Pokémon Gold and Silver Versions were developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo in 1999 in Japan and 2000 everywhere else. They are ‘second generation’ Pokémon games and were released simultaneously as twin titles, as has become the norm with Pokémon games.
These were the first proper, full-colour Pokémon games, with graphics that have been created to take advantage of the Game Boy Color‘s extended palette (Pokémon Yellow, which preceded this game, didn’t really do that; the graphics were simply colourised from the black and white originals). And you can tell from the very beginning that the visuals in Gold/Silver are a step-up from what we saw previously.
Pokémon Gold is set in the Johto district and is packed full of interesting and colourful locations, many of which open up further when you obtain cut, surf and strength – three stock HM moves that seem to appear in most Pokémon games. These allow you to remove trees or rocks that are blocking the way, and also surf over water.
This game was also the first Pokémon adventure where the clock time mattered, and it has a day/night cycle. You must set the time and day when you begin a new game, and – from what I can tell – you also have to adjust for Daylight Saving Time (DST) manually; the game won’t do that for you. This was also the game that introduced Pokégear – upgradable gear that every trainer carries around with them. Arguably the most important piece of Pokégear is the mobile phone, which you can use to call various people, including your mom and Professor Bill, the Pokémon Professor who gives you your starting Pokémon. You can also collect numbers from other trainers allowing them to call you whenever they feel like it or have something to tell you. This can be a little annoying at times as some will call you repeatedly, but other times it is very useful, like when one of them calls you to tell you about a swarm of rare Pokémon, so it’s worth giving out your number to anyone who asks for it (usually trainers who you’ve already beaten; simply talk to them again and they will ask you for it).
The level of detail in Pokémon Gold is also a big step-up from previous games. Examining most things inside a house now elicits a response and even rewards you with an occasional item, whereas before you’d mostly get no response. During battle you can also now see your Pokémon‘s experience level, which is useful. Managing your Pokémon on the PC is also much better than previously, with fewer annoying restrictions as seen in the first Pokémon games, although box organisation is still a little clunky compared to later games in the series.
Pokémon Gold saw the introduction of berries, which you collect from special trees. These can be used as hold items by your Pokémon and – depending on their type – will heal health and status effects during battle. Unlike later games in the series you can’t plant the berries to grow more, although the berry trees do replenish after 24 hours have passed.
Other cool new features in Pokémon Gold include: allowing your mom to take a proportion of your earnings to save it for you (she’ll also occasionally buy useful items for you); Game Boy printer support (you can print stickers, and can also print out mail and the contents of your PC boxes); sliding puzzle minigames; the introduction of “The Unown“; time-dependant events (like the bug-catching contest in the park); backward compatibility with the original Game Boy, and lots of other stuff. Plus: when you complete Pokémon Gold you then get access to the entire Kanto region, which featured in the first Pokémon games, and which is a real surprise! You need the move ‘Waterfall’ to reach it, though.
And of course where would Pokémon be without link-up play? If you visit The Cable Club – found above most Pokémon Centers – you can trade, battle with your friends, and use the Time Capsule, which allows you to import Pokémon from your old Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow games.
While Pokémon Gold and Silver don’t quite reach the dizzying heights of detail as seen in Pokémon Ruby or Pearl (or later games), they are still fantastic games in their own right and I highly recommend them to anyone who likes level-grinding RPGs.
The original Gold and Silver went on to sell an enormous amount worldwide (one and half million units on their first day of sale in Japan alone!) and was the beginning of the formation of Pokémon as a billion dollar franchise. They’ve also been re-made for newer gaming systems (HeartGold and SoulSilver for the Nintendo DS). Which is an indication of just how good they are. Pokémon adventures are much more than just “kid’s games”!