Review by EJRICH

"I wish I had some real gold..."

To save you the agony of having to listen to the whole “Pokemon forever changed the world” cop-out that I'm sure you've read at least 500 times, I'm going to do something really simple. Pokemon is a game that took something incredibly simple and made it into a mammoth of a franchise. How they did it is beyond me. Most of the ideas that they included were simple concepts that even a brain dead monkey could have come up with. Sure, the people back then weren't that advanced. And yeah, they still were using cell phones that gave off intense amounts of radiation to the brain. But that's besides the point. Pokemon came out and did something that few other games ever bothered to do. And the public loved it. And the competitors instantly tried to copy it. And my use of the word and is probably starting to annoy you.

Needless to say, within months of the release of Pokemon Red and Blue, dozens of monster filled titles started to stalk the shelves of local competitors. Those money grubbing games did decently enough in their own right, but none could compare to the almighty electric rodent that dominated the world. Pokemon was in a frenzy. On every corner you'd turn, in every video game arcade you'd go into, heck, even in the local restaurants, you'd be haunted by the use of this franchise. Tvs, radios, shirts, Gameboys, lunch boxes. Some people were waiting for a talking dog to show up. Years later, and here we are with the second title in this series, Pokemon Gold and Silver.

So after painfully listening to my intro, you're probably wondering what Pokemon Gold and Silver are all about. Basically, Pokemon puts you in a gigantic world filled with creatures that people aptly call Pokemon. There used to be 151 of these little pests, but with the release of these titles the number now climbs to a bit more then another hundred. When a kid turns the age of ten, they abandon their nice, cozy beds and a decent education – all to train these mongrels. Some fail miserably and cry home to their mommies (or go to a trainer's school. Yep.), others take on the professions that keep the entire world going. Every kid wants to become and a trainer, though, and gain the right to call themselves a Pokemon Master.

To become a Pokemon Master, a young trainer must collect the eight badges conveniently scattered across the continent in which they travel. If they succeed, and that's usually a gigantic if, they can then challenge the Indigo Plateau where the Elite 4 resides. If by some miracle they manage to beat them, they can put a nicely colored star on their trainer card and call themselves a master. That's a long way off, though. The world of Jhoto is a big place, and even getting one badge can be a chore for some of the less skilled trainers. But the whole fact remains. When a kid's got a dream, a kid's got a dream. If they want to accomplish that dream, however, they have to learn a couple of basics first.

With the addition of two new types (steel and darkness), the Pokemon type chart now rests at 17. Each type dominates another, and on that same token is also weak to one or more of the other types available on the list. If a new trainer wishes to become the best, he or she will have to master the charts and assemble a team full of Pokemon who can call upon each other's unique type strengths. For example, it makes no sense whatsoever to make a team full of fire type Pokemon who can be easily dispatched by a water type. On that same token, you also have to be careful of weaknesses that overlap, which adds a certain strategic element to the game play when you're making a team to take the game with. Just to make something perfectly clear, if you have a lizard with its tail on fire, and wind up facing a water type Pokemon that can shoot hundreds of gallons of water out of its mouth per second, chances are that flaming lizard won't be flaming much longer. This also holds true for flying types, which are weak to electricity (get it, birds in the sky, thunder's rolling around, lightning bolt comes down…roast chicken).

When a trainer has finally assembled the team in which they'll be using – and the possibilities are literally endless, leading to a load of replay value – the next thing that they'll usually do is take that team into battle. Both Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver run off a turn-based battling system. You and your opponent take turns until one side beats the other, at which point you'll earn a bit of money that can be spent at the local marts. During battles, you have four options from which you can choose. Incredibly simple, but it gets the job done tremendously. In those four options you can do a multitude of things, from switching Pokemon on your six spot team to using items that can give you an edge in battle. The most important command, and probably the one you'll be using the most unless you have some absurd obsession with the party button, is the fight command. The fight command allows you to choose a move out of your Pokemon's four available slots. That's right, you can only have it learn four moves at once. Which moves your Pokemon learns depends on a lot of things, but generally if a Pokemon is of, say, the water type, it will learn moves that have a certain affinity with water. Items called TMs give you the ability to have your Pokemon learn moves outside of its natural movepool, adding in yet another strategic element to the game play.

So what's all this mumbo jumbo mean? In short, Pokemon's got an incredibly simple battle system that manages to pull off an incredibly complex scheme. Battles move at fast speeds thanks to the easily navigated menus, while retaining that strategic element that usually comes along with a fifteen-thousand-menu game. How they did it was pure genius. By condensing menus and actually building the stats into the Pokemon themselves, Pokemon manages to get rid of all that extra garbage that plagues most games even to this day. Battles are actually fun, which is a breathe of fresh air in an otherwise Final Fantasy dominated genre.

If battling isn't your game (and if it isn't, God be with you – more then 65% of the game is spent doing this little past-time), the developers of Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver added in possibly one of Pokemon's greatest strengths – a gigantic world in which you can explore. From mountainous plains to scorching mountains, Jhoto is an explorer's dream come true. You'll literally spend hours on end scaling its little nooks and crannies, with little surprises always just around the corner. The game is noticeably larger then the previous two Pokemon games, thanks in part to the fact that there are far more places to explore, but also because instead of just giving you one world to explore, they gave you two. After you manage to kick the Elite 4's hide across the Indigo Plateau, the original world of Kanto becomes available for you to explore. And get this, instead of it just being another world that you can explore, you can actually go back and collect all of the previous game's badges. Fighting some of the old gym leaders from Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue was a true joy, mainly because instead of them being weaklings, they actually got a bit of an upgrade. Well, a big one.

That still doesn't mean the game's necessarily hard, though. Just like the previous titles in the franchise, Pokemon Gold and Silver offer little, if any challenge at all in the main game. Gym leaders can all easily be beaten to heck and back without much of a problem, and if you do have a problem, you can always level grind at the conveniently located patches of grass which gives obscene amounts of experience points upon defeating the Pokemon within. The fact that they are random encounters only makes the game more milkable. What a shame. Thankfully, unlike the last game which just left off after you beating the Elite 4 and trampling through the Unknown Dungeon, Pokemon Gold and Silver manage to give a bit of a challenge after arriving in Kanto. Gym leaders aren't as dumb, and if you go for the toughest ones first, a true challenge awaits. If you can do all that, a big secret awaits you.

If there's one thing that isn't a secret at all, though, it's the graphics. Unlike its previous brethren, Pokemon Gold and Silver do strides to give off a quality experience for your eyes to behold. The game's now in color thanks to its obvious move over to the Gameboy Color (I'm sorry, that pun had to go in there), and the sprites are finally starting to look like actual sprites. Every Pokemon got a complete new pallet and artwork, while most moves were redone from the original. Most of the game's other pallets also are present, so it's definitely something that was improved.

With that being said, something else that was also improved was the music. Although it still follows a rather bland tone throughout the game, it sounds much less mixed now and more like it should have sounded in the first place. Classic tunes from the originals are present, while repetitiveness is basically non-existent. They even decided to change the battle music when you go back to Kanto, something that takes the edge off an extremely long game (you're looking at about 50-60 hours of game play. Listening to something that long could bore anyone)

To top everything that's been said in this review off, Pokemon Gold and Silver also offer a variety of new features that set it miles apart from the original. You know in the past how you'd wonder why certain Pokemon would always be there all day long? Well, back then we didn't have an in-game clock. Now we do, and the games use it to allow daily events such as a bug catching contest on Tuesdays and Thursdays while making certain people who give items appear on every day of the week. If that wasn't enough, they also added a full map, an upgraded box system, a cell phone which is used to give you alerts if a certain trainer wants a rematch (sounds stupid, but some of them actually give you locations of extremely rare Pokemon that only come up if they mention them), and a Radio that serves purposes such as waking up a gigantic fat Pokemon.

Pokemon Gold and Silver, in all points of the word, are necessarily games that take what the first titles did and run with it. Players are introduced to several new features, an all-new world, and a slew of extra Pokemon. The games even give you the opportunity to venture to the old world of Kanto after beating the main game, something that greatly increases replay value. To some, Pokemon Gold and Silver are and will be the best Pokemon games available to this day. Many things had to come together for these games to be such a big success, and with the raving fire of success still burning bright, Pokemon doesn't look like it will be stopping anytime soon. Figures something so simple gets the money. Darn it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/31/07, Updated 12/23/09

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

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