In praise of Kris: the spunky heroine of Pokemon Crystal that everyone forgot

Credit: Game Freak
Credit: Game Freak /

Why does no one like or remember Kris from Pokemon Crystal? Though often forgotten, Kris meant a lot to a generation of lady Pokemon trainers.

Pokemon Gold and Silver were the first video games I ever owned, and I played them incessantly. So when I got the chicken pox one summer as a child, my parents consoled my grouchy, bedridden self by bringing home a copy of Pokemon Crystal for me to play. I hadn’t heard much about the game up to that point (oh, those winsome days before we were all on the Internet all the time), so I was shocked when Professor Oak posed me the now famous question:

Are you a boy, or are you a girl?

Holy crap. What a question! I’m a girl! A girl who plays Pokemon! And the game is acknowledging that I might be! I quickly swapped to the girl option to be confronted with my new avatar: a spunky, blue-haired badass with the default name of Kris:

pokemon crystal
Credit: Game Freak /

I was ten when Pokemon Crystal first came out, and just starting to get into Pokemon. Girls my age were playing with gel pens, bead bracelets, and beanie babies as they transitioned out of Furbies, while the boys huddled in a corner of the schoolyard and traded Pokemon cards where the teachers wouldn’t see them and confiscate them. I went with the boys, sliding Alakazams and Clefairys out of my mittens in return for Machamps and Scythers and feeling like the coolest kid around. But I was also the only girl, and it led to some pretty annoying questions.

“Why do you always hang out with the boys at recess?”
“Why are you such a tomboy?”
“Pokemon is for stupid boys.”

Now, of course, I know better. Plenty of girls liked Pokemon, and I’m sure my experience was at least partially a product of the specific school I was at. But the message to young me at the time was clear–Pokemon was for boys. Even my mom, who introduced me accidentally to Pokemon by bringing home Pokemon cards one day a year or two before, told me she didn’t like me playing it so much because she was worried about me coming across as too boyish. But here was Pokemon Crystal, acknowledging that a girl could also like Pokemon and be a trainer, too! I was blown away.

pokemon crystal
Credit: Game Freak /

Kris was just the best. Look at her stance. Her clothes. Her hair. She looks fearless! Her hands are in fists and she’s ready to take on any challenge that comes her way. Her hair is decidedly bright blue and not in girlish pigtails, but in badass spiky ones that defy gravity the way I’d only seen male hair in Dragonball Z do up to that point. She’s dressed practically but (to my childish mind at the time) very stylishly, with comfy clothes that I myself would be happy donning, right down to the neat little hat. Finally, look at her face: smiling confidently, but with a determined scowl that lets you know she’s not afraid of you at all. She’s the Pokemon League Champ. What are you gonna do about it?

pokemon crystal
Credit: Game Freak /

I devoured Pokemon Crystal, and to my delight, the female trainer option persisted afterward forever. Of course, it took them far too long to introduce other diversity options such as skin tones and further customization, and I don’t really have hopes that Pokemon is going to make diversity leaps in terms of offering more than just the basic male/female binary. But Kris opened the door for trainers to be something other than a standard white dude in a major RPG–a genre still robustly populated by standard white dudes.

Unfortunately, Kris has since vanished. When Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver came out, my only disappointment in the entire remake was that we were introduced to Lyra and her dumb poofy hat instead of reintroduced to the tough-as-nails Kris I had grown up with. I am predisposed not to like Lyra for that very reason. Something about her (perhaps it’s just the HG/SS art design) just comes across as so…vacant, and devoid of the determination and joy I always saw in Kris. Mainly, I just don’t understand why they replaced her.

pokemon crystal gold silver
Credit: Game Freak/The Pokemon Company /

With the recent announcement of Pokemon Gold and Silver on Virtual Console, I’m even more let down by the absence of Kris. Pokemon Crystal is now the only mainline Pokemon game not compatible with the current games–as in, you can’t transfer your Pokemon up to Pokemon Sun and Moon from it. Why? Pokemon Yellow was brought out at the same time as Red and Blue on Virtual Console. Is it just too hard to upgrade and needs more time, or is Crystal doomed to be permanently left behind? You can’t even play your old copies of Crystal anymore due to the internal battery drying out after six or seven years.

Is it a trivial thing for me to be upset about? Maybe, a little. I think it’s a little weird, if perhaps accidental, that The Pokemon Company doesn’t like to acknowledge that Pokemon Crystal was ever really a thing, especially as the “third game” to the best generation the Pokemon series has ever produced and the first to introduce new story as a feature in an enhanced edition. But, really, I just love Kris, and how she made me feel: cool, smart, strong, and absolutely in my rights to be both a girl, and a Pokemon trainer at the same time.

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Kris was only the first in a long line of fabulous lady trainers who began and helped further the narrative that Pokemon is for absolutely everyone who wants it. It’s a theme that’s persisted into the series today as the games talk more and more about the global reach of Pokemon and how it brings people together who can be very different–something we’ve seen very recently in The Pokemon Company’s recent trailers (go on, watch that one again, it’s so uplifting!). So while Kris herself may not be showing up in a game anytime soon, what she stood for is still alive, well, and training amazing teams of Pokemon all over the world.

The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, App Trigger or FanSided as an organization.