Pokemon Gold/Silver - Staff Retroview  

Ancient Power
by Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett

30 - 60+ hrs.


Rating definitions 

   Given the much hyped history of the Pokemon series, a sequel to Pokemon Red and Blue should have come as no surprise. Incorporating a number of changes to the original formula, Pokemon Gold and Silver represents a sophistication in design and gameplay, if not in graphics, and is a far more enjoyable play than it's predecessor. Pokemon Gold and Silver offers more trainers to battle, more Pokemon to collect, and a far longer mainline quest which eventually tops out at well over 60 hours. This, combined with over two hundred and fifty creatures to capture, the ability to return to the world of Pokemon Red and Blue, and finally the sheer number of things to do, make Pokemon G/S a far more satisfying title than its predecessor was.

   Several major changes have been implemented between R/B and G/S, but most of the basics remain the same. The point is still to lead a party of fighting monsters through the land, fighting against other Pokemon in order to receive the title of Champion. It's up to the player, as their Trainer, to nurture and teach them, molding them into fighting machines. Fights are one-on-one turn-based affairs, with a system of elementals and a four-move limit adding a bit of spice. The appeal of Pokemon lies somewhere in the interaction of these two elements - the task of putting together a team of Pokemon is a unique and interesting task, and one that takes a surprising amount of forethought given the options available to the player.

   Some of the more major alterations from the previous title include the introduction of two new types, Dark and Steel, breeding, and the splitting of the Special stat into Special Attack and Special Defense. This change allows for greater variation amongst the individual pocket monsters and helps prevent a few very powerful Pokemon from dominating the game. As for breeding, the ability to replicate an endless amount of creatures adds another layer of complexity to the game and allows the player to manipulate the skills of their creatures to a greater degree. The new types, perhaps the biggest and most obvious alteration to the game, are included as a fairly obvious attempt to balance the gameplay - a serious issue in Pokemon Red and Blue was the obscene power of any Psychic type with a strong Special stat. There was simply nothing that could take a properly raised Alakazam, and even less that could defeat the insanely powerful Mewtwo. The introduction of Dark, which is immune to Psychic attacks, and Steel, which is resistant to them, helps create a more strategy-oriented game. The player can no longer afford to rely entirely upon one Pokemon to destroy all comers.

New critters add new depth to combat. New critters add new depth to combat.

   One of the more unusual ideas which Nintendo introduces in G/S is the inspired use of a time element to the game. At the start of the game, the player is directed to set the date and time of day. The game then sets off events at certain times of the day and week, such as releasing the Grass/Poison type Oddish into the field at nightfall, or allowing the player to meet with certain trainers on certain days. This aspect of the game is very well done, and gives a new sense of realism and interactivity to the game.

   Unfortunately, for all the unusual aspects Nintendo saw fit to add to this sequel, they failed to bring a sense of inspiration to the story. As in the first game, the player is cast as an aspiring Pokemon trainer who leaves home with dreams of becoming the Pokemon League Champion of his region. The player is then directed through a series of towns which contain Pokemon Gyms. The Gym's leader must be defeated in order to obtain a Gym Badge, eight of which will grant the right to challenge the Pokemon League. The translation is impressive, particularly given the number of things to translate - Nintendo managed to localize the names of two hundred and fifty-one whimsical creatures while still remaining true to the original meanings of those names and keeping errors to a minimum. The story of Pokemon Gold and Silver contains very little in the way of compelling drama or complex storytelling - unsurprising given the game's target audience.

New regions mean new modes of transport. New regions mean new modes of transport.

   However, the real fun lies not in the story but in the gameplay. The complex task of putting together a capable team of Pokemon with as few weaknesses as possible while maintaining a variety of attacks is not only time-consuming and engaging, but a lot of fun. The two-player mode Link Battles open up a whole new world of challenge, and is perhaps the primary reason for buying the game. The interface lacks a run button and other basic conveniences, and is a genuine chore to put up with at times. The only other real problem apparent in the game is the amount that luck plays in the game - matches will be decided on luck far more often than is strictly comfortable. Still, the variation possible in team construction along with the collection aspect of the game and the sheer weirdness of the game's style makes the game a lot of fun to play and explore. Who couldn’t love a game that includes Teddiursa the homicidal teddy bear?

   Technologically, this Pokemon game is very similar to it's predecessor, the only real difference being color. Graphically, the game still looks very primitive. Sprites are small and undetailed and, basic stills are it as far as combat goes. Moves are generally a limited affair, with even the most complex moves rating only a shaking screen or a few minor particle effects. The overall visual style hasn't changed much either, and the designs of the new Pokemon available in this version fit in very well with the established style of the series.

   Even given that the Game Boy Color doesn't exactly possess the world's greatest audio system, the music and sound on Pokemon Gold and Silver is a bit of a disappointment. Music is a collection of dull beeps, sound effects are mechanical to the point where a cow sounds like a bulldozer. Again, while it isn't surprising that the audio is bad, it is an important enough part of any game to bear mention.

   Given the somewhat childish air of the Pokemon series, this game might be difficult for some gamers to get into. Other hurdles await as well - the time investment and planning which goes into constructing a powerful team can be a strong turnoff to even the most patient of gamers. An open mind is another serious requirement - gamers that think pitting an electric sheep against a flaming aardvark in a battle for domination sounds ridiculous won't enjoy this game much. However, for gamers looking for a new obsession, or even just a long, lighthearted quest to play through, Pokemon Gold and Silver offers light yet deeply strategic gameplay and a unique world to explore.

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