Oops, I Finished Pokemon Crystal Again

NOTE: This post is designed as a short follow-on to last year’s revisitation of Pokémon Silver Version via the 3DS virtual console service, so I recommend you read that bit first here first.

Nintendo are a bunch of crafty bastards. Releasing a game like Pokémon Crystal at the end of January 2018, without any big-name new release competition to speak of and a bunch of potential customers in holiday mode, was a bit of a guarantee to ensnare people like me. I picked up Crystal on the 3DS Virtual Console because it was cheap and I figured I’d get to it eventually. In actual fact, I smashed through its main content stream – all the way through Kanto and Red – inside two weeks from launch, almost exclusively in the down time between events over a coastal family holiday. This despite completing – in a manner of speaking – three Pokémon games on 3DS last year (Red, Silver and Ultra Sun) and having the gall to complain about all the great new games I wasn’t playing. This series is my kryptonite.

As luck – or something else – would have it, Crystal is a lot more divergent from Silver than I remember it being, making it just as worth writing about. Yes, it’s still largely the same story, but compared to its prototypical predecessor Yellow, the third Gen 2 game packs quite a bit of extra meat on the bone of Gold and Silver, in both obvious and under-the-hood ways. Also, unlike in my Silver run, I decided to go all the way through Kanto in Crystal this time around, because why not? I was in deep enough. All of this extra gameplay left me with the following quick thoughts.
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SPICING THINGS UP

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So I picked Chikorita for this run, because I’d already done Cyndaquil last year and I’m usually a Grass-type kind of guy. Of course that put me at a bit of an immediate disadvantage when it came to having a decent team composition, so I made an early commitment to take full advantage of Crystal‘s changes to wild Pokemon distribution throughout the Johto region by adding both Growlithe and Heracross to my party early. As in, before the third badge. I literally didn’t even know you could catch them that early when I last played this game. Oh, the wonders of the internet. What a world we live in, etc etc.

This fresh patch just flat-out wasn’t there in Silver.

Look at the adorable bastard.

Step one of that plan sent me just west of Violet City, home of the first gym badge, where a previously unseen patch of grass was waiting. There – eventually – I ran into a beautiful Growlithe. Having never used one in-game before, I was happy to have a reasonable powerhouse – certainly for that point in the game – on hand even if the ability to use its superior attack stat was hampered by Pokemon’s second generation mechanics. Also, as I was soon to find out, it’s actually rather difficult to obtain a Fire Stone to evolve Growlithe in Crystal. I ended up having to delete all my in-game phone contacts – which by the way have improved an awful lot since Silver as they actually have unique personalities – except for this one guy who had a very slim chance of calling with a Fire Stone pickup opportunity. The amount of times I stood in the starting house changing the Daylight Savings on and off trying to trigger that call… I eventually got an Arcanine but only, like, right before the Elite Four.

(from harimaskull on deviantart)

Speaking of time-consuming grinding, let’s talk Heracross. Another thing I only recently found out about Crystal is that the classification of some of its Headbutt-compatible trees has been shaken up somewhat since the original Gen II pair of games. Crucially, the trees in Azalea Town, home of the second gym leader, have been reclassified as “mountainous region” trees. This means if you’re lucky, your save file will feature an Azalean tree housing a Heracross or two. An insanely powerful Pokemon to have that early in the game. Of course I wanted a piece. So I used Headbutt. Again and again. And again. On one tree at a time. I looked up wikis, scoured message boards and Serebii.net searching for the truth on how to tell if a tree is a Heracross-friendly one and the chances of your average player actually seeing such a tree.

yeah boi

Luckily, after a long time and a lot of Headbutting, I did get one, and it ended up being my highest level Pokemon when all was said and done. On the journey of discovery, I also picked up a level 10 Noctowl (that’s ten levels lower than it’s supposed to be when it evolves from Hoothoot). So early on progression-wise (not time-wise, oh nooo) I found myself with a pretty freaking strong team, meaning Chikorita/Bayleef were free to be themselves. That Heracross, by the way, did have its share of weird quirks as it went through the game. I’m used to that thing tearing through teams with things like Brick Break, Close Combat and the like, but those kinds of Fighting-type moves just did not exist in Crystal‘s era. Not to mention the thing doesn’t learn its devastating signature move, Megahorn, until level 54! So I was running through folks with Horn Attack and Fury Cutter and that until very late on. Of course the ‘Cross still put in work with those moves because it’s so ludicrously strong, but I digress. The Noctowl stayed in my team for Flying purposes but fell behind the rest of my team level-wise after its early power advantage ran out.

Poor guy. If only you were more interesting.

Let’s round out the team. I ended up using Sandshrew/Sandslash despite the fact that I used it in my unplanned Pokemon Red playthrough last year, because one showed up in a cave early on and I thought someone who could both resist Rollout and reduce accuracy would be great for Whitney’s Miltank (It was). Plus Sandslash is still really cool. But my unexpected final team slot – and pretty much the MVP of this run overall – was a Pokemon I had absolutely no in-game experience using before – Golduck!

Its punches slay dragons. Somehow.

This thing’s stats were never anything to write home about and its high-level evolution requirement relative to when you can catch Psyduck (level 33, no less) always put me off using it. But as I learned with Ledian in Silver, do not underestimate those cheap and easy-to-obtain elemental punch TMs in the Goldenrod City Department Store. Slapping Ice Punch on a Psyduck next to a pretty early Surf HM and a bit of the old Confusion to deal with all those Team Rocket Grunts is actually almost a perfect fit for the flow of Crystal‘s story progression. Not to mention Golduck’s design is pretty sick-looking and 95 Special Attack / 85 Speed was pretty decent in Gen II. So now I’m a Golduck fan.

So anyway, here’s wonderwall a quick laundry list of some of the other things I noticed:

  • I always thought you had to chase Suicune across the land, meeting it at all its set locations around Johto (usually near a set of berry trees). Nope, you can skip all that and just do its story introduction and the final battle. Incidentally, Crystal marks the beginning of the now-standard Pokemon trope of integrating the battle against the cover legendary into the main story as a non-negotiable fight.
  • Probably not exclusive to Crystal but I never realised you could go through the Lake of Rage / first part of the Team Rocket hideout / Gym Leader Pryce before even crossing the sea in pursuit of the Ampharos medicine. Sure, it’s harder if you do it earlier, but there isn’t anything stopping you. About that criticism I had in my Silver post about all the evil team stuff happening in one big block…
  • Ice Cavern is much, much cooler (pun intended) than it was in G/S.
  • Ditto (pun not intended) the Dragon’s Den. I got my sweet sweet Extremespeed Dratini and it was even a female! My inevitably Pokemon-addicted, breed-grinding future self will no doubt thank me later.

I really enjoy this one from MemoriiMakiko (again, deviantart)

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KANTO REVISITED

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There actually isn’t all that much to say about Kanto in Gen II – as I predicted back in my Silver playthrough article. With some exceptions the areas are severely pared down in scope, with a bunch of areas closed off or otherwise inaccessible. Plus it’s generally kind of difficult to know where to go next, or how to activate an event in the few places it’s even required (I’m looking at you, Machine Part in the Cerulean Gym). Janine’s gym in Fuschia City is pretty neat, as is the general (if lean) localisation. There’s a wistful tone to some of the dialogue you read in Kanto, particularly from the likes of Blue, the new Viridian Gym leader. Then of course there’s everyone’s favourite boy Red, and yes, I did beat him, although I did barely any grinding and my highest level was Heracross at 65 (slight Rare Candy boost at the end). His Snorlax was the biggest pain, but after three attempts I managed to engineer an angle to take him down. But that’s not as exciting as Celebi and the GS Ball.

Yes indeedy. Those of us who watched the first few seasons of the anime back in the day will remember the mysterious half gold/half silver Pokeball known only by the initials inscribed near its main button. This ball was going to have a payoff in the anime and was in Crystal‘s Japanese release, accessible through some funky mobile phone-adjacent technology, but we saw neither down here in Aus. Yet the 3DS Virtual Console re-release of the game was advertised with a very tantalising tweak – The unlocking of the original code to unlock the Pokemon series’ first-ever secret scene (and subsequent Pokemon battle). After beating the Elite Four you simply pop into the Goldenrod City Pokemon centre and a technician comes down to hand you the ball. Just casually.

You give the ball to Kurt and wait a day…

Go to that mysterious shrine that you totally knew the purpose of when you first played it but frustratingly didn’t see it go anywhere…

And Bob’s your uncle, your very own Celebi (There’s a cool animation just before the fight where a unique Celebi sprite sort of drifts down towards you but I missed the shot).

So that was Pokemon Crystal! Hopefully I actually finish some new games soon. And hopefully this isn’t the last Pokemon game I play this year 😉 😉 😉 😉 😉

😉 😉 😉 😉 😉

😉 😉 😉 😉 😉

Please Game Freak

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