) Great exploration value
(+) Will lasts even longer than the previous Pokemon games

The Bad Points:

(-) The story is still lackluster
(-) Will be even greater if it has more than just one save slot

Conclusion

Even if compared to the GBA and DS incarnations, I still believe that the Gold/Silver version is the best Pokemon game out there. It introduced so many new things to the series, fixed a few things that is broken from the previous version, and has a couple of cool features that will be missing from later versions, which are the real-time mechanic and two separate regions.

An experience that will last for decades, it represents Pokemon at its best.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/26/09

Game Release: Pokemon Gold Version (US, 10/14/00)


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