Pokemon Gold And Silver Are Still The Most Ambitious Pokemon Games Ever, So Where Is Let’s Go Johto?
I reckon less than ten seconds elapsed between me rolling credits on Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee and me mumbling to myself, “Right — Let’s Go Johto when?” It was the most excited I’ve been about a Pokemon game in over a decade and it wasn’t even confirmed to be in development yet. It still isn’t. Come on, Nintendo. Give us a few crumbs.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sold on the premise of Let’s Go Eevee. That seems a bit ironic in hindsight — I ended up liking it loads more than Pokemon Gen 8, which I reckon went completely arseways.
So now my question is this: what do I need to do to get Let’s Go Johto?
Pokemon Gold and Silver turned 20 years old last week. We here at TheGamer celebrated by running an homage to Whitney’s Miltank and lamenting about Dark-types being confined to the post-game — aside from Umbreon, of course, who has since become beloved among Pokemon fans. That’s one thing Nintendo needs to sort out pronto if it decides to push forward with Let’s Go Johto, actually — give us a Houndour early on, will you? I’ve seen so many Bellsprouts that I reckon I might turn into one.
That was one of my only issues with Pokemon Gold and Silver — new Pokemon, especially Dark-types, being held back until after the Pokemon League. But aside from that, I firmly believe they’re still the most innovative and ambitious Pokemon games to have ever been released. They had a day/night cycle that governed all kinds of things, such as the types of Pokemon that appeared in certain areas, the Bug-catching contest — bring that back too or I’ll cry — and even police lads with Growlithes who gave out to you for being a ten-year-old out past your bedtime. I fondly remember laughing my arse off at the policemen for telling me off right before my Croconaw knocked the shit out of their entire team. Maybe they should have been the ones going home to their mammies at 7pm.
Anyway, the day/night cycle was massively impressive and introduced a brand new, multi-layered way of exploring the world that made backtracking genuinely worthwhile (as did HMs, which should also definitely be brought back). But the most impressive thing about Gold and Silver is their incorporation of an entire region after the Pokemon League. While I have argued before that Emerald’s Battle Frontier is the best and most important post-game region in the series’ history as far as PvE competitive challenges go, Gold and Silver’s implementation of Gen 1’s Kanto is in a world of its own, especially when you consider how limited space was on GameBoy Colour cartridges. To this day, it’s a technological wonder that GameFreak was able to add even a fraction of Kanto into Gen 2 — never mind the entire region, Pokemon League and all.
Pokemon Gen 2 did a frankly stupid amount of things that people rarely give it credit for. While Pokemon LeafGreen and FireRed — which came out as part of Gen 3 after Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald — were the first full-blown new takes on old games, Gen 2 was the remake before remakes. It took Kanto, catapulted it three years into the future — during which time Cinnabar Island basically exploded — and converted its GameBoy Classic 50 shades of grey into full colour. All of the Gym Leaders were made stronger — bear in mind you already had all eight Johto badges and a Pokemon League victory under your belt by the time you met them — and the region had seen an influx of all kinds of new Pokemon. It was a fantastic and innovative spin on a preexisting area that transformed it into something fresh — it’s no wonder so many people think that the HeartGold and SoulSilver remakes are the best Pokemon games ever made (which I agree with).
Pokemon remakes in general have consistently hit the mark. Everything mentioned so far — as well as the OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire remakes of Gen 3 — have iterated on their base games to the extent that they have become definitive editions of them. While some people are avid Gen 5 defenders, and others will argue about Gen 7 being either revolutionary or total bollocks, opinions on the remakes have been pretty much unanimously positive — are you sure we’re on about video games here? I can’t believe how many people are agreeing with one another.
The next pair of games due a remake — Gen 4’s Diamond and Pearl — are purportedly in development as we speak, and I’m fully convinced that Nintendo will knock it out of the park with them. Its track record certainly implies that it will. But I still want Let’s Go Johto more than any other remake or new Pokemon game.
Let’s Go’s Kanto was different to Gen 1’s, Gen 2’s, and Gen 3’s. It was brighter, louder, and more densely populated. Most importantly, it was easier — something that self-proclaimed diehards weren’t impressed with. Your starter had absurdly good stats (likely to compensate for the fact it can’t evolve), while completing the Pokedex was a breeze thanks to overworld spawns. There was also a whole lot of exposition layered on top of the original dialogue, which, although a bit hamfisted at times, was usually pretty funny and upbeat.
The reason this is important is because we’re two decades into the 21st Century. It’s not 1997 where masochistically brute-forcing your way through every part of a game by consulting a set of scribbled down instructions you copied from the expensive guides magazine when the shopkeeper wasn’t looking is the only way forward. I think we can all be a bit precious when it comes to things that were harder 20 years ago — “Brock never gave me a hint for what to do next, so I don’t know why he needs to do it now.” That’s true, but let’s be real: we all would have loved a hint, wouldn’t we? If anything, let’s just be happy new players are getting one, and acknowledge the fact that maybe it’s a bit easy in our eyes because we know Kanto like the backs of our hands. If you want a challenge, do a Nuzlocke. This is how older Pokemon games are being enjoyed by people today, and that in and of itself is immensely worthwhile — it’s preserving older games of the series by breathing new life into them, and ensuring that all of the franchise’s stories are being retold for younger audiences and new players.
Put it this way: I’d rather a Rocket Grunt go, “Don’t come to the Game Corner in Celadon City and look behind the poster that definitely isn’t hiding a switch to our hideout!” than say something like, “I have been defeated; alas, I shall provide you with a means of figuring out how to engage my superiors — venture forth to where charlatans spend coin to win coin, but none emerge victorious. The rest is up to destiny.” You can make Pokemon difficult for yourself if you want — it doesn’t need to be impenetrable for everyone.
That’s what this mostly boils down to in the end. Gold and Silver are still the most ambitious Pokemon games around, and Let’s Go’s single installment has managed to cement it as a spin-off that is remarkably capable of reinvigorating older titles. When you look at how many aspects of Let’s Go made it into Sword and Shield — from overworld sprites to capturing certain rare Pokemon after defeating them (thus nullifying the “what if I accidentally make it faint” risk), to Pokemon mounts, and beyond — you can see it was a worthy entry in the franchise as a whole. But Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu merely reinvented Kanto for the third time, focusing on the safest and most well-established region in the series. Let’s Go Johto would take Pokemon at its least safe, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for where to go in future.
What I mean is, a lot of Sword and Shield’s best bits came from Let’s Go, as opposed to the longstanding mainline series prior to it. If anything, its story and world design are a bit rough, meaning its more “traditional” Pokemon influences are what ultimately let it down. By compounding those points together, it’s easy to see Let’s Go Johto as a perfect way for Nintendo to experiment for posterity’s sake while simultaneously resurrecting its most audacious pair of Pokemon games for new audiences.
On top of that, who doesn’t want to knock about the Lake of Rage with Red Gyarados as a mount?
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Cian Maher is an Associate Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. His favourite game of all time is and always will be The Witcher 3, but he also loves The Last Guardian, NieR: Automata, Dishonored, and pretty much every Pokemon game ever released. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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