Since the release of the original Pokémon, well over a dozen different games have been spawned from its creature-filled world. From pinball to photography, virtual pets to voice recognition, Nintendo has leveraged the franchise's popularity against almost every kind of game - everything but a true sequel. Four years later, that sequel has finally arrived.

    Long renowned as the one of the best at managing franchises, Nintendo saw the stakes rise steadily for a sequel as the original become a full-fledged pop culture phenomenon. Could the quality of software possibly keep up with the tidal wave of attention lavished on the game? With the arrival of Pokémon Gold and Silver, Nintendo and Game Freak have answered with a definite yes.

  New towns...
Another spunky trainer-in-training

    Before even opening the box, it is clear that Game Freak had taken a more creative approach to desiging Gold and Silver's 100 new Pokémon. Both Ho-oh on Gold's box and Lugia on Silver's box show the more colorful nature of the game's creatures. Don't think that everything has changed, however, as the starting three creatures continue the same simple design which made Pikachu, Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle into superstars.

    The story begins in usual Pokémon manner, as a nameless young hero is given a Pokémon-related and a choice of three Pokéballs for a companion. Inside is either the fiery Cyndaquil, the water-based Totodile, or the plant-like Chikorita. Also reappearing is a nameless rival who constantly challenges you and uses one of the other 3 starting Pokémon.

    The plot may not set any standards for drama, but it does provide a bit more direction while sticking to the same "get the badges" structure as the first game. It also manages to build effectively on the first game's world -- the discovery that Pikachu is an evolved Pokémon is treated as groundbreaking, while Elm is a colleague of Professor Oak's that specializes in a different field and knows Oak's work.

This is much more exciting than the evolved form, 'Nyquil'
Flaming death!

    Graphically, the game takes better advantage of the Game Boy Color than the original, but not dramatically so. Most importantly, the Pokémon themslves are drawn in more detail and have more specific animations; attacks such as smokescreen now resemble a smokebomb being thrown at your opponent instead of a blurry bunch of random pixels.

    If the graphics and plot are only mild improvements, there are two areas where Pokémon Gold and Silver leave the first game far behind: interface and the use of a real-time clock. The first thing the game has you do is set the time and day, and from that point onward, the world of Pokémon G&S will be the same as your own. The game reacts accordingly from the first text box onward, as different Pokémon will appear at night and certain events only occur at certain days and times during the week.

    The new Pokégear integrates a variety of functions into one easily navigated screen, including the usual town map, a cell phone, and a radio. Cards are acquired at different times which unlock different functions of the Pokégear. The radio can be tuned into a number of different Pokémon-related shows, while the cell phone stores the numbers of anyone from rival trainers to your mother. Not only can you call for advice, but others will call you to advance the plot or inform you about new techniques.

  C'mon, ride the train...
Get on the Pokétrain

    Items are now automatically divided into one of four pockets, saving the player a great deal of scrolling, and the Pokédex has a new look and is easier to use as well. Any item can be assigned to the select button, an extremely welcome feature that also keeps menu-hopping to a minimum. The game takes a bit longer to save and still has only one slot, but considering the amazing amount of data stored, this is easily forgivable.

    In terms of features, Game Freak seems to have thought of everything - male and female versions of every creature allows for Pokémon breeding, the Pokémon can hold a healing item for automatic use during battle, and there is even a lottery available that uses your ID number as a trainer. Despite the 100 new Pokémon and two new types, the game is evenly balanced, including a clever restriction on how early in the game you can import Pokémon from previous versions.

    For both fans of the original and those curious as to why it is so popular, Pokémon Gold and Silver represent a well-done trip through the Pokémon universe, and probably the only true sequel to appear on the Game Boy Color. New monsters are balanced well with old favorites, and improved features streamline almost every task in the game. Pokémon remains as deep and involving a gameplay experience as any, console or handheld, and this latest version combines the best of the original with enough new elements to keep things interesting for many, many dozens of hours.

Review by Ed McGlothlin, GIA.
Pokémon: Gold and Silver
Developer Game Freak
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform Game Boy Color
Release Date

Pokémon Gold and Silver smash sales records
8 E3 screenshots
55 pokémon designs
North American box art