Review by BigCj34

"Nintendo finally release a genuine Pokemon sequel, with a lot more than full colour."

The Pokemon series started off in Japan under the name of Pocket Monsters released in early 1996, but didn't catch on in North America and Europe until a couple of years later, and has since appeared in one form or another on every system that has Nintendo in its name since the N64/Game Boy. The adventures of raising a monster who can fit in a ball despite being the size of Manhattan have returned in full colour, retaining the format of two game releases, in this case Gold and Silver, where you'd have to trade with the other game to complete your inventory.

The Pokemon GS (Gold and Silver) series of the game are actually a genuine update of the originals and were released in the UK in 2001. The stories of controlling Ash and trying to overcome your rival Gary have been ditched in favour of some random guy you have to name. This time you start in the region of Johto, next to Kanto (the region from Pokemon Red/Blue), three years on from the original series and your aim is to help Professor Elm's Pokemon research by filling up your Pokedex (ie catching lots of Pokemon) and becoming Pokemon champion in the Elite Four. Funnily enough, being Elite Four champion only occurs in the middle of the game, as you have to win the Pokemon League to gain access into Kanto, the region from the RB series.

Pokemon Gold and Silver present you with some very noticeable changes from the R/B series, firstly …it's in full colour! Aside from that there's 100 new Pokemon to get your hands on, which brings the total to around 250,and while the battle system is fundamentally the same, there is a whole host of new moves out there, and not only are they basic ones with new names but genuinely new ones such as Hidden Power, a move greatly dependent on the Pokemon's type or Headbutt, a move useful in the field also for knocking Pokemon out of trees. Pokemon can now hold items to use in battle, for example if the Pokemon is low on HP and is holding a berry, it can heal itself, plus there are two new types of Pokemon, steel and dark, dark pokemon are mainly dual types, partly dark and partly fire/grass, etc. There's now even more mini-games than before, from bug-catching contests to a lucky number show accessed via radio, plus a mysterious quest in the ancient Runes of Alph! Even at the day care, the two elderly carers not only raise your Pokemon, but many can reproduce and have eggs, making it a whole lot easier if you want to trade Pokemon, then trade back, and is also an essential for breeding otherwise unavailable Pokemon, you'll find that one out surely.

One of the first things you'll notice that's new is the Poke gear, which initially tells you the time and has a phone, but you can pick up a map and radio expansion. Phone numbers can be picked up from trainers who randomly call you for another battle or have something to give you, or even pointless crap saying they almost beat a wild Rattata. So what's the point in knowing the time? The time has a big impact on the game, mainly when Pokemon appear (some prefer the morning, while some are very nocturnal), to competitions or events that are held at certain days. The date and the day of the week have to be set yourself, and can only be changed for DST, so don't mess it up!

As with Pokemon R/B, there's a choice of three Pokemon to choose from, which you'll most likely carry with you throughout the game, then you get sent off on an errand about this Mystery Egg which turns out to be a Togepi, then the rest is up to you. You have to train your Pokemon, battle through the gyms, catch Pokemon from the dark caves to the seas and lakes in your quest to become the Elite Four champion. Mre often than not you're raising your Pokemon levels without going out of your way to specially do it, although you will end up having to do some training yourself against wild Pokemon to tweak some levels. Pokemon G/S has a little less emphasis on battling and battling through rows of trainers, in the R/B series, players would marvel at the battling and the satisfaction of training a team of level 100 galacticos (if you didn't use the rare candy cheat, that is) but now there are many more features, to the day/ night Pokemon hunting system to countless puzzles. Events range from the Unown puzzles in the Ruins of Alph to the bug catching contest where you have to catch the best bug Pokemon to win a prize, while the casino remains intact, and the colour and faster frame rate makes it easier to play. Can you muster the challenge of collecting all eight Johto gym badges, become Elite Four champ, or beyond?

The world of Johto follows a similar principle to the layout of the RB series, with plenty of towns together all joined together by a clever network of routes, dungeons ranging from a mountain to an icy cave, surfing across the sea or through a grassland full of trainers. Town's this time actually have a distinct look to them, from the isolated mountain town of Blackthorn city to the commercial Goldenrod City, the legendary myths of Ecruteak City to the harbour of Olivine, town's feel far less repetitive than before. Kanto, from the old series is present as well later in the game, pimped up into full colour and has undergone some changes for you to see.

Whilst the fundamental battle system itself won't stun you in terms of innovation, for those newbies out there, it works as follows: Six Pokemon can be carried for battling with, and you use one at a time in battle. Your Pokemon can know up to four moves at a time, with some inflicting damage, status effects, recovery, performance increase/decrease, etc. and the amount of times you can use a move is measured in PP, and your health is measured in HP. Many items are available from enhancing stats to curing or even reviving fainted Pokemon, many can be bought in Marts found in most towns, if not on the ground in your travels. While the battle system keeps the main aspect of this game in familiar territory its, there are plenty of additions to make up for it, making it more of a sequel.

If you actually want to catch Pokemon (which is a sensible choice given the ‘Gotta catch ‘em all slogan' there are various ways, most commonly being throwing Pokeballs against a Pokemon. Pokeballs can be bought in any shop, but if you want any hope of the Pokemon not exploding out of the ball, you'll need to weaken it. Superior versions of the Pokeball and specialised balls for certain types are also available throughout the game, so before you keep trying to catch that level 36 Donphan that you've wasted 30 balls on, try another ball. However, tossing a Pokeball at a Pokemon isn't the only way of obtaining Pokemon, with many in-game events available from winning Pokemon as prizes in the games casino's to receiving them as a thank you gesture from people, you have to scan the whole field.

Trading with a friend via link cable is another important aspect to boosting your inventory; there are many Pokemon in the other versions of the game not available in yours, you have to trade not only from Gold/Silver (whichever one you didn't buy) but Red, Yellow and Blue to truly own them all. Pokemon can also evolve, and some can evolve by elemental stones or trade evolution, so experiment. As before, link cable battling is back where you can battle your friends, er, enemies via a link cable, but make sure you check your opponents levels before battling, if you don't want to be a victim of annihilation by your ‘friends' team of level 100 Pokemon! Trust me, I've been there…and it's worse when the game now records your defeats.

The game graphics are pretty well polished; the addition of colour really does give you a different feel. The towns all look different in some way or another be it the building designs or the colour schemes, or even the surroundings and the Pokemon themselves in battle are drawn crisply and look a lot better. There are a few niggles, with the graphics feeling slightly repetitive and not a great deal of animation in battles, while the similar problem of artefacts on edges of objects, notably fences but aside from that the graphics are definitely top-notch. The music also is very good, with many tunes and soothing melodies for each area you go to, whether it's hardbeat music on the routes or relaxing town music, but the battle music can get tedious when battling battle after battle and makes you reach for the volume control, while the sound effects themselves sound pretty accurate and add a bit more spice to the battle.

Pokemon GS can keep you going for dozens of hours on holiday, even if it isn't your intention to catch all the 250 Pokemon there are, training up for the Elite Four and beyond can make those car journeys seem short and if you do plan to catch every Pokemon then it could take you up to 200 hours. The thing is, who's going to want to do that? Having said that, Pokemon Gold and Silver are truly a great sequel to the classic Red and Blue series but whi;e it won't feel as fresh to you as the first ones did, there have been a lot of innovations thrown in to really make this game stand out. Although 250 Pokemon can seem excessive, and the fundamental battling is nothing new whilst being a franchise that has been seen as passe in the UK since the year 2001, this is still a great game to keep you occupied on holiday. 8/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/14/07

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