Gaming Flashback: Pokemon Generation II
Due to the global success of the Pokemon franchise, it was obvious that a sequel to the popular Red, Blue, and Yellow versions was imminent. From 1995 until 1999, the world played the first generation Pokemon games and waded through a number of spinoffs awaiting a true sequel to be released for the series. In 1997 the first details emerged from Nintendo in the form of screen shots for Pocket Monsters 2: Gold and Silver, and even though the games wouldn't see release in Japan until 1999, the world anxiously awaited their release.
The second generation of Pokemon is small, especially in comparison to the first generation, as the second series is only made up of six games; Pokemon Gold, Silver, Crystal, Pokemon Stadium 2 (Pokemon Stadium Gold and Silver in Japan), Pokemon Trading Card Game GB 2 and Pokemon Puzzle Challenge. These titles were available for the Gameboy Color, with the exception of Stadium 2, which is on the Nintendo 64.
The Metal Generation
The first main series Pokemon games for the second generation, referred to among fans as the Metal Generation, were Pokemon Gold and Silver. Originally released in November 1999 in Japan, October 2000 in the US and Australia, Gold and Silver take place in the region of Johto, which lies to the west of Kanto. The protagonist, a young boy from New Bark Town, is ready to receive his first Pokemon from Professor Elm, New Bark's resident professor and expert on Pokemon evolution. Once you arrive at the lab, you learn that Professor Elm has recently been told about a mysterious egg and asks you to obtain it for him.
After retrieving the egg, you run into a young red headed boy who has one of the remaining Pokemon from Elm's lab. Upon returning to the lab you find that someone had broken in and stolen a Pokemon. Once you inform a police officer about your run in with the boy, you give the egg to Professor Elm and he tells you that you should go on a journey to collect Johto's gym badges. Taking the Professor's advice, you set off on your adenture and head toward the first Pokemon Gym in Johto.
In addition to this new story, Gold and Silver also offered a number of changes and refinements to the game's systems. Minor changes like the addition of an EXP bar to the battle HUD allowed you to keep track of how close your Pokemon was to gaining a level without the need to enter the status screen, and would become a series staple. Bigger changes to the overall gameplay included the addition of a clock with allowed for the game to alternate between day and night, this feature allowed for Pokemon to be either diurnal or nocturnal, allowing different Pokemon to appear at different times of the day. In addition, Pokemon could now hold on to items during battle, which could be used when certain conditions are met and, of course, the ability to breed Pokemon. While all of these features were present in the games, a feature Game Freak touted about everything else was the addition of 100 new Pokemon, in addition to 150 from the original games, and two new Pokemon types, Dark and Steel, bringing the total to 17.
While most of the changes I mentioned above didn't have any real effect on the game's battling, Game Freak made one major change in the generation two games that would go on to affect competitive battling to this day; the special split. In the generation one game, each Pokemon had only four stats, attack, defense, special, and speed. This caused Pokemon like Chansey, Alakazam, and Mewtwo to be overpowered due to their high special stat, add in moves like Amnesia and it became easy to abuse the system to make nearly unstoppable special based Pokemon. This prompted Game Freak to split the special stat into both Special Attack and Special Defense, giving the game's combat a bit more balance, however since Gold and Silver still used the first generation games as a base, things like EVs and IVs for the special stats were still calculated together.
Pokemon Gold and Silver were well received and were both a commercial and critical success, the games sold 1.4 million copies in their first week on sale in the US, more than double the previous sales record set by Pokemon Yellow, and these games are still considered to be among the best in the series by many fans, and thanks to this success a third version, Pokemon Crystal would see release in 2001. Crystal would follow much of the same plot as Gold and Silver, but with a few differences to make the game feel more unique and other additions like the ability to play as a female trainer for the first time in the franchise and animated sprites for Pokemon in battle.
The first of three spinoffs for the second generation was the final entry in the Pokemon Stadium series, Pokemon Stadium 2. Released in 2000 in Japan and 2001 in the rest of the world, the game features many of the same modes that were available in the previous game, with a few additions. These new modes are "My Room", which allows you to see a 3D layout of the player character's room from Gold, Silver, or Crystal. In Pokemon Academy, you are given a Pokemon and told to figure out how to defeat your opponent in a certain number of turns. The improved Gym Leader Castle adds the Johto Gym Leaders and Elite Four After the Johto leaders are cleared, you unlock battles against the eight Kanto Gym Leaders. Defeating all sixteen leaders will unlock a battle with the legendary trainer, Red.
The final change comes after all the other modes are cleared, in this game instead of fighting Mewtwo, the final battle is against Silver, the rival from the Gold, Silver, and Crystal series. After beating Silver's team, the credits will roll and after the credits you are greeted by a new title screen and a more difficult version of the game.
The next generation 2 game was Pokemon Puzzle Challange for the Gameboy Color, this game was released in 2000 in Japan and North American and 2001 for the rest of the world. This game is based on the Japanese series Panel de Pon, but instead used the Pokemon characters to give the game a wider appeal. This game, much like the previously release Pokemon Puzzle League, uses a style of gameplay similar to Tetris Attack and features several game modes. The main game mode is the Challenge mode, were you progress through battles with the Johto region Gym Leaders and Elite Four in an effort to become the Pokemon Puzzle Champion. This game wasn't very well received, and due to low sales, is one of the harder Pokemon games to find, although still not rare by most definitions.
Finally, in 2001 the last spinoff game for generation two would see a Japan-only release, Pokemon GB Card 2. The game uses the same engine as its prequel, but offers a change up in the narritive as it has you tracking down the Great Rocket Group, instead of battling club leaders for medals. This game also added more exclusive cards and the real TCG's Team Rocket expansion. Sadly, the game was never widely available, unlike its prequel, so many fans have never had exposure to it.
The Second Generation may have been the shortest thus far, but it made a number of changes that would become standards for future games. However, around this time in 2001 we were done with Johto and waiting on something new. The third generation games were released in late 2002 in Japan on the Gameboy Advance, and would soon be upon the rest of the world.