Title: Pokemon Silver Version
System: 3DS Virtual Console
Release Date: 09/22/2017
Taking place three years after the events of the first generation of Pokemon games, you take control of a young, male trainer who sets out on a quest in the Johto Region to get eight badges once again while stopping Team Rocket every now and then. Still not really a story heavy game, but it does have some twists in terms of the mechanics that may make newcomers surprised.
For a Game Boy Color enhanced game, it looks much better than what we got with Pokemon Yellow, (which was only enhanced in the West and even then, the enhancements were very basic) with proper coloring, more detailed sprites, and even some good use of shading during the Day/Night Cycle! (mainly when it goes from Morning to Daytime) Pretty much everything is a lot more varied than it was in the previous generation, too, with lots of neat visual details to distinguish certain locations from one another. This improvement also extends to the musical score, allowing for a massive expansion of the game’s soundtrack, compared to Yellow’s small track selection. With a lot more high quality battle themes, along with a huge variety of new and remixed route, town and dungeon themes, the overall OST of Pokemon Silver surpasses that of Yellow with ease, and there’s a lot of new favorites to find here.
Similar to the previous installment, the main objective of Pokemon Silver is to travel across a new region, collecting the 8 badges to take on the Elite Four while capturing all sorts of Pokemon along the way, which means that to start out with, the same concepts that appeared in Yellow version are also here and accounted for, with the exception of a partner Pokemon that follows you around. (although the friendship aspect from Yellow Version does make a comeback, and is required to evolve some Kanto Pokemon, like Chansey and Golbat) This means that like in Red/Blue, you choose one of three Starter Pokemon to help you out in your journey, while capturing others that you encounter in patches of grass, or battling trainers that you encounter in your journey, but unlike the first generation, where these mechanics were pretty basic, Pokemon Silver expands upon them in so many ways that it would lead to a big wall of text if I explained every single detail, so let’s just look at the biggest improvements.
By far the most notable addition that would become a series staple is an EXP meter, showing the player exactly how much more they have remaining before a Pokemon levels up, which is a much preferred option to constantly checking the summary menu for the Pokemon in question. Other handy additions to the battle system include two new types, Dark and Steel that were given to old and new Pokemon, the ability to thaw out of the Frozen Status condition, (in the previous generation there was no escape without losing all your HP or using an item) many new battle moves that expand the move pool to allow for more options, the ability to create Pokemon eggs and breed pokemon to get exclusive Egg Moves to use in battle, and finally, the ability to encounter an insanely rare variant of a Pokemon, known as a Shiny Pokemon. There is one you’re forced to encounter in the main story, but every other Shiny Pokemon in the game has a ridiciously low chance of appearing, and in the end they don’t even have any sort of major difference from the normal variant, outside of the color.
The improvements don’t just stop with the battles, however. A Day and Night Cycle has been added as well, which determines certain events and Pokemon that will appear depending on the time of day, or day of the week. For example, if you’re a night player like myself, you’ll often encounter Pokemon like Hoothoot, Murkrow, and Houndour, while those lucky enough to play in the morning or during the day will encounter pokemon like Sunkern and Ledyba. There’s still no out-of-battle weather conditions, however, so they don’t do anything to help or hinder your Pokemon’s stats, and some locations like the interior of caves will not change in the slightest, no matter what time of day it is. It should also be noted that the clock is set in the same way you would on the Game Boy Color, manually at the very start of the game, which means that it will not be based on your 3DS’s internal clock, so if you want to play this game like Pokemon Moon and have the daytime hours take place during nightime and vice-versa, you’re free to go ahead and do so.
So, after around 20 hours or so enjoying the main adventure through Johto, you’ll be facing off with the Elite Four in Kanto, the same location from the first generation, and once the credits roll, you’re given a nice post-game which is still one of the coolest rewards in Pokemon History: The ability to return to every town from Kanto, and explore most of that region in the same way you did in the original games! I say most of because certain locations like Viridian Forest, Seafoam Islands and Victory Road are shrunk down by an insane amount compared to their original counterparts, while some places like Pokemon Tower and the Safari Zone simply don’t exist anymore. In-game, this is all explained as the results of a world aging and advancing during the three years that have passed since the original Generation, but it is a bit disappointing to see Kanto as a much weaker region compared to Johto.
You can even take on the eight Kanto Gym Leaders, if you so desire, but then you’ll be introduced to the biggest problem with the post-game that makes this bonus not as cool as it used to be: the level balance. You see, the Elite Four had Pokemon that had levels in their forties, but some of the Kanto Gym Leaders are actually weaker than the Elite Four you had to defeat just to get to them, especially the sixth Kanto Gym Leader who sends out Pokemon that are Level 36. The only time that a Gym Leader actually feels like someone you’d expect to face as a worthy followup to the Elite Four is when you face the final Kanto Gym Leader, who you can only battle when you have defeated all the other Kanto Gyms, and you cannot rematch any of them to see the Gym Leaders with better teams. (Nor can you do the same with the Johto ones) Combine that problem with the fact that wild Pokemon are the same level range as they were in Generation 1, (Which means you will encounter Level 2 Ratatta and Pidgey not far from Viridian City) along with an insane difficulty spike after you obtain all sixteen badges and go towards your final challenge, (which I will not spoil here as it’s such a cool surprise that blew me away as a kid) and in the end Kanto feels more like a good place to tour around and relax in rather than actually using it as a place to continue to hone your skills.
In conclusion, Pokemon Silver is still an amazing RPG adventure worth revisiting today, introducing a ton of elements that would become mainstays in the modern entries of the main series, while providing players with a good, 25+ hour single player adventure spanning two regions. Yes, this game was greatly improved upon via the remake Pokemon Soulsilver, but used copies of that game along with the sister game, Pokemon HeartGold fetch a pretty high price these days, especially if you want to take advantage of that nifty Pokewalker pedometer that came with those remakes, which makes the $10 pricetag of this Virtual Console rerelease much more appealing and a better value.
While this does mean that problems that were nonexistent in the remakes are more apparent in these games, (including the aforementioned short length and awful balancing of the Kanto Region, along with a lack of things to do after clearing the game’s final challenge next to catching them all) Pokemon Silver has still aged incredibly well to this day, and in my honest opinion the 2D sprites of this game have ages a lot better than the ones featured in the remakes. When you also take into account the fact that you’ll be able to transfer the Pokemon you captured in the VC releases of Gold/Silver to the upcoming Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon games, that makes these particular VC releases even more appealing, and provides great motivation for those who grew up on the newer entries to revisit the roots of the series, during a time when Pokemon was a lot more challenging. And of course, just like in the VC versions of the Generation I games, you can play with friends over local wireless, and even connect to the first generation of Pokemon games to trade for some pokemon that can’t be obtained in Generation II at all. (Hope you didn’t transfer everyone away to Pokemon Sun/Moon)
I give Pokemon Silver a 9 out of 10, although it should be noted that outside of differences in Pokemon sprites and certain types being exclusive to one version of the game, Pokemon Gold is the exact same experience, so this score and review as a whole can also apply to that game as well. I should also note that even though this game did get the same score as Pokemon Yellow, I still recommend these games over the ones from the first generation anyday. They just aren’t quite as good as they could have been, hence why it has the closest score to a 10 I can give it.