At the time of its release, Pokémon was taking the world by storm. The highly successful launch of the Generation One games, the television show, films, trading card game and more had fans wanting more. It truly was a worldwide phenomenon. Who knew that as the 90s came to an end, that players would be getting the first of many more mainline games from Nintendo and Game Freak.
First released in Japan in late 1999, Pokémon Silver and Gold gave players the opportunity to explore the new region of Johto. The American and Australian release followed eleven months later in October 2000 with Europe seeing the release in April 2001. From the get go, the new instalment was highly praised and stood out as one of the best games for the Game Boy Colour. Even now many fans of the Pokémon games still rate the second generation games as some of the best in the franchise.
Following on from Pokémon Silver and Gold’s incredible launch, Pokémon Crystal was first released in Japan in December 2000 followed by America and Europe in 2001. While the premise of Pokémon Crystal was the same as the first two entries of generation two, the newer addition featured several new features.
It goes without saying that each of the three games contained some differences. While the main difference between Pokémon Silver and Gold was the variation of Pokémon that could be caught, the Crystal version of the game also contained some further enhancements and changes.
Some of the many improvements seen in Pokémon Crystal varied from aesthetic, location and gameplay changes as well as some slight changes to the storyline. There was also a number of notable changes including being able to play as a female Trainer and the introduction of the very first Battle Tower.
3DS Virtual Console Releases
Even though the focus on this article is mainly on the original releases of Pokémon Silver, Gold and Crystal. You can’t deny that the original Generation II being released on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console in twenty-seventeen helped bring a wave of new and returning players back to these earlier game.
For me, this was my first experience of Pokémon Crystal. I’ve only played around ten hours and while I enjoyed it, I got distracted with other games and never went back to finish my play through. It is definitely something I need to do soon!
My experience with the Pokémon franchise didn’t start until around the time the Generation II games were being released in Europe. In fact, it was probably a good couple of years past Pokémon Silver and Gold’s release that I first experienced the game for myself. At the time of its release, I had just started my first adventure in Kanto when I received my first Game Boy Advance and a copy of Pokémon Yellow.
My Johto adventure actually started by chance. I was at a car boot sale with my Grandparents during the school Summer holidays. I had brought all of my pocket money I had been saving over the past few months, so I could spend it here. After walking around and picking up a few bundles of Pokémon cards (including the then hard to find Ancient Mew card) I stumbled across a stand selling pre-owned Game Boy games. At first glance there was no Pokémon games that could be seen. It wasn’t until I asked the person running the stand if they did and to my surprise they had one last copy of Pokémon Gold. I don’t remember the exact amount, but I think it was around £15, but I was then the proud owner of Pokémon Gold. Complete with box and game guide too!
Needless to say, for the rest of the Summer I was pretty quiet.
I was captivated by the game from the start. Little did I know just how much the game had in store for me. I remember being blown away by how different it was to Pokémon Yellow. The improvements on the colours, the music the aesthetic of the game overall.
There was something about my journey through Johto that kept pulling me back in for more. It wasn’t just the storyline, the new locations or Pokémon I could discover. It was discovering I could revisit the Kanto region, taking part in the bug catching competitions, collecting berries, Pokémon breeding, the Pokégear, catching a red Gyarados, and so much more. Capturing my first legendary Pokémon from my first play through was a memorable moment in my adventure as was completing my first ever play through a few weeks after getting the game. I had enjoyed it so much that I was soon starting my next play through on a copy of Pokémon Silver. Determined to complete my Pokédex for both games and re-experience the same magical adventure I had previously just completed.
I can easily say that even now, that this generation of Pokémon games are still my favourite to revisit.
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver
To help celebrate the tenth anniversary of Pokémon Gold and Silver, a new and improved version of the games were released. Appropriately named HeartGold and SoulSilver, the games were released first in Japan on 12th September 2009 follow by North America, Australia and Europe in March 2010. The game featured everything players know and loved from the originals, the enhancements from Pokémon Crystal and of course it was beautifully remade for the Nintendo DS.
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver also introduced the Pokéwalker. The small device was bundled alongside the main game and allowed players to take their Pokémon out and about, collecting Watts and interacting with other players.
When I first heard about Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were going to be released I was incredibly excited. Being able to revisit one of my favourite games again but in a new light on a different console was exciting. I clearly recall the day I walked into my local Blockbuster store to try and buy my copy. Every other video game shop had sold out locally, and it was the last store to check. I was in luck as they had just one copy of each version left. I bought both as I was getting one copy for my younger brother as well as my own copy.
Sitting down with Pokémon SoulSilver for the first time I felt reminiscent. Memories of playing Pokémon Gold and Silver came rushing back, and I couldn’t help but smile. For me this wasn’t going to be my first adventure in Johto. For my brother it was. I think the fact that I was sharing this play through experience with my younger brother (who at the time was still relatively new to the Pokémon video games) made the adventure even more fun.
I didn’t initially use the Pokéwalker as I was mainly focusing on plaything through the game and catching as many Pokémon as possible along the way. I think it was around the time when I took on the Pokémon League that I started to use it. Even though it needs a new battery, my Pokéwalker is still in pretty good condition all these years later.
Playing through Pokémon SoulSilver made me fall in love with Johto and the Generation II era of the games all over again. Seeing the world brought to life with colour, updated soundtrack and new graphics enhanced the journey even more. I spent countless evenings curled up on the sofa working towards becoming a Pokémon Master before my brother did. My head buried into my Nintendo DS and in my own little world.
There are a number of things that I loved about playing Pokémon Soul Silver. It was rediscovering my favourite places all over again or finally catching that Pokémon I’ve wanted to get for so long. Re-experiencing the in game events or stumbling across those unique and stand-out trainers while exploring Johto and Kanto again. Another feature that I loved about the remakes of Pokémon Silver and Gold is that they also brought new features and opportunities with them. No longer was there 251 Pokémon to catch. There was now close to 500 Pokémon thanks to the additional games released since the original Generation II games. It really added to the challenge of catching them all.
Although there was a lot that I rediscovered, I also discovered a lot of firsts along the way, one being The Battle Frontier. It was a place that I remember spending a lot of time like many players did after defeating the Pokémon League. I remember having lots of fun with this part of the game, but I don’t remember much about it at the same time.
The remakes of the Generation II games will always have a special place in my gaming collection.
Final & Future thoughts
Even though it is unlikely that we will see another installation of a ‘new’ Generation II game (with the exception to a possible Let’s Go themed game), I would like to hope that one day we will see the earlier games return in some form via the Nintendo Switch Online virtual consoles.
Overall, my journey through Johto over the years has been incredible and full of great memories. I always get this nostalgic feeling when playing the games regardless of how many times I have played them before. Generation II will always be my stand-out era from all of the games and will always have a special place in my collection and my heart.
Want to continue your retrospective look at the Pokémon franchise? Well, take a look at the hub article where I and several other content creators made more retrospective content about the Pokémon franchise here.