Last week, we took a look at the first generation of Pokemon games, and talked about what they brought to the table as the first entry in the Pokemon franchise. Needless to say, it was a huge hit, and it’s no surprise that the first generation of games left fans wanting more. In October of 2000, Nintendo sated the thirst of Pokemon fans by releasing the second generation of Pokemon games, Gold and Silver, in North America. Just like its predecessors, Gold and Silver met with huge success, by taking the gameplay we knew and loved from the first games, and adding onto it. They introduced a bunch of new gameplay elements, and improved on existing ones to make an extremely solid experience. So, let’s go ahead and jump right in.
Before we talk about anything else, we should first take a look at the story. Gold and Silver, once again, puts players in the shoes of a budding Pokemon trainer, who has given his first Pokemon. Your goal is to adventure across the region, throwing PokeBalls at everything that moves in order to capture, and document, Pokemon in your PokeDex. As you travel, you must defeat gym leaders in order to obtain badges, while also fighting Team Rocket, and your rival. Now, if this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s basically the same plot as the first games. However, unlike Red and Blue, Gold and Silver had a much more well thought out story. While the same, simple objectives were still there, Game Freak managed to add quite a bit more depth to the story this time around. For example, Team Rocket is back again, however they’re scattered and weakened from the events in Red and Blue. They’re trying to regain their former glory, but this time you’re there to stop them. Instead of your rival just being your neighbor, with no real character development, your rival now has a backstory, development as a character, and it was stuff like this that really made it all the more enjoyable to play the game. The better story is really only the tip of the iceberg, though.
What really helped Gen II stand apart from Gen I was the introduction of new features that would become a staple in future Pokemon games. To start with, the graphics and sound received a huge update. There’s no denying that the sprites in Gen I were ugly. While the North American release did receive updated sprites that looked much better than the original Japanese release, it was still pretty bad. In Gen II, thanks to the GameBoy Color, everything looked much better. Sprites looked as detailed as ever, and really stood out thanks to the bright colors. It wasn’t just the Pokemon that benefitted from this either, the world as a whole looked better than ever, and this was a huge plus when coming from the general blandness of the first games. Sound, as I mentioned, was also better than ever. If you take the time to listen to music from Gen I, you’ll notice how hollow it sounds in comparison to Gen II. While the music was great in both, Gen II’s music sounded full, and warm, which contributed to the overall atmosphere of the game. Bright colors, warm, full music, all of it blended together in the best way possible. However, as important as these changes are, they weren’t anywhere near as important as the changes to gameplay and new mechanics.
Let’s take a look at some of the major changes first. The first new feature to be introduced was time. Gold and Silver were the first games to make use of an internal clock, which was powered by a battery inside of the cartridge. Quite a bit was made possible by this, such as the new day/night cycle. This also allowed events to take place at specific times, causing new NPCs to show up in special locations during the week, or allowing you to catch certain Pokemon at night, such as Hoothoot. Having the world change based on time was an awesome feature, for sure, and it kept players on the lookout for new things as they played, and encouraged world exploration. Next, special items were introduced for Pokemon to hold, which gave special benefits to the holder. This was a big deal in battles, as a Pokemon with an item could be given a huge advantage over one with without one. Certain moves were introduced alongside this, such as Thief, which allowed the player to steal the item an opposing Pokemon was holding. PokeGear was introduced as well in Gen II. While PokeGear was really only important in this game, it did add quite a bit to the experience. PokeGear, in addition to being where you accessed your map, gave trainers a phone, and allowed them to exchange numbers with important NPCs, as well as trainers you’ve fought. This allows you to go back and challenge trainers for a rematch, and some trainers would even call you about rare Pokemon they spotted in the area, which made catching new Pokemon ever so slightly easier. Another important addition was the introduction of two new types, Dark and Steel. Dark was an extremely important addition, as it was the much needed counter for Psychic types, which were quite the issue in Gen I. Steel, on the other hand, was not as important of an addition. While Steel has very high defense, it falls short in attack, and it was a huge pain to even get most of them. The final change, and one of the biggest to the series as a whole, is breeding. Breeding, as the name would imply, allows trainers to create eggs by having their Pokemon procreate. The main advantage of this lied in players being able to hatch new Pokemon with ideal stats, a practice that has continued into the current generation of games.
Now for the minor changes. Gold and Silver were the first in the series to have shiny Pokemon. For those of you who are unaware, a shiny Pokemon is an extremely rare, alternate colored version of a Pokemon with a special animation upon entering a battle. While looks was really the only thing changed, it was a very cool addition. Specialized Pokeballs, which were used to make catching Pokemon in certain conditions easier, became a standard in Gold and Silver. The berry, an item that could be held by Pokemon in battle, or used outside of battle (like a potion), was introduced in Gen II. The idea of roaming legendaries were introduced in Gen II. The 3 Legendary Dogs, had to be chased all over the region to be caught. Finally, this was the first game in the series to feature Pokemon happiness. As you fought, and traveled with your Pokemon, their happiness started to grow. This actually came into play in some interesting ways, like affecting how certain Pokemon evolved, and is a recurring feature in games since.
So, more or less, Gen II was the ideal sequel to the first games. It did pretty much everything right, which is extremely impressive, but was there anything wrong with Gen II. Well, for the most part, no. I have two minor complaints, though they’re very nitpicky in nature. The first is how empty the second half of the game is. If you didn’t know, players were given the chance to visit Kanto, the region from the first game, and collect an additional 8 badges from the gym leaders there. While this was an awesome addition, one I’d love to see return, the region itself felt very empty. This was fixed in the remakes, with new events happening in the region to liven it up, though. The second is Dark types. While they were introduced to counter Psychics, they were a bit overpowered themselves, but this was addressed in Gen III. Really, that’s about it.
That’s pretty much it for Gen II. Personally, I think that this was one of the best additions to the Pokemon series to this day, and was an extremely good example of what a sequel should be. While old, Gen II still holds up better than Gen I, and can still be an enjoyable experience if you’re bored, though it would make more sense to play the remakes. Next week, we’ll take a look at Gen III, one of the more controversial games in the series, and talk about what it did, and didn't do, for the series.