As we build up to the 20th anniversary of Pokémon in February 2016, and look hotly ahead towards brand new things including the new Zygarde forms, we're continuing our journey through each generation of Pokémon; this month we cover the much beloved second generation. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to check out part one for the first generation.
The build-up to launch
Shortly after the release of Pokémon Red & Green, development on Pokémon Gold & Silver - known then as Pokémon 2 - began. The build-up to the games was very gradual with development getting sidelined by other projects including Pokémon Stadium, but hints were given throughout all arms of Pokémon. It all started in the anime, during the first episode, where Ash encountered a Pokémon that nobody had seen before. This Pokémon ended up being Ho-Oh. Then, through the anime and movies more Pokémon got revealed: Togepi, Donphan, Marill and Snubbull got revealed in 1998 and Elekid, Ledyba, Hoothoot, Slowking and Lugia got revealed in 1999. More Pokémon were shown in pre-release material for the games - some came to be Pokémon, others did not, but the build-up to Gold & Silver was not the smoothest.
The main series
The intent for the game was to be released in 1998 to coincide with the end of the first anime series but development woes caused issues. Eventually, Satoru Iwata was pulled in to help with development and he managed to compress the game enough to fit the entire Kanto region in as well as the Johto region.
So, come November 21st 1999, Pokémon Gold & Silver were released to massive applause for the Game Boy Color. The new Pokémon and the scenario were well received. In them you travelled through the Johto region, beating the gyms and facing off against the reformed Team Rocket. At the end you even got to battle against the protagonist of the previous generation of Pokémon games. These were the first games to take full advantage of the Game Boy Color but could still be played on the original Game Boy. They were later released in October 2000 in the US.
There were a few mechanical changes in this game from the previous series. In addition to the 100 new Pokémon, the most noteworthy change was the Special stat. The Special stat was just one stat in the first generation which caused many Pokémon to have significant power. In this game that stat was split into Special Attack and Special Defense, with Pokémon receiving stats in both accordingly. In addition to that, two brand new types of Pokémon were introduced: Dark and Steel, to balance the game further which was dominated by Psychic-type Pokémon in Generation 1. It also introduced the concept of Pokémon having genders, Shiny Pokémon, breeding, day/night events and following the Pikachu in Yellow, happiness.
Next up came Pokémon Crystal. This game was a Game Boy Color exclusive, and actually spearheaded a few of the things we have come to expect from Pokémon games. First, it was the first mainline Pokémon game that allowed for you to play with online battles and trades. No, I'm not kidding. In Japan, Pokémon Crystal came with the Mobile Adapter which allowed for you to connect the game with a mobile phone in order to battle and trade people across the Internet, as well as receive event downloads such as the mysterious GS Ball that gave access to Celebi.
Unfortunately, the Mobile Adapter system didn't take off immensely, and due to different mobile standards outside of Japan it didn't make it outside of the country. The rest of Crystal, including the whole new narrative featuring Suicune and the mysterious character Eusine, made it through. It was released December 14th 2000 in Japan, July 29th 2001 in the US and November 1st 2001 in Europe.
Now into the Pokémon of the generation, there were only 100 introduced, the second lowest amount any generation has ever brought.
The Pokémon here were varied, some were brand new while others were related to Pokémon from the previous generation such as Steelix and Pichu.
The starter Pokémon were Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile who evolved into the pure typed Meganium, Typhlosion and Feraligatr respectively. These starters are often among the more ignored compared to others when used competitively, but they are still great designs.
The Legendary Pokémon, following the tradition of trios set forth in Red & Green, included Raikou and Entei, who roamed Johto in all three games, and the star Pokémon of Pokémon Crystal, Suicune. These games also had the first cover legendary Pokémon, Lugia and Ho-Oh.
Then there was the Mythical Pokémon of the generation, Celebi. Celebi was made for events and first given in Spaceworld in 2000 before having other distributions globally including one on Pokémon Crystal's mobile feature.
But that's not all, there are lots of Pokémon to like that were introduced in this generation such as Gligar, the awesome flying Scorpion, Scizor the evolved form of Scyther and many more.
For a full list of Pokémon, you can find them here: http://www.serebii.net/games/generation2.shtml
When November 1999 hit the anime made a change to Pokémon: The Johto Journeys. Returning from the Orange Islands on the quest with the GS Ball, Professor Oak sent Ash to visit Kurt in Azalea Town to deliver the GS Ball, and while there Ash decided to participate in the Johto League.
Joined once more by Misty and with Brock returning, he travelled through the Johto region making many new friends including Casey, as well as capturing various Pokémon such as Chikorita, Heracross and even a Shiny Noctowl!
The series came to a dramatic end in the Johto League when Ash finally had the much anticipated battle with his long term rival, Gary, during the league. With Ash's Charizard managing to prevail against Gary's Blastoise, Ash's journey continued, though he lost in the Quarter Finals to a trainer from the Hoenn region and his mysterious, then new, Pokémon, Blaziken which led Ash to decide where to travel next.
There were three movies during this saga. The first, Pokémon 3 The Movie: Spell of Unown featured the land turning to crystal because of Unown and an artificial Entei solving wishes of a young girl, Molly, who lost her father during an archaeological expedition. The next movie, Pokémon 4 Ever: Celebi Voice of the Forest featured Ash encountering a young Sammy Oak, who had travelled forwards in time after rescuing Celebi from a hunter, but when another Pokémon hunter finds Celebi he tries to harness its power for evil. The final movie was called Pokémon Heroes and featured the legendary Pokémon from the Hoenn region, Latios & Latias. In the land of Alto Mare, Ash encounters the Pokémon after the Soul Dew has been stolen.
The spin-off games are where Generation 2 seemed to not have the strongest showing. While there were some titles, it is the generation with the fewest spin-off titles.
The only Nintendo 64 title during the second generation is, of course, Pokémon Stadium 2. Pokémon Stadium 2 was the third Pokémon Stadium game (after the Japan-only first one) and featured the addition of the Pokémon from Gold & Silver, the new mechanics and a variety of new features including Earl's Pokémon Academy, which ran various tutorials to teach people the Pokémon game's mechanics. It also featured a variety of new mini-games, and in these games you could actually use your own Pokémon from your games to play, so if you had an eligible shiny Pokémon you could use it.
There were two Game Boy spin-off games during the second generation. The first was Pokémon Puzzle Challenge, a Game Boy Color exclusive title that was based on the classic puzzle title Panel de Pon. It had a story mode where you went through the various gyms of Johto, defeating the Gym Leaders and collecting Pokémon. This title is currently available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
The second of the titles is a Japan-only one. This game was Pokémon Card Game GB2: Here Comes Team Great Rocket! This was a sequel to the Trading Card Game on the Game Boy and featured a variety of new cards including the Dark cards introduced in the Team Rocket set. The story continued as before, with having to defeat the Club Masters, but featured an additional island and story focusing on the evil Team Great Rocket and a new set of Battle Masters to defeat.
This is where the spin-offs deviate from the usual fare of each generation. In 2001 a small handheld device called Pokémon Mini was released. This console was a small one with no colour, but had a small library of nothing but Pokémon games. Many of these games were simple puzzle titles like Pokémon Puzzle Collection, Pokémon Tetris, Pokémon Pinball Mini, Pokémon Party Mini and Pokémon Zany Cards, but some games tried to branch out including the Japanese only Togepi's Great Adventure and Pokémon Breeder Mini which was the only one featuring Hoenn Pokémon.
Unfortunately the Pokémon Mini system didn't completely take off, but many of its games are playable on the GameCube title, Pokémon Channel.
The Trading Card Game continued on through Generation 2 with a new set of cards called Pokémon Neo which introduced the 100 new Pokémon into the series and brought the Darkness and Metal types into the fold, mirroring the introduction of Dark & Steel in the main games.
While continuing the mechanics brought forward in Generation 1 cards, it went further by releasing Light Pokémon to counter the Dark Pokémon, Shining Pokémon based on Shiny Pokémon and in the Japanese only VS set, more Gym Leader owned Pokémon.
Towards the end of the generation the cards underwent a shift. Due to the Game Boy Advance Peripheral, the e-Reader - which never made it to Europe - many of the cards included dot codes on the side. These codes could be scanned by the e-Reader and unlock a variety of features. Some cards had special moves unique to the e-Reader. Others, when scanned with certain other cards, gave various mini-games and applications while others allowed for construction sets to create small 2D Pokémon platformers.
As we approach November 2002 in our retrospective, the second generation of Pokémon comes to an end. This generation came at the tail end of the Poké-mania part of Pokémon's life. Many consider it the greatest generation, and there's a lot to be looked back on. It was definitely part of the golden age of Pokémon, and one that has helped create the current scheme for the series.