We’re closing out Pokemon week with a look at our favorite Pokemon games. Although most of us jump to the turn-based RPG’s for Nintendo’s handhelds when we think of Pokemon games, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best the franchise has to offer. Come see what our staff chooses as our favorite games featuring Pikachu and pals.
Nate Birch: Pokemon Snap (N64)
Okay, this may get me tarred and feathered and banished from this site, but I’m not the biggest Pokemon fan. I enjoyed Pokemon Red/Blue and its remakes Fire Red and Leaf Green, but the rest have left me cold. Gold, Silver, Ruby, Pearl, Tungsten, Linoleum and whatever other versions just feel like the exact same experience as Red/Blue with a less iconic overworld and less likable starting critters.
That said, while the RPGs may not be my favorite, I do like the characters themselves. Nobody with good in their heart can say Pikachu, Squirtle and the lot aren’t cute.
Which is why I like Snap. It discards the stale conventions of the RPGs and focuses entirely on the antics of the Pokemon themselves. With each new Pokemon RPG, I’m constantly disappointed that the actual searching for and catching of the pocket monsters hasn’t been upgraded beyond walking in circles in patches of grass hoping for a random encounter. To me, finding the Pokemon is far more interesting than bending them to your will and using them for your perverse cockfighting pleasure. Snap is the only Pokemon game to really focus on this aspect and it’s a huge amount of fun to find that Poliwhirl poking out of the grass, or set off the series events that makes some rare Pokemon appear.
Also, the ability to make stickers out of your pictures? Kick ass.
Why there hasn’t been a sequel to this produced on the Wii I’m not sure. It would seem to be perfectly suited to the system and Hal doesn’t seem to be doing anything else. Give me my Pokemon Diamond and Pearl version of Snap Nintendo!
A.J. Hess Pokemon Fire Red (GBA)
My reasons are a bit sappier than most, but hinge on fond memories. Really this was the first Pokemon game that I had. I kind of came in a bit late. My wife and I each purchased Game Boy Advance systems just to play this with each other. She’d been into Pokemon for awhile and had gotten some of the older games and a used Advance to play them. Well when Fire Red and Leaf Green came out, we each got the new slim versions of the Advance and I got Fire Red and she got Leaf Green.
We’d both spend some of our free time together running around catching Pokemon and training them up and trading back and forth when we could. We got into a competition to see who could catch what first and really this is the first Pokemon game we’d finished pretty much together.
Sure there was the other set, Ruby and Sapphire, we’d played, but that was all new Pokemon and Fire Red was my chance to play the “original” games with her that she’d been enthralled with forever while I just had watched before.
Yes it’s sappy and sentimental but you’re not taking this one from me with logic.
Mohamed Al-Saadoon: Pokemon Stadium 2 (N64)
The first Pokemon Stadium for North America was a weird but enjoyable game, despite the fact that if you didn’t have the GB games to utilize the bundled “Transfer Pak” you were pretty much screwed.
What it did give you was the ability to see your crappy 16 black and white Pokemon in full 3D, which was huge back in the day. You can either battle freely with your Pokemon or take on the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four in an increasingly difficult climb to the top of the Gym Leader Tower. Alternatively, you can battle in the eponymous Pokemon stadium to win trophies which unlock Doduo and Dodrio in the GB Tower so you can play your GB game in full screen at twice and three times the speed! The cherry on top was the inclusion of several fun multiplayer mini-games when you wanted to kill some time.
Now take all that and multiply it by 4 and you get Pokemon Stadium 2.
More Pokemon, more Trophies, more Gym Leaders, more Minigames, and more everything! Pokemon Stadium 2 improved on its predecessor in every way possible and it added an awesome new feature: Earl’s Academy.
Earl’s Academy is a Pokemon School which taught you everything from the very basics to advanced tactics through lectures. Then it gave you tests by issuing you a certain type of Pokemon to battle with. If you understood the lecture, the battle should be easy. This was easily one of the best tutorials I’ve ever seen in a game. Earl’s Academy also had an extensive library of all the Pokemon information you could possibly want as well.
Anyone can beat the handheld Pokemon RPG’s as they are not too difficult. Pokemon Stadium extends the lifespan of your game many times over and throws in some awesome features to boot.
Guy Desmairais: Pokémon Red (GB)
I know it’s not the most original game to pick as the majority of staffers picked either the Blue or Red version, but to me, it was the perfect balance between keeping it simple and having a deep system. I did end up capturing all of the Pokémon (Except Mew, I don’t think there ever was a promotion to get it in Quebec.), thanks to my brother’s Blue version. We would spend hours dueling, and we leveled up so many Pokémon to level 60 and above just to keep confusing each other. I can’t even begin to imagine the number of hours we spent on this game.
All in all, I know that more recent games introduced clever and fun gameplay element, such as team battles, items to hold and an internal clock, but I don’t think that any other game has achieved the originality and quality of the Red version. The map was huge but made things clear as to where I was supposed to go next. Maybe it’s just me sucking, but I spent so much time running around in circles in the Diamond version that I was starting to lose my patience. I really think that the Red version had the perfect balance of everything. Battles, collecting, side quests, story and challenge.
Chris Bowen: Pokemon TCG (Game Boy)
I’ve racked my brain about this over the past week. Which Pokemon game is my favourite? Is it Pokemon Blue, the one that I got into the genre with? Is it Pokemon Puzzle League, my favourite puzzle game on either system? How about Pokemon Pinball for the GBC, still one of the best Pinball games I’ve ever played on any video game system?
In the end, I’m going to be the only one to give the following answer: The Pokemon Trading Card Game.
For those that collected the cards religiously – I didn’t, I typically despise TCGs – I can imagine that the GBC game was a poor substitute; after all, the actual TCG evolved over the years. However, it drew me in; I had all the advantages of the intricate stat-based system, as well as an (admittedly cut-and-pasted) story mode, and best of all, no getting waxed by some so-called Asperser’s patient who went and spent good money on the perfect card just so he could win the Nerd Cup. I had fun with it, ironically much more fun with it than I did with the dedicated game. Furthermore, it had more staying power than the Pinball game to me, and wasn’t a rehash of a game I’d already played like the Puzzle game was.
I’m surprised they haven’t made a video game version of the TCG again, with the new cards that have been added since this game’s release, and the ability to play over the internet, to update the game with new cards, DLC packs, etc. It could be a great game, or it could be a bean counter’s wettest of wet dreams. I think it could be both.
Alexander Lucard Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal (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 Legendary 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. Most of all, 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 eight gyms, an Elite Four, 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 eight 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. Still, this 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!”Â
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, 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 favourite was Skarmony, but that was probably just me.
Even to this day Steel is 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.
So 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. There’s also 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”Â 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.
Pokemon Gen2 are the best Portable RPG ever. They are 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. There was 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. It’s that simple.
There’re 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.
Years ago when I did my “Top 30 RPG Countdown” The second generation of Pokemon games made it all the way up into the top five. Perhaps, PERHAPS sometime in 2009 (Say, May 10th, 2009), we’ll get to return to Johto in one form or another.