Welcome back to our ongoing series where we do a deep dive on each generation of Pokemon titles. Last time, we covered Generation 1, next up is Pokemon Generation 2.
Ah, Pokemon Generation 2. The generation that is remembered most fondly by all fans born before 1995. The only generation of Pokemon games created as a direct sequel to the previous generation, Generation 2 laid the groundwork of innovation that future games would be built upon. From introducing new “pre-evolutions” or “baby” monsters, to new evolutions of the first generation, and a few hundred other unique monsters, the monster list was very interesting to say the least. Perhaps the thing Gen 2 is most well known for is for having the longest post game of any generation, which had the players explore a Kanto much different from the one they came up playing. The volcano for Cinnabar had erupted and devastated the town, Fuschia city now had a new gym leader, just to name a few things. But it all began with Gold and Silver.
Gold and Silver, released on the old Game Boy Color, in 1999, 2000, or 2001, depending on the region. These were the days before same-day international releases, afterall. Like most of the first generation GBC games, GS were also playable on the original Game Boy. However, the later released enhanced version, Crystal, was only playable on the GBC. The games started the players in the new Johto Region, which, geographically in the Pokemon world, was right next to Kanto, the region from the first games. In fact, the two regions even shared the same Pokemon League, which is unique to these two regions. The Johto region itself had a very Chinese/Japanese aesthetic to it, featuring temples that drew inspiration from Japanese zen gardens and Chinese Buddhism.
In addition to a new region, G2 also gave two new types: Dark and Steel. Now, as this was still pre-Gen 4, the new types had still fit into the old Special/ Physical system. That being said, Dark was Special and Steel was Physical. With the introduction of these new types, some of the original 151 Pokémon were given access to the new types, giving them unique advantages and disadvantages. Magneton became Electric/Steel, making it a physical juggernaut but was also given an Achilles Heel when hit with a quad-weak Ground move. Furthermore, some moves also had their typing changed, such as Bite becoming Dark type. Now, Bite, going from Normal to Dark, also meant it went from Physical to Special.
A move like Bite changing types, and in this case classifications, meant it also changed how it could be played. Bite is a move that is commonly learned by several monsters, even to this day. On the surface, this meant several monsters suddenly had access to a Dark type move. However, because Dark is a Special, not all of them could really use it. Some got nerfed, and some got a minor boost.
Generation 2 changed the battle system in another way, the Special Stat was finally split into Special Attack and Special Defense, mirroring the Physical Stats. It has never been made clear why this was never done in Generation 1, but the fact that is has remained as such for so long, nobody’s really put much thought into it since the split happened. However, splitting the stats, at the time, changed the game completely. This now meant Special-focused monsters could be pure power, pure defense, or a slight mix of both. Where at one time they were always Special Defense and Attack all at once. However, given that the monsters were working with the old Special/Physical system, this provided its own unique challenges in limiting what move types Special Monsters could use. They literally only had access to half the available types. Of course, the same could be said for Physical attackers.
Changes to the battle system certainly made things interesting, but the most challenging part about Generation 2 was its most beloved feature that has only re-appeared in its remakes, and never in any of the other 23 main series games; the After Game. Now, all Pokemon games have had a pretty robust after game, with some exceptions, but Generation 2 and its remakes blow them all away to this day. The after game of these games involved exploring the entirety of another region, in particular, Kanto. And the remakes made things even better by resetting the gym puzzles. In the original 1999 version, the players could just explore the region and fight the gym leaders with stronger teams. Kanto offered players access to all the badges that came with it, and allowed them that many more opportunities to catch more monsters, with some of Johto’s new monsters having invaded the region.
In addition to allowing players to reconnect with their past, Generation 2 also gave players access to a harder version of the Elite 4. After conquering Kanto all over again, the Pokemon League would step up the challenge by expanding their teams, upping the levels, and slightly changing the movesets. This feature of a second, harder Pokemon League challenge would return in most later main series games, including the recent remakes of Pokemon Yellow. But, in Gen 2, where the concept debuted, it was really freaking cool to know you could challenge the final bosses, come back later, and then challenge them again at a higher difficulty.
Generation 2 contributed a lot to the series, much more than I could touch on in an article such as this. There was the introduction of the internal clock which created the ideas of daily events, and even changed when monsters would spawn. It had a rival who started as a dick and then experienced some sort of character growth, at least much more than Blue/Green ever did from the original. There was an expansion on the lore of the Legendaries from the previous generation with the Legendaries of the new generation. Most of the concepts would create the foundation of the generations to come. Some would be weirdly forgotten and then return again after much protest from the fandom. For its time, the second generation of Pokemon games created many new concepts, almost all of which did increase the challenge level above the original.