What’s this? Activity? From my blog? Impossible!
Anyway, jokes aside, I’ve been encountering a lot of real life lately, and haven’t had much of a chance to update. I aim to change that today with an early break from the anime to discuss a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: perfect sequels.
Is a perfect sequel possible? On one hand, you can’t depart too far from the original, or you’ll piss off its fans, who will claim that what you’ve created relies on name brand recognition to sell itself, rather than its own merits (or just claim that it sucks.) On the other hand, you can’t just retread the original, because people will call you out on your laziness (or just claim that it sucks.) It’s a balance between the two that’s important, and it’s rarely reached (example: we shall never discuss Highlander 2, except to say that it’s a travesty, and then move on.)
And here’s where I segue into the review by saying this: if a sequel has ever hit that balance, it’s Pokémon Gold and Silver.
How was Gen I? In case you don’t want to do an archive search, I gave it a 6 out of 10 due to fun gameplay and good aesthetics, but poor balance and stability. The Psychic type were gods, Speed and Special were the only stats that mattered, and glitches were all too easy to run into. Obviously, it passed based on fun value, but by the skin of its teeth. In order to be truly great, Pokémon needed something else…
Part I: Something is Stirring…
So, Gen I released in the US in 1998, to much rejoicing and purchasing of Game Boy Pockets (and later Colors,) trading cards, mangas, and VHSes. But right from the start, they made something very clear: the 150 Pokémon they advertised were not the only ones in existence. This was reflected as early as the first episode of the anime, which featured the legendary Pokémon Ho-oh, although in a ten-second cameo that didn’t mention it by name.
The references hardly stopped there. Mid-Indigo League, Misty ends up with Togepi, a demonic egg thing that proceeds to kill her characterization for all five seasons she has it. The first Pokémon film features an unknown Pokémon that movie novelizations name-drop as Donphan. The Orange Islands arc replaces Brock with Tracey, a trainer who uses a strange Pokémon called Marill (who, incidentally, shows up alongside Snubbull in the Pikachu short shown alongside Mewtwo Strikes Back.)
And yet, incredibly, these major reveals weren’t even The Big One. Something was going to happen in the summer of 2000 that would shake the fandom to its core; to cause a collective fangasm so great, its effects were still being felt in 2010. This single event would bring the Gen II hype to a head, and make Silver and SoulSilver both outsell Gold and HeartGold.
I am, of course, talking about the reveal of Lugia in Pokémon 2000: The Power of One.
Now, that’s not to say that P2K didn’t have other major reveals- a Slowking features as a major character. Furthermore, the Pikachu short, “Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure” featured a metric ton of new Pokémon- Ledyba, Bellossom, Elekid, and Hoothoot all make their first appearances here.
Generation II could not afford to disappoint. With all this hype behind them, Gen II exploded when it was released, kicking off a new season of the anime, a new design for the trading cards, and of course, Gold and Silver.
It was actually a very long time before I got to play them seriously, but my first concrete play session was at a family Christmas party. One of my relatives got Gold for Christmas, and let me play on the condition that I didn’t save over his game. My starter of choice ended up being Totodile, the Pokémon that anyone who knows me from any other site will recognize as my favorite Pokémon.
Personal anecdotes aside for now, how did the games stack up? Gen I had humongous shoes to fill, given that Gen I’s shoes hadn’t been filled, worn out, and replaced enough to warrant the 6 out of 10 I gave it. So, the sequel was out- how’d it fare?