Editor's Rating

Pokémon Crystal was a great game in 2001: it's a delight to see it's still a great game in 2018. Fans of the original are encouraged to pick it up if they're looking to a good way to experience the pinnacle of the Johto adventures once more.

Visual representation

If you were young during the 2000’s, chances are you’ve experienced your fair share of the Pokémon phenomenon. Pokémon was everywhere during that time, and even though they were released during the Game Boy’s last years, the first two generations of Pokémon are unrivaled in popularity when it comes to classics on that platform. Pokémon breathes nostalgia for a large group of gamers, and the rerelease of the old games on Virtual Console was big deal. So big in fact, that they were even announced in a Nintendo Direct, much to the joy of many fans.
Pokémon Gold and Silver on Virtual Console even got special boxed copies that emulated the original Game Boy Color gameboxes.
Now it’s Pokémon Crystal’s time to get the same treatment.

The second generation is often remembered as the best one, and that’s not just a nostalgic overestimation. The Pokémon games have always kept improving, but Pokémon Gold and Silver were the games that solidified the formula that Pokémon has been succesful with for years. Updated graphics in color, almost twice as many Pokémon to catch, compatibility with the older Pokémon games, two different regions to explore and many, many quality of life improvements made the second generation superior to the first in almost every regard. Crystal went a step further and introduced even more improvements. The Pokémon you encountered are more varied per location, there are animated sprites, players have the option of playing a female main character and the Battle Tower makes an appearance for the first time.

All these aspects have faithfully returned in the 3DS rerelease. Pokémon Crystal plays as good as ever and never feels old, despite being relased over fifteen years ago. It brings forth pleasant memories to pick up Chikorita, Totodile or Cyndaquil again, to have Professor Oak give you a Pokédex,  or to get the Togepi egg. And it’s as entertaining as ever to in collect every Pokémon on a given route, to headbutt trees to find Heracross, to win the Bug Catching Contest or encounter the Red Gyarados. For many, Pokémon Crystal will be a trip down memory lane that they’ll enjoy whether they wind up completing the game or not.

Being playable on the 3DS and being a digital version of the game makes it a lot more accessible to play as well. The game takes up only very little space, and does not require you to carry the cartridge or worry about spent internal batteries (there’s no losing your savegame this time!). The game even allows players to link with one another using the 3Ds’s wireless connection to compensate for the inability to use the old link cables – a huge improvement by all means. Mystery Gift is functional too. What’s more: players are able to connect Pokémon Crystal to the Pokebank App in order to send their freshly caught Pokémon over to copies of Pokémon Sun and Moon or Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon. While this trade cannot be reversed, this allows players to give their Pokémon a new lease on life after their journey in Johto is over.

The possibilities this brings for players of the newest Pokémon games were thought out well in advance, and make the new virtual console versions of Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal worth picking up for this audience as well. Especially now that basically everything is allowed in official VGC play in 2018, competitive Pokémon players might want to expand their options by picking up other compatible Pokémon games. With only a 10 euro pricetag, the virtual console games can be a cheap and easy way to do that.

Other than compatibility with the newest games, Pokémon Crystal brings nothing new to the table. Everything is exactly the way it was back in 2001. Even so far as to the point where regular Virtual Console features such as save states are disabled for this game in order to stay faithful and to prevent players from abusing them (to easily catch Pokémon or otherwise trivialize the game). But truth be told, the game doesn’t really need anything new in order to be a success. The fact that it is the same game that we used to play in our childhood is exactly what will make it successful, and why people we’re so excited about its release in the first place. The cherry on top of it all is the physical release of the game. While it doesn’t even come with a game card (a missed opportunity, though understandable), collector’s will want to pick it up, as the box is pure nostalgia and absolutely beautiful.

With all that said, Pokémon Crystal on 3DS in no way changes the gaming landscape: it already did that in 2001. What is does do, however, is allow longtime fans and newcomers alike to experience again or for the first time the wonderful journeys that Johto provides in an affordable and easily accessible fashion.