Because I’m an older millennial who’s been doing this way too long, it should come as no shock that my favorite game in the series is Pokemon Silver version. Partly, this is because it has my favorite starter of all (evidence shown), but I want to say that the bulk of the love I have for this title is due to all the things it fixed from the Generation 1 games.
Okay, if we’re being honest, it’s probably mostly the nostalgia thing. There is no denying that this game sparks strong feelings in Pokemon trainers my age because of the timing behind it. Nostalgia is a devious sonuvabitch: often the memories that are remembered the most fondly turn out to be ones wherein the wait was paid off. Put another way, the things that you remember with the most childish whimsy are those things where you waited for days and weeks and months patiently—that then lived up to the hype.
|It is said that when "Pikablu" opens its eyes, the famines will begin...|
I would argue that Pokemon 2 was that sort of memory, the kind of experience where the buildup was worth the wait. The year 2000 was a time distinctly before the explosion of the internet: information about Pokemon 2 (or anything, for that matter) was scarce. All we knew in America was that the game was out in Japan—and that it was awesome. Some lucky ones of us had a friend who was a subscriber to “Beckett Pokemon Collector” because they were trading card collectors (I was this person in my circle of friends), so we were able to glean some little bit of honey from the information contained within. A rare few of us had a friend with a Japanese copy of the title (often this friend was that rich prick you only hung out with because this person had BOTH a Playstation and a Nintendo 64, the bastard). We knew that it was out—we even knew the Japanese names of some of the monsters— Otachi, Arigetsu, Redian— it was a wait unlike any other.
Everyone knew a guy who knew a guy who worked for Nintendo and everyone had heard from a very reliable source that etc. etc. It’s no wonder that the fan theories that erupted were so widely believed: “Pokegods" like "Nidogod" and “Pikablu”. Who was “Houou” (eventually Ho-Oh)? Why was he in the anime already?! All we could do was suppose. And wait.
And as it were, Gen 2 was fantastic.
The games, Pokemon gold and silver versions, improved upon everything in the red and blue versions. They offered a much more balanced and nuanced experience at both the technical level and the world-building level.
But we must still address the elephant in the room. There is a large caste of the pokemon community collectively referred to as “gen one-ers” that is so fanatically devoted to the original installment that they refuse to see the positives in any other titles. Along with this, they fail to see the negatives in their own favorite game. Red version was phenomenal, but it had a lot of issues (which I would love to get into—some other time). As a matter of fact, a lot of things about Pokemon that are currently taken for granted amongst current fans of the series can trace their origins back to the second or third generation, not the first.
Taking the “Gen One-ers” out of the discussion (because fuck those guys, amiright?), the bulk of the rest of the pokemon community—especially those around my age (those in their twenties)—tends to favor Generation 2: Gold, Silver, and Crystal. Their rankings of the titles in the series often manifest as some transposition of “Gen 2, Gen 1, 'all the rest’”.
I can’t deny that I am a member of this very same crowd. This is something that actually causes me physical pain. I am a contrarian and I hate being “just like everyone else”. Alternatively, I cannot deny that Generation 2, the second game in the series, is undoubtedly my favorite.
However, because I am, above all else, a critic, I feel it important to come to terms with a few things about Generation 2 that maybe aren’t so great. I was thinking about this this morning and I came to a startling conclusion that, while Silver version may be my favorite game in the series, it may actually be one of the weaker ones.
I think that, on this the 20th anniversary year of pokemon, it might be a good idea to look back at my favorite game in the series with a more critical eye. I will do my best to stay grounded and to give a fair assessment of the title. I will also try my hardest to keep this from becoming one of those unbearable buzzfeed “Top X Things that are Awesome about BLANK” lists wherein everything is rationalized with “…because it’s awesome”.