Recently I have had serious trouble finding the time to sit down and really get stuck into a home console game. I have various titles on the go for different machines but work and life in general keep getting in way. Enter the saviour that is handheld gaming. So far on this blog, I have talked about the PSP quite a bit but I owe my interest in handheld gaming to the Gameboy Colour which was my very first machine (discounting the Playstation in the house which wasn’t my own console). As with a lot of people my age, I received the GBC as a Christmas gift purely because I wanted to play Pokemon like all of my friends at school were doing. Red Version was where it all began but it would be the follow-ups, Pokemon Gold/Silver, that would really impress…
I can distinctly remember being given some sort of really thick, unofficial Pokemon magazine by my Gran which had loads of information on the upcoming sequels. The magazine mapped out the initial few towns/routes, showed all of the new monsters (with Japanese names) and detailed new features to the series such as berries, the Poke-Gear and the introduction of Dark and Steel types. I absolutely pored over this magazine which was bringing us the latest information straight from Japan and the sequels simply could not come soon enough. I saved money bit by bit (money being difficult to come across as a child!) until I had the required £29.99 put aside in advance and I’ll be completely honest: I miss those days. Being so impressed and excited for a videogame as well as slowly but surely scraping the money together to buy it…so much better than the present day me who thinks “meh” to most game announcements and could afford any new release immediately if I was feeling irresponsible enough to casually drop £40-£50 on a PS4 game (which I very rarely do).
The very best part though was that the game lived up to all the expectations I had and then completely surpassed them. I opted for the Silver version since a) Lugia looked cooler than Ho-oh and b) there was this strange, unspoken sureness that the Gold version would be better because the word ‘Gold’ sounds more impressive than ‘Silver’. This meant that more people at school owned Gold Version and so having the opposite meant that I would be a more attractive trading partner. On a side note, this amusing little quirk also happened with Ruby/Sapphire on the GBA but since then, I think Nintendo haven’t produced a duo of Pokemon games with one version sounding better than the other.
Fast forward to 2017 and I have just downloaded the digital re-release of the game from Nintendo’s 3DS e-shop service. Initially I’d been intending to pick up the re-release of Red/Blue that has been available for some time now but I’d completely forgotten that Gold/Silver had also been slated for a re-release so when I saw these little beauties were available…well, I HAD to skip a generation unfortunately because Johto was calling and I didn’t have enough shop credit for both. These games retail for £8.99 by the way which is expensive for a digital download of a retro game but I personally think that the price is extremely fair for the size and depth of the games. Don’t forget that original cartridges have shot up in value over the years and that it is depressingly easy to end up with a bootleg copy or a genuine cart with a dead battery that needs replacing. These 3DS downloads bypass all of that and are so convenient. The 3DS’ rubbish battery life also does a great job of emulating the Gameboy Colour gobbling up those AA batteries!
Understandably, I was a little dubious about returning to one of my all-time favourite games in case I’d been looking back through rose-tinted specs all of these years. Thankfully this wasn’t the case and I am happy to say that I am utterly in love with this game all over again. Going so far backwards in a series that has evolved (get it?) so much over the years takes a bit of getting used to, mind. I’ve ploughed hundreds of hours into the GBA games and first generation of DS games (Diamond/Pearl) for example and so returning to a time where there were no passive Pokemon powers, no animated sprites, no weather effects and no many other things takes some getting used to. I keep expecting to be paralysed when hitting an electric type with a physical attack for instance. I imagine it would be even tougher for anybody who has played the DS remakes or the newer 3DS installments, doubly so if they are a younger gamer who only started playing Pokemon with the latest games.
Maybe I AM blinded by nostalgia but I personally prefer the older games like this. The more primitive sound effects and old-school sprites invoke a warm fuzziness inside – sights and sounds of a simpler time. I find a lot more charm in these things anyway (regardless of the reason) and also happen to enjoy the more stripped-back simplicity of the game with knocking over the game’s gyms, trashing the Elite Four and swiping as many different Pokemon as possible being your only objectives. Obviously there were a few new distractions added to the second generation of Pokemon games and a lot of these relied on the game’s in-built date/time facility which dictated when certain events such as the bug-catching contest would occur. Other nice touches included trainers calling you on the phone (with pretty terrible conversation it has to be said!), being able to use the radio and different Pokemon appearing depending on whether it was day or night. At the time, these additions were incredible despite how trivial they may seem today. I’ve not played any of the 3DS generations of the games so I imagine that there is so much to do in those versions but I’m in no rush to find out. My Pokemon obsession ended with Diamond so while I am interested in catching up, I would still rather go back to a more focused and ‘innocent’ period in the series’ life such as Silver Version.
My current play-through is going very well and I’ve found myself using Pokemon in my team that I would never have previously even considered such as Slowpoke, Exeggcute and Zubat (mostly all evolved and nicely levelled by now of course). Revisiting all of the old towns and hearing that fantastic 8-Bit music again has been a lovely experience so far but I’m only around halfway through what the game has to offer with one final Johto gym standing in my way. Catching Lugia is my first priority however but the initial attempt didn’t go very well! I completely forgot about how Lugia makes the battle so annoying with its ‘Recover’ move as well as how higher level monsters in these older games simply refuse to be captured, even when at the lowest HP point and hit with a status effect. All good fun though!
So would I recommend this download? Whole heartedly. As I said earlier, the price may look steep for a retro download but considering all that you avoid by not trying to buy a working, genuine original copy then it’s fantastic value and having the game on your 3DS memory card with all of your other stuff is just so convenient and perfect for taking on the move – in perfect keeping with the spirit of the original releases and their pocket nature. I really hope that they also offer Crystal at some point since the remixed storyline, introduction of Pokemon animations and other little tweaks made it an update worth playing through all over again way back when and I’d happily do the same again today. Make it happen Nintendo!.