Pokémon Crystal Version (Game Boy Color) Review

By Shane Jury 19.05.2018

Review for Pokémon Crystal Version on Game Boy Color

With the debut of the Virtual Console on Nintendo 3DS, many purchasers were excited to potentially revisit and discover big names of the handheld lineage. Game Boy, Game Gear, and even TurboGrafx-16 (of which there was a portable rendition) titles would add a significant boost to quality and variety in the handheld's inventory, and subsequently gain the opportunity to captivate a fresh new audience. One series that few would expect to see on the service was the mainline Pokémon games, specifically generations one and two, but as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations in 2015, Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow would indeed appear. Then, in September of 2017, Pokémon Gold and Silver were released as well, strangely omitting their own third version completely, until early 2018 with the advent of Pokémon Crystal. As one of the lesser played mainline titles, has this jewel lost its sheen over time?

As the third version of its generation, Pokémon Crystal follows a very similar structure to Gold and Silver, down to the plotline structure and path, region design and inventory gains. New trainers begin in the region of Johto, a neighbouring continent to the setting of the first generation of Pokémon. After choosing a starter companion, adventure awaits players with creatures both old and new to find, battle, and capture. Gym Leaders mark the biggest challenge points, testing the team and tactics of each trainer, and the Elite Four make for a challenging endgame. Along the way, the villainous Team Rocket organisation rears its ugly head once again, and many other trainers across the land seek victory in battle against a player's squad. It is a classic formula that has gone through few fundamental changes since its inception, and as one of the early examples Pokémon Crystal refines it even more up to that point.

Screenshot for Pokémon Crystal Version on Game Boy Color

Crystal, however, would set the standard for future third versions by deviating far more from its generation foundation than Pokémon Yellow previously did; the first big change being a choice of trainer gender - a subtle change, but a greatly requested one that would continue forward in the series. Crystal also introduced animated Pokémon sprites; not fully animated like in later generations, but taking advantage of the Game Boy Color power boost to give the Pocket Monsters that little more character when popping into battle. Another major addition that sadly doesn't always come back in each generation is the Battle Tower, a huge booster to endgame replayability and team viability testing. The legendary Pokémon of Johto also play a far bigger role in Crystal's plotline, with the mythical Suicune taking centre-stage on the box art and influencing the player's progression during the adventure.

Pokémon Crystal continues with all the extra bells and whistles that Gold and Silver brought to the series, and often refines them that little bit more. The PokéGear acts like a smartphone; selecting the Gear on the menu displays a Map, Radio, Clock, and Calender, and even allows trainer contact numbers to be registered and called for rematches. The latter has been improved in Pokémon Crystal to give each trainer more distinctive dialogue and personalities.

Screenshot for Pokémon Crystal Version on Game Boy Color

The Pokémon world now has a great deal more colour in it, with a number of key locations receiving slightly updated redesigns, like the Olivine Lighthouse and Burned Tower. The bag now has compartments for different kinds of items, instead of one slot for everything. Hidden Machine techniques are still required for traversal, but can now immediately be used on a corresponding obstacle by confirming on it, instead of selecting through the menus each time. Pokémon can now hold certain items, which can have a range of effects, like Health regain, or a speed boost. Other smaller Quality of Life upgrades include a visible experience points bar in battles, a bigger range of Pokéballs to use, better descriptions of Pokémon and Technical Machine moves, and a more cohesive Pokédex layout and feature-list; all minor additions that can add up to a more enjoyable experience, overall.

Screenshot for Pokémon Crystal Version on Game Boy Color

Two particular changes to note with this 3DS version are the returning wireless trading mechanic from the first generation's Virtual Console editions, and the GS Ball event. The former replaces the Link Cable of the old Game Boy systems and uses the 3DS' wireless communications for the same results. The latter was previously a Japan-only event where players could catch the mythical Pokémon Celebi that was taken out upon localisation, but has been restored in this version of Crystal.

The generation of Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal is fondly remembered for one significant feature, and what lies beyond the region of Johto is both a huge surprise and a massive time sink in one, on top of the vast number of Pokémon to catch and train, towns and locations to explore, and battle strategies to formulate. The original Generation Two trio may have long since been outdone both visually and mechanically by the eventual Nintendo DS remakes Pokémon HeartGold and Pokémon SoulSilver, but to this day they are still a joy to play, with Crystal emerging as easily the best of the three.

Screenshot for Pokémon Crystal Version on Game Boy Color

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

When compared to the modern day mainline Pokémon games, and even the remakes on Nintendo DS, Pokémon Crystal falls short of being the optimal experience. Viewed on its own merits, however, it is the culmination of its generation, and marks the start of many aspects of the Pokémon games that continue to this date. A very accessible price backed by a colossal number of potential play hours complement this downloadable game perfectly.


Game Freak







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (7 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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