Pokémon Gold Version (Game Boy Color) Review

By Lex Firth 05.10.2017

Review for Pokémon Gold Version on Game Boy Color

Pokémon may still be an unavoidable behemoth in the gaming world today, but its popularity nowadays is nothing compared to the Pokémania era of the late '90s and early '00s. Following the Western release of Pokémon Red and Blue, the series was ubiquitous, with the anime, card game and countless spin-offs taking over childhoods everywhere. The road was unquestionably paved for a sequel, and in 2000, the West received Gold and Silver, complete with a new region to explore, a number of new gameplay mechanics and, of course, a hundred brand new Pokémon to collect. It's resurfaced on the 3DS' Virtual Console to be enjoyed by a brand new generation of trainers, but does it hold up to modern scrutiny almost twenty years later?

The difference between the first and second generations of Pokémon is almost immediately light and day - Gold and Silver's colourful, dynamic setting makes the monochromatic world presented in Red and Blue look drab in comparison. Johto is a sprawling region that blows Kanto out of the water, and the graphical improvements highlight the more focused design. The feudal Japanese style of Ecruteak City, with its trademark burned-out tower, alongside the huge metropolis that is Goldenrod City and the seaside port town of Olivine, are so much more dynamic than their first-gen counterparts, with the Game Boy Color's more vibrant pallet giving each locale its own distinct personality, set apart by a wider range of music tracks, too.

Screenshot for Pokémon Gold Version on Game Boy Color

Of course, one of the main draws here is the inclusion of one hundred new Pokémon, and for the most part they are brilliant. Some of them in particular are duds - Unown, a creature that comes in twenty-six varieties, each shaped like a different letter of the alphabet, is completely useless in-game, and feels like a wasted slot in the Pokédex - but for the most part, they are more unique and complex than plenty of Red and Blue's more simplistic designs. The addition of two new elemental types helps, too, with the Dark and Steel types allowing for some more freedom in the way the monsters are designed.

The new breeding mechanic also gives rise to a wave of new baby Pokémon, which perfects the trademark cutesy formula for designing fan-favourite 'mon. Previously popular critters like Pikachu, Clefairy and Jigglypuff are made somehow even more adorable in the forms of Pichu, Cleffa and Igglybuff, while more powerful creatures like Electabuzz and Hitmonlee or Hitmontop have more dynamic evolution cycles thanks to their baby counterparts. Breeding also provides an extra dimension to the battle system, making it easier to obtain Pokémon with particular stats and even previously unobtainable moves.

Screenshot for Pokémon Gold Version on Game Boy Color

In fact, there are plenty of improvements here that make battling far more satisfying. Gold and Silver introduce the now staple "held item" mechanic, with Pokémon being able to carry in-game items that restore health, increase the effectiveness of certain moves, and so on. It's an interesting system that feels criminally underused in the face of a campaign that's a little too easy to get through without exploring the finer depths of the battle system.

The refined mechanics would be a lot more relevant if there were a coherent multiplayer system, but sadly the only options on offer here are trading and battling using local wireless. Of course, it's a huge improvement from the "good old days" - the original releases used the Game Boy Link Cable, after all - but when future instalments have perfected an online multiplayer formula, it's a baffling decision not to go one step even further and include network capabilities. It's not an unheard-of concept (the Wii's Virtual Console received a handful of re-releases of multiplayer games that could be played via Wi-Fi) and would have definitely made the idea of completing the Pokédex a lot more achievable.

Speaking of improvements made further along the system, there do remain a few glaring faults with Gold and Silver that feel like even greater obstacles to enjoyment in the face of their DS remakes, and series entries beyond them. The new Pokémon may be well-designed, but they are also misplaced around the game - a large portion of the monsters aren't even available until long after the credits roll, making their in-game usefulness negligible. The difficulty curve is also poorly-designed, with the levels of the wild Pokémon available rarely matching those of the trainers you will be facing, meaning that hours of grinding are an inevitability.

Screenshot for Pokémon Gold Version on Game Boy Color

There's plenty to love about Pokémon Gold and Silver - they are excellent improvements on their aged predecessors, but seventeen years have not been particularly kind. It's perfectly playable, but in the face of nearly two decades of refinement, the rough patches are much harder to ignore. The progression is poorly designed - there are far too many occasions where the player will undoubtedly be under-levelled, and the latter half of the game, set in Red and Blue's Kanto, is a rushed-through slog of pithy side-quests - and the differences between the two versions are highly understated, save for an encounter with either the legendary Ho-Oh or Lugia.

Newcomers to the Pokémon franchise probably won't settle in particularly well with Gold and Silver when they could be playing HeartGold and SoulSilver or the excellent Sun and Moon. That said, though, those curious to see the series' roots or simply curious to explore their personal nostalgia will find that the 8-bit versions are still perfectly playable.

Screenshot for Pokémon Gold Version on Game Boy Color

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Pokémon Gold Version (and Silver Version) may not have aged perfectly, but their design, charm and refinements do still hold up to a certain extent. They may not be as polished as newer series entries, but it's not difficult to get lost in Johto's campaign, and those with a great nostalgia for the games will be satisfied. They may not be the perfect Pokémon titles nowadays, but they make for an excellent throwback or retro curio.

Developer

Game Freak

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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