With the highly anticipated new release of Pokémon X and Y causing a bigger stir than Team Rocket “blasting off again”, I thought it time to relive the glory days of my childhood and turn to the Second Generation, Pokémon Crystal. And, even after 12 years, it still does not disappoint.
The concept is very much the same as First Generations Red and Blue: you are given a pocketable creature from the local Pokémon Professor, this time in the region of Johto with 100 new Pokémon to catch, and sent off on an exciting adventure with little more than a phone (termed Pokégear) and backpack from your mum. The aim, of course, is to train your cute little lizard into a mighty dragon of destruction to defeat eight gym leaders and become Pokémon Master, all whilst thwarting your rival and Teams of evil trainers along the way.
It is Crystal’s gripping storyline and variety of added features and characters that allow it not only to be a spectacular sequel to Red and Blue, but also to overtake its predecessors vastly in game quality. For the first time the option to play as spunky blue-haired girl Kris is available, opening up the appeal of the franchise to both genders, and influential key figures such as the commanding Dragon Master Lance and the knowledgable Professor Elm give the game excitement and depth. Impressive landmarks such as the mysterious Ruins of Alph infested with Unown and the ancient Burned Tower provide intriguing backstory, giving the player the feeling that they are stumbling upon something intrinsically bigger than themselves.
The most impressive feature of the plot begins after obtaining the fourth gym badge. The legendary water Pokémon Suicune’s unusual interest in you that is then maintained throughout the game highlights the moment when you renounce your status as an innocent child and take your place in an epic world of legend and power. This moment, along with the possibility to return to the First Generation’s region of Kanto after a player has defeated the Elite Four and become Pokémon master in Crystal, allows Nintendo to cater not only for the young, but even for veterans of Pokémon over a decade after they picked up their first game.
The graphics, admittedly, leave much to be desired. Crystal’s superiority to Red and Blue ends with animated sprites, more advanced illustrations and, most importantly, colour. The characters are still highly and obviously pixelated, and by the time of the vastly advanced aesthetics of Pokémon X and Y, staring at the blurred back of Togepi’s head is almost painful to the eye. Despite this it must be maintained that the retro animation itself actually moves a lot faster than the later games’, so you do not end up spamming the A button every time a wild Pokémon leaps out of the grass. If one is only looking for impressive animation, then perhaps they should invest in the new games.
But with the thrilling storyline and characters, Pokémon Crystal proves that up-to-date graphics are wholly unnecessary to define a good game. The retro graphics continue to impress simply due to the nostalgia they invoke in the game’s older fans.
Any First Generation fans who found the later Pokémon games ‘Gastly’ should definitely try Crystal’s thrilling combination of the old and the new.
Pokémon Crystal is available on Gameboy Colour.