Being what was thought to be the finale of Pokemon at the time, with the creators thinking that interest in the series would fade away after the sequel to Red & Blue, GameFreak went all-out. Gold & Silver were already regarded as blockbuster titles, and Crystal improved on them in little ways. In this retrospective, I’ll be looking back at all the aspects of Pokemon Crystal.
The story of Pokemon Crystal is almost exactly the same as its predecessors, Pokemon Gold and Silver. This game follows you through another journey through Johto and Kanto as you cross multiple regions to stop Team Rocket and overcome sixteen gyms on your way to becoming the Champion. The only difference of Crystal is that Suicune takes centre-stage rather than Lugia and Ho-Oh like in Gold & Silver.
Similarly to Red & Blue, characters weren’t massively prevalent in these games. The main ones being Silver, who is once again one of the best rivals Pokemon has seen in terms of their personality. Elsewhere, Red is one of the most iconic moments in a Pokemon game to this day, although he is optional and doesn’t really provide much of a personality in the game anyways.
Gameplay & Balancing –
In terms of gameplay and balancing, it is similar to Pokemon Red & Blue. These games struggle from the issues of a lack of variety in who you can really choose for your team, with most teams often having their starter, the Red Gyarados, Ampharos etc… you know the stereotypical Pokemon most players choose in Johto. The stereotypical Pokemon that would usually be put into a team feel even more restricted in Crystal, with Mareep being uncatchable for some odd reason despite being one of generation two’s most loved Pokemon.
Regardless, this lack of variety in teams leads to often a lack of replayability, which is often one of Pokemon’s strong points regardless of the repetitive stories due to the variety you can have in choosing a new team to have a new experience. At the very least, a lot of the typing issues and repetition of moves and damage-locking in battles are fixed in Crystal.
Difficulty in Crystal isn’t high, much like Red & Blue it remains around the same level of difficulty. The only real struggle would be Lance, with his team being quite the variety. However elsewhere, battles are pretty straightforward.
Visuals and Graphics –
Personally, in terms of sprite work, Pokemon Crystal is up there with the best there is. The vibrancy of the sprites combined with their unique animations at the beginning of every battle bring copious amounts of life to these creatures. In terms of the general world of Johto and Kanto, they have clearly aged and not managed to stand the tests of time, however, they do still look great in comparison to Red & Blue.
Although being a small addition, I do think the visual cues of the battle menu went a long way. Seeing an XP bar in-battle, as well as coloured health-bars does offer a lot more to the feeling and estimations of battles than in Red & Blue.
Despite not being anything incredible by today’s standards, Crystal is still one of the most appealing Pokemon games for me on a personal level despite its age.
Johto is usually one of the more weaker regions musically for me, with a lot of repetition in tracks and music that isn’t too distinct from each other. However, that isn’t to say it is bad, I just think it does lack that level of being an icon like Kanto and other regional themes offered.
The Pokemon –
Johto is always fondly remembered as one of the best regions when it comes to the Pokemon designs it birthed. All starters look fantastic (Yes, even Meganium). There is plenty of iconic introductions when it comes to other Pokemon too, with the likes of Umbreon, Espeon and Ampharos all making their debut in generation 2. Of course, as mentioned, the options you have to make a team of six from realistically are very narrowed, especially with Ampharos being actually unobtainable in Crystal.
Crystal is the game for me when Pokemon finally became the creatures we wanted. Their designs were a lot more settled and visually what you’d imagine when you think of certain Pokemon. As well as this, the animations at the start of the battles went miles in making these creatures feel alive and real, it still feels and looks incredible in the modern day to see Pokemon sprites visually move.
Streamlining of the Bag –
One of the biggest issues I had in Red & Blue was the bag and the lack of categorising the items it offered. Generation two was the first generation to finally streamline the use of the bag and separate items into their relevant sections in the bag. Despite not offering unlimited item space, it was still a lot more in-depth and deeper than the bag offerings that were implemented in Red & Blue.
Of course the most obvious addition in Crystal was the inclusion of an entire second region in the ability to play through Kanto again. This was huge and even in comparison to the lengths that the modern games go to for additional depth and content, Crystal is miles ahead. Having the option to go through an entire second region is still quite an unbelievable achievement given the time and the handheld it was on.
In conclusion, even in the modern day, Crystal holds up. It was a game that broke the barrier in terms of effort for the first time in Pokemon, excelling on the already great Gold & Silver that it followed. For me, it is still one of the best games ever made, and especially one of the best Pokemon games ever made, and it is something I can really appreciate in the modern day. However, it is still important to consider the fact it has aged, and in comparison to some future Pokemon games, it does fall short.
Final Score – 7/10