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‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Remain the Greatest Pokémon Games

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 22, 2017.

At last estimate, there were 802 pokémon in the Pokémon World, with Marshadow the latest to be discovered. Back when Pokémon Gold and Silver were released, there was a measly 251 pokémon; an additional 100 pokémon were added for generation two. With so many new dynamics added to the latest Pokémon games, it might be surprising to find that Pokémon Gold and Silver remain the strongest titles in the series, and even more astonishingly, how the successors were influenced more by Pokémon Gold and Silver than they were Pokémon Red and Blue.

It wouldn’t take much convincing to believe that Pokémon Red and Blue was the greatest generation, the original that sparked a highly successful franchise. Indeed, much of what gives Pokémon a strong pay day was soft boiled in generation one. The mascot, after some serious slimming alterations, remains Pikachu, and even the poster boy of the animé, Ash Ketchum, is based on Red from Pokémon Red and Blue. However, when you run from your nostalgia, you’ll find that Pokémon Red and Blue were largely broken.

Pokémon has become a seriously complicated strategy game, that relies on so many complex variables, that becoming a Pokémon Master has never been so difficult. Currently, it remains fairly well-balanced, but it never used to be. Pokémon Red and Blue were terribly flawed when it came to strategy. The Psychic type was ridiculously overpowered, with only weaknesses to Ghost and Bug types, both lacking a strong movepool. The only Ghost moves were Lick and Night Shade, both comparatively weak to your Psychic selection; Bug moves aren’t even worth mentioning. Alakazam became the strongest non-legendary pokémon in the game, something that would cause confusion to the latter addition of pokémon fans.

The Psychic type was controlled in two ways in Pokémon Gold and Silver, a new type and some new moves. No dynamic has balanced competitive play more than the introduction of the Dark type. Suddenly, Alakazam was frail. Umbreon and Tyranitar gave Alakazam some problems it never faced in the previous generation, creating a reluctance to use the iconic Psychic pokémon. Secondly, and most importantly, there were now moves that could do serious damage to Psychic types. Shadow Ball became a new Ghost move that finally did decent damage, Megahorn was introduced as a strong Bug type Move, and Crunch remains a much used Dark type move. To top that off, the split of the Special stat into Special Attack and Special Defence really paralyzed Alakazam into a lightweight pokémon.

It wasn’t just Psychic types that took a hit either, the Dragon type finally had a nemesis with other Dragon pokémon. The reason why Gyarados was never a dragon type was purely down to the balance of the types. A Water/Dragon type in generation one would have only have had a weakness to Dragon, in which the only Dragon move was Dragon Rage which always does 40HP damage regardless of type. The introduction of the move Dragonbreath gave Dragons an actual weakness to the Dragon type, even if the move was relatively moderate in strength. This in return, allowed a Water/Dragon type to be introduced, Kingdra, which is the evolution to the generation one pokémon Seadra.

Kingdra was obtained by trading a Seadra holding a Dragon Scale. This new way of evolving certain pokémon by trade whilst holding an item opened up new evolutions for some generation one pokémon. Onix became Steelix, Scyther became Scizor, Porygon became Porygon2, and Poliwhirl could become Politoed. Two of these were inspired by the introduction of the Steel type, allowing a defensive strategy to blossom in competitive play. Indeed, it’s hard to find a competitive team without a Steel type, with Scizor remaining one of the most widely used.

The pokémon introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver are some of the most adeptly created designs out of the full 802 pokémon so far discovered. It’s hard to find any seriously awful designs in the generation. The Unowns maybe, but they inspired some differentiation in the same species of pokémon that would end up with Alolan forms in Pokémon Sun and Moon. Baby pokémon were a rather dull, and a particularly needless addition. However, they inspired the most complex dynamic in competitive play to this day, pokémon breeding.

The complexity of pokémon breeding came much later, but the concept remains leech seeded to Pokémon Gold and Silver. Nature and ability, two values that would come in Pokémon Sapphire and Ruby, would spore from the pokémon breeding concept of generation two. Whilst it started as a small gesture to the pokédex to obtain some baby pokémon, it would soon become a pokémon producing factory, often with a Ditto at the center of it, to develop pokémon with the perfect nature and ability for competitive play.

The complexities didn’t end there. Some breeding partners would be able to pass on a move to its offspring that it shouldn’t be able to learn. For example, if a male Dragonite knows Outrage and a female Charizard knows Fire Blitz, the resulting Charmander will know Outrage and Fire Blitz. This could result in a chain effect, whereby a move could be passed on from generation to generation of different species. This helps to give your pokémon a competitive edge by learning a move it wouldn’t be able to learn by normal means.

Pokémon breeding ultimately turned the Pokémon series into very different games. Whilst in Pokémon Red and Blue you had to catch them all, from Pokémon Gold and Silver it started to focus on breeding them all. Filling your pokédex wasn’t just throwing balls and trading, but more complex situations in which your pokémon reacted to the environment. One such change that happened in Pokémon Gold and Silver was the introduction of a night and day cycle. This would continue to feature in every Pokémon generation after that, and Pokémon Black and White would even attempt different seasons. The night and day cycle would be the exact same as the night and day cycle in real life, meaning you had to play Pokémon Gold and Silver at different times of the day to encounter all the pokémon.

This would be further bolstered by certain evolutions only occurring during the day or at night. The most famous, of course, is Eevee into either Espeon or Umbreon. The creation of time and place becoming a factor into the development of your pokémon, plus the divergence of possible evolutions, such as Poliwhirl becoming either Poliwrath or Politoed, gave much more flexibility to how you develop your own team. The evolution of Espeon and Umbreon wasn’t just a time restraint either, but an invisible happiness meter would also play a role. This invisible meter meant for certain pokémon, you just had no idea when they would evolve, you’d only know how to encourage it. This happiness meter would eventually inspire the affection meter in Pokémon X and Y, modeled by another Eevee evolution, Sylveon.

These invisible stats meant, at least for a while, you had to treat your pokémon as if they were a living, breathing creature. Unfortunately, most pokémon that evolve through happiness are baby pokémon, which are incredibly weak. Fainting drops the happiness meter down, so an Exp. Share remains the best way to level it up, should you believe its happiness is high enough for the evolution.

The mathematics hidden beneath each pokémon also created a candy so rare that pokémon fans sought them to this day; shiny pokémon. Not really adding anything to the gameplay other than a different color to your pokémon, some of them look truly amazing. The most sought at the time was always a shiny Charizard, which becomes a beautiful, black dragon. The most famous in the game, however, was the red Gyarados which was part of the storyline.

The storyline itself carried on from Pokémon Red and Blue, something that didn’t really happen in the other generations. In many ways, this made Pokémon Gold and Silver a 90s equivalent to a DLC rather than an entirely new game. This is further shown in the post-game when you can take the S.S Aqua to Kanto and battle the original eight gym leaders to increase your badge total to sixteen. Pokémon Gold and Silver remain the only Pokémon games where you can visit two regions, something that probably won’t happen again.

The intertwined natures of generation one and two are further tied by the animé. In the very first episode of the animé, the legendary bird Ho-Oh is seen flying above Ash. Ho-Oh wouldn’t be seen in the games until Pokémon Gold and Silver, the mascot for Pokémon Gold itself. Likewise, Togepi was seen in the animé well before the release of generation two, hinting at the concept of pokémon breeding by first appearing as an egg. Much of Pokémon Gold and Silver was created in conjunction with Pokémon Red and Blue, creating a natural path to follow on your Pokémon adventure. Since then, the path has become more erratic, with no clear direction. They usually just pick a part of the world for inspiration and create its Pokémon equivalent. The Japanese inspired regions were gone after Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, and way before then, the storyline had lost any kind of direction from one game to the next.

What made Pokémon Gold and Silver so special was it continued the journey already started in Pokémon Red and Blue, and then added the balance that was much-needed competitively. More importantly, it sowed the seeds for future Pokémon games to come, beginning the dynamics we’ve all become accustomed to all the way up to Pokémon Sun and MoonPokémon Gold and Silver is the greatest Pokémon generation because it’s the true origins of the Pokémon games we see today, contrary to the original Pokémon Red and Blue.

Lost his ticket on the 'Number 9' Luxury Express Train to the Ninth Underworld. Has been left to write articles and reviews about games to write off his debt until the 'powers that be' feel it is sufficiently paid.

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Games

Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Dark Souls’

Despite the difficulty and learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the Dark Souls series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers.

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Dark Souls Remastered Review Nintendo Switch

Over the course of the last decade a lot of games have made large and influential impacts on the medium of gaming but few have done so as significantly or triumphantly as Dark Souls

The pseudo-sequel to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls took the framework of the original title and altered it considerably. Gone were the many individual stages and hub area, replaced by a massive open world that continuously unfolded, via shortcuts and environmental changes, like a massive metroidvania style map. 

Dark Souls also doubled down on nearly every aspect of the original. The lore and world-building were elaborated on considerably, making the land of Lordran feel more lived in and expansive. An entire backstory for the game, one that went back thousands of years, was created and unfolded through small environmental details and item descriptions. 

Dark-Souls-Remastered-Darkroot-Garden

The bosses were bigger, meaner and more challenging, with some of them ranking right up there with the best of all time. Even standard enemies seemed to grow more deadly as the game went on, with many of them actually being bosses you’d faced at an earlier time in the game. Tiny details like this didn’t just make the player feel more powerful, they added to the outright scale of the entire game.

Still, if we’re here to talk about the biggest influence Dark Souls had on the gaming world, we have to talk about the online system. While the abilities to write messages and summon help were available in Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls improved on and enhanced these features to the point where they changed the game considerably. 

The wider player base made the online components work more consistently as well. Rarely were players left standing around for 15-20 minutes waiting to summon or be summoned for a boss fight. There were more messages on the ground to lead (or mislead) players, and the animated spirits of dead players warned of the hundreds of ways you might die while playing through the game. 

Dark Souls

The addictive nature of the game and its rewarding gameplay loop would lead to the establishment of the Souls-like genre. Like with metroidvania, there are few compliments a game can receive that are as rewarding as having an entire genre named for them.

Since 2011, the year of Dark Souls’ release, dozens of Souls-likes have emerged from the ether, each with their own little tweaks on the formula. Salt and Sanctuary went 2D,The Surge added a sci-fi angle, and Nioh went for a feudal Japanese aesthetic, to name just a few. 

Either way, Dark Souls’ influence has been long felt in the gaming industry ever since. Despite the hardcore difficulty and intense learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers. For this reason alone, Dark Souls will live on forever in the annals of gaming history. 

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Game Reviews

‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos

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Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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Game Reviews

‘Earthnight’ Review: Hit the Dragon Running

Between its lush visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, Earthnight never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

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Earthnight

In Earthnight, you do one thing: run. There’s not much more to do in this roguelike auto-runner but to dash across the backs of massive dragons to reach their heads and strike them down. This may be an extremely simple gameplay loop, but Earthnight pulls it off with such elegance and style. Between its lush comic book visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, it creates an experience that never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

Dragons have descended from space and are wreaking havoc upon humanity. No one is powerful enough to take them down – except for the two-player characters, Sydney and Stanley, of course. As the chosen ones to save the human race, they must board a spaceship and drop from the heavens while slaying as many dragons on your way down as they can. For every defeated creature, they’ll be rewarded with water – an extremely precious resource in the wake of the dragon apocalypse. This resource can be exchanged for upgrades that make the next run that much better.

This simple story forms the basis for a similarly basic, yet engaging gameplay loop. Each time you dive from your spaceship, you’ll see an assortment of dragons to land on. Once you make a landing, you’ll dash across its back and avoid the obstacles it throws at you before reaching its head, where you’ll strike the final blow. Earthnight is procedurally generated, so every time you leap down from your home base, there’s a different set of dragons to face, making each run feel unique. There are often special rewards for hunting specific breeds of dragon, so it’s always exciting to see the new set of creatures before you and hunt for the one you need at any given moment.

Earthnight is an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.”

Earthnight

Landing on the dragons is only the first step to slaying them. Entire hordes of monsters live on their backs, and in true auto-runner fashion, they’ll rush at you with reckless abandon from the very start. During the game’s first few runs, the onrush of enemies can feel overwhelming. Massive crowds of them will burst forth at once, and it can feel impossible to survive their onslaughts. However, this is where Earthnight begins to truly shine. The more dragons you slay, the more upgrade items become available, which are either given as rewards for slaying specific dragons or can be purchased with the water you’ve gained in each run. Many of these feel essentially vital for progression – some allow you to kill certain enemies just by touching them, whereas others can grant you an additional jump, both of which are much appreciated in the utter chaos of obstacles found on each dragon.

Procedural generation can often result in bland or repetitive level design, but it’s this item progression system that keeps Earthnight from ever feeling dry. It creates a constant sense of improvement: with more items in your arsenal after each new defeated dragon, you’ll be able to descend even further in the next run. This makes every level that much more exciting: with more power under your belt, there are greater possibilities for defeating enemies, stacking up combos, or climbing high above the dragons. It becomes an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.

Earthnight

At its very best, Earthnight feels like a rhythm game. With the perfect upgrades for each level, it becomes only natural to bounce off of enemies’ heads and soar through the heavens with an almost musical flow. The vibrant chiptune soundtrack certainly helps with this. Packed full of driving beats and memorable melodies with a mixture of chiptune and modern instrumentation, the music makes it easy to charge forward through whatever each level will throw your way.

That is not to say that Earthnight never feels too chaotic for its own good – rather, there are some points where its flood of enemies and obstacles can feel too random or overwhelming, to the point where it can be hard to keep track of your character or feel as if it’s impossible to avoid enemies. Sometimes the game can’t even keep up with itself, with the performance beginning to chug once enemies crowd the screen too much, at least in the Switch version. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and for the most part, simply making good use of its upgrades and reacting quickly to the challenges before you will serve you well in your dragon-slaying quest.

Earthnight

Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.”

It certainly helps that Earthnight is a visual treat as well. It adopts a striking comic book style, in which nearly every frame of animation is lovingly hand-drawn and loaded with detail. Sometimes these details feel a bit excessive – some characters are almost grotesquely detailed, with the faces of the bobble-headed protagonists sometimes seeming too elaborate for comfort. However, in general, it’s a gorgeous game, with its luscious backdrops of deep space and high sky, along with creative monsters and dragon designs that only get more outlandish and spectacular the farther down you soar.

Earthnight is a competent auto-runner that might not revolutionize its genre, but it makes up for this simplicity by elegantly executing its core gameplay loop so that it constantly changes yet remains endlessly addictive. Its excellent visual and audio presentation helps to make it all the more engrossing, while it strikes the perfect balance between randomized level design and permanent progression thanks to its items and upgrades system. At times it may get too chaotic for its own good, but all told, Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.

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