Pokémon Gold and Silver are the second generation instalments in the Pokémon series; released at the turn of the millennium, the games arrived just a few short years after their predecessors, Pokémon Red and Blue. Boasting a whole new world to explore, 100 new monsters (bringing the total to 251), and an entirely new cast of characters, the sequels weren't a simple continuation of the originals’ plot, but a chance to build upon what was already becoming a gaming phenomenon. 17 years later the games have been released again, this time on the 3DS Virtual Console; they are just as wonderful as ever.
These games were released at a time when Pokémon was arguably simpler to understand; concepts such as Mega Evolution, variations on a Pokémon’s form, and of course the colossal amount of creatures we have available for capture today, did not exist. Instead, what you have is a stripped-to-its-basics version of the feature-rich games we have grown used to. You begin by receiving your very first Pokémon and starting an adventure across the Johto region, battling other Pokémon and their trainers, gaining experience, catching new monsters to add to your team, and eventually taking on Gym Leaders and the Elite Four to become a Pokémon Master. Along the way you’ll have to foil the plans of the evil Team Rocket, hold off your rival and defeat him in battle, and try to catch every single Pokémon to complete your Pokédex. Quite a lot to do, then!
The differences between these re-release on Virtual Console and the games they are effectively emulating are relatively limited. Aside from a couple of minor tweaks to a selection of attack animations, the only real difference is the trading element of the games. The original Game Boy Color utilised the Game Link Cable (a cable that could connect two Game Boys so that they could communicate) to battle or transfer your Pokémon with a friend. As this is unnecessary with today’s technology, these games activate a separate Virtual Console feature to wirelessly connect to another system nearby. Local wireless is the only type of communication supported meaning that, unlike the newer Pokémon games, you cannot connect to other players online. In one way this is a slight shame, but it does mean that the games remain faithful to the experience you had when playing them 17 years ago. Meeting up with a friend to share version-exclusive Pokémon can be just as exciting as it always was.
The games have aged fantastically well, too. The graphics can admittedly feel quite dated, although you could argue that the core series Pokémon games are never particularly impressive graphically. This doesn’t matter, though; the gameplay is just as fun, just as addictive, and just as rewarding as it ever was.
Whilst nostalgia alone will be enough for fans of the originals, Pokémon Gold and Silver offer an extremely rich RPG experience that deserves to be played. The only thing we can really fault in terms of how the games stand up today is the lack of the Running Shoes. These are an item that was introduced in the third 'generation' entries to the series, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, which allowed your character to run by holding down the ‘B’ button as you moved. Without it, walking around from town to town can feel extremely sluggish until you gain the ability to fly between destinations later on. Players who experienced the original games may be unfazed by this, but those who are used to how the series performs today might find it slightly frustrating.
Many fans regard Pokémon Gold and Silver as the best that the series has ever produced, and it’s rather clear to see why. These games expanded upon the originals in a number of ways; the in-game clock, for example, meant that different Pokémon would appear during different times of the day, reflecting your real-life surroundings. A mobile phone system was also implemented which allowed you to face trainers you had already battled before by accepting their challenges.
On top of this there were new Poké Ball types, new Pokémon types, Pokémon breeding and eggs, the option for Pokémon to hold items for use in battle, and many more features that we simply don’t have room for here. It also boasts a unique feature that has never been replicated in the series ever since – after seeing everything there is to see in the new Johto region you are able to revisit the Kanto region from Pokémon Red and Blue, taking on a second set of eight Gym Leaders and adding countless hours onto your playtime. Wonderful stuff.
Pokémon Gold and Silver have always been a highlight in the Pokémon series and even now, 17 years since they were originally released, they remain a truly brilliant experience. Fans of the originals will be pleased to see how faithfully the games have been emulated and newcomers should find enjoyment in playing through what is perhaps the best value-for-money game the series has to offer. The games feel just as good as they did all those years ago and, based on the pure gameplay, would be receiving praise from critics even if they were being released today. Flip that hat around, let out your signature catchphrase, and grab yourself a copy of one of the finest RPGs around.