Pokemon Crystal on 3DS is the definitive version of the Game Boy Color’s best game

Credit: Nintendo
Credit: Nintendo /

Pokemon Crystal on Nintendo 3DS is a must-have for anyone who breathes oxygen.

It’s a well-known phenomenon that the release of new Pokemon games typically coincides with massive upticks in handheld sales for Nintendo, and there’s a good reason for that. Pokemon is a tightly designed experience that undergoes minor refinements to a formula that was near perfect from the very beginning. ROMs for the original games are also far and away the most pirated of any game across any platform on the internet. But if you are the type that likes your games legal, Nintendo has just re-released Pokemon Crystal and it brings a sense of nostalgia unlike anything.

I never played Pokemon Crystal when it came out back in 2001, as I was moving into high school and a little pixelated RPG about capturing cute monsters and making them battle wasn’t what cool kids were into. Plus I had already played through both Gold and Silver extensively just two years earlier and thought, how different could Crystal be? On the outside looking in, it didn’t have the same allure that Yellow had from Red and Blue with trying to stick closer to the anime, so I passed on the experience. Naturally, it wasn’t long before I got over that, and the heavy gravitational pull surrounding the Pokemon world eventually roped me back in, but by then, several generations had passed, and Crystal was long outdated.

Now that I’ve gotten my hands on Crystal for the 3DS, I can safely say without hesitation that this is the ultimate Pokemon game for fans of the Game Boy generation. Pokemon Crystal on 3DS plays like a fine wine for the connoisseurs who crave classic experiences, offering little tweaks that might go unnoticed by newer players. However, they mean the world to those who used to use their imagination to help bring life to these static little sprites as they played next to the glow of a living room lamp.

The Celebi quest, which was previously only available to those who physically attended an event (or cheated) comes already installed in the game.

The thing you will notice right away is that Pokemon you encounter in battle will now play a short animation that conveys some aspect of the species’ personality. Pidgey flaps its wings, Chikorita spins the leaf on its head, and Growlithe (which can now be caught earlier) barks at you as if to defend its territory. Yes, today we have mainline entries on the 3DS from X/Y to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon that do these things and more, but there was once a time when this was but a pipe dream. Old school fans have a very ingrained vision of what Pokemon is, and Crystal is the perfect balance between satisfying the changes what we want to see while maintaining the aesthetics we’ve come to adore.

It’s also not just the aesthetics that Crystal has enhanced, but also the Gold/Silver experience itself. The legendary beasts Raikou, Entei, and Suicune play a much more prominent role in Johto (particularly the latter), and not just regarding story, but gameplay rewards as well. With Crystal allowing players to capture both of the version exclusive legendaries, Lugia and Ho-Oh, developer Game Freak needed a way to make them feel more significant upon capturing them. Ho-oh is now only catchable after the player collects all three beasts, which strangely feels a lot more organic since the legendary fire bird sits in the final-but-not-final 250th slot in the Pokédex. Ho-oh’s capture feels more earned than it was before and adds more incentive to capturing the frustratingly elusive Raikou and Entei.

Oh, and perhaps best of all, Nintendo has included a small bit of modernization into the 3DS version of Pokemon Crystal. The Celebi quest, which was previously only available to those who physically attended an event (or cheated) comes already installed in the game. You’ll have to wait a little bit to undertake it, however, as it only unlocks after the player defeats the Elite Four and becomes the champion of Johto. For so many players like myself who missed out on the 251st Pokémon back in the day by virtue of not being able to attend an out-of-state distribution event, it’s a welcome treat; and moreover, one that feels organically ingrained into the game.

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Overall, Pokemon Crystal on Nintendo 3DS is an incredible trip down memory lane, packed with more Pokémon to catch than any on the Game Boy platform, adding even more value to an already content-packed experience. I know it’s incessantly cliche to say, but it can be the little things that make all the difference, and Pokémon Crystal has them in spades. If you own a 3DS, just buy this game.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this piece.