Pokémon Crystal is still the series’ ultimate game
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Featured Image Credit: The Pokémon Company, Nintendo
Asking someone what the best Pokémon game is always leads to such wildly different responses. While some can overlook Red and Blue’s obvious flaws and praise the series’ legacy, others will stand by Black and White and defend them with their life.
Truthfully, there’s no wrong answer - it’s all a matter of personal preference. With that said though, I will argue one thing - no Pokémon generation has ever been as ambitious as the second, with Pokémon Crystal in particular still holding up as an absolute masterpiece. 22 years on from its release, people still haven’t stopped begging for another title like it. That speaks volumes.
Check out our review of the most recent Pokémon games, Scarlet and Violet, below.
Pokémon Crystal was, and and still is, Johto at its best. You’d think that after producing two arguably perfect sequels to Red, Blue and Yellow (those being Gold and Silver), Game Freak would be stuck for new ways to improve the experience further, but this wasn’t the case at all. It’s easy to forget that this was the first game in the series to add in animated sprites for Pokémon as they entered battle, and while this might seem like a fairly simple addition (and one that’s been upgraded a lot since), these animations added so much extra character to the region’s species.
The title made some significant alterations from Gold and Silver’s story - as indicated by the box art, Suicune (AKA the best Water-type legendary Pokémon we’ve ever had) played a much larger role in the plot, and the Ruins of Alph were also expanded to include more Unown puzzles and juicy, juicy lore.
Beyond this though, perhaps the biggest change of all came right at the opening of the game - the ability to choose a female character to play as. Until then, players had been stuck with only male characters to play as, and while both Red and Ethan were cool, it was very limiting for all the female Pokémon fans who had no choice but to play as a guy on what was meant to be their very own adventure.
Back in 2000 when Crystal first released, there was still a very prevalent stereotype that ‘only boys play video games’. Obviously, society’s perception of this has improved massively since then, but the fact that female players were finally recognised by this hugely popular gaming franchise was a big deal at the time. It’s not a stretch to say that some young girls may have been drawn to the title entirely because they saw a cool female character on the back of the box and realised that this was a game for them, too.
In the newer generations of Pokémon, character customisation has been expanded upon much further with options to alter your avatar’s skin tone, eye colour, hair, clothes and more - in comparison, Crystal’s option to simply pick a male or female character barely seems worth mentioning. But it was a meaningful change for many, and one that I’m thankful was introduced so early in the series - to set the foundations for future instalments to add greater representation for more people.
Beyond that though, let me be blunt - it’s an absolute crime that the Johto region games are the only ones which allow players to visit another region after they finish the main story. It’s been said by fans time and time again over the last two decades, but taking those first steps in Kanto was a magical experience - the realisation that your journey was far from over, and the discovery that you had another eight badges ahead of you - as well as more trainers and Pokémon to fight - before you could remotely consider yourself to be done with the game. When it comes to postgame content, the Johto games stay winning - they basically strapped another full game on the end with no strings attached, and it was a dream.
Johto’s two-region combo went down so well, in fact, that fans have been pleading for Game Freak to do the same thing again ever since. Some continue to hold onto the hope that one day, we might get a game with every region included (I personally think that’s a pipe dream that’ll probably only ever be fulfilled by the fans), while others have kept dreaming that we could eventually get to travel to an older region in a newer game. With the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, many have been theorising that Paldea (which is based on Spain), could be connected to the France-inspired region of Kalos - one of the borders on the map does seem like it’d connect perfectly to the sixth-gen region, and with DLC for the new titles being a strong possibility, some fans have suggested that we might end up making a journey back there. It’d certainly be a big step up from the extra areas of Galar we got to explore in Sword and Shield’s DLC, and it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, but are we just getting our hopes up too much again? Maybe.
It’s just funny to think that 22 years on, many fans’ biggest wish is essentially for another game reminiscent of this Game Boy Color classic. Clearly, you can’t top perfection, but I’d love for Game Freak to try.