Name: Pokemon Silver
Region Reviewed: NTSC
Year of Release: 2000
I grew up during the height of Pokemania in the United States. I was there as I saw Pikachu rise to the top of the totem pole and then tumble back down with a loud thud. In a short amount of time Pokemon went from being the coolest thing in the world to a reason to shun others who still enjoyed it. That’s how fads work though. But my Pokemania didn’t exactly start because of the video games that got children addicted worldwide. My fandom began with the television show and most importantly the trading card game. And I barely even played the card game, it was all about collecting… gotta catch ‘em all. I remember every little detail about opening a pack that gave me a holographic Charizard, buying Japanese packs to search for Mew, getting exclusive promo cards in the mail. But what about the games? Well, I played Pokemon Stadium because I didn’t have a Gameboy.
For those not aware, Pokemon Stadium stripped every ounce of adventuring and role-playing away from the core series of games and left the battling only. No raising, catching, training, exploring… just fighting. Pokemon is for all intents and purposes a handheld series despite the occasionally fray on home systems. And little Firebrand didn’t really know this. I was aware of the handheld games but I never got to play one until Sapphire and Ruby came out for the Gameboy Advance. And when I played Sapphire for the first time I finally realized what made these handheld games so revered. Years pass and I found myself playing a copy of Pokemon Blue for the first time as well. But when would I get around to the game released around the absolute peak of Pokemania: the Silver and Gold editions? Well, 2014 was that time. And a good time it was.
In case you’ve lived under a rock for the past sixteen plus years or so and don’t know what a Pokemon is, it’s quite simple. It’s a Pocket Monster (huehuehue, not that kind!) Pokemon exist all over the game world and are the equivalent of animals in the real world. Except that instead of squirrels we’ll get the occasional dragon or two. In the generation of Pokemon games that I’m reviewing there are 250 Pokemon to choose from, and if you can’t find a few that you personally enjoy then you clearly can’t be human. They exist in all shapes and sizes ranging from cute and cuddly to terrifying and monstrous. There is a Pokemon for you! “So Firebrand…” you may be asking if you were one of the rock-house Neanderthals mentioned earlier “…what do we do with these Pokemon? Do we play as them? Do we eat them? Do we go out to the bar and then get arrested for being intoxicated on a school playground because we got stuck in the slide?” “No!” is what I would yell before getting a perplexed look on my face about the detail-heavy last question you asked. “You enslave them against their will and force them to battle.” PETA approved.
So the game starts off in a region known as Johto, in a quiet town where your mute player character is from. You wake up in your house one day and stumble over to the strangely misplaced laboratory next door where you are sent on a fetch quest for the local professor. But it’s much too dangerous to walk in tall grass by yourself (more on this later) so you must take a Pokemon with you! You are then presented to the Johto regions three starter Pokemon, of which you can only have one. Will you go for the sizzling fire-type, the cool water-type, or the hippie munching on granola bars while listening to flower power music grass-type? Regardless of your choice, soon you will be finding yourself on the adventure of a lifetime. You’re not keen on just being an errand boy, no no no, you want to become the Pokemon Master!
How does one come about being a Pokemon Master? Well first, you need balls. Err, Pokeballs that is. Does that still not sound any better…? Well then let me explain. Wild Pokemon are hiding all throughout the top-down view world of the Johto region. They lurk in tall grass, caves, and water just waiting for an innocent bystander to come by before attacking them mercilessly from the shadows. If you manage to weaken the monster without killing it, you have a chance to use your Pokeballs from the Mart in town to try and capture them for your collection. Pokemon was originally designed under the name of Capsule Monsters, based off Japanese gashapon machines. You know those little machines at movie theatres or arcades that feature toys inside of little bubbly capsules? Bingo! Except that these are living breathing creatures you manage to stuff inside of these Pokeballs, in a process that also involves downloading them as digital data and storing them neglectfully on a computer somewhere to rot the rest of their lives if you don’t like them very much. This game is a little unsettling when you over think it.
So after capturing a few monsters, you can carry a team of up to six to carry with you on your journey for battles. The more you battle, the stronger your Pokemon grow and they will begin levelling up in typical RPG fashion. Their speed, attack, and defence will soon slowly start to get better. You’ll go from having only one attack to pulling your hair out over which attacks you want to keep in your arsenal and which you’d rather delete to make room for a new one. And once your Pokemon reach a certain level or meets a certain condition such as trading a Pokemon with a friend via the Gameboy Link Cable, they will evolve into a more powerful Pokemon type and completely transform. Your monsters grow with you as you train them, a very rewarding experience and while battling the random encounters of Wild Pokemon is good for raising your Pokemon’s experience; the real heart of growing as a Pokemon Trainer is battling other trainers just like you. Because the Johto region is a fantastic world where animal cruelty is not only endorsed but it’s commonplace! In fact, you can become quite the local celebrity if you’re good enough. Each town has its own Pokemon Gym, a battle arena where the local Gym Leader accepts challenges from trainers across the region. Each Gym Leader has his or her own specialty of Pokemon. Maybe they prefer fire-type Pokemon or bug-type or ghost-type. You see, each Pokemon has its own type or types. Each type has special weaknesses and advantages to other types, creating a rock, paper, scissor effect on gameplay.
The Johto region features eight of these gyms for you to conquer and obtain badges at, badges being a proof of excellence that you conquered that leader. Towns aren’t only good for gyms though. You can also heal your Pokemon for free at the local Pokecenter, shop for items to help you in battle at the Pokemart, talk to the townsfolk, and much much more. In between towns are various wildernesses to explore, side missions to do, items to collect, and Pokemon to find… and new to this game was the ability to have time effect your experience. Playing at night? Well, expect to run across quite a few owl Pokemon during your gameplay! It’s a minor improvement over the original game but really helps sink you into the world that much more. Also new to the sophomore edition of the franchise are two new Pokemon-types: dark and steel, which were partially created to help balance out the insanely overpowered psychic type from the first generation of games. Also new was the fact that Pokemon now have genders, which are located beside their names. Why would this be important? Well, you can breed your Pokemon of course! The little offspring will keep the species of its mother and inherit the attacks of its father.
You will meet many personalities on your journey despite Pokemon being one of the few story-lite RPGs. Gym leaders all have their own unique qualities so each Gym is sure to offer a different zest and challenge than the one before it. You will run across your rival trainer at the most inconvenient moments where your party is tired and worn down, and of course that rival punk will challenge you to a battle in hopes of taking advantage of it. There are even terrorists in the Pokemon world, a group of thugs known as Team Rocket who use their monsters for devious tasks and disrupting the whole-hearted nature of battling enslaved animals. Tsk tsk…
So what happens after you conquer Johto’s gym leaders? You travel to face the Elite Four and the Pokemon Champion. In five successive battles, you will face your biggest challenge to date as you take on the best of the region until you become the Pokemon Champion yourself. And it’s no easy task… but once you do your Pokemon will enter the Hall of Fame and you will be immortalized for life. Roll credits!
Spoiler alert: the game isn’t over. After you conquer Johto and become the Pokemon Champion you unlock the second half of the game. Fans of the first generation will be in for a nice surprise here, as you travel to the Kanto Region of the first games to re-challenge the gym leaders there as well! And while not everything is the same and certain areas have been watered down in order to fit all the data of the game on one cartridge. It’s a huge boost in both the length of the game, and if you want the extra challenge you could easily create a new team of Pokemon to raise for this region like I did. One leader does not return from the first game, Team Rocket’s leader Giovanni. Instead he is replaced by your rival from the first games. Plot twist! But if he’s in the game then that means that… yes, your player character from the first game is here as well. And after becoming a Pokemon Champion himself, he has disappeared without a trace to live secluded on top of a mountain. Waiting in hopes that one day, a trainer like yourself will challenge him in the ultimate test. And trust me; this final boss isn’t messing around.
So after the credits roll again, chances are there’s still more out there in Johto and Kanto for you to conquer. The game features many rare Pokemon known as Legendaries hiding away or running around in the wild. And it will take more than brute force to capture these monsters, because if you knock them out they are gone for good. You will need strategy, bigger and better balls (zing!), and patience when it comes to capturing these creatures. If you’re really lucky, and luck really does have everything to do with it, you can also find Shiny Pokemon. Shinies are a new addition to this game, featuring absurdly rare random encounters of Pokemon that have been re-coloured. Although one Shiny is guaranteed to be fought in the storyline, the rest come down to nothing but statistics and odds.
Graphically the game still holds up nicely and is a big improvement over the first titles. Pokemon and their world are now seen in full-fledged colour and it’s wonderful. Monsters look sharper, environments now burst with vivid imagery, and everything comes to life in ways it hadn’t before. Thankfully one thing doesn’t remain too different from the original title and that’s the sound design. Pokemon now feature more unique cries and roars and the music, oh my the music, is just as superb as the tunes of old. You will find yourself humming songs from this title in your head at random if you’re a fan of video game music and the 8-bit eargasms in this game are sure to please.
Still looking for more addictive gameplay after you beat the main missions and capture some legendaries? Well, there are ways to extend gameplay even more. Maybe you had a team of Pokemon from the first games you want to import to this one? Well, with a Gameboy Cable Link and two Gameboys you can do that. Maybe you want to capture some rare or literally impossible to find Pokemon through the help of a Gameshark? And while these can tack on even more hours of gameplay for you I decided to go one step further when it came to extending my Pokemon experience. I ventured back to Pokemon Stadium, but this time, I was bringing my team with me. In Pokemon Stadium and Stadium 2, you choose Pokemon from a rental pool to battle with in the game. Unless you had a copy of Pokemon games for Gameboy yourself and a handy dandy Transfer Pak. Because if you did, you could bring your team to life in full 3D and it’s quite the sight. Seeing my 8-bit monsters become fully rendered, moving, breathing polygons was quite the breath taking moment. It made Pokemon Stadium feel more like an expansion pack than a full-fledged game. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Verdict:- To think I grew up in the era where Pokemon were equivalent to The Beatles or the Attitude Era of WWF, and never once played these handheld games is baffling. If adult Firebrand enjoyed the games this much then I can only imagine how I would have enjoyed them as a kid.
I remember one day after a field trip at school, going to a local cards and hobby store to buy the newly released Pokemon Neo trading card packs. They were in full Japanese and I didn’t understand a thing they said, but I had counted down until this day like my life depended on it. I opened up the pack and got two rare cards: a Dark-type energy card new to the set and a holographic Lugia, a new legendary Pokemon. I had seen him in magazines and books, I knew he was going to be the star of the second Pokemon movie, but so little information was on this new creature as the internet back then had not yet exploded.
Rumours spread from word of mouth about new Pokemon, with kids telling each other made up stories about Legendary Pokemon that didn’t exist to hype up their friends and send them on wild goose hunts. But there in my hand at the moment, I held a card of one of those myths. And fourteen years later, the game cartridge for Pokemon Silver had his face right on it... I win!
Second Opinion:- Transbot has been around since the dawn of role-playing games. From Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy to Fallout and Skyrim. RPGs inherently are one of the most deep and complex video games on the market, which is why it took casual gamers so long to go from the frantic jumpy bouncy Mario and Sonic craze to a more technical and strategic Final Fantasy 7 when it released. Pokemon did it one better.
Not only did it casual-ize the genre of role-playing games even more, it simplified them to the point where even children could play them and while Pokemon Silver may try to cash-in on your fun at times by requiring you to have a Gameboy Cable Link, friends (Transbot don’t need no friends, yo!) Or purchasing other editions of the same game that’s been slightly tweaked such as Pokemon Gold, it retains something so core to the role-playing genre that it can still be loved to this day.
It’s addicting gameplay mixed with the excitement of collecting new monsters has barely changed at heart since its inception and the franchise still goes strong today. And that’s why Pokemon Silver might just be one of the greatest role-playing games this robotic stud has ever played. #TrueFact
Transbot Scores:- 10 out of 10