Nintendo rereleasing Pokemon Gold and Silver is classic Nintendo in many ways, offering their fan base a chance to revisit worlds long lost to the ravages of time. This is a natural choice after the successful rerelease of Red, Blue, and Yellow last year. It is of course, difficult to really rate a game that is already considered one of the best games ever made, but playing Pokemon Gold and Silver once more is an experience of powerful emotions. It was revisiting a classic game with a critical eye, and it was also reliving a powerful moment in my own childhood.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing that way. As it washes over us, we get swept into the currents of pleasure of what was once lost. Its power can overwhelm us too, leaving us pining for that feeling more, beckoning us to ride its waves for one more trip. Upon hearing the first sounds of the midi soundtrack, I was instantly a young teenager again, this time sitting in my bed at night with a red 3DS instead of a purple Game Boy Color. It was my childhood reborn, a moment emblazoned in my memory once lost to time being relived seventeen years later.
Nostalgia, however, also has flaws; you can never recapture those precious moments you hope to emulate, no matter how strong the currents are. That feeling becomes fleeting, almost artificial to the senses as the wave recedes, and reality sets in. At thirteen, Pokémon Gold and Silver could do no wrong; looking back at thirty, however, those feelings of nostalgia have passed; and in its wake, is perhaps the pinnacle of the Pokémon series aging with grace; still an amazing game, but one that feels like the product of its time.
There is little to critique about a game that is a classic; Pokémon Gold and Silver rightfully has the reputation it deserves because of its overall design. Game Freak took the flaws from Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow and went all out on the production of Gold and Silver, creating a believable and livable world that was a major update to the previous generation. The 100 additional Pokémon and new Dark and Steel-types were just the tip of that iceberg by being the most well-known additions. Major innovations such as the day/night cycle and internal clock, the use of the C-Gear to hold radio stations and phone numbers, the introduction to Pokémon breeding; all of these new features created a sense of an interconnected world that made the experience much richer to play, and most of them persist as core features of the franchise today.
Those are, of course, some of the bigger changes. Smaller things, from headbutting trees to the rebalancing of types and move sets also made a strong impression. Gold and Silver was at the infancy of professional Pokémon tournaments, and the improvements to Link Cable trading and battling increased its popularity further. Many of these features, including the popular Mystery Gift, are still intact in the Virtual Console version, offering a wireless experience with two 3DSs found in the same room. Even here, the nostalgia factor is intact and functional if you have a friend or two to trade and battle with the "old school" way.
Gold and Silver hid its linear design skillfully, a complaint found in other games in the series. The alternate routes and optional gym orders in the latter half of the game was a fine addition, one that is often overshadowed by one of the best post-game experiences, including a surprise battle found at the end of the game. These moments, much like that initial wave of nostalgia, are often discussed in reverence when talking about the Pokémon series for both the content they provide for players and the surprise they elicit when first experiencing them.
The weathered age of Gold and Silver shows in 2017. One of the lingering issues with the entire franchise was the relative ease of the games; a problem stemming back all the way to Red, Blue, and Yellow in some respects. Gold and Silver does have a few moments of difficulty throughout its adventure but it's an easy experience overall despite some odd design quirks.
One of the interesting aspects of the game is the rather low level of all the wild Pokémon in the fields being roughly around the 30+ marks save for a few areas in the postgame, compared to the 40+ levels found in other games being the average. Trainer battles do scale higher, but relative low encounter levels do make for an interesting contrast between the two that rarely pays off thanks to the type advantage system.
This was perhaps done to fit all of the game onto one single cartridge, with the massive post-game found in Gold and Silver trying to pair down the levels of wild encounter rates makes sense from a balance standpoint. Game Freak did compensate the mechanic change with the introduction of held items: another major staple in the series that also made the game's battles easier. Ultimately, a lot of mechanics helped in simplifying the core strategies found in the game.
This doesn’t make leveling easier at all though; a trait sorely missing from modern versions of the series. Re-tooled items such as the Experience Share in X and Y turned leveling away from actual grinding, something you are forced to do in Gold and Silver at certain stretches of the game. You will often be fighting gym leaders with some underleveled teams, but very rarely is this a problem save for a few key Gym Leader battles.
Other design choices are simply outdated at this point, such as the use of HM moves to remove or navigate in-game barriers. While not as egregious as they were in Diamond and Pearl, some sections of the game (namely, the Seafoam Islands) are still the height of annoyance due to the now anachronistic design element in the series. The requirement of "HM slaves" to navigate larger caves and regions leaves a lot to be desired, as it robs the player of some of its strategic choices for their main Pokémon team. HM’s being phased out completely by Sun and Moon was a welcome design change to the formula, as were the additions of run buttons and less maze-like designs of some caves and forests with overly high encounter rates.
Of course, that is the biggest offender. Other problems are just frustrating little bits that improved over time with the series. The Pokémon selection is quite bare for most of the main game, with wild encounters rife with the standard Pidgey/Zubat/Rattata combos and only really opening to a lot of the newer Pokémon in the post-game. The relatively clunky inventory and Pokémon data screens are also holdovers from Red, Blue, and Yellow, although this was the first game to begin separating items into different parts of your backpack, which helps inventory management immensely.
In truth, many of these issues are just nitpicks against a classic, but it does wear down the experience overall. It is the price, in the end, for nostalgia. Once that metaphorical wave recedes and we begin to see the flaws of the game with a critical lens, it would be impossible to remiss how far Pokémon as a series has gone since Gold and Silver. One example of this is the now physical/special split found in the game's attacks; this mechanic, introduced in Diamond and Pearl, was absent in Gold and Silver, so your attack's type determined if it was a physical or special attack instead of how it makes contact against the opponent.
It is a major change that is sorely absent in Gold and Silver, and remembering such a change between the games is just another reminder of how time has passed since its release in 2000. It shows how the series, despite its massive improvements found in Gold and Silver, still had a long way to go from being the more refined games we have today. It also shows how these minor nitpicks ultimately place Gold and Silver in an uncomfortable position - as a product of its time the game is amazing, but in the lens of today, its cracks are beginning to show.
Despite these modern hang-ups, the game rightfully takes its place in the annals of gaming history. Pokémon Gold and Silver is a must play for fans and newcomers alike, as the very core of the franchise mechanics still shines through the smaller flaws and archaic game designs. Nostalgia is how Nintendo is marketing Pokémon Gold and Silver, but the strengths of its core design hold up beyond that fleeting nostalgia wave.
Our Pokemon Gold and Silver Rewind Review was conducted on Nintendo 3DS with a code provided by the publisher.
Nostalgia is how Nintendo is marketing Pokémon Gold and Silver, but the strengths of its core design hold up beyond that fleeting nostalgia wave.
- Classic Pokemon Gameplay
- Tons of New Features from Gen 1
- Enduring Franchise Innovations
- Well Designed at its Core
- Missing Some Modern Mechanics
- Relatively Easy Experience