Back before the days of the internet, all we had was rumor and mystery to tell us what was going on in the gaming world. A friend probably had a gaming magazine, saw something in a gaming store, or just started a rumor and that’s how you got news back in Pokémon Gold and Silver days. Now that so much information is readily available at our fingertips, it is much easier to find those crazy easter eggs, secrets and glitches that are in the game, along with some other details about the franchise and game itself.
I’ve been playing Pokémon for about 20 years now, so it’s nice to go back at look at the beginning, when Pokémon was just trying out some new concepts (like a cell phone!) and other stuff that didn’t work. It's also plenty of fun to look at all the mistakes and data that’s just floating there for you to find, if you can read code and work out glitches of course. With the recent release of Pokémon Sun and Moon (which I devoured), it’s interesting to see how far the series has come. There’s less glitches in the newer games and less code that’s floating around. It makes me wish I understood code, just so I could plumb the dark secrets of old videog ames. Anyway, here’s a fair bit of research mixed with nostalgia!
15 In the Beginning…
The start of your adventures in Pokémon is always a special moment. In Red and Blue, it was Palette Town and, in Gold and Silver, it’s New Bark Town. Such a cute little name, indicating the start of your journey or something ‘new.’ The original name in the demos was a lot less cute. It was originally called “Silent Hills,” which, for me, just evokes horror and feeling creeped out. Which was exactly why they changed the name in Pokémon. See, the Silent Hill video game predated Gold and Silver by about a year, so to avoid any confusion (or really unfortunate comparisons), they did a quick name change. The demo was shown at the Nintendo 1997 Space World and then Silent Hill came out in 1999, with Gold and Silver coming out afterwards.
14 Smell Ya Later
No one can forget the incredible Gary Oak, the guy who got ten out of eight Kanto badges, because math just doesn’t apply to him. On the other hand, I can’t really remember the rival from Gold and Silver, who is referred to most commonly as Silver (including in the Manga). It took a few years, but a backstory finally came out about this silent, sullen rival. In Fire Red and Leaf Green, we learn that Giovanni has a son with red hair, which led to the speculation between Silver and Giovanni. It was finally confirmed in Heard Gold and Soul Silver, as there was an event in the Ilex Forest, if you had the event Celebi, that let you go back in time and see the son and father fighting. I’m not sure if Nintendo was planning it from the beginning or they heard the fan theories and thought, why not? Either way, you gotta love Pokémon world building.
13 Sea to Sky
The easiest way to fix something in a game, and to do it cheaply, is to re-color it. Need everyone to know that a particular monster is more powerful? Make it a different color. The Pokémon is more rare? Change the color. It’s smart, but can also come off as a bit lazy. In this case, I can’t decide which. See, during the Gold title screen, we see Ho-oh flying over the fluffy clouds (very reminiscent of that very first Pokémon episode) and in Silver, there is Lugia swimming at the bottom of the ocean. Turns out that they are the same image, just colored differently. Again, I’m not sure whether to be impressed or mad. I guess more impressed because the games are basically the same so to re-color something to evoke something else, sea vs. sky, it’s pretty cool.
12 Longing for Freedom?
Well, it turns out that if you catch a Pokémon and then level it up in the same area where you caught it, it will increase the Pokémon’s happiness. This only happens in Pokémon Crystal, but since it's the third game in this series, we've decided to use it. Which makes sense in a gaming logic kind of way, that way you can catch a Pokémon, use it immediately and get its happiness up. However, if you look at it from a different angle, the idea that the Pokémon is happier when it’s near where it’s from is kind of sad. It takes on a pretty dark angle. I mean we all like to think that the Pokémon is happier with us, but the idea that it misses its home or that it wants to go back is heartbreaking. Sorry, I’m just going to cry for a bit in a corner. Don’t mind me.
11 Status No Gratis
Over the years, it has become more and more easy to catch legendary Pokemon. It took a handful of Ultra Balls and Hypnosis to catch Lunala in Pokémon Sun and Moon. At this point, if you get the health down enough and tag on a status effect, you can catch any Pokémon as long as you’re patient enough. Now, if you remember how many Ultra Balls it took to catch the Legendary Birds and then even more when you were going after Lugia and Ho-oh, this fact will make all your pain make sense. Apparently, there was a glitch in the programming of Gold and Silver that made it so status effects did not affect the catch rate of a Pokémon. That’s right, all those carefully planned catching strategies were for nothing. I’m still pretty sure that holding down B and pressing the down button on the directional pad help your chances. It’s been almost 20 years, you cannot take this away from me.
10 It’s Just a Phase
It’s hard to judge which games will be popular and which will flop. Obviously, some are guaranteed at least some success if it’s a sequel to a widely popular title. Despite success with the first game, it turns out though that Tsunekazu Ishihara, the producer of Gold and Silver, thought that Silver and Gold would be the final two games in the series. Ishihara is now the CEO of the Pokémon Company, so I’m sure he’s pretty happy to be wrong. As someone who has been playing religiously since Red and Blue, I’m very happy to see game after game come out. I could write another twenty entries on my love of the series and don’t get me started on Sun and Moon!
9 Back in My Day
I always come back to a single conundrum. Are Pokémon games getting easier or am I just older (and hopefully more intelligent)? I’m pretty sure it’s a bit of both, but Pokémon was a lot harder when I was a kid. This is further underscored but the ridiculously over-powered and cheating Champion of Johto, Lance. It turns out part of the reason why he was so hard to beat is because four out of his six Pokemon aren’t technically legal, as you can’t get them yourself. Now there’s a long history of trainers who have evolved Pokémon that are well beyond their supposed evolution level, but Lance takes it a bit far. His three Dragonites are levels 47, 47 and 50, when the Pokemon doesn’t evolve until level 55. Not that I wanted to face three level 55 Dragonites, but still. It hardly seems fair that the Champion is so overpowered. His Aerodactyl also knows Rock Slide, which it can’t even learn in Gen II.
Back before the internet was a thing, or at the very least you had to sit in front of a monitor as it sang you this jagged dial-up tone for five minutes, rumors were the only thing you had for certain elements of games. That and gaming magazines or TV shows. Well, there was this rumor going around, when Gold and Silver were on the horizon, that the new generations would include a blue Pikachu. Rumors were everywhere about this mysterious new Pokémon, including the infamous “Pikablu” rumor, that said you could get a blue Pikachu in Red and Blue if you used a Water Stone on Pikachu. Of course that was debunked, but we did get a somewhat blue Pikachu in the end. It’s Marill! I mean I also remember my friends talking about a green Pikachu and a red one, but hey! At least we got the little ball of blue cuteness.
7 Glitches Abound
The original Nintendo games had so many glitches in their code, it’s almost laughable. The most famous is the Misingno glitch and I used that one hard-core to get crazy amounts of Master Balls and Rare Candies. A lesser known one was that if you shut off the game while you were transferring a Pokémon into the Box (you know when you get in all caps, DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR GAME. I’m just a rebel like that) it will sometimes duplicate the Pokémon! I tried this a few times and got two Bayleefs for the price of one! Of course this is a glitch and so can’t really be trusted all the time, which I know from personal experience. I tried this with my Togepi, one of my favorite Pokémon of all time, and instead of giving me two, it deleted both. I put the game down, utterly distraught, and didn’t pick it back up again for years. Cheat with caution.
6 Safari Zone
I love the Safari Zone. I love that I can just throw Safari Balls at Pokémon and not have to worry about constantly reviving Pokémon. Plus, the allure of rare Pokémon is pretty awesome. But why would they not include this vital piece in some of the sequels? Well, it turns out they had every intention of giving us a Safari Zone, but it just didn’t make the final cut, due to time constraints in the development process. I’m pretty sure my younger self didn’t miss it too much though, considering how long it took me to find the HM Surf. I think I had to get my neighbor to show me where it was in Red and Blue (remember this was before internet was a thing).
5 Mind Over Mind
In Pokémon Red and Blue, the most powerful Pokémon, hands down, were Psychic. If you could find, and train, an Abra, you could clear the entire game with ease, as no other type could really compete with it. Facing Sabrina was a nightmare, for the simple fact that Psychic Pokémon only had one weakness and that was Bug Pokemon, who no one really ever use. Gen I Bug Pokemon were pathetic, so that wasn’t much of a threat. It was in Gold and Silver that the Dark type was introduced, just so Psychic wouldn’t be such a juggernaut. If you go back and play Fire Red and Leaf Green, Sabrina is a lot easier because of this.
4 Celebi Glitch
Did anyone else cry during Pokémon 4Ever? If you were a child and a Pokémon fan when it came out, you definitely cried. If you didn't, you have no soul. When Celebi almost dies (spoiler), I completely lost it. Granted, I was about eight at the time, but still. Needless to say, I desperately wanted the fabled 251st Pokemon that was event only, much like Mew was the fabled 151st in Red and Blue. It turns out there is a way to glitch the game into giving you an egg that will hatch a level 0 Celebi. It’s similar to the Missingo glitch, though a little more complicated, but still pretty cool. Now we have fancier ways to get any Pokémon we want, but back in the day, we needed any advantage we could get.
3 Moon Ball Blow Out
I honestly hated having to trudge over to Kurt’s place, pockets filled with Apricorns to get my fancy Moon Balls. Well, it turns out part of that was a waste of effort. The Moon Ball was supposed to increase your chances of catching a Pokémon that uses a Moon Stone to evolve, but, instead, it increased the chances of a catching a Pokémon that uses a Burn Heal to evolve. It was a number of weird glitches in the game, like the one we described above that didn't allow status effects to help you catch Pokémon.Can you guess how many Pokémon evolve using a Burn Heal? Zero. So it’s essentially just a difficult to get Pokéball. All those you threw at Clefairy were for nothing.
2 Super Secret Signals
A big thing introduced in Gold and Silver was the PokéGear, which included a cell phone and a radio function. Now, of course, the cell phone mostly rang so trainers could tell you how their Rattata is in the top 10%, and most resembled those Nokia phone bricks (the era when butt-dialing was a serious problem). I never used the radio. It had some trainer tips and, by then, I was a professional. It turns out though, that if you turned on the radio at Lake Rage, you could intercept Team Rocket’s evolution forcing frequency, which created the Red Gyarados. It doesn’t actually do anything, but that’s some pretty great detail.
1 Surfing Pikachu
From the anime to Pokémon Snap, there are few things cuter than Pikachu on a surfboard. Most people know that Gold and Silver ran on the same engine as Red and Blue, which meant that there was a lot of carried over, like the sprite art. In Pokémon Stadium, you can get a Pikachu on a surfboard and then transfer it to Pokemon Yellow. You can then transfer him to Silver or Gold and use him to Surf across different bodies of water. If you use it, instead of the normal Lapras sprite you get a surfing Pikachu, which is honestly pretty damn awesome. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.