Well, it’s that time of the year again. Christmas is just around the corner. Here at GoombaStomp HQ we bloody love Christmas, and if you don’t, and you don’t have a great excuse like that girl in Gremlins, then frankly we don’t know what to say to you. It’s the one time of year in which it’s socially acceptable to be drunk at all hours of the day and to have a breakfast that consists of nothing but chocolate and miniature pretzels. It’s the season of mulled wine, pigs in blankets, good will to all men, and rewinding and rewatching that bit with the bricks in Home Alone 2 with tears in your eyes. Honestly, if Daniel Stern getting whacked on the head with bricks over and over again doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, then damn it, Jim, I don’t know what will.
Still, December isn’t all eggnog, mince pies, and arguments about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie – which it obviously is. It’s also the season for hastily thrown together list articles and year in review pieces. And what a year it’s been. Mm-mhmmm. What a corker. One day in the far flung future, when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have obliterated the world in atomic fire over an argument about who has the stupidest hair, we’ll be looking back on 2017 with our radioactive mutant children, telling them all about what a great year for video games it was. Sure, everything else in the world might be well and truly fucked, but at least we got some kick ass games this year. And isn’t that what really matters? The answer, of course, is no.
PlayStation in particular has had an incredibly strong year in 2017. While just how well Sony has done this year might have flown under the radar for some since Nintendo and Microsoft had shiny new consoles coming out to steal a little thunder, it’s still been one of Sony’s greatest years ever. The array of games that have hit the PS4 in 2017 has been mind-boggling and wallet busting, while sales for the four year old system show absolutely no signs of slowing down. 2018 looks to be another winner with a plethora of exclusives scheduled to release for PS4 over the next 365 days, but for now, it’s the past we’re concerned about, not the future.
So let’s cast our minds back across the last twelve months and take a moment to remember the winners and losers for PlayStation in 2017.
WINNER: Persona 5 Is One Of The Best JRPGs Ever Made
When Persona 5 landed early in the year it somehow managed the semi-impossible task of living up to – and perhaps even exceeding – the ridiculous level of expectation placed upon it by fervent supporters of the long running JRPG series. If you’re not one of us dorks that has been playing these games since back when Hitler was in them, up until the fifth installment your only knowledge of the Persona series likely came from dorks like us constantly harping on about great it is. Well, our perseverance apparently paid off, because Persona 5 was regularly sold out shortly after release as demand for the title was beyond anything Atlus anticipated.
If you’ve managed to completely miss out on one of the year’s best games (or maybe even the best) then allow us to give you the elevator pitch: a bunch of Japanese high schoolers are granted the magical ability to enter the subconscious mind of evil doers in order to steal the malicious intent within, forcing them to confess their crimes. So it’s kinda like Inception in reverse. Only there’s also a talking cat in it.
Persona 5 is the slickest and most stylish game of 2017, with a killer cast, a compelling story, a fantastic battle system, a ludicrously catchy soundtrack, and a talking cat. The cat talks, people.
WINNER: Crash Bandicoot Is Back
Honestly, if I’d had to put a bet on before The N-Sane Trilogy released, I would have gambled my bollocks that Crash Bandicoot was going to crash and burn critically and commercially. Once again, I was spectacularly wrong. The remastered Crash Bandicoot trilogy was greeted with a warm reception from critics and settled at a “generally positive” 80 on Metacritic, but it sold like hot cakes, with the general public’s penchant for nostalgia helping to ensure that the Bandicoot will almost certainly live to fight another day, and all but guaranteeing there’ll be more games in the franchise coming sooner rather than later.
Crash Bandicoot’s return to PlayStation country wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. Millions of people around the globe slapped the N-Sane Trilogy into their consoles expecting to be treated to a wonderfully old school platforming experience, only to discover that old school platfomers were harder than a coffin nail, and Crash Bandicoot was absolutely punishing. Not only that, but thanks to the less angular design of the titular Bandicoot in the modern remake, it was actually harder to land some jumps than it was on the already controller-snappingly tough original. Ouch!
Crash Bandicoot’s 2017 return from the vault of forgotten heroes was a surprise hit, and the ludicrous amount of money that the orange marsupial has generated has already got Activision talking about which other dead and buried series’ they can try to resurrect next in order to milk your nostalgia udder dry. Until then, while you’re contemplating smashing your living room to pieces after falling off the bridge on The High Road for the 4,000th time, you can always take solace in the fact that I got the platinum trophy in Crash Bandicoot. Just sayin’.
LOSER: A Disappointing E3
It feels kinda nit-picky to even consider Sony’s E3 presser a negative, since it wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. But in the four years prior to E3 2017, Sony unleashed some of the best press conferences the gaming industry has ever seen, including one that is widely regarded as possibly the best of all time. Sony’s games games games mentality has been winning the hearts of gamers around the globe for the last couple of years, and so perhaps expectation for what E3 2017 would deliver was a little too high, and perhaps their own past successes worked against them, but it’s hard to look at this year’s conference as anything other than a disappointment.
The games they showed off looked great, but we already knew about practically all of them with them being announced at previous pressers. At their E3 shows in years gone by they’d made blockbuster announcements for games like the Final Fantasy VII remake, Shenmue III, and the aforementioned return of Crash Bandicoot, but this year was sadly missing the surprise factor, with only a remake of Shadow of the Colossus managing to raise a mildly astonished eyebrow.
The games we saw looked lovely, and 2018 bodes well for PlayStation with God of War, Detroit and Spider-Man all slated to make an appearance, but after a string of stellar press conferences, a merely decent one felt massively insufficient in 2017.
WINNER: PlayStation Sales Are Out of Control
PlayStation 4 is, again, the best selling console of the year – a statistic that comes with the caveat that the impressively selling Nintendo Switch has faced multiple stock shortages and didn’t release until March. While a lot of people have been gushing over how well the Switch is selling and others are wondering how the bumper-priced Xbox One X will do without much in the way of exclusives, the PS4 has stealthily had its best year since launch. Somehow, incredibly, the sales for the console are up year on year again, with the fourth PlayStation now clocking in at over 65 million units sold. For those of you keeping score, that means that at its current rate of sales it’ll probably overtake the total number of PS3 units sold sometime next year in roughly half the time on sale. Cha-ching!
Where it stops nobody knows. Depending on how long it is before Sony unveils the PlayStation 5, it seems likely that the PS4 will outsell practically every other console barring Sony’s own PlayStation 2, which we all got bored of counting sales for once it hit 150 million. There’s probably no touching that one. But it’s not just PS4 that’s allowing the Sony top brass to swim around in money like Scrooge McDuck. PlayStation VR is selling surprisingly well too, to the point that some at Sony have even begun to lament a lack of serious competition. While Vive and Oculus have the edge in terms of power, the more affordable and user friendly Sony future-goggles have had more mainstream appeal than team PlayStation anticipated, and PSVR now commands over 50% of the market share when it comes to virtual reality hardware. That’s a lot, by the way.
Virtual reality headsets have been adopted more readily than a lot of people imagined, which indicates that Sony were wise to hop aboard the VR train early. VR may very well be the future, and not just for video gaming, with daft goggles perhaps eventually providing those unable to travel because of disability or laziness an avenue to see sights they’d otherwise not be able to, to go to concerts half-way across the globe, and to be in the front row at Wrestlemania without running the risk of being hit by globules of sweat or spittle every time The Rock slaps someone. For now, though, just be content that you can live as an artisan cheesemonger in Skyrim VR if you so wish.
LOSER: Vita is dead. Forever.
While the PS4 and PSVR are doing very well for themselves in terms of sales, profits, and worthwhile games, the PlayStation Vita is, officially, deader than disco. Now, I love disco, and I love my PlayStation Vita, but while as a piece of hardware it’s one of the best handhelds ever made, as a gaming platform it’s a bit of a gigantic failure. A solid build and a gorgeous screen are all well and good, but if there’s sweet Fanny Addams to play on it then it’s just an incredibly good looking paperweight, isn’t it? Console gaming on the go was the initial promise, which obviously sounds like a stupid idea which is why nobody bough- hang on, the Switch is doing what, and is selling how many?
The fundamental problem with Vita – or, at least, one of them – was made abundantly clear to all and sundry the second that Nintendo Switch landed on our very shores. Console gaming on the go is a neat idea, but there actually needs to be console quality games that matter released for it in order for it to work. While Vita was getting Uncharted spin-offs that don’t really count, and appalling Call of Duty games that don’t play anything like their home console bigger brothers, Switch is getting mainline Zelda and Mario games. And sure, as a Switch owner, I think the games control like hot garbage when in handheld mode – although, perhaps that’s just my big sausage fingers – but it doesn’t matter. Those are the main entries in beloved series’, and not spin-offs shat out by third-tier studios. Half-arsing it isn’t good enough, and that is just one of the many reasons that Switch is a hit and Vita will be lucky to outsell the Wii U.
RIP, Vita. Now let’s have Persona 4 Golden ported to PS4 so I can fire my Vita out of a cannon and into the sea, to be forever lost to Davy Jones’ locker.
WINNER: The Lost Legacy Proves The Uncharted Series Can Live On
After the Uncharted series was officially finished forever way back in last year, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy came out this year to remind us that if something makes money it will never, ever die. The Lost Legacy started life as a DLC mission for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but the project grew in scope and ambition until it was considered hefty enough to be released as a standalone game. The only problem is, how do you continue a series without it’s main protagonist, who’s story was wrapped up neatly in the last game? Well, apparently, you promote a couple of side characters to top billing status, and you blow a bunch of shit up real good.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a winner not just because it was another wonderful Uncharted adventure, but because it proves the long-term viability of the franchise even without its star, Nathan Drake. Uncharted is the sort of series that could go on forever, and likely will, as long as it keeps making money. There could be more adventures for Chloe and Nadine, or perhaps we’ll see some starring Sam and Sully. Maybe a future Drake will take over the reigns of the series, or perhaps we can go back into the past and see Sully in his early years fighting the good fight for fortune and glory.
The options are potentially limitless, but whatever they choose, as long as we get to hang out of the back of fast-moving vehicles, explode things dramatically, and occasionally offer a cheeky one liner, the future of Uncharted as a series is looking rosy.
LOSER: Cross-Platform Play PR Blunders
Sony decimated the competition at the beginning of this console generation thanks to a winning combination of listening to their fans, sterling PR work, and all of their competitors simultaneously, and repeatedly, shooting themselves in the foot. As far as console wars go, this one is long since over. Nintendo has already abandoned ship on the Wii U, and Microsoft is hiding sales figures because they *wink wink* don’t matter, and they’re definitely not *wink wink* just treading water until they think they can announce the Xbox Two without facing consumer backlash. Sony’s PR game has largely been strong this gen, but as their sales figures have been rising so have their egos, and they’ve mis-handled a couple of things this year.
Cross-platform play has been a bit of a hot button topic in 2017. Microsoft has said that they want Xbox players to be able to play online games with PlayStation players, because they’re always thinking of you, the gamer, and not because they’re getting obliterated in sales. Weird how they never mentioned any of this stuff back when the Xbox 360 was cleaning house and Sony was actually doing cross-platform play with Final Fantasy XIV. But hey, maybe I’m just being cynical.
Anyway, nefarious intentions or no, Sony’s handling of whether or not to adopt cross-platform play with Microsoft as well as PC has been pretty poor. The reason why they don’t want to makes perfect business sense – players who like online gaming are more likely to buy the console that’s sold more, an advantage that would be negated if you could play with your friends regardless of which console you bought – but for whatever reason they didn’t just say that. They offered numerous cack-handed half-answers that all sounded like bullshit because they were, well, bullshit. Let’s hope that these PR blunders aren’t indicative of a return to the mentality of the old, early PS3-era Sony who thought it was totally okay to tell you to just get a second job if you couldn’t afford their ludicrously overpriced console. Gaming doesn’t need that Sony. Nobody needs that Sony.
WINNER: Horizon Zero Dawn Has Robot Dinosaurs In It
Oh hey, did you hear that those guys who made Killzone are doing a post-apocalyptic open world game? You mean the guys behind the drabbest shooter in Christendom are mixing the most overexposed genre and the most overplayed setting imaginable? Oh, color me excited. But then you find out it’s got robot dinosaurs in it and suddenly the game sounds one billion times more exciting.
From the moment Horizon Zero Dawn was announced – and looked absolutely fucking incredible – it seemed poised to become Sony’s next, big, post-Uncharted franchise as long as Guerrilla could pull the trigger on the fantastic concept. Well, pull the trigger they did, repeatedly, Chow Yun Fat in Hard Boiled style, until everybody and their mothers knew that there was a new sheriff in town. Horizon wasn’t perfect – the combat against human enemies was dreadful, for instance – but it ticked enough of the right boxes to be a sure-fire hit, and to set more than solid foundations for an inevitable sequel or three.
The open world is beautiful, the characters are interesting, the protagonist goes on a compelling journey, and fighting robot dinosaurs is seriously fucking awesome. Horizon absolutely delivered, and if it hadn’t had the rotten luck of being released like four minutes before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild it could perhaps have made an even bigger splash. As it is, it still wound up an indisputable winner for Sony in 2017, and the future for Aloy and her robot dinosaur buddies looks very bright.
Seriously, remember when Time magazine pulled this shit? Ridiculous as that was, if you’re a gamer in 2017 you really are a winner, unless you’ve got no money, in which case you’re like Charlie Bucket at the start of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, watching all of the other kids eating delicious candy bars with burning, murderous rage in his eyes. But let’s say you do have money, which means you’ve been treated to a bunch of amazing games this year. Congratulations, you. Sony’s 2017 line-up has been incredible. Most of the multiplatform games that came out this year will be covered in more detail in the Xbox year in review article presumably, or it’d be like three sentences long, so we’ll just skim past them all, and a couple more exclusives right here, shall we?
Nioh took the Dark Souls formula to feudal Japan, and was awesome no matter what features editor Mike Worby tries to tell you. What Remains of Edith Finch took the walking simulator genre to giddy new heights, while Nier Automata wowed critics and gamers alike with its unique approach to storytelling. The Stormblood expansion for Final Fantasy XIV further cemented its place as one of the best online RPGs on the market, Final Fantasy IX saw itself get a lick of paint and an absolutely awful trophy list as it made the jump to PS4, and Final Fantasy XII looked better than ever (and sold well, too) in the remastered Zodiac Age earlier in the year.
Resident Evil VII was one of the first games to offer players the option to play the entire campaign in virtual reality, while Skyrim VR breathed new life into the five year old RPG via the medium of PSVR. Wolfenstein II caused controversy by suggesting it’s totally okay to fuck up Nazis, which is more of a sad commentary on the state of the world in 2017 than it is of the gaming industry, while The Evil Within 2 improved on the solid foundations of the original game, resulting in a superior sequel. Pillars of Eternity made the jump from PC to PS4 with ease, giving us one of the best role playing games available on console this generation. There was also appearances from Everybody’s Golf, Nex Machina, Injustice 2, Undertale, Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 0, Wipeout, Hatsuna Miku, Danganronpa, Superhot, Tekken 7, Hellblade, Assassin’s Creed, Rime, Gravity Rush 2, South Park, Zero Escape, FIFA, Life Is Strange, Telltale’s Batman, Call of Duty, and… breathe… it’s been a real good year.
LOSERS: The Dregs
Well, they can’t all be zingers, can they? For as good as the year has been in terms of quality games hitting the PS4 at a regular pace, there’s also been some bum notes that have left gamers a little upset. Gran Turismo Sport wasn’t savaged by critics upon release, but it didn’t result in the critical circle jerk that its predecessors did, while Knack II fared well critically, but absolutely bombed in the shops, proving itself to be the video game equivalent of an answer to a question that nobody asked.
Perhaps the biggest dud of the year was EA’s space shooter Mass Effect Andromeda, at least until EA’s space shooter Star Wars Battlefront II came out. The former was besieged by a tortured development cycle and the finished product felt like the husk of a Mass Effect game, gutted of practically everything that made people fall in love with the series in the first place, while the latter was a game ostensibly built as a Trojan Horse for the express purpose of tricking people into paying for micro-transactions on a biblical scale. The Internet booted off about both of them, and rightly so. The biggest disappointment for me personally was the remaster of PaRappa the Rapper – AKA the greatest game of all time – which wasn’t adjusted to take into account for the input lag that comes as standard with high definition television sets that weren’t available when the original game released, resulting in a rhythm game that can’t keep time.
Valkyria Revolution was an action spin-off to the tactical RPG Valkyria Chronicles series that was awful on every conceivable level, and it would have been my pick for the shittest game of the year, hands down, if it wasn’t for Road Rage. That’s a bike combat game like Road Rash, except it’s called Road Rage, and it’s absolutely fucking dreadful. Take my word for it, kids. It wouldn’t be worth playing if it was free. They should pay you to play it. And handsomely, too.
There were probably more rubbish games released in 2017, but let’s not dwell on the bad stuff. It’s been a great year for gaming, and one of the best years in PlayStation history. We hope you’ve got a bunch of these wonderful games sitting under your Christmas tree. Except for you, Kevin Spacey. You’re getting a copy of Road Rage.
How did you like 2017? Raise a glass of sherry in the comments below.
‘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 Reviews2 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
- Games2 hours ago
‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’ Remain the Greatest Pokémon Games