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Pokémon Gen II: Approaching the 20th Anniversary

Can you believe that this year, we’re coming up on 20 years since the release of Pokémon Gold and Silver here in the West, all the way back in October of 2000? Hell, European gamers didn’t get the game until the following April 2001! A lot of kids and low-teens were frothing at the mouth for all things Pokémon when these games arrived in stores, and they were immediately met with a tremendous wave of popularity. I remember picking up my copy of the game in a store downtown and racing home to begin my new adventure in the land of Johto. I chose Silver while my friend chose Gold, an immediate competitive spirit settled over the local kids, and grinding to become the best Pokémon trainer began. It was certainly, if anything, a simpler time for gaming.

Pokémon Gold & Silver Advertisement on Cartoon Network

Some confusion often arises when it comes to the series chronology for those who played Pokémon as a purely video game experience, and the confusion sometimes stems from the fact that Pokémon Gold and Silver are from the 2nd Generation of Pokémon. Being the 2nd Generation, we often see folks calling Gold and Silver the “second” game in the series, but that’s not the case at all. In truth, the actual global release order is:

  • Red and Green
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Red and Blue
  • Gold and Silver

So Pokémon Gold and Silver, were the fifth set of games to be released, not the second. But at the time, nobody cared about such things; we were too hyped up and ready for adventure to care about something as inconsequential.

Original Pokémon Red, Blue, Yellow and Gold, all available in Japan for under ¥1200, that’s under £9.  

But what made Pokémon Gold and Silver so special isn’t that it was simply more Pokémon, though that was undoubtedly part of it. It was the swathe of new gameplay and mechanics that were making an appearance for the first time ever, some of which would go on to become series defining staples that would shape future entries into the franchise and have a fundamental impact on the emerging competitive scene of video games. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the 2nd Generation was the most influential generation to date.

So what makes the 2nd Generation so important?  Not one specific feature, that’s for sure. It’s the culmination of all the new ideas and features that make it the keystone of modern Pokémon. Let’s address some of these points.

The Starters

Each and every Pokémon title, with the exception of Pokémon Yellow, gives you three starter Pokémon to choose from. At the time of Pokémon Gold and Silver’s release, we only had one set of starters to choose from, the iconic Charizard, Blastoise and Venusaur trio of fire, water and grass types. Gold and Silver kept this tradition with Chikorita, Totodile and Cyndaquil, but with Gold and Silver playing host to 100 all new Pokémon in their roster, the meta for the best starter had changed. Totodile was a highly attack-orientated water type with a high defense rating with only two gym leaders having a type advantage. Chikorita would grow to have a huge defensive advantage with high stats, but type advantages were leveled against it and would undercut its late game viability. Cyndaquil would eventually grow to become the most powerful with a high special attack stat and a decently high speed.

Originally, choosing your starter was about who you liked the most and how easy you wanted the early stages of the game to be. But as more games entered the franchise, it was as much a long-game meta choice as it was anything else, and it wasn’t uncommon to find another Gold and Silver player with a Feraligatr in their team because of his mostly dominant advantages.

The full evolutionary lines of our starters went:

  • Totodile > Croconaw > Feraligatr
  • Cyndaquil > Quilava > Typhlosion
  • Chikorita > Bayleef > Meganium

And each of them brought something to the table, but each remained competitive and useful despite their typing, advantages and disadvantages. With the new growing roster of Pokémon, however, you no longer had to keep your starter Pokémon with you for a good portion of the early game. With new types of Pokémon attributes coming into the fray for the first time, experimentation was encouraged and players who previously had a default team that they would go for were incentivized to look in new directions. But more on that in a minute.

Day and Night Cycles

Catching new Pokémon was all well and good, but trying to sell the player on a real living world where it was perpetually day time was difficult. So when the 2nd Generation rolled around, we were treated to an all new mechanic that both made the world more immersive and increased your incentive to be actively playing the game, but also made everything feel that little bit more real because it simply made sense.

In Pokémon Red, Blue, Green and Yellow, the world was constantly bathed in sunlight as you adventured across the region of Kanto on your journey to catch ‘em all and fill the Pokédex, with the light only ever dimming when you entered into the descending depths of a cave. Pokémon Gold and Silver, however, brought us a real passage of time that was based on your real-world clock. When the game opens, you’re prompted to fill in the time in hours and minutes, with the next step being to go so far as to dictate to the game whether or not it was currently Daylight Savings hours.

It might seem somewhat inconsequential nowadays given as how most games that require one come with some sort of built-in clock that operates off your systems settings. But at the time, this wasn’t exactly standard, and seeing it appear in a game where it actually made a difference was fairly mind-blowing. Traveling across Johto, a world that takes on a decidedly more lush and rural-Japan aesthetic than other titles, was already amazing. But the passage of time made it something else entirely. The dark colors that crept into the world gave everything a quiet, lonesome, and peaceful feeling, with the indoor lights of homes and buildings glowing out of the windows as you pass by.

The importance of time was reflected in the world with select Pokémon only showing themselves at specific times of the day, this means that there’s no sense in looking for a nocturnal Pokémon during the day, which in effect let the developers fit more Pokémon into one area while also increasing the amount of time that players would spend in the game.

So which Pokémon were active at night? (The following is a list of the total Pokémon across Gold, Silver and Crystal)

  • Rattata
  • Raticate
  • Clefairy
  • Zubat
  • Golbat
  • Oddish
  • Gloom
  • Venonat
  • Venomoth
  • Meowth
  • Persian
  • Psyduck
  • Golduck
  • Poliwag
  • Poliwhirl
  • Gastly
  • Haunter
  • Drowzee
  • Hypno
  • Staryu
  • Hoothoot
  • Noctowl
  • Spinarak
  • Ariados
  • Marill
  • Wooper
  • Quagsire
  • Murkrow
  • Misdreavus
  • Wobuffet
  • Sneasel
  • Delibird
  • Houndour
  • Stantler

So it goes without saying that there were plenty of reasons to go adventuring at night. Fingers crossed, you had one of these bad boys attached so that you could actually see what was going on.

The Pokégear

As I mentioned above, the time and date can play a big part of Pokémon Gold and Silver, and as the series went on it would continue to play an important part of your adventure, but the clock was just one part of a larger suite of informational tools afforded to the player. Enter, the Pokégear. The player receives the Pokégear at the start of the adventure from their mother, and in it you find a number of useful tools that facilitate navigation, entertainment, and even the option to reach out, or be contacted by, certain Pokémon Trainer’s who you’ve previously encountered. You were able to expand your Pokégear with a number of expansion cards as the journey goes on, but none of them were necessarily essential to furthering your progress except for the phone. Pokégear expansions include:

    • The Phone: Perhaps the most often used piece of the Pokégear, the phone was your main mode of communicating with characters across great distances in the game. From the outset, you would take your mother’s phone number and Professor Elm’s phone number, but as you defeat Trainer’s and meet new characters, their number can be added to your call log. Using this, previously defeated Trainer’s can call you for a rematch, the Professor can relay important information and your mother can call to tell you that she has spent some of your savings on items that will help you in your journey.

 

  • The Map: This one’s fairly self explanatory, it’s your map. Just as useful as ever.
  • The Radio: An often overlooked feature of the Pokégear is the radio, which rides the airwaves thanks to the Johto Radio Broadcasting Network, who are based out of the Goldenrod Radio Tower, a place you can visit in the game. There’s a variety of reasons to use the, such as
    – The Lucky Number show – Win prizes and goods based on the ID of your teams Pokémon, if you get a two digit match you can win some PP UP, a three to four digit match will win you an EXP. Share, but if the whole ID is matched you can win a Master Ball!
    – The Mysterious Transmission – Nothing fancy about this other than a bit of spooky world building. If you enter the Ruins of Alph and crank up the radio, unearthly noises will come from the radio and you won’t be able to tune into any other stations.
    – Poké Flute – A broadcast of the iconic Poké Flute music that was used to wake the sleeping Snorlax. Useful, eh?
    – Pokédex Show – One for the detail fanatics out there, the Pokedex Show broadcasts random Pokédex descriptions based on the Pokémon that you have caught and/or stored in your PC.
    – Pokémon Music – A station dedicated to playing special music into the world, like the Pokémon Marc that doubles the encounter rate of Pokémon while it plays, or the Pokémon Lullaby that cuts the encounter rate of Pokémon in half while it plays. These songs alternate from Monday to Sunday and this meant that savvy players could work out a schedule for capturing and experience grinding depending on the day.
    – Professor Oak’s Pokémon Talk – Everyone’s favorite Pokémon Professor would take to the air waves and talk about the various Pokémon that can be found throughout the world, what they’re like and even where to find them. This was obviously quite useful for those with a completionist mentality as it assisted in tracking down Pokémon wherever they may roam. Particularly useful for finding some of the more uncommon Pokémon at times.
    – Team Rocket Announcement – After a Team Rocket takeover of the Goldenrod Radio Tower, this particular radio announcement is tied to a plot line involving a Team Rocket executive who has re-formed the criminal organization and is searching for their once-leader Giovanni, in hopes that he will lead them again.
    – Misc. Channels – The remaining channels are largely focused on people and places, such as Trainer’s and where to find them. It’s nice that it’s there, but not the most useful thing in the world.

 

The Apricorn Balls

Here’s a bit of a fun lore drop for you. The Poké Ball, known the world over for its red top and white bottom with a black band running around the middle, isn’t actually the original Poké Ball. In canon, the very first Poké Balls were developed in the Johto region where Pokémon Gold and Silver is set. In Johto, there are trees that grow apricorns with certain malleable qualities that, in the past, were taken and hollowed out before being fitted with some form of capturing device, this is where the modern Poké Ball originates. Nowadays however, as the world has moved on and advanced technologically, Poké Bally production is handled on a mass production scale by Silph Co., the Devon Corporation, and the Kalos Poké Ball Factory.

In Pokémon Gold and Silver, the player can come across these special trees on their adventures and bring them to the specialist ball maker, Kurt, who uses a 400-700 year old traditional method to hand craft you some special Poké Balls, each of which has its very own unique ability. This is a big step up from Pokémon Red, Blue, Green and Yellow wherein the only thing that changes between the various types of Pokéball is how reliable they are when it comes to capture rates. With each new ball taking a full day for Kurt to craft, players had to choose carefully which resources they wanted to hand over. These special Johto-exclusive Poké Balls set the stage for further special balls to appear later down the line, but it was Kurt’s master crafted Apricorn set that did it first, they were:

  • Black Apricorn Heavy Ball – A special Poké Ball that was designed to be more effective when capturing heavy Pokémon, with several distinct weight categories being put into place to decide the capture rate multiplier.
  • Blue Apricorn Lure Ball – A special Poké Ball that was designed to be more effective when capturing Pokémon that are caught while fishing with a x3 capture rate modifier.
  • Green Apricorn Friend Ball – A special Poké Ball that was designed to increase the happiness of a captured Pokémon. Working with no base capture modifier (x1) the Friend Ball will immediately set the happiness of a captured Pokémon to 200.
  • Pink Apricorn Love Ball – A special Poké Ball that was designed to be more effective when capturing a Pokémon with a gender that’s the opposite of the Trainer’s Pokémon with a capture modifier of x8.
  • Red Apricorn Level Ball – A special Poké Ball that was designed to be more effective when capturing a Pokémon with a Level lower than the Trainer’s Pokémon with a capture modifier of x1 to x8 depending on the Level of the Pokémon being used.
  • White Apricorn Fast Ball – A special Poké Ball that was designed to be more effective when capturing Pokémon that are particularly fast or likely to flee with a x4 capture modifier. (Writers Note – While it is intended to be more effective against all Pokémon that can flee, due to a glitch it is only effective against the first three Pokémon in the list of Pokémon that have a 10% chance of fleeing [these three being Magnemite, Grimer, and Tangela]. The code was intended to instead check the three tables of Pokémon that have a chance of fleeing [Pokémon that have a 10% chance to flee, Pokémon that have a 50% chance to flee, and Pokémon that always flee] – Source: Bulbapedia)
  • Yellow Apricorn Moon Ball – A special Poké Ball that was designed to be more effective when capturing a Pokémon that evolves with, or was evolved by, a Moon Stone with a capture modifier of x4.

Breeding

Pokémon breeding has become a tremendously deep topic with absurdly complex mechanics going on behind the scenes that I’m not going to pretend to understand. It hasn’t really ever been my thing, but Gold and Silver are where it all began, and the whole point is to help pass along and distill the desirable skills an IV traits of each parent Pokémon. IV traits, otherwise known as Individual Values are established by following this method.

The Methods Used for Determining IV Stats

The reasons that most people use breeding is to develop the closest to perfect version of a Pokémon as they can manage. By taking two separate Pokémon and breeding them, the player receives a Pokémon Egg that they must carry with them in their party until it hatches. Pokémon breeding and Pokémon Eggs are a major plot point throughout Pokémon Gold and Silver, with the game’s main Professor, Elm, conducting his own studies on the phenomenon with the help of Mr. Pokéon and Professor Oak. In the opening act of the game, the player will be given the mission of retrieving a Pokémon Egg from Mrs. Pokémon and taking it back to Professor Elm’s lab for examination. Upon delivering the egg, the player moves on through the game before eventually having it returned to them by one of his aides in Violet City. After traveling with the player for a while, the egg will hatch and the player will get a Togepi for their party.

Holding Items

Another feature that had its first appearance in the second generation is the “held item” mechanic. In Pokémon Red, Blue, Green and Yellow, only the player could make use of items in their backpack. Healing potions, escape ropes, status restoring sprays and repelling elixirs etc. The 2nd Generation changed this, by introducing the concept of having Pokémon themselves holding certain items that would provide various abilities such as curing status ailments or restoring health by way of the games other new item, berries. Other such items included specific pieces of kit that introduced new evolution forms, but we’ll touch on that in a moment. Here’s an example of some regular Held Items:

  • Amulet Coin – Doubles the amount of money earned from winning battles.
  • Black Belt – Boost the power of Fighting Type moves.
  • Black Glasses – Boost the power of Dark Type moves.
  • Cleanse Tag – Helps repel wild Pokémon encounters.
  • Everstone – A stone that, when held, prevents the Pokémon from evolving.
  • King’s Rock – When attacking, you may cause the opponent to flinch and miss a turn.
  • Quick Claw – Increases your ability to strike first, irrespective of speed.

New Pokémon Types and Type Changes

The 2nd Generation introduced to fan-favorite elemental types when it launched, bringing the Steel Type and the Dark Type to Johto. The reason for Steel and Dark Types to exist was to largely bring a sense of balance to what was otherwise an imperfect system. Prior to their inclusion, the Psychic type was absurdly overpowered and only had a Type disadvantage against Bug Type Pokémon. The Dark Type brought a measure of balance to this by becoming totally immune to Psychic Type attacks, with Dark Type attacks becoming Super Effective against the Psychic and Ghost Type. Steel and Dark Types however are both extremely vulnerable to Fighting Type attacks, elevating that Type which was previously only Super Effective against Normal, Ice, and Rock Type Pokémon.

The 2nd Generation also brought some small changes to four attacks which would go on to fundamentally change certain Pokémon. Gust, the entry level Normal Type attack that’s often associated with Pokémon like Pidgey and Spearow, was changed to be a Flying Type attack, making it Super Effective against Bug, Fighting and Grass Type Pokémon, lending some versatility to early flying types. Bite, a Normal Type attack that can be learned by numerous Pokémon of various types, was changed into a Dark Type move, lending a large variety of Pokémon some form of retaliation against Psychic and Ghost Types. Karate Chop had, for some reason, always been a Normal Type attack, but it was changed to be a much more class fitting Fighting Type move. Sand Attack, also previously a Normal Type ability, was changed to be a Ground Type ability, but this makes little significant difference in Type consideration due to the abilities non-offensive nature.

Further to the above, two Pokémon also received a Type change to accommodate the new listing. Both Magemite and Magneton were changed from being purely Electric Types to being Electric Steel Types. This gave them a Type advantage over Ice Types but opened them up to increased weakness due to the Type disadvantage against Fire Types.

There was another surprise in store for the Steel Type, however. Two fan-favorite Pokémon were given the opportunity to evolve for the first time in the second generation, bringing them into the Steel Type. Both Onix and Scyther when traded to another Trainer while holding the Metal Coat Held Item would consume the Metal Coat and evolve into their respective Steel Type. Scyter would evolve into Steel Bug Type, Scizor, and Onix would evolve into the Steel Ground Type, Steelix.

I could go on.

But I think you can see what I mean at this point. The 2nd Generation was an important defining moment for Pokémon that would help to shape its future in a number of meaningful ways. I mean, we got all this way and we haven’t even touched on the fact that the 2nd Generation introduced 100 new Pokémon to the roster, changing the landscape of many a Trainers team forever with brutal offensive builds or torturous status crippling elemental builds.

And then, of course, there’s Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, the Nintendo DS remakes of the 2nd Generation games that introduced a new generation of Pokémon fans to the 2nd Generation goodness. And then there was the uncovered Space World Rom that came packed with all new never before seen Pokémon! Truly, Gen 2 is the gift that just keeps on giving.

I love Pokémon Gold and Silver, they are probably my favorite entry into the Pokémon franchise and it always lifts my heart to see people talking about it. I hope you had a good time reading this piece, and with any amount of luck, you may have even learned something new about the games! Until next time!