Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Pokémon Soul Silver: A Blast From the Past

A day after seeing Pokémon Soul Silver in CEX for £25 including the Pokéwalker, I managed to persuade myself to get it. It's a lot more than I usually spend on games, but I've waited a year and it's not going to get any cheaper and I owe it to myself. Buying the original Pokémon Silver was one of the, if not the most, exciting gaming experience of my life.

I need not explain how popular the first generation of Pokémon games were. Pokémon was simply an international phenomenon and I was happy to be stuck right in the middle of it. The games, the cards, the stickers, the Tazos and more were commonplace in the playground of my high school. Fights would break out weekly over trading card disputes with even the cool kids flaunting the rare and often fake cards they bought with their parents' money. More rumours than I could count floated around describing how to catch Mew as well as other rare Pokémon; a favourite fallacy of mine being that if you were to have all of the Eevee evolutions in your team and spoke to Bill, he would lead you into a secret garden where you could catch as many wild starter Pokémon as you wished.

In 2001 I was roughly 12 years old, in year 8 of high school. It seemed every school child had the same thing on their mind: Pokémon Gold & Silver. It was coming. The Pokémon Johto cartoon was already on television and many of the new Pokémon could be seen on the official Pokémon website. I was so excited I lost sleep over it, and was constantly troubled regarding my decision to get Silver in case it was somehow the “less-cool” version; my brother and I had decided he was going to get Gold.

I remember going to town that Saturday to get Silver from Gamestation for about £27 with my new Gamestation card. The staff had copies under the counter to help speed up the queues and gave free gold and silver coloured Game Boy Color overlays with each sale. I had mine on my Game Boy for months before I realised it muffled the speaker. I remember bumping into a load of my friends in town that day, all of which were moaning at their parents to finish their shopping so they could get home and play their new game.

For me, Pokémon Silver lived up to my expectations completely. The game was simply Pokémon 2.0. Everything that was great about the first generation returned, but better, with nothing being left out. In addition we had proper colour, better graphics and music, new Pokémon and new evolutions, the game played in real-time, a huge world to explore with a deeper story line and lots, lots, more. I can understand why every subsequent generations of Pokémon games is so criticised by fans as neither the 3rd nor 4th generation offered such an upgrade that was seen from going to the 1st the the 2nd. However, Heart Gold and Soul Silver has taken all the good aspects of every generation and combined them to make two of the most “complete” Pokémon games yet.

Pokémon Black & White are almost here and I'm hopeful that the 5th generation will really raise the bar for Pokémon just as Gold & Silver did. I might not wait as long as I did with Soul Silver to get Black or White (decisions, decisions), but for now I'll be retracing those first steps into Johto I took a decade ago for what has already been a massive nostalgia trip.


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