Retrograding 05.13.04

#5. Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Developed by: Game Freak
Published by: Nintendo
Release Date 10/14/00 (Gold/Silver) 07/29/01 (Crystal)
Systems Released on: Game Boy, Game Boy Colour

Man, I knew it was going to be hard for Game Freak to top the original Pokemon, but they did it. G/C/’S is by far the greatest Pokemon game ever made and the standard bearer for what they all have to be. Crystal surpasses the other two for the innovations made to the story and graphics when it was released a year later. But what all made Pokemon GSC better?

1. 100 new Pokemon. Unlike the uninspired boring Pokemon in R/S, we had some great new ones in GCS. The three starters of Cyndaquil, Chikorita, and Totodile were as loveable and diverse as the original starters. Add into that three new Cat Pokemon that once freed from a stony curse, would run wild across the continent as you desperately chased after them. There were two new bird Pokemon in Ho-oh and Lugia who had power rivaling Mewtwo. And of course there was Celebi, who is still one of my favorite Pokemon. The monsters added for this Poke-Sequel were able to stand head to head with the original Pokemon and yet didn’t over shadow them. Good call.

2. A new world. Welcome to Joto. A land that, like Kanto, involves Pokemon doing battle for Trainers, with both gaining respect and praise by winning battles. There are still 8 gyms, an Elite 4, and tons of Pokemon to collect on your attempt to become the land’s best. But you see, even after you conquer the land of Kanto, the game is only half done.

That’s right. They fit the ENTIRE world of Pokemon RGBY into GCS. After you beat the game, you have to go to Kanto, beat those 8 gyms and eventually do battle with ASH (red) himself. And his lineup from the TV show: Pikachu, Charizard, Venusaur, Blastoise, Umbreon, and Snorlax. Okay. He didn’t have Umbreon in the TV show. ;-) It effectively doubles the length of the video game and is probably the greatest bonus I’ve ever seen in a roleplaying game. I absolutely loved this.

3. Backwards compatibility with Pokemon RGBY. Through use of the time machine, you could bring Pokemon from RGBY games into GCS, and level them up and use them like any other Pokemon. You could even send Pokemon from GCS back to RGBY – as long as they were Pokemon that appeared in that game. Great way to increase a persons chances of finding someone to play Pokemon against.

4. Pokemon can now hold things. Berries, Leftovers, Bright Powder, Light Balls, Twistedspoons. You name it, it’s in the game. By allowing Pokemon to carry items, a whole new level of play strategy was added to the game. Sure most people just use leftovers, but a lot of items are there for great combos and stat boosts. Anything that adds even more depth to Pokemon is a plus.

5. Pokemon have genders! In the original Pokemon, only Nidorans had gender. But they also had totally different movesets and stats. In Pokemon GCS, Pokemon could be boy, girl, or neither. Yes, there are still some genderless Pokemon. A lot of fun with hooking up an old RGBY game to GCS was to see what gender my old Pokemon were. Like “I’ll be damned. My Gyarados is a chick!”

And with gender comes breeding! Yes, in Pokemon GCS you were able to watch Pokemon of the same (or even different!) races do the wild thing. Okay, you didn’t get to watch. You left them at a day care and if you came back in a bit, you’d find an egg waiting for you: the result of Pokemon love making. These Pokemon are the ones serious trainers all end up using. They have better stats, start at a lower level so you can monkey with their EV easier, have special moves that can only be gained by being an egg Pokemon and can learn moves the parent Pokemon at birth that are normally TM moves or available only at higher levels. Yay for egg born Pokemon! Or course this means, wild Pokemon are useless unless you are impatient and don’t want to wait for eggs.

6. Two new types of Pokemon. Dark and Steel. Dark helped to finally balance out the plague of cheese that Psychic type Pokemon had previous been. Now Psychic could be taken down quickly. But thankfully, Dark was weak to Bug and Fighting. This created a Rock-Papers-Scissors relationship between Fighting, Dark and Psychic, but it also made bug type moves even more powerful. Bug was now strong against Dark and Psychic. Yay! However, Dark was rarely played as a type, only as a move. Tyranitar was a Rock/Dark type Pokemon played as often as Dragonite, Metwo or other high level Pokemon, but other than that, Dark was rarely used. Umbreon would be used as an Annoyer and Houndoom as a Kamikaze killing machine, but those were rare.

Ah but Steel. Steel became the big unbalancer, didn’t it. Weak only to Fire, Ground, and Fighting, and strong against everything else, Every team ended up with a Steel Pokemon of some sort. My personal Favorite was Skarmony, but that was probably just me.

Steel even in R/S in damn overbalanced and used by just about everyone. Metagross and Jirachi anyone? Awww…I love Jirachi. Jirachi, Blazenken, and Groudon are the only real Pokemon from R/S that I like. The others are all Bleh.

6. In Crystal, Pokemon finally were ANIMATED. In RGBY and G/S, the Pokemon just didn’t move. It was a simple picture of them like other old turn based RPG’s. Finally in Crystal, they had some life to them. Mew giggled, Pidgey flapped his wings, Raikou bobbed his head like he was listening to tunes on the radio. It was wonderful to see. A simple little improvement like that made me Prefer Crystal over Gold and Silver and never look back.

And of course they cut that from R/S, a game with less Pokemon, a smaller world, less EVERYTHING…but on a cart that could hold more. This made me angry, but end up loving Crystal even more.

7. Real time gaming. A 24/7 clock was added to GCS. The game tracked what time it was in the real world and also what day it was. Time factors heavily into the game. Some Pokemon can only be caught in early morning, some very late at night. Some Pokemon only appear on certain days of the week, while the same is true for events and characters that you can meet. This adds even more to the play aspect as you can find yourself up at 5am trying to catch a Pokemon that only appears then. Or Lapras which only appears one day of the week. It’s a great touch to make the entire ordeal of catching 251 Pokemon worth something.

8. In the original Pokemon RPG, you would only ever fight a trainer once, and then never again would you do battle with them. Only the Elite Four Gauntlet and that was it. In this game however, thanks to your Pokegear, you can log certain trainers phone numbers and challenge them again and again to rematches. It’s a nice touch. Crystal ups this even more by letting you trade Phone Numbers with people who will give you items like Evolution Stones, which are far rarer in this game than in RGBY. As you only have a limited number of slots, you have to choose carefully for who will be on your team.

9. Baby Pokemon! Awwwwww. Pichu and Cleffa. And Magby to a lesser extent. What can I say? Mr. “Wears all Black and acts hollier than thou on a constant basis” has a soft spot for Pokemon. Deal with it.

10. There is no #10. Alas. Nine reasons will have to do for you as to why Pokemon GSC is so much better than the original.

The best Portable RPG ever. It’s basically never-ending. The enemies begin to level up as you do, the game will easily last you over 100 hours of playing. It is unreal how much time I spent playing this game. Hell I played the game from Launch day until the spring of 2002. One and a half years playing 6 different GCS carts. Nothing else on my Game Boy really but Pokemon and Ogre Tactics. I know, I’m a fanatic. But hey, I admit it. I won’t hide my enjoyment of a game that looks cute but I know 20-30 year olds that still can’t master it. Anyone who tells you Pokemon is a simple game quite honestly hasn’t played it. That simple.

There’s only two Portable video games I compare to Pokemon GSC in terms of overall quality. And both are on the Neo Geo Pocket Colour. They’re called CardFighter’s Clash and SVC: MotM. These three games are the only ones truly needed for any portable gaming fan. Just too bad they aren’t all on the same system.

Seriously, go get Pokemon Crystal. I’ve even got the old sourpuss Liquidcross playing Pokemon Crystal now. And Pokemon Snap. And Pokemon Stadium 2. And he hates anything not called Mega Man! Go buy a copy. It’s in my top 5 for God’s Sake’s! What more reason do you need???