Game Corner [PokéMonth]: Pokémon: Crystal Version (Nintendo 3DS)

Upon the release of Pokémon: Blue Version and Pokémon: Red Version (Game Freak, 1996), a new craze swept through playgrounds across the world. An entire generation grew up either playing Pokémon, watching the anime, playing the trading card game, and watching the feature-length movies as clever marketing and a co-ordinated release and multimedia strategy saw Nintendo’s newest franchise become not just a successful videogame franchise but a massively lucrative and popular multimedia powerhouse that endures to this day. Accordingly, February 27th is now internationally recognised as “National Pokémon Day”, which I’m expanding to an entire month of Pokémon every Tuesday in February.

Released: 26 January 2018
Originally Released: 14 December 2000
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Game Freak
Also Available For: GameBoy Color

The Background:
I’ve talked before not just about Pokémon but also about how Pokémon: Gold Version and Pokémon: Silver Version (Game Freak, 1999) are my favourite games in the franchise. Thanks to the success of not just the first Generation of Pokémon videogames but also an aggressive multimedia strategy, Pokémon became an instant cultural phenomenon across the world, and yet the developers originally intended for Pokémon: Gold and Silver to be the final entries in the series. The sequels immediately sought to improve upon the gameplay, graphics, and mechanics of the first games; developed exclusively for the GameBoy Color, the game would feature a greater colour palette, backwards compatibility with the previous games, a real-time internal clock, and one-hundred new Pokémon to collect and battle (in addition to two new Types, Dark and Steel). Although many of these Pokémon were dropped, or significantly redesigned, during the game’s development, Nintendo offered the otherwise-inaccessible Celebi as a promotional extra and Pokémon: Gold and Silver were highly anticipated by me, personally, thanks to the new Pokémon cropping up in the anime and movies.

Anticipation was high for all-new Pokémon videogames thanks to the anime and the franchise’s popularity.

This Generation stands out for me for including things like a day/night cycle, breeding, and including the entire region of Kanto as post-game content and, like Pokémon: Blue and Red, Pokémon: Gold and Silver were not only highly praised at the time but also soon followed by a third entry, Pokémon: Crystal. While essentially the same game, Pokémon: Crystal was a trend-setter for the franchise, allowing players to choose the gender of their avatar, including partially animated battle sprites, featuring a whole additional side-story revolving around Suicune and the Unown, and debuting the ever-popular Battle Tower for players to further test their mettle. Again, thanks to Pokémon’s popularity and including additional elements as an incentive for a further purchase, Pokémon: Crystal was well received upon release and has been noted as one of the best Pokémon games. Many elements from Pokémon: Crystal became series staples in subsequent releases, and featured prominently in the Gold and Silver remakes, and the game was later released on the 3DS Virtual Console with the Celebi event included as standard.

The Plot:
The time has come to receive your first Pokémon from Professor Elm and challenge the Gym Leaders and Pokémon of the Johto region. However, your journey is disrupted by your mysterious rival, who stole one of Professor Elm’s Pokémon, and the villainous Team Rocket, who seek to return the group to their former glory. Things are further complicated when you cross paths with Eusine, who has made it his life gal to earn the respect of the legendary beast Suicune.

As I said, I regard the second generation of Pokémon games as my favourite in the franchise; I remember going out of my way to get Pokémon: Blue when it first came out, and then snapping up Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (ibid, 1998) simply because of how popular the franchise was, and me and my friends were so eager for new Pokémon games that we readily downloaded barely-translated ROMs of Gold and Silver just to experience them. I had Pokémon: Silver back in the day, but always wanted Pokémon: Gold and never had the chance to play Pokémon: Crystal as I was firmly into collecting for the Game Boy Advance by then, so I jumped at the chance to get it before the 3DS Virtual Console shut down for good simply because of how much I enjoyed Pokémon: Silver and Pokémon: HeartGold (ibid, 2009). Essentially, Pokémon: Crystal is the same Pokémon you know and love: the game is a top-down role-playing game (RPG) in which players get to first pick their gender, name their avatar, select from three starter Pokémon, and embark on a journey to raise a well-balanced team, challenge the Johto Gym Leaders, and take on the Pokémon League. As was the style at the time, Pokémon: Crystal isn’t prone to holding your hand; you can talk to non-playable characters (NPCs) for clues, tips, lore, and some instructions but you’re mostly left to your own devices, though the game often bars your progress behind impassable objects like trees, bodies of water, or battling trainers that can only be bypassed by defeating Gym Leaders or acquiring Hidden Machines (HMs). As before, Pokémon: Crystal utilises an extremely simple control scheme that lets you organise your party, equip and use items, and save your progress or alter settings quickly and easily, and the user interface is vastly improved over the last games, with your pack now divided into pockets for key items PokéBalls, and healing items and even lets you set an item to the ‘Select’ button for quick use.

Pick your Pokémon and head out into Johto to tackle a whole new crop of Trainers and challenges.

As ever, gameplay is divided into exploring the overworld and one-on-one battles against wild or trainer-owned Pokémon. On the overworld, you’ll chat to NPCs with A, activate switches and pressure pads, and pick up items; if you walk into grass, caves, or surf on water, you’ll soon encounter a wild Pokémon, which switches the game to a battle screen where you and your opponent take turns to inflict damage or status effects on each other, or use in-battle items to heal or relieve status effects or try and capture the Pokémon. You can also run from wild Pokémon (as long as you’re a higher level), but not from a Trainer battle, and many wild Pokémon can also now flee from battle, which can make capturing them trickier. Pokémon battles are dictated by a “Type” system that’s basically a version of Rock/Paper/Scissors; Water-Type Pokémon inflict greater damage against Fire-Type Pokémon, for example, while Grass-Types trump Water and are weak to Fire. There are now seventeen different Types of Pokémon in the game, with Dark- and Steel-Types adding an extra dimension to battle as the previously all-powerful Psychic-Type Pokémon now have a formidable weakness in Dark-Type Pokémon and moves. While some moves, like Bite, have changed Type to align with this new system, it’s all pretty simple to figure out thanks to battle text informing you when moves are “Super effective” or “Not very effective” and external factors like your location, wild Pokémon names, and their colouring and appearance cluing you in on the best attack strategy. If you’re fishing in the sea, for example, and hook a Qwilfish (which is blue, clearly identified as a fish), it’s pretty obvious that you need to use a Grass- and Electric-Type to inflict maximum damage. At the beginning, you can pick between three different Pokémon, a Fire-, Grass-, or Water-Type, and I recommend keeping them in your party and five to ten levels higher than the rest of your team simply because they are your first Pokémon. You can choose to give this Pokémon, and any others you catch (but not ones you acquire via trading) a nickname to personalise them, and you’ll you can swap around your Pokémon’s moves at any time either in-battle or from the pause menu, or swap or release them from the PCs found in Pokémon Centers.

Level-up to become stronger, and make use of the game’s new evolution methods to discover new Pokémon.

To ease you into the game, early wild Pokémon and Pokémon Trainers are all at low-levels and you’re usually always at an advantage because your Pokémon have higher stats. Winning Pokémon battles will award your Pokémon with experience points (EXP); earn enough, and your Pokémon will level-up, which will increase their Hit Points (HP), Attack, Defence, Speed, and Special stats (now split into Special Attack and Special Defense) and thus make them more powerful. One of the best quality of life improvements in Pokémon: Crystal is the addition of an in-battle EXP progress bar so you can easily keep track of your Pokémon’s progress, and you can swap out Pokémon in battles to share EXP and level them up faster, which you’ll want to do as it’s helpful (though not necessarily necessary by any means) to have a diverse team with decent Type coverage. Don’t level-up too fast, though, as your Pokémon will disobey you if they’re too high a level and you don’t have the appropriate Gym Badge. I like to circumvent this by grinding between Gym battles; by keeping my main Pokémon five to ten levels stronger, but a few levels below the level cap, it can ensure that I’m always stronger enough for the next battle, though I did notice that I was spending more time grinding between Gyms than in my Pokémon: Yellow playthrough. Pokémon will learn new moves from levelling-up, or from Technical Machines (TMs), and it’s recommended to give your Pokémon moves that play to their strengths (if they have a high Attack stat, for example, you don’t really want to have moves that are all Special Attacks) and go against their Type (teaching Poison-Type moves to Grass-Type Pokémon, for example) so they have greater Type coverage in battle. In addition to the untrackable Effort Value (EV) points (earned by consecutively battling certain Pokémon, so defeating a bunch of Hoothoot in a row will boost your HP stat by one point), Pokémon: Crystal also introduces a hidden “Happiness” stat. the more you travel with, use, and care for your Pokémon, the happier it will become; you can boost this stat by grooming them and feeding them Vitamins (which also boost individual stats) or equipping them with certain items in order to max out their Happiness and trigger their evolution.

You can shrug off status effects with Berries, and new HMs offer more exploration options.

As before, battles and gameplay are as hard as you make them; if you don’t bother levelling-up a diverse team, then battles will eventually become harder to win. You can avoid a Trainer battle by staying out of the sight line of Trainers, but I recommend battling every Trainer you come up against to strengthen your team and earn PokéDollars, and some Trainers will even give you their phone number and call you with tips or for a rematch. Trainers are much more capable this time around; not only do they have all the same options as you when it comes to swapping and healing their Pokémon, but they also don’t have to worry about running out of Power Points (PP). Pokémon can still only know four moves at a time, so you’ll have to either replace an existing move to learn a new one or visit the Move Deleter to do this outside of levelling-up or to forget HM moves, and each move has a certain number of PP. When you’re all out, you can’t use that move anymore and will eventually either have to use “struggle” (which inflicts recoil damage to you), replenish PP with a Berry or Elixir, or restore your Pokémon at a Pokémon Center. If you’re not careful in battle, your Pokémon will end up “fainting” when their HP is drained and, if all your Pokémon faint, you’ll “white out”, lose some money, and respawn at the last Pokémon Center you visited. As before, you also need to be wary of status effects, which can cause Pokémon to flinch (basically miss a turn), become confused (often resulting in them hurting themselves), miss their attacks, fall sleep or become paralysed or poisoned (which also drains HP when on the overworld), burned, or frozen. While some attacks and items will also boost your stats and your chance at inflicting greater damage with a “Critical Hit”, Pokémon: Crystal features far more moves that power up and negate certain Types, like Sunny Day and Rain Dance buffing Fire- and Water-Types, respectively. You can undo these status effects using certain items, and can have your Pokémon hold Berries that they’ll automatically eat when inflicted with a status effect or at low HP or PP to help them shake off these debilitating effects.

New mechanics and quality of life improvements make the game much more fun to play.

Victory in Trainer battles earns you PokéDollars to spend in PokéMarts and at vending machines on healing items, hold items, Vitamins, single-use power-ups, and other useful gear to help you in battle or with raising your Pokémon. Items and Pokémon can be stored in PCs when required (you can still only have six Pokémon at a time, so any additional Pokémon are automatically transferred to your PC) but you can choose to have your mother save some money for you, which will award you with extra items and toys to furnish your bedroom with. Although you still only get one save file, you can manually save your progress at any time on the overworld and I recommend saving frequently, and especially before Gym Leader battles or encounters with Legendary Pokémon so you can reset if you make a mistake. Just like before, you need to defeat eight Gym Leaders to earn their badges and challenge the Pokémon League while also working on completing Professor Oak’s PokéDex by capturing Pokémon. The PokéDex has also received an upgrade, making searching for and viewing Pokémon much easier, but you’ll still only be able to fully complete it by trading with Gold, Silver, and even the Generation One games using the “Time Machine” function and by evolving Pokémon through battle, raising their Happiness, using special stones, or by trading (often now with them holding a special item). You can manually cancel some evolutions, and even have Pokémon hold an Everstone to suppress their evolution, which is sometimes recommended as Pokémon learn moves faster in their weaker forms and some moves can only be learned prior to evolution. Another new feature in this game is breeding; each Pokémon is either male, female, or gender neutral and you can leave two Pokémon at the Day Care to be raised outside of battle or, if they’re compatible, breed either a pre-evolution like Pichu and Igglybuff or a slightly stronger version of an existing Pokémon with moves they wouldn’t normally learn. When Pokémon breed, you’re given an egg; these eggs will hatch after you’ve taken a certain number of steps or cycled a certain distance, and breeding can be a great way or filling up the PokéDex quickly alongside regular battling, though you won’t be able to breed Legendary Pokémon and some take longer to produce an egg than others.

Of all the side quests, the one involving Suicune is the most prominent.

A Pokémon’s gender is clearly visible next to their name in battle, and a further quality of life feature is that you’ll see a little PokéBall next to a wild Pokémon’s name to indicate that you’ve caught it, and the game is littered with similar helpful additions mainly tied to your PokéGear. This device houses your map, phone, and a radio which lets you listen to shows offering tips or music that will either wake up Pokémon or put them to sleep and allow you to track the mysterious goings-on at the Runs of Alph. Here, you’ll investigate strange symbols and encounter the useless Unown, though there are slide puzzles to play here and twenty-four different variations of this Pokémon to find and record for a nearby scientist. Your progress is again restricted by trees, water, and dark caves, but now you also have to content with waterfalls and whirlpools. You can again get past these obstacles with HMs, which again double as faster ways of traversing the map: Fly, for example, lets you fly to any Pokémon Center on the map, but you can also use Dig to quickly exit caves (especially useful when you’re out of Escape Ropes), Teleport to warp to exits, and acquire a bicycle (but, sadly, not a skateboard) to dramatically increase up your movement speed. Many of the same minor puzzles return from the last game, meaning you’ll be pressing switches or pushing boulders or using teleport pads to get around, though you’ll also encounter slippery ice, a strange plant that can only be moved using a special water bottle, and numerous instances where the local Gym Leader is either busy with another task or won’t battle you until you’ve complete a side quest. These primarily involve the returning Team Rocket, who have been cutting the tails off Slowpoke, take over the radio tower, and steal vital components from the Kanto power plant. When team Rocket is in town, you’ll need to clear them all out to make the Gym and other areas accessible, but you’re also hounded by your rival, a red-haired boy who stole a Pokémon from Professor Elm and is obsessed with power. Other side quests include searching for a Farfetch’d in Ilex Forest, competing in a bug-catching contest, fetching medicine for a sick Ampharos, feeding Berries to a poorly Miltank, exploring Dragon’s Den, and capturing a strange Gyarados at the Lake of Rage. This will most likely by your introduction to “Shiny” Pokémon, extremely rare palette swaps of Pokémon that occasionally appear in battle. Perhaps the most prominent side quest here involves the Legendary Beasts, specifically Suicune; the three beasts are released into the wild early into the game but, while you’ll randomly encounter Entei and Raikou while wandering around and be left tearing your hair out as they constantly flee from battle, you’ll come across Eusine in his search for Suicune as you journey around Johto and eventually be able to tackle the elusive beats one-on-one to add it to your collection.

Graphics and Sound:
Obviously, Pokémon: Crystal is still going to be noticeably limited compared to later games in the series, but the improvements between this game and not just the first generation but even Gold and Silver are pretty impressive. I never thought of the Game Boy Color as being an especially powerful device compared to the original Game Boy, but this game is huge compared to the first games, with a vibrant colour palette that is far more detailed than what we saw in the first games. Towns and routes are much more visually interesting, with grass and trees and plants swaying and bobbing as you explore, the town and route names popping up onscreen, and a distinctly Japanese aesthetic to the far more impressive interiors of buildings. All of the sprites have been given a complete makeover, meaning overworld sprites and battle sprites are far more diverse and detailed; there are new Trainer classes available in the game, new animations for the PokéBalls, and not only a bunch of new moves added to the game but much more interesting and visually exciting attack animations, with more frames and colours being utilised to really make the most of the Game Boy Color’s capabilities. Although you can’t have a Pokémon follow you around like in Pokémon: Yellow, Pokémon now have little animation frames when they appear onscreen, sparkle when they’re Shiny, and even their menu and HM sprites have been overhauled to make them more distinctive.

It’s amazing how much better Pokémon looks, sounds, and plays on the Game Boy Color hardware.

While Johto’s towns and areas aren’t really all that different from Kanto’s, and are probably a little less visually diverse than I’d like, there’s still some fun locations to explore here. Goldenrod City has a Game Corner and a large PokéMart like Celedon City, but also an underground passage, a radio tower, an ice cave, and the Magnet Train which can allow swift access to and from Johto to Kanto; structures like Bellsprout Tower, Burnt Tower, and Tin Tower are not only great places to train ut also key to catching the game’s Legendary Pokémon; and you can even explore a lighthouse (which is full of holes to fall down) and the entirety of Kanto! Perhaps the biggest new feature in this generation was the inclusion of a day/night cycle; at the start of the game, you set the date and time and, as day turns to night, the palette changes accordingly and this even affects the evolution and appearance of some Pokémon. Different NPCs and events will also happen on certain days, and noting the date and time is essential for completing the PokéDex and acquiring certain items. Although the game is bolstered by some jaunty, memorable little chip tunes and Pokémon cries are much improved, the sound is still a bit of a weak spot here; you can tune into different radio channels to change the music though, which is fun. While your pack is far easier to navigate, its capacity is still limited, but storing and retrieving items is much easier this time around, as is rearranging the order of items in your pack, and you can interact with far more on the overworld: Berry plants, Pokémon blocking your path, and even certain trees can all be interacted with to pick-up items or trigger a battle, and you can again use the Itemfinder to seek out hidden items. Like in Pokémon: Yellow, Pokémon: Crystal features an all-new intro sequence, this one focusing on Suicune and the Unown, and you can even choose to play as a girl if you like (though this has no impact on the gameplay other than changing your sprite).

Enemies and Bosses:
In your quest to conquer the Pokémon League, you’ll battle a wide variety of Pokémon both in the field and in use by various Pokémon Trainers. Wild and Trainer Pokémon begin at low levels, generally between three and six, but get progressively stronger as you advance to new areas and when you’re called for a rematch, which will help you to grow stronger on a rising curve. Your ability to weaken these Pokémon for capture or defeat them is directly tied to your Pokémon’s current level and moves; if your Pokémon is weak and only knows moves like Bubble and Leer or bring an Electric-Type into a forest or a Bug-Type into a cave you’ll struggle to advance. The same applies to Pokémon Trainers; they start off using one or two weak Pokémon like Sentret and Spinarak but eventually use more formidable and evolved Pokémon. They’ll also withdraw them, heal them, or buff them with items and, while you can exploit the enemy A.I. at times, Pokémon Trainers tend to use moves that have a Type advantage over your current Pokémon. Pokémon: Crystal introduces new moves that can prolong or frustrate battles as well; Protect will render your next attack useless, Spikes will damage any Pokémon you send into battle, and some moves, like Dynamic Punch, not only hit hard but also inflict confusion on their victim. Still, with enough grinding and a diverse team, you can easily overcome every opponent you face; simply take some time between Gym battles to level-up, develop specific stats if that’s your jam, and bringing your team as close to the level cap as possible, utilising moves that are super effective and sharing EXP wherever possible, and you can easily trample over the opposition once you’ve gotten past the uphill battle at the start of the game.

Team Rocket are back and you’re hounded by an arrogant rival with a superiority complex.

After being absent for a few years, Team Rocket has come back but they’re far less of a threat than in the first generation; these nefarious individuals are easily identified by their black attire and caps and will impede your progress until you’ve cleared them out of towns, towers, and buildings. When exploring their hidden base in Mahogany Town, you’ll be constantly beset by the gang when you walk in front of security cameras, though Pokémon League Champion Lance is on hand to help you out by healing your team. When you encounter them in the radio tower, you’ll have to battle a Rocket Executive posing as the tower’s director, and they’ve been cutting off Slowpoke tails to sell them earlier in the game, but Team Rocket’s grunts really aren’t much of a threat and tend to stick to common Pokémon like Rattata, Muk, and Zubat. In comparison, your rival is much more malicious than Blue from the last game; this guy (often dubbed “Silver”) is not just rude, arrogant, and obsessed with training only the most powerful Pokémon, but also a conceited bully, pushing you away and past you and refusing to help fend off Team Rocket since it doesn’t suit his goals. Unfortunately, the rivalry between you isn’t as big of a factor as in the last game; the rival pops up at various points throughout the game, but it’s easy to forget he even exists and he doesn’t even end up being the Pokémon League Champion, which is a shame as it would’ve been easy to have him be the mastermind behind Team Rocket’s return and maybe tie him into the Ruins of Alph and Suicune sub-plots. Your rival will steal whatever starter Pokémon has a Type advantage against yours (in my case, he took Chikorita) but eventually expands his team to include Sneasel, Golbat, Magneton, Alakazam, and Gengar to give him good Type coverage across the board. However, a diverse and high-levelled team can easily send him packing in every encounter; in my playthrough, I barely even needed to swap my Pokémon out between each round thanks to teaching my Feraligatr Bite, Ice Punch, Surf, and Dynamic Punch and going into every encounter at least ten levels higher than him, making him a visually interesting but hardly challenging successor to Blue.

You’ll occasionally need to complete some side quests or solve a puzzle to battle the Gym Leaders.

A whole new world to live in means eight all-new towns and eight new Gym Leaders to battle, each specialising in a specific Pokémon Type and often (but, oddly, not always) protected by a number of protégés and some light puzzles, such as a maze, obscured path, or the pushing of boulders. Other times, Gyms will be empty, locked, or otherwise barred and you’ll need to complete a side quest to gain entry. While you don’t have  to fight the Gym Leader’s minions, I recommend it so you don’t miss out on some EXP and cash, and it’s again recommended to have a diverse team on hand (though you can often helpfully find wild Pokémon nearby that can counteract the Gym’s specialty). Your first challenge is Falkner, who uses Flying-Type Pokémon; as long as you don’t have a Grass-Type on hand and, honestly, why would you?) this isn’t anything to worry about and you can improve your chances by taking a slight detour and catching a Ground-Type Phanpy. Bugsy is a walk in the park if you have a Fire-Type, though I felt the pinch against his Scyther’s Fury Cutter since I opted for Totodile instead of my usual Cyndaquil. Most players run into a brick wall when faced with Whitney and her Miltank, which can deal increasingly more devastating damage with its Rollout attack, but I honestly had no trouble besting it was a Level 28 Croconaw using Bite and Ice Punch (though a Fighting-Type Pokémon or moves are your best bet against her). Neither Morty or Chuck are much of a challenge either since you can take both out with Psychic-, Dark-, and Electric-Type moves, while Fire- and Water-Types are your best bet at taking out Jamsine’s Steelix. Electric- and Fire-Types will also allow you to make short work of Pryce’s Ice-Type Pokémon (indeed, the hardest thing about him is skidding about on the icy floor of his Gym) and, while Clair’s Dragon-Types can be intimidating and easily paralyse you, they’ll also fall pretty quickly if you have Ice-Type Pokémon or moves on hand. Defeating each Gym Leader awards you a badge that increases the game’s level cap, powers up certain stats, and allows you to use HMs outside of battle to reach new areas, and also awards you some useful TMs, like Dynamic Punch and Shadow Ball, but take care after defeating Whitney as you won’t immediately earn her badge and must talk to one of her underlings to convince her to hand it over.

The best of the best await at the Pokémon League…unless you’re levels ahead of them…

Once all of the Gym Leaders are defeated, you’re ready to take on the Pokémon League. To reach the League, you need to use your HMs to navigate through Tohjo Falls and the cavernous Victory Road, where you’ll battle your rival once more and encounter some high-level Pokémon to help push your levels higher. You’ll want to make use of the makeshift Pokémon Center and PokéMart right before the Elite Four to heal up and maybe stock up on restorative items since you again need to battle all four Trainers, and the champion, consecutively to become the champ. Each of the Elite Four has a full team of Pokémon, with a general speciality in mind but also Type coverage to keep you on your toes; your first challenge is Will, who uses Psychic-Type Pokémon but, thankfully, these are dual-Types so you can use Dark-, Ghost-, Electric-, and Fire-Type moves to easily cut through his Pokémon, though you could be caught off-guard by confusion or freezing if you’re not careful. Next up is Koga, upgraded from a Gym Leader to one of the Elite Four and still rocking the Poison-Types, making him easy pickings for your Ground- and Flying-Type attacks. The only member of Elite Four to return from the first generation is, ironically, one of the weakest of that game, Bruno. Though he’s got a bigger, more diverse team, he’s still a Fighting-Type specialist so you can easily best him with Psychic-Type moves. These are slightly negated against Karen, however, since she has Dark-Types on hand but, again, her Pokémon are dual-Types so you can balance things out with Fire- and Water-Type Pokémon. Your final challenge is against Lance, the Dragon-Type expert who’s now the Pokémon League Champion. Lance is easily the toughest Trainer battle so far…on paper, at least…since he has three Dragonites and even fan favourite Charizard on his team. However, but this point my Feraligatr was way overpowered and I managed to sweep his whole team using Bite, Surf, and Ice Punch without any issue. Toppling the Elite Four sees you and your team again entered into the Hall of Fame and declared Pokémon League Champion; you can battle the Elite Four again and again to earn more cash and level-up your team, but you’ll find challenge enough awaiting you in the post-League content.

Some of Kanto’s Gyms have undergone a bit of a reshuffle, with Blue installed as your final opponent.

Becoming the Pokémon League Champion earns you a ticket to board the S.S. Aqua and travel to Kanto, where you can not only explore the entirety of the region from the first game, battling new Pokémon Trainers with higher-level Pokémon, but also take on the eight Kanto Gym Leaders once more! Because you start in Vermillion City, the order you battle the Gym Leaders is mixed up; some are missing their puzzles and protégés as well, and all have bigger, more diverse teams and, though you’ll earn their Badges and they’ll be added to your total, you can’t view these on your Trainer Card and only two of them will award you TMs after you beat them. First up is Lieutenant Surge, now rocking two Electrode and an Electabuzz alongside his signature Raichu, but he was nothing compared to my overpowered Donphan. I got a bit mixed up and fought Misty next, which you can only do after fighting past the Nugget Trainers and interrupting her date; while her Water-Type Pokémon don’t stand much of a chance against a good Electric-Type Pokémon, this won’t help you against her Quagsire so maybe switch to a Grass-Type instead. I battled Erika next, who can be frustrating with her tendency to use Full restore, cast Sunny Day, and her ability to drain HP from your Pokémon, but at this point my Feraligatr’s Ice Punch and Suicune’s Aurora Beam were more than enough to topple her. Koga’s daughter, Janine, now resides in Fuschia City’s Gym but she uses Poison-Types just like her dad so you can get past her in much the same way you did him, and Brock and Sabrina are similarly easily taken out using Water- and Dark-Types, respectively. Since Cinnabar Island was wrecked by a volcanic eruption, you won’t find much of anything there except a Pokémon Center and Blue, the Viridian City Gym Leader, who directs you to the similarly barren Seafoam Islands to battle Blaine. Neither Blaine nor Blue have any underlings to worry about and, while Blue’s team is as diverse and powerful as ever, yours should be more than up to the task of matching him blow for blow and recapturing the Kanto Gym Badges.

As if Red wasn’t tough enough, the Legendary Beasts will flee from battle and the new Birds take a lot of Balls to snag!

With these in your possession, Professor Oak allows you access to Mount Silver and the game’s most taxing challenge of all: a battle against Red, the protagonist from the first game, who’s well-rounded team not only has great Type coverage but is also in the high-seventies (with his Pikachu being the highest-level Pokémon you’ll face in the game at a whopping Level 81). While battling Red is tough in and of itself, it’s made all the more difficult by the fact that you need all the GMs to even reach him, meaning you’re at a severe disadvantage since you’re either down a couple of Pokémon to make room for a HM slave or have had to substitute better moves for HMs. Aside from red, there are some one of a kind Pokémon to find in the wild, too: Sudowoodo block your paths and need triggering with the Squirtbottle, you’ll need to tune into Kanto’s radio stations to awaken the Snorlax blocking your path, a Shiny Gyarados waits in the Lake of Rage, and you’ll encounter a wild Lapras in Union Cave’s basement every Friday. Although Kanto’s Legendary Pokémon are entirely absent (the power plant is now up and running, Seafoam Islands is a simple cave, Victory Road has been rearranged, and Cerulean Cave is inaccessible), Johto’s are literally out and about to find. Entei and Raikou will randomly appear in different areas of Johto, fleeing immediately (or using Roar to scare your Pokémon off) and forcing you to use the PokéDex to track them down and use moves like Spider Web and Mean Look just to have a chance at catching them, damage and status attacks you inflict will carry over even if they flee, however, but these two are still a massive headache to get a hold of and Pokémon: Crystal makes things unnecessarily difficult by forcing you to have caught all three Legendary Beasts to even spawn an encounter with Legendary Bird, Ho-Oh, atop Tin Tower. Conversely, one of my favourite Pokémon, Lugia, can only be fought at Whirl Islands after reaching Pewter City and acquiring the Silver Wing, and all of these Legendary Pokémon (and some wild Pokémon) can be a chore to catch unless you inflict sleep or paralyse and whittle them down to a slither of health as they just love to break out of PokéBalls and, unlike the last games, where you obviously used the instant-catch Master Ball on Mewtwo, it can be tough to decide which Pokémon to use your Master Ball on here (though I’d recommend Ho-Oh).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Both Johto and Kanto are littered with pick-ups to be found, gifted from NPCs, or bought from PokéMarts. All the same healing and restorative items from the last games return, such was Potions, Revives, Awakenings, and Antidotes, though you can now find various Berries that have the same function and can be held and automatically used by Pokémon in battle. As you progress, PokéMarts will start to sell more advanced items, like Hyper Potions, Max Revive, Escape Ropes, PokéDolls to help you flee battles, and likes of X-Attack for a one-time stat boost. Vitamins and evolutionary stones a far harder to find on the overworld, but can be bought from Goldenrod and Celadon City’s Department Stores and are great for raising individual stats and quickly evolving Pokémon, and you’ll also find Nuggets to sell for cash (and sell most items you find) and key items like the Itemfinder, EXP All, and various rods. Another new addition to the game are held items that give your Pokémon certain boosts and buffs; Quick Claw can make them move faster, fr example, while Amulet Coin will double the cash you earn and Leftovers will see them restore a little bit of health between every move. Many of these will increase the power of certain Types, such as Charcoal powering-up Fire-Types, and some are even needed to be held for Pokémon to evolve.

There are more items than ever before, and even your radio can help you out in a pinch.

As ever, you’ll need a steady supply of PokéBalls if you want to catch ‘em all; these again come in three purchasable types (regular PokéBalls, slightly better Great Balls, and even better Ultra Balls), with the Master Ball being a one-of-a-kind, never-fail PokéBall that is best saved for a Legendary Pokémon. You can also find Acorns in trees and, when you give these to Kurt in Azalea Town, he’ll turn them into one of seven new PokéBalls after a day of waiting: Level Balls make catching lower level Pokémon easier, Friend Balls increase a Pokémon’s Happiness stat faster, Lure Balls make it easier to catch Pokémon encounter while fishing, Moon Balls make it easier to catch Pokémon that evolve using a Moon Stone, Heavy Balls are best used against heavier Pokémon, Fast Balls can be useful against Pokémon like Entei and Raikou who like to flee from battle, and Love Balls increase your chances of catching Pokémon of the opposite gender to your own. Like last time, TMs can only be used once, while HMs can only be unlearned using the Move Deleter, and different Pokémon level-up, breed, and hatch at different speeds and at different times of the day; some don’t learn useful moves for some time, others don’t learn any decent moves at all (I’m looking at you, Unown!) or moves that boost their stats, which is useless to me as I prefer to fill my move slots with offensive moves. Some Pokémon also don’t evolve at all, which can lower the incentive on using them as you don’t see as much progression when battling with them, while other Pokémon have abilities like Sweet Scent that can attract wild Pokémon, and you can also have Pokémon hold various mails to send messages to other Trainers you trade with.

Additional Features:
Although Generation two added one-hundred extra Pokémon to the original 151, “only” 223 are actually obtainable within the base Pokémon: Crystal game so you’ll need to trade with Gold, Silver, Red, Blue, and/or Yellow in order to complete the PokéDex and fulfil Professor Oak’s life dream and earn yourself a nifty little certificate for you efforts. A lot of your post-game time and energy will be spent catching, raising, trading, and breeding Pokémon to fulfil this objective, and the day/night cycle and new additions to the gameplay mean you are given far more options to evolve and acquire Pokémon. As mentioned, you can store a limited number of phone numbers on your PokéGear and battle Trainers again when they call you, or travel to Viridian City and make use of the Trainer House to battle either a random challenger or the last human player you fought against, which remains a fun addition, and battles and trades such as this are a great way to extend the life of the game and motivate you to getting your team up to the maximum level. Also, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the Game Corners trying to buy or earn the coins necessary to get those elusive Pokémon and traipsing around Johto trying to lure out the Legendary Beasts, but this generation of Pokémon remains my favourite for its unmatched post-Elite Four content.

Travel to Kanto in the post-game, tackle the Battle Tower, and spawn in a Celebi to catch!

As mentioned, you get to travel to Kanto after becoming the Pokémon League Champion! This, effectively, doubles the timespan of the game but, while Kanto is now populated with much tougher Trainers than before, your team should be more than capable of winning the day. Still, I’ve always loved this feature, and Kanto is notably different, too; towns, caves, and routes have been switched about, new Pokémon are included, and certain areas are either inaccessible or altered, which really shows the flow of time since the last games. You can talk to Red’s mother in Pallet Town, where you find out he took off and hasn’t been seen in years, get the power plant back up and running so you can hop on the Magnet Train, and pay a visit to the new radio tower in Lavender Town, which replaces the haunted Pokémon Tower. Viridian Forest is now gone, as is Cerulean Cave, and Mount Moon is much shorter than before, but I loved seeing Blue installed as the Viridian Gym Leader and just being able to explore this region again and really wish that subsequent Pokémon games had done something similar. Pokémon: Crystal is also notable for being the first game to include the Battle Tower; located just off the coast off Olivine City, this facility lets you battle other Trainers and awards you Vitamins for consecutive victories. Though never really something I’ve enjoyed, the Battle Tower is a fun extra inclusion, and even offers level and Pokémon restrictions to keep you from using Legendary Pokémon. Best of all, though, is that the 3DS version of the game includes the GS Ball event, meaning you can place the GS Ball in a shrine at Ilex Forest to spawn the elusive Celebi and finally, legitimately, catch the little blighter!

The Summary:
I’ll be the first to admit that, when it comes to the second generation of Pokémon games, I’m extremely biased when it comes to these games. For me, this was when Pokémon was at its peak of popularity; we were so desperate to play these new games and so captivated by the new Pokémon and mechanics, and while I’ve enjoyed Pokémon games since these, none of them have quite been able to recapture the magic of Johto. Consequently, it was an absolutely joy to finally play through Pokémon: Crystal; the game is such a massive step up from its predecessors, improving and refining basically everything from the first game and adding much-needed quality of life mechanics like the EXP bar, better item and Pokémon management, and vivid, impressively detailed graphics for such a basic handheld system. The new features offered in this generation were also fantastic; the day/night cycle was a fun little inclusion, one I missed from the Game Boy Advance titles, and adding breeding really helped to speed up PokéDex completion as you could raising Pokémon traditionally whilst also getting in the steps to hatch and egg and get Pokémon to breed all at the same time. Adding the ability to rebattle previous Trainers was great too, though the constant interruptions from phone calls does get annoying; while I love the aesthetic, detail, and colour of the game, I have to admit that Johto doesn’t really stand out all that much and is basically like a reskin of Kanto for the most part, but Pokémon: Crystal adds a few extra bells and whistles to compensate for that. Animating the Pokémon, for starters, really helps to make the game feel much more alive, as do all the additional attacks and battle animations that help the game feel faster, more action-packed, and less like a Tiger Electronics LCD game like in the first generation. Being able to play as a girl was a nice inclusion, as was the attempt to expand on the Legendary Beasts by giving Suicune a larger role, but ultimately these aspects and the rival system weren’t as prominent as they could’ve been. Thankfully, the new Pokémon more than make up for this, with some of my all-time favourites being found in Johto (Ampahros, Lugia, Houndoom, Typhlosion, and Marill, to name a handful), and I loved seeing how the world has changed since the last game. Of course, this is best seen in the still-unmatched post-game content; letting you travel to, explore, and challenge Kanto once more was an ingenious idea and makes the game feel so much bigger than even some of the Nintendo DS titles, which generally settled for the Battle Frontier and little else. Add to that the tough-as-nails battle against Red, the ability to trade to the previous generation, and the addition of Celebi to the game and you have what very well may be the definitive version of classic Pokémon for me.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Are you a fan of Pokémon: Crystal Version:? How do you think it compares to the original games and which of the second generation titles was your favourite? What did you think to the new mechanics introduced here, like breeding, genders, and the day/night cycle? Did you struggle against Whitney and her Miltank? What did you think to the rival? Did you enjoy getting to revisit Kanto and did you ever capture Entei and Raikou? Which of the Pokémon games, and titular monsters, is your favourite? How are you planning to celebrate National Pokémon Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on Pokémon, sign up to leave them below or drop your comments on my social media and be sure to check in next week for more Pokémon content!

2 thoughts on “Game Corner [PokéMonth]: Pokémon: Crystal Version (Nintendo 3DS)

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