I distinctly recall the first time I ever saw anyone cry because of a video game. It was back in the mid-’90s, and during a game of Marble Madness on the Mega Drive (Genesis, to you folk in the colonies), my friend’s little sister decided she wanted to play Ecco the Dolphin, and just ripped his cart out of the console while he was in the middle of a high score run. While he generally wasn’t prone to emotional outbursts, or even basic empathy (the guy laughed when Bambi’s mum died) on this occasion, as he watched his game seize up and crash, Niagara Falls.
As gaming has evolved over the years, the ability of video games to make us feel things has grown. Where video games used to be about beating your friends in the arcade, they’re now a way of absorbing stories, and escaping to fantastical new worlds. Within the medium of video games, story-telling has grown stronger, the characters more well-rounded, and with player agency being something only gaming provides, the experiences, often, truly unique. Just as movies grew beyond scaring people in the theatre with a train driving towards the screen, games have grown beyond Pac-Man and Pong into a medium that can evoke joy and sadness in equal measure.
So grab a box of tissues, pop the lid off your tub of ice cream, dig out your favourite Morrissey album, and let’s count down the top ten video game tear-jerkers.
Disclaimer: It should be obvious, but there’s going to be spoilers galore in this article. Like, everywhere.
10. Super Paper Mario
The Mario series generally isn’t known for emotional storytelling. Everyone’s favourite Italian plumber is usually too busy collecting stars, rescuing princesses, or committing genocide against the goomba people to hit us in the feels, but that’s exactly what Nintendo wanted us to think when they released Super Paper Mario for Wii. Lulling us into a false sense of security with cute graphics and compelling gameplay in which a flat, or paper, Mario has to negotiate a 3D world by flipping the perspective of the camera, this is a game which has all the hallmarks of a classic Mario game, but then throws a curve ball at the player with a surprisingly moving story.
As the game begins, a megalomaniacal villain named Count Bleck tricks Princess Peach into marrying Bowser, which according to a prophecy, will trigger events leading to the end of days. Of course, there’s only one man who can save the day, and at the behest of a butterfly-like fairy named Tippi, Mario is soon on another adventure. He brings Peach, Bowser and Luigi along for the ride and our four heroes begin battling the minions of Count Bleck, in an effort to stop the entire universe being sucked into a black hole.
As the seemingly simplistic tale of good versus evil chugs along as expected, we’re introduced to visions of two other characters named Blumiere and Timpani; lovers whose relationship was ended by Blumiere’s vile father when he banished Timpani to another realm to starve and die, alone, for no reason other than he’s not a very nice man. Eventually it’s revealed that Blumiere, not content to deal with his recent break-up like everyone else by drinking hard liquor and downloading Tinder, succumbed to his own anger and misery and became the villainous Count Bleck. Now he’s hell bent on destroying, well, everything, because if his life turns to shit then everyone else’s might as well too.
Timpani, it turns out, didn’t die at all, but was rescued by a wizard and born again as the fairy Tippi unbeknownst to Count Bleck. The two are eventually reunited at the end of the game after countless years apart, and the heroes and villains join forces to stop the universe ending calamity instigated by the former Blumiere at the beginning of the game. Alls well that ends well, and the heroes and villains go out together for a celebratory meal. Well, except for Blumiere and Timpani, who are in fact shown to be dead, and now trapped in some sort of afterlife. So that’s alright then.
9. Ether One
Ether One is a first person puzzle game in the style of PC classic Myst that explores the world of dementia using an Assassin’s Creed-esque machine to send our hero, referred to as ‘the restorer’, into the mind of an Alzheimer’s sufferer named Jean in an effort to rehabilitate her, and restore her memories. Led by a pioneering doctor named Phyllis Edmunds, we negotiate the patient’s mind, and we explore events from her past, getting to know a little about her in a dream-like state of colliding memories and eerie recollections of important events. While the obtuse puzzling and the game-breaking bugs are probably responsible for as many tears shed by gamers as the story is, the yarn crafted here by White Paper Games is well worth the price of admission.
As the player uncovers more and more about Jean’s past it’s revealed that she entered into a relationship with a man named Thomas some years ago, although thanks to her failing memory, we learn little more than that, or where Thomas is now. The restorer continues to fix the parts of Jean’s memory that have been damaged by her dementia, and as he does so, the environment becomes more and more unstable, a sign, Dr. Edmunds assures us, that the treatment is working. Just when we think we’re making some real progress, the game decides to kick the player in the plums for being silly enough to think there was any good left in this stinking world.
The twist is that the restorer isn’t actually a restorer at all, because they’re not a real thing, and neither is the machine. No, the game we’ve played up until this point has all taken place in the mind of Thomas, and Dr. Edmunds, when giving him instructions, is actually trying to get him to remember aspects of his own past. Jean was his wife, and I say was, because of course she’s dead, and her death becomes one of the first things Thomas remembers when he momentarily snaps back to reality at the game’s ending. In the words of Cypher from The Matrix, sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
8. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
It’s a testament to just how accomplished Hideo Kojima is at making video games that he can take a game as utterly ridiculous as Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and still manage to give it a genuinely emotional climax. Set in the ’60s and featuring the dad of long-time series hero, Solid Snake, as the lead character, Snake Eater is a prequel that aims to show how the events of the entire series were set into motion in the beginning. Our hero, Jack, AKA the future villain Big Boss, is sent to Russia to rescue a scientist named Sokolov that is allegedly working on some sort of super weapon. Less than an hour into the game, Jack is betrayed by his mentor, a woman named The Boss, who defects to the Soviet Union and joins the ranks of the evil Colonel Volgin, a Russian separatist who promptly detonates a nuclear bomb on his own people, eradicating all evidence of the super-weapon under construction there.
With America and Russia on the brink of World War III thanks to the Russians now believing that the nuclear attack was in fact instigated by the Americans, Jack is sent back into Russia with one goal; prove America’s innocence in this atrocity by bringing down Volgin and his uprising, and killing his teacher, friend, and now enemy, The Boss. Aided by an American double agent called EVA, Jack heads back into the Soviet Union and systematically takes down Volgin’s forces, before the man himself, and eventually catches up to The Boss to face her down in a fight to the death.
Jack wins the fierce battle against his mentor, and as she lays dying on the ground in front of him, puts her out of her misery by shooting her with her own gun. Jack and EVA head off to a log cabin to celebrate their victory with a bottle of claret and a couple of rounds of bedroom gymnastics, before Jack wakes in the morning to discover EVA gone, with only a note left to explain the situation. EVA, it turns out, was actually working for the Chinese all along, and only helped Jack to get her hands on Volgin’s private fortune. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she then drops the bombshell; The Boss never actually defected to the Soviet Union at all. It turns out that The Boss was also sent to retrieve Volgin’s private stash of money for America, but when Volgin nuked Russia, and World War III was looming, her mission required her to be killed by her own student to prove her country was innocent in the whole affair, and go down in history as one of the most hated war criminals of all time to boot. Unable to deal with his mentor being used as a scapegoat by the country she served until her last breath, Jack begins his turn to the dark side that will eventually lead him to do battle with Solid Snake.
7. Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus‘ approach to story-telling is to barely tell you a thing, and let you put the pieces together yourself mainly from what you see throughout the game. Taking up the role of a boy named Wander, the goal of Shadow of the Colossus is to revive a poor girl who has slipped into some kind of coma. How do you revive a comatose girl? Apparently, by making a deal with a sinister spirit, who claims that if you kill sixteen giant beasts known as Colossi, that will somehow get the job done.
So Wander rides off on his trusty steed named Agro to set about killing these vile beasts. Only, when he arrives at the first Colossi, he discovers that not only is it a magnificent, towering creature, but it’s also pretty friendly, showing no signs of hostility toward the player whatsoever until Wander sticks an arrow in it’s neck. The game proceeds with many of the Colossi not actually posing any threat to the player until Wander initiates the conflict, which gives the player, if they have a heart, the feeling there’s something not quite right about all this.
As each Colossi is murdered by the player, Wander becomes noticeably sicker and sicker, signifying that this probably isn’t going to end well. At the end of the game, he rides off to face the last Colossi, before succumbing to his sickness, transforming into a hideous beast, and being murdered by soldiers. Oh, and his horse falls off a cliff too. Thanks for that.
6. Persona 4
Persona 4 is generally considered a lot more upbeat than Persona 3, but there’s a couple of moments in the later portion of the game that will still have you reaching for the Kleenex. Taking on the role of a transfer student from a big city in Japan, the player moves into the country house of his uncle, Dojima, and his cousin, Nanako. As the story progresses, our nameless hero and his new-found school friends uncover a sinister mystery involving a serial killer, and must do battle with creatures from a secret world inside the television to save fellow students and friends from certain death.
Towards the end of the game, it’s revealed that our cousin Nanako has been kidnapped, and she’s the next potential victim of the serial killer. So the protagonist races to her aid, confronts the kidnapper in the TV world, kicks his ass, and brings Nanako back to reality. In a normal game that would be a pretty good ending, but in Persona 4 it’s the beginning of the worst ending in the game, as when you get back Nanako dies anyway, and the protagonist and his friends murder the kidnapper, who as it turns out, is actually innocent and not the killer at all.
Games have used the good, bad, and true ending system before, but Persona 4 handles it a little differently in that the requirements to achieve the better endings are so obtuse that almost everyone who plays the game will be lumbered with the bad ending on their first play through, before furiously Googling how to make it all better. Getting the bad ending after sixty or so hours of game is soul-crushing, as you watch a six year old girl cough and splutter her way to death in front of her widowed father. Oh, and even though you’re cousins, she calls you “Big bro” too, just to really twist the knife. Fortunately, reloading the game and making a few different choices get you a much, much, much happier conclusion to the game, but not before the bad ending has mentally scarred you forever.
5. The Last Of Us
It’s difficult to evoke an emotional response from people in the early goings of a story, because if they haven’t had a chance to become emotionally attached to the characters, any attempt to pull at the heartstrings usually fall flat. But as Pixar proved with Up, if you do it properly, you can have them blubbering inside fifteen minutes, and it’s to Naughty Dog’s credit that they managed a similar feat with the absolutely harrowing opening to the PlayStation exclusive instant classic, The Last Of Us.
As the game begins we control a young girl named Sarah, who is talking to her father, Joel, about his birthday. The writing and the performances are absolutely perfect here, with the scene giving the player a feeling that there’s a genuine warmth between these two characters in just a couple of minutes, and doing so more convincingly than some games manage in their entire running time. Of course, this isn’t a list of the most charming family moments in video games, so everything goes to hell, real fast.
Cue fungus-zombies, explosions, and sustained, abject horror. As Joel and Sarah try to escape the town as it becomes overrun by the infected, they meet a soldier who tells them to stop where they are. The soldier whispers something about one of them just being a kid to his commanding officer, and it soon becomes abundantly clear that the army isn’t taking any chances here. Despite the best efforts of Joel, Sarah is gunned down in cold blood, with Joel’s brother killing the soldier in retaliation. After the brief exchange of gunfire, there’s just enough time for Joel to watch his only daughter die in agony in his arms before the opening credits start rolling. Hello darkness, my old friend.
4. Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX is, on the surface, a lot more light-hearted than the other two PSone Final Fantasy games – the often angsty Final Fantasy VII, and the always angsty, Final Fantasy VIII. But what makes Final Fantasy IX such a compelling game is that beneath the cutesy character designs and the whimsical first few hours, the main story touches on some fairly meaty subjects. One such subject is existentialism, as three of the major characters, Zidane, Vivi and the flamboyant villain Kuja, have all been built, rather than born, to be used in war.
The crux of the story is that the three characters all deal with the nature of their existence in vastly different ways. Kuja loses the plot and decides that if they want a war, he’ll give them one, by basically ending the world. Zidane has a bit of a crisis towards the end of the game but is eventually talked round by his friends. And Vivi spends most of the time wondering if he, as a black mage, a tool created for war that has since gained sentience, could ever truly be alive. As the game progresses, Vivi meets other black mages that have become self-aware, living in isolation in a small village. Talking to the mages he discovers that some of their fellow villagers have previously, randomly, stopped working, and the tribe are forced to confront the harsh reality of the situation; life doesn’t go on forever, and black mages, apparently, have a fairly limited life expectancy.
As the game ends and Kuja is defeated, the party celebrates in the city of Alexandria. We see various characters from the game in many different, often amusing scenarios, as text rolls on the screen giving the player heartfelt thanks. As we learn the fates of the main characters, there’s one character we don’t see. Vivi is nowhere to be seen, and it becomes clear that the text on screen is actually a letter from Vivi thanking Zidane, with Vivi having presumably died before the ending takes place. Thanks a lot, Square Enix.
3. Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 broke the hearts of gamers around the world when they played it and found out that the rushed, nonsensical ending was absolute pigswill. But for all the faults of Mass Effect 3, there were some things that Bioware really nailed, and one of them was the quest-line on Tuchanka featuring everyone’s favourite Gilbert and Sullivan singing Solarian, Mordin Solus.
In order for Commander Shepard to secure an alliance with the Krogan people, an essential part of his strategy to take on the Reapers, they demand that he help them cure an illness that blights their people and stops them breeding, known as the genophage. There are numerous ways to complete this quest-line, as is usually the case with Mass Effect, but the one with the biggest gut-punch involves Shepard being given an offer by the Salarian high command; they’ve sabotaged the plan to help the Krogans as they’re scared of them breeding at an uncontrolled rate, and they want Shepard to help protect their secret.
Of course, if you’re not a bastard, Shepard tells the Krogan about the double-cross, and the Salarian doctor, Mordin Solus, agrees to defy the wishes of his own people in order to do the right thing. As the cure is ready to be dispersed into the atmosphere, lo and behold, the machine they’re going to use to spread the serum is broken, and only Mordin can fix it. It’s in a tower that’s becoming unstable rapidly, and so both Shepard and Mordin know it’s going to be a one way trip for the good doctor. They say their goodbyes, and Mordin sacrifices himself for the good of the Krogan people, and the galaxy, humming Gilbert and Sullivan to himself as the laboratory explodes around him. While some would argue that Mordin getting blown up was actually a lot kinder than the way the majority of the cast was treated in the divisive, controversial third game in the trilogy, his noble sacrifice was surely one of the most emotionally charged moments in the series to date.
2. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
The Metal Gear Solid series is known for being many things. It’s ridiculous, overblown, and the cut-scenes can sometimes go on a bit. From the first game in the series on the original PlayStation, to the fourth on PS3, there’s been happy times, sad times, and times that were so confusing that we weren’t really sure if they were happy or sad. But while most games in the series are generally a fairly even balance between lighthearted action and melodramatic tragedy, MGS4 is surprisingly downbeat from start to finish.
Series hero, Solid Snake, has for reasons unknown to him started aging rapidly. Even though it’s only a handful of years since his adventures in MGS2, he looks about twenty years older. Sporting an old man moustache and suffering from a bad back and a smokers cough, Snake comes out of retirement for one last job; to take out series uber-villain, Liquid Ocelot. Watching a beloved character like Snake struggle on through the game is genuinely quite upsetting, made worse by the fact that series creator Hideo Kojima had announced before release that this would be the final game starring Solid Snake, implying death could be in the cards. The feeling of bad things about to happen hangs over this game right from the opening credits.
So what happens then? Well, Snake meets his mother for the first time, and she dies about fifteen minutes later. Naomi Hunter returns from the first game, helps Snake for a bit, then dies. Otacon has fallen in love with Naomi, so he’s crying again. And again. Raiden returns, looks like he’s going to die about eight times, but somehow survives for the entire running time. It’s just one downer after another, culminating in an absolutely brutal scene where Snake has to make it through a corridor that is blasting him with microwaves. As he’s being cooked from the inside out, and crawling desperately for the door, it’s practically impossible to not feel something for the legendary hero.
Snake does make it through the microwave crawl, he fights Liquid Ocelot to the death, and then saves the day. After he’s warned by Naomi earlier in the game that his body contains a virus that will start spreading to other people within six months, Snake decides to take matters into his own hands and just blow his own head off for the good of humanity. But just as he’s about to do it, his long presumed-dead father, Big Boss, returns for a touching reunion. Oh, and then he dies about five minutes later.
1. The Walking Dead: Season One
Few games are as relentlessly bleak as The Walking Dead by Telltale. Like the graphic novels that inspire it, the game paints a depressing picture of a post-apocalyptic world in which zombies are making a nuisance of themselves, and humanity continually screws things up in an attempt to survive. The game is played from the perspective of a convicted murderer named Lee Everett, who is being transferred to prison when the outbreak kicks off, and is freed following a zombie-related car crash.
He soon meets a young girl named Clementine who has been left with the baby-sitter while her parents are away in Savannah. Once the baby-sitter starts getting a little bit bitey and Lee has to flatten her head for her, Clem follows Lee on the road and the two strike up a genuinely touching friendship that lasts the remainder of the game. Clem has nobody as it becomes obvious very quickly via a series of answer phone messages from her mother that her parents are likely dead, and early in the game Lee discovers that his entire family too has gone the way of the dodo. The two new friends make quite a team, as Lee looks after her, and eventually, teaches her how to survive against the titular walking dead.
Given the tone of the game from the outset, it’s pretty much a given that things probably aren’t going to end well, and the game makes sure to remind you of that fact by icing characters left, right and center whenever the opportunity presents itself. Eventually, heading into the final portion of the game, the gang find themselves in Savannah, and Clem runs off alone to see if she can find her parents. Lee, not having had the heart to tell her that her parents are dead, immediately goes looking for her, but is bitten on the arm soon after.
So Lee, knowing he’s on the way out, struggles on to find Clementine, getting sicker by the second. One by one, his friends are removed from the group either by death or separation, and Lee goes on alone to rescue Clem from her predicament, before promptly collapsing in the street. As he wakes, Clementine, using her survival skills that he taught her, has managed to rescue him and drag him to safety. Only now they’re locked in a room together, and Lee hasn’t broken the news to her that he’s about to turn into a zombie and eat her if she doesn’t do something about it.
The last portion of the game makes the rest of it look like an episode of Teletubbies in comparison, as it dials the bleakness up to eleven. It’s next-level bleak. It’s too-bleak. It’s like that song from Watership Down being covered by Radiohead-bleak. It’s absolutely awful. And so Lee has to explain the situation to Clementine; he’s dying and there’s nothing either of them can do about it. And if he does die, he’s going to turn into a zombie and eat her. Predictably, she doesn’t take the news well, and her reaction is soul destroying. Ultimately, whether you decide to have Clem shoot Lee and put him out of his misery, or leave him to his zombie-fate, the results are the same; there’s not a dry eye in the house.
Games like The Walking Dead and the others mentioned here are making great strides in emotional story-telling, and they’re not alone. There’s dozens of games like Journey, Limbo, Thomas Was Alone, and more, that are doing new and exciting things when it comes to telling a story in video games. While there’s still plenty of games that are content to give you a gun and direct you toward people who need shooting in the face in order to progress (and there’s nothing wrong with that), its nice to see that we’re getting the other side of the coin too, with thought provoking, emotional experiences becoming more and more common. Oh, and if you’re wondering where Aeris is, I never liked her anyway.
This article was originally posted on www.soundonsight.org
‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Remain the Greatest Pokémon Games
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 Moon. Pokémon 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.
‘Bee Simulator’ Review: Pleasantly Droning On
Unless a typical bee’s day involves a lot of clunky wasp fights, high-speed chases, and dancing for directions, it’s doubtful many players will walk away from Bee Simulator feeling like they’ve really been given a glimpse into the apian way of life. Sure, there’s plenty of the typical pollen collecting and human annoying here, but odd tasks like hauling glowing mushrooms for ants, helping baby squirrels find their mom, and stinging some little brat who’s stomping all your flowers (hopefully he doesn’t have an allergy) are also on the agenda. That’s not exactly keepin’ it real, but regardless, the variety is actually more simple and less silly than it sounds; it turns out that even doing weird bee stuff quickly becomes repetitive. Still, this family-friendly look at a bug’s life is bolstered by a sincere love of nature, as well as some smooth flight mechanics and a surprisingly large open world for younger gamers to explore.
Set in a Central Park-like expanse, Bee Simulator definitely takes on a more edutainment vibe right off the bat (Goat Simulator this ain’t) with a prologue that offers up some info on the ecological importance of bees to the planet. That protective attitude is a constant throughout the game’s short campaign and side quests, as the well-being of these hive heroes is constantly under threat by those goonish wasps, the bitter cold of winter, and of course, oblivious humans. Players take control of a newly hatched worker bee (sorry, drone lovers) who dreams of a role more important than being relegated to merely buzzing by flowers, and consequently sets out to save the day. However, these crises are portrayed in the thinnest terms possible, resolved quickly, and summarily forgotten, leaving little of narrative interest.
So then, it’s up to the gameplay to keep players engaged, and in this area Bee Simulator is a bit of a mixed bag. On the good side, flying works really well, and gives a nice sense of scale to being a little bee in the great, big world. Winging it close to the ground offers a zippy sense of speed, as flowers and blades of grass rush by in colorful streaks. A rise in elevation makes travel seem slower, but provides a fantastic view of the park, showcasing a lakeside boathouse,a zoo filled with exotic creatures, as well as various restaurants, playgrounds, picnics, pedestrians, and street vendors scattered about. Precision is rarely a must outside chases that require threading through glowing rings (a tired flying sim staple) or navigating nooks and crannies, but the multi-axis controls are pretty much up to the task, and make getting around a pleasure.
However, that sense of flowing freedom doesn’t quite apply to the limited list of other activities. Though the world is large, the amount of different ways to interact with it is very small, revolving around a few basic concepts: fighting, racing, dancing, retrieving, and collecting. And with the exception of the latter, these actions can only be performed at specifically marked spots that initiate the challenge; most of Bee Simulator exists purely for the view. It’s somewhat understandable in its predictability — how many different things can a bee actually do, after all? — but the gameplay is still a bit disappointing in its shallowness. Fighting plays out like a turn-based rhythm mini-game, those aforementioned races follow uninspired routes, dancing is simply a short bout of Simon, and collecting pollen employs a ‘bee vision’ that does nothing more than verify that players know their colors.
It’s very basic stuff that can’t really sustain motivation for those used to more creativity. The roughly 3-hour campaign seems to support this idea; Bee Simulator knows it doesn’t have much going on for veteran gamers. However, as a visual playground for younger kids to fly around in, free from any real danger, there is something a bit magical about the world presented. There are loads of little vignettes to happen upon, such as a family BBQ, a small amusement park, and a bustling kitchen. What exactly are those lonely row-boaters thinking about out on the lake by themselves? Where is the flower lady going in such a hurry? Discovering new places — like a lush, sprawling terrarium — creates the impression of a massive world with plenty going on regardless of whether the player sees it or not, and can serve to spark the imagination.
In addition to racking up that pollen for the winter, info on various flora and fauna can also be be collected and stored in the hive’s library, where 3-D models can also be purchased with ‘knowledge’ points earned through completing quests. These texts detail some interesting facts about brave bees and their relation to the environment, and can definitely be a fun teaching tool for wee gamers.
Grizzled fans of the open-world genre may want to buzz clear, however, as well as those hoping for some zaniness. Though Bee Simulator offers some solid soaring in an attractive environment, it’s a sincere, straightforward attempt to promote bee kind that doesn’t offer much more than a relaxing atmosphere and repetitive actions.
20 Years Later: ‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Took the Franchise’s Next Evolutionary Step
The legacy of Johto lives on in what was Game Freak’s next evolutionary step in the world of Pokémon.
Two regions to explore, 16 gym badges to collect, two Elite Four runs to conquer, a battle tower to climb, a previous champion to best at your own game, and 251 pocket monsters to capture. There is no denying that the Johto region of Pokémon Gold and Silver had- and still may contain- the most amount of content to dig into for any player when it comes to everything outside of filling up all the entries of Sword and Shield’s Pokédex.
Pokémon Gold and Silver released in Japan 20 years ago today on November 21st, 1999. The Johto region still stands as not only one of the most renowned Pokémon games in the franchise but a contender for one of the top Game Boy and Game Boy Color games to be released on the handheld systems. No matter which entry is your favorite, there is no denying that Pokémon Gold and Silver was the next evolutionary step on Game Freak’s stairway to fame in what is now currently the largest franchise in history.
A Daunting Next Step
Pokémon Gold and Silver’s development was greenlit immediately after Red and Green had launched in Japan. The untitled sequels at the time were slated for release for the holiday season of 1998. However, during this time frame, Game Freak had also been working on a multitude of Pokémon projects including the Nintendo 64 game Pokémon Stadium and a rebranded companion version to Red that would replace Green for the overseas release of the games. The majority of the small staff team of programmers had already been occupied once the development of Gold and Silver truly began.
What was originally intended to be one year of development slowly turned into three and a half due to a lack of on-hand resources and major programming difficulties that inevitably delayed what was to be the company’s most ambitious release yet. Game Freak found themselves in a troubling situation as the independent company had to balance out time for overseeing the entire Pokémon brand that had expanded into an anime, cards, toys, and even soon to be movies. The worldwide phenomenon was continuing to expand faster than Game Freak could keep up with.
Late into Gold and Silver’s development, Game Freak’s team of programmers called upon star-man of the industry Satoru Iwata as the developers were having trouble with various coding bugs and fitting all the game assets onto the small memory storage of the Game Boy’s cartridges. Iwata stepped in immediately and saved yet another second-party Nintendo project from disaster. At the beginning of Gold and Silver’s development, Iwata had single-handedly recreated the entire battle system code for Pokémon Stadium by just simply playing the games and analyzing some internal coding. Iwata’s trustworthy knowledge instantly skyrocketed him to become one of the company’s most valuable informants. Nintendo’s future president returned to his all-star team of programmers working at HAL Laboratory to create graphical compression tools for Game Freak to use. This allowed the company to combine both the Johto and Kanto regions onto a single 1-megabyte Game Boy cartridge and meet their latest home territory release deadline.
The Next Phase of Evolution
Gold and Silver continued to build off of Red and Green by introducing the next region in the Pokémon world that would naturally set trends for the series going forward. One of these trends was the reoccurring introduction of a new region inspired by a different area of the world for each game.
Johto was the western half of a landmass shared by the previous game’s location. While Kanto had been based on the Kantō region of Honshu, Japan, the nearby Kansai region would become Johto’s core source of inspiration for its landscape as seen through not only its general location on the map but its architectural features. For example, the sharp shapings of rooftops and gateway entrances to towns known as torii are littered everywhere throughout Johto; some of Kansai’s most common building aesthetics.
Gold and Silver gained several new features that would ultimately become some of the most crucial and missed aspects of the mainline games. For starters, one important new feature that would solidify its place in future entries was the inclusion of a real-time clock. Multiple in-game events, visuals, and even Pokémon variety in the wild areas would alter depending on the time and day of the week. For example, the psychic owl species of Pokémon, Hoothoot and Noctowl, would only appear in the wild starting in the late afternoon. Eevee could only evolve into Umbreon at night, while the Bug Catching Contest was exclusively available at certain hours on weekdays.
Suicune, Entei, and Raikou became the first trio of legendary creatures to start what is now known as “roaming Pokémon.” Rather than traditionally entering a dungeon-like area, players would randomly encounter these three minor legendaries in the wild grass areas of the game after they had witnessed them book it from the Burned Tower of Ecruteak City during the story. When in battle, the Pokémon will attempt to flee immediately on its first turn. If any of the three are killed in battle, the beast will never be able to appear again on your save file.
The competitive scene for the series would begin to take its modern shape because of the introduction of both breeding and the move deleter. Breeding opened a new floodgate of multiplayer strategies by allowing specific Pokémon to obtain moves they would naturally not be able to learn through technical machines and evolution. Meanwhile, the move deleter finally allowed Pokémon to be rid of their HM moves that previously could not be overwritten, allowing players to freshly design their move-sets at any given time.
The most notable feature, however, would never see a return in a future game. Being able to journey across two different regions is by far Gold and Silver’s most proclaimed component. As stated before, Kanto and Johto share an extremely close geographical connection. Because of this, players can explore the entirety of Kanto after defeating the elite four- more than doubling the amount of content the game had to offer. Outside of the Johto games, this feature has never once returned to another Pokémon game.
The Legacy of Johto Lives On
At the time of its release, Gold and Silver received a highly positive reception from both audiences and critics. The most notable features praised by critics in reviews were the inclusions of more mechanics and typings that deepened the battle system along with the designs of the lineup of new Pokémon receiving all-around praise. During its lifetime on store shelves, the two versions nearly recreated the success of their predecessors as both combined with the sales of their later third enhanced entry Pokémon Crystal sold a total of 23 million copies. Today, Pokémon Gold and Silver are still regarded as some of the best Pokémon games, but not in their original form.
In 2010, trainers had the opportunity to return to the Johto region for the third time in the tenth anniversary generation two remakes Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver for the Nintendo DS. Following in the footsteps of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, the generation two remakes not only attempted to streamline and fix the problems found in the original Game Boy entries of the series but they added a hefty new amount of content for both retuning veterans and newcomers on top of a gorgeous graphical overhaul.
Building off of the engine used for Pokémon Platinum, the enhanced remakes envisioned what is arguably the greatest interpretation yet of the Johto region by continuing to build off what the other DS games had already successfully established. HeartGold and SoulSilver contained nearly every feature found in a Pokémon game up until that point. It sought to continually expand upon modernizing the series through making needed accessibility changes and improving on the Nintendo Wi-Fi connectivity abilities that Diamond and Pearl had a rather shaky start with. Several lost features from previous games outside of Gold and Silver even managed to return for the remake. The beloved idea of having an interactive Pokémon partner to journey around the world with from Yellow, for example, made a comeback but this time any Pokémon could follow you as long as they had been placed in the first party slot.
While still being one of the Nintendo DS’s most commercially successful games, HeartGold and SoulSilver were not able to reach half the amount of sales their original incarnations had achieved. However, the games have averaged the highest critical reception of any mainline Pokémon game released in the franchise. The game notably received spotlight due to its included pedometer accessory the Pokéwalker. The device allowed players to place one Pokémon in the device. As a player walks in real-life, their Pokémon could collect experience, find items, and even catch other creatures that could be transferred directly back into the game.
Today, the original versions of Gold and Silver can be purchased on the Nintendo 3DS Eshop alongside the first Pokémon games- Red and Blue- that had released on the original Game Boy. Alongside the original generation two games, its counterpart successor Pokémon Crystal can also be purchased currently on the Eshop. 3DS home screen themes (as depicted to the left) can also be obtained through gold and silver points through the MyNintendo website.
A Lost Comic?: Remembering Emily Carroll’s ‘Anu-Anulan and Yir’s Daughter’
‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Remain the Greatest Pokémon Games
‘Bee Simulator’ Review: Pleasantly Droning On
Tom Hanks Soars in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’
20 Years Later: ‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Took the Franchise’s Next Evolutionary Step
Games that Changed Our Lives: Brotherhood in ‘Pokémon Gold’ and ‘Silver’
‘Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’: The Force is Strong in this One
Ranking The Legend of Zelda Series
‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Undoubtedly Ranks as the Best Horror Film of All Time
With ‘Scream 5’ Announced, Let’s Look Back at ‘Scream 4’
The Top 50 SNES Games
‘Earthbound’ is one of the Weirdest, Most Surreal Video Games
150 Greatest Horror Films of the 20th Century (Top 20)
150 Greatest Horror Movies of the 20th Century (Top 140)
- Film2 weeks ago
With ‘Scream 5’ Announced, Let’s Look Back at ‘Scream 4’
- Game Reviews3 days ago
‘Donkey Kong Country’ – Still as Difficult, Demanding and Amazing to This Day
- Film2 weeks ago
History of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ – the Movie that Made me a Movie Buff
- Games8 hours ago
‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Remain the Greatest Pokémon Games