Pokémon Crystal is a role-playing game for the Game Boy Color. Now, I’m going to assume that you’ve either already read my Pokémon Blue review, or that you already have an understand of what Pokémon are. The plot of this game is about the same as any other Pokémon game. You’re a young, aspiring trainer that wants to travel the world, catch every Pokémon you can, get the gym badges, and defeat the Elite Four to become a Pokémon master. Pretty basic stuff. So what does Pokémon Crystal bring to the table? Well, there are the obvious enhancements such as having more detailed visuals and slightly superior sound, being on the Game Boy Color and all. Also, there are even more Pokémon this time around. Roughly 100 newcomers have entered the fray, some even as pre-evolutions and post-evolutions of generation one Pokémon. There’s also a lot of bug fixes and the start of standardization of types and effectiveness and other stats. More items and possibilities are here, along with more secrets and mysteries.
There are some significant new systems put into place here. For one, there is the inclusion of an in-game clock that runs at real time while the game is on. This creates a day and night. Some Pokémon are only out in the day, while others are only out at night. Certain events only happen within certain timeframes as well. On top of that, there’s a weekday system. All seven days of the week are here, with day and night taken into consideration. So some events happen on specific days of the week as well as at certain times. This creates a lot of possibilities for special events and makes the game’s world feel more realistic. There’s a phone system now. Certain trainers will ask for your phone number. They’ll call you periodically to offer you items, give you advice, spot rare Pokémon for you, and of course to have repeat battles. In fact, in general you can go back and fight many trainers over again to get more experience and money. Your phone only holds so many numbers though, so be picky about which numbers you really want. There’s also the addition of allowing your Pokémon to hold items. Having them hold berries will give you a slight advantage, as they will use them to recover HP or cure status ailments as they see fit, keeping you from using up a turn to use the item yourself. Other items can be held for perks or bonuses, like increasing the power of a certain type or allowing for easy escapes from random battles. Oh, and there’s the option to play as a girl for the first time. So… you know… that’s neat too.
Those are some generally good things, plus some other small conveniences thrown in there, but there are some major things I think this game does very well. One is motivating you to hate your rival. In the previous games your rival was a snotty douche that was always one step ahead of you. Sure. In this game your rival literally steals people’s Pokémon, treats them like garbage, and just abandons them if they fail. He’s terrible to everybody and has the police on his tail. Not to mention he’s no saint towards you either. It makes you really hate him and pushes you to want to beat him all the more. Another big one is that the main legendary Pokemon here doesn’t just wait around in a cave for you. Oh no, this son of a bitch runs around the world, sometimes with you finding it, and sometimes it coming to you. This makes the legendary much more engaging, chasing it down across the world before you can even get a chance to fight it. It’s mysterious and adventurous and… I really liked that touch. There’s also the whole thing with Team Rocket returning. They have been gone for a few years, but they come back and try to take over. What’s cool is when they take over the Lake of Rage and especially the Radio Tower because you’ve been there before. These aren’t places with Team Rocket members already hiding out there. These are places you’ve been to before and that are now clearly infested with Team Rocket grunts. It just has so much more impact. The last big thing, and if you’ve read this far I’ll assume you no longer care about spoilers in such an old game, is that you can go back to the Kanto region of the first games. That means there’s eight badges to get, legendaries to fight, the Elite Four to beat, and then the eight badges of the previous game to go for. Sure, things have changed there, and not everything perfectly fits in, but it’s so close to the original that it’s almost spooky. And to cram all of this into one game is insane. Plus the final test of your strength is… fighting the protagonist from Red, Blue, and Yellow. It’s awesome!
The bad things? Well, most of the bad things come from the new systems. Day and night are cool, but if you’re looking for a Pokémon that only appears in one and you just got to the other… get ready for a long in-game wait for the time to change. This is even more annoying with the days of the week. The phone system is cool, but after a while it seems like you get calls constantly of people telling you boring things you don’t care about. Or worse yet, they start repeating their stories to you. Some of the puzzles can be pretty cryptic. Some of the designs of Pokémon don’t feel like they fit in with the previous designs, something that’s a bit of an issue when they’re side by side, but maybe that’s just me. The shameless advertisements for the Game Link Cable and the Game Boy Printer, while funny, are still shameless advertisements that feel like they were put in to get more money rather than to serve a gameplay purpose.
Funny enough, I still like it. I might not ever love it as much as the first generation of Pokémon. In fact, when I first played it I hated the game because of all the little differences. But playing it now, I’ve come to see how wonderful it is. All of the changes and systems put in, the effort and love and fan service with the Kanto region, the motivation and the solid gameplay that made the first ones so fun in the first place… it all blends into what is now my favorite Pokémon game. It’s incredible. Maybe I just like simple RPGs or the 8-bit style. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the time when this was new. Maybe I’m too far disconnected with the Pokémon series to even know what I’m talking about. All I know is that this is one of the best damn RPGs I’ve ever sunk this much time into in my life, and it’s damn well worth the praise. Pokémon Crystal is an outstanding game and gaming experience.