If you grew up on Pokemon Red and Blue, rising through the ranks with Yellow and then Gold and Silver, you inevitably spent time with Pokemon Crystal. The amalgam of everything excellent about Pokemon Gold and Silver, with a glittery teal cartridge and a new Pokemon in the form of Suicune on the front, it was the Cadillac of the Pokemon series and the last that the handheld would see.
It let the Pokemon era on the Game Boy Color end with a bang, naturally, and now it's back to rediscover on your 3DS through the Virtual Console and Nintendo eShop. If you missed out on it when it made its original debut back in 2001, it's a great time to dig in right now, whether you're reminiscing about the old days or just looking to start your Pokemon journey from an earlier point in the series.
A CLASSIC GEM
Pokemon Crystal took the established conventions of games like Pokemon Gold and Silver and augmented them further with additional features, new game content, and other options. Obviously all those are still here for you to check out as you step into the classic era with your 3DS, and it all feels just as fresh as it did when the game first debuted.
It's still rocking its own set of firsts, which were important for the series. You could choose to be a female trainer for once, which marked the first time you were able to do this in the Pokemon games. It also added special quirks like new animations for each individual Pokemon as well as a massively tweaked user interface that simply felt way better than what you might have been used to with the older games. Even encountering Pokemon in the overworld was improved with newer sprites and cooler-looking, more individualized character models. If you cut your teeth on Red and Blue to begin with, you'll appreciate all the subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes.
The game finds you encountering the Legendary Pokemon Suicune on your journey as you follow it through several different plot threads as you head out to track it down. The other two Legendary Pokemon Entei and Raikou make appearances as well, but Suicune is the main focus and as such a more interesting Pokemon to trail throughout the game. You can even nab a Celebi from an additional quest, which previously wasn't even an option unless you had access to a special event or item. It's all here, as you remember it, too, or it's all there for you to discover. There's just plenty of new stuff, too.
ALL THAT GLITTERS
Pokemon Crystal's swath of different content includes several new subplots, Pokemon, activities, and plenty of other goodies beyond the fact that it got a new shiny cartridge and Legendary Pokemon. For instance, the creepy Ruins of Alph return with a more significant storyline to explore, and the NPCs you may have disregarded previously have more unique and engaging personalities.
You can also head to the Move Tutor to switch up the moves your Pokemon know and head to the Battle Tower to test your might against other trainers. Both have appeared in several newer Pokemon titles over the years, and you can see where they got their humble beginnings here. There are some very important changes to Pokemon locations, as well as the fact that you can now get more than one of several evolution stones needed to power up your Pokemon, very important when it comes to building and completing your Pokedex.
For this particular release, you can use the Time Capsule at Pokemon Centers to trade your Pokemon with games you have at your disposal from the modern "revival" of the Pokemon franchise.
A CRYSTAL CLEAR FUTURE
Pokemon Crystal's eShop debut is everything you wanted it to be and more. It's a staple of the Pokemon franchise overall and should certainly have been in the running for remakes like Heart Gold and Soul Silver ended up getting. It's a fantastic, engaging nostalgia rush that's just begging you to jump right in. What are you waiting for? You should already have it by now.
This review is based on a 3DS download code provided by the publisher. Pokemon Crystal is available on the Nintendo eShop now.
ESRB rating: E
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