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Friday, June 7, 2013

Pathways to Adventure: Pokémon Gold and Silver

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Summary: Typhlosion sweeps the entire region.

So I was at Savers the other day, and there was a Pokémon book that stood out to me: Pokémon Gold/Silver: Pathways to Adventure by Jason R. Rich (writer of articles in magazines such as "Gay City News"), which was a relic all the way from November 2000. Back 13 years ago this was $9.99 — now it was discounted to $1.99. I didn't know this existed, so I had to buy this, and I knew I'd review it! And it's even an "Official Nintendo Licensed Product". It was published by Sybex, which no longer exists if you try to go on their website.

Lugia is apparently on the sequel's cover.

This 140 page book is a breeze to read (took me about an hour) — large bold text with full-color pictures featuring the Game Boy Color graphics of Pokémon Gold. Follow the young boy Taylor (who frequently obsesses over Ash Ketchum) as he collects 8 badges, deals with mysterious red-haired rival Mark, and defeats Team Rocket. The story stops just as Lance is defeated. Taylor chooses Cyndaquil, who he nicknames "FireFriend".

Taylor is incredibly unsympathetic — The narration states how much of a good trainer he becomes over his journey and how he's friends with his Pokémon — but he clearly chooses favourites. In fact, the only Pokémon he battles with is FireFriend, who becomes a Quilava by Sprout Tower, and Quilava evolves into Typhlosion after beating the Kimono Girls. By the time Lance the Champion is beaten, FireFriend is level 63 and the author apparently swept the game with an end-game moveset of Tackle, Cut, Swift, and Ember (Taylor deprives FireFriend of learning Flamethrower — "After giving it some serious thought, Taylor decided to keep FireFriend's arsenal of attack moves the same. He passed up the opportunity to teach it Flamethrower" (123)). FireFriend is the only Pokémon Taylor even nicknamed!

Meanwhile, Taylor's other Pokémon involve a Metapod, a Pidgey (used solely for Fly — "Taylor hopped onto the back of his Pidgey and flew directly to Goldrenrod City" (96) [emphasis added]), a Mareep (used solely for Flash), the hatched Togepi, a Magmar (used for Strength), a level 20 Magikarp (who he tried to teach Surf but failed — one more level and he'd have a Gyarados!), the shiny red Gyarados (caught only for how cool it'd look in the Pokédex), and a Krabby (used as a Surf, Whirlpool, and Waterfall slave). He never battled with any of these.

In a strange editorial decision, the names of the vast majority of Johto Pokémon species are omitted. Mareep, Cyndaquil, Quilava, Typhlosion, Togepi, Spinarak, Totodile, Croconaw, and Feraligatr are the only Pokémon with their species named. Even Amphy, Jasmine's Ampharos, is referred to as "Amphy" but we're not told what species Amphy is. All the Kanto Pokémon are named and featured in sidebar pictures. Amusingly, Johto Pokémon are referred to by vague descriptions (and descriptions of things like moves are comical to those who know the games, such as Mud Slap being referred to as "mighty" (23)).

"First out was a level 18 Clefairy, followed by a level 20 normal-type Pokémon" (45). "The tree turned out to be a wild, rock-type Pokémon" (48).

"Jasmine had three steel-type Pokémon, including two level 30 Magnemite and an oversized, steel-type Pokémon" (67).

"Psychic Richard challenged Taylor using a level 36 psychic-type Pokémon. [...] The gray creature with two tails launched a  Psybeam as a counter-attack" (118).

Espeon is NOT grey!

So bottom line, this book teaches bad Pokémon training (using only one Pokémon and KEEPING TACKLE BY END-GAME!) and destroys hype (the book was released mere weeks after the game was released in America) by going through the actual game but without exploring the characters! In this series, the Pokémon and their trainers are the most important part! Without characters, there is no Pokémon fanbase. It's not like Mr. Rich didn't know what the names were — he has English-language screenshots of his playthrough throughout the entire book! He purposefully avoids having the names and even sprites of Johto Pokémon in the screenshots. It's not like "You gotta play the game to know the new Pokémon!" I think someone who played through the first generation and read this book would think that Gold/Silver barely features any new Pokémon in Johto (which is true but you don't want to MARKET THAT), which is a disincentive to buy the games! Why would I buy the new generation if there are only 9 new Pokémon? If you're already spoiling the game by writing the book, why wouldn't you also spoil the new Pokémon?!

The number one reminder that Pokémon Gold/Silver: Pathways to Adventure gives is how bad the level-balance is in the game. All of the NPCs are incredibly underleveled because the game tries to support the non-linear pathways you can take after Goldenrod City. This is why Pokémon games should be linear, or dynamically scale NPC levels to the number of gym badges you have. This lack of game balance is the reason why the 2nd Generation games should never be considered the best generation. And this book is far from being considered the best anything. I mean, I still like it as a collector's piece and it was definitely a page-turner because of how much we know now about Pokémon in hindsight, but if I read this back in 2000 it'd be an underwhelming experience. I also really can't say "You shouldn't buy this book" because it's not like you'll ever find this sold anywhere.

Ludwig is an accomplished battler in the online battling simulator Pokémon Onlinewhere he goes by Prince LudwigVKoopa, and also occasionally looks at the Japanese Pokémon Rumble U Miiverse community, so follow him at NNID PrinceOfKoopas!

Ludwig reviews another book for KoopaTV, this time it's an Ace Attorney manga.


  1. (using only one Pokémon and KEEPING TACKLE BY END-GAME!)
    I think you're just mad you've never done that.
    Ludwig is an accomplished battler in the online battling simulator Pokémon Online, where he goes by Prince LudwigVKoopa,

    1. ...Yeah, I've never done that. And I've never wanted to.

      I was probably accomplished in 2013, and I'm accomplished now. It... mattered a bit more back then than now, though.

    2. I was around back then.
      Just remember that.

    3. You...were?

      I've always topped Fun Tiers ladders and was on the tournaments leaderboards back before they renovated the point system.

    4. ...Uh yeah?
      I joined in 2013.

    5. I don't quite remember.
      I just remember playing lots of BW2 Ubers.

    6. I remember having Calm Mind Pressure Lugia.

      I won some tours/event tours that weren't Fun Tiers, too.

    7. ...I remember that Lugia.
      ...I bring it up all the time?


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