Pokémon is a word that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Crystal is the last Game Boy Color incarnation. A lot of people assume that the game is a "Special Edition", similar to Pokémon Yellow in regards to Pokémon Red, Blue and Green. However, this is actually untrue. Pokémon Crystal takes place one year after Gold/Silver's set time, but it pretends that Gold/Silver never happened. Think of it as an alternate side story sequel. It features an enormous list of features that change and shape the gameplay of the title.
The first of these features is a Gender Option. Why be Ash when you can be Ashley? Or rather, why be Chris when you can be Kris? I'll stop now. This affects how some of the graphics appear. Crystal is the first Pokémon title to include this feature.
First shown in Pokémon Gold/Silver, Pokémon Crystal also has a Time and Day feature. The game asks you what time it is and what day it is when you first start a new game. This is kept track of in real-time and affects what the game's graphics are like and the availability of certain stores/radio channels/items/people/events/Pokémon/etc.
You can trade and battle Pokémon with other Gold/Silver/Crystal owners. You can also trade certain Pokémon with the Red/Blue/Yellow versions of the game. For those who use a Game Boy Color, there is a hidden option called "Mystery Gift" that allows you to generate certain items via the Game Boy Color's infrared port. You can also do this with the Pokémon Pikachu 2 Gold/Silver unit.
Some odd new options in the game are a Battle Arena that lets you take a team of Level 10 Pokémon and fight your way to the top of a tower against rival trainers for a special item. The Pokémon in this game can be given items to hold, though they can only hold one item at a time. These items strengthen or affect your Pokémon's behaviour or statistics. The equipped items can be used randomly by your Pokémon to replenish their Hit Points.
There is also a random virus that your Pokémon can catch called "The Pokérus." Pokérus causes them to do unusual things, such as going berserk in combat, or temporarily shooting their stats through the roof. They may also randomly faint or develop a status problem.
Actual combat in the game is conducted in one on one, turn-based Pokémon battles. You can have six Pokémon with you on your quest and you can put the others in boxes on a PC. You can rename the boxes and store an ungodly amount of Pokémon. Each box holds 20 Pokémon and there are 14 boxes. That's 280 Pokémon you can store in there. Imagine how many Aipoms you can own now! Indigo Monkey Jungle Love!
Each pokémon has four moves they can use in battle; some moves may be used outside of battle as well, for passing obstacles. Each move can be used a set number of times before it needs to be "refilled" by going to a Pokécenter or using an item. Each move has an elemental denoted for it. There are 17 elements in total. The elements are Dark, Steel, Psychic, Ghost, Grass, Fire, Water, Electric, Flying, Normal, Fighting, Ice, Dragon, Rock, Ground, Poison, and Normal. Each type has a different weakness and/or strength to other types. For an example: Dark beats Psychic, Psychic beats Fighting, Fighting beats Dark. There are also some moves that are dual types.
Moves range from offensive and defensive moves to supplemental moves that increase attack, defense, speed or special statistics. Other moves may freeze, tire, burn, confuse, poison, or paralyze opponents. Some of the Pokémon have one-shot moves that make them harder to use then others. A good example is Smeargle who can learn ANY move permanently by using a SKETCH ability that works like a Blue Mage like Strago Magus in Final Fantasy VI. For that reason, Smeargle is not usable in many competitions. Another interesting Pokémon is Ditto which turns into a carbon copy of its opponent and can use the copied Pokémon's moves.
Pokémon also have feelings now and can choose to like you or hate you. Pokémon that hate you can refuse to obey you even if you have the required badges to control them. This is an undocumented part of the game, but is very important. Some Pokémon will only evolve if they like you.
There is an incredible number of different ways to catch them now, such as Fishing, Headbutting, Rock Smashing, Pokémon Swarms, contests, gambling, coin trade ins, trading from other versions, real life contests, only at night, only during the day, only on Saturday, chasing the damn thing across Johto, mini-events, breeding, etc. The people at Game Freak must have stayed up for hours one night and decided on the best ways to torture game players as there are a ton of Pokémon that only show up ONCE in the game. This game is a Pocket Monster in itself and is deceptively simple, but fiendishly complex. One more thing to note is Shiny Pokémon. These are a different color then normal Pokémon and there is only one per Pokémon.
Pokémon Crystal allows you to find and capture several small creatures which you use one at a time for battling other creatures and trainers. There are a total 251 different creatures and 26 variations of one of the creatures. There are several ways to acquire these creatures; some are given to you, some are traded, some must be caught using Pokéballs, some can be found only by breeding. Yes, you can mate your Pokémon now because they have genders. Their kids retain various moves when they are born from eggs, so you can effectively create a Pokémon with moves it would not normally learn. The eggs require you to walk a certain distance before they hatch.
There are mini-games as well, such as a lottery, card game, and a slot machine. The battles are carried out in standard menus, and most of the game is spent traveling, dungeon crawling, and battling like in a normal RPG. This game features some rather exhaustive dungeons, however.
The replay and play value of this game is entirely up to the players. If they choose to go for all the gameplay in the game by catching everything and trading/battling friends; then the game will last a long time. If they play for just the story, they will be disappointed.
Pokémon does not have a traditional morality play story involving the spirits of ancients or evil beings that sprout wings and fight you in the end with thirty-minute spells and opera music. The character does not talk and is merely an observer to a long stream of related incidents involving characters like Team Rocket or the explorers in the Ruins of Alph. In other words, the story is what the player makes it. It's similar to Phantasy Star Online, where the story is presented through Hunter's Guild Jobs, your own intelligence, and the messages left by Red Ring Rico. Basely put, the story is as deep as you want to make it. However, casual gamers will find it to be deftly entertaining the first time through.
The story is a simple coming of age story as your character tries to become the greatest Pokémon trainer in the land. There are various side events that contain a subtler story. New to Crystal is a small side quest that delves into the Ruins of Alph. There are new characters that can call you and they now (for once) offer more intelligent conversation. The friends that call you also can help you find items and Pokémon. There is added text in various areas, as well as new text in the Pokédex.
The game progress throughout Johto as your hero collects badges to take on the Elite Four. When you beat the Elite Four, you can travel through "Kanto" and visit areas and towns from the original game. You can also collect badges from many of the Gym Leaders you may have fought in Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow.
The side characters have some depth to them and it is entertaining to see what Misty, Brock and Ash have been up to after you beat the Elite Four. Team Rocket is in here in full effect and it appears that Jesse and James have revived the evil team. Team Rocket takes part in increasingly evil plots including poaching and taking over one of the Twin Radio Towers. In a slight bent toward reality, after you save the tower in Johto, security is stepped up in the Kanto tower to prevent further Pokémon terrorism by Team Rocket.
Story and gameplay are very well done; the graphics are well done too. The colors are nice and light on the Game Boy Color and on the Game Boy Advance. The game's graphics change depending on the time of day, and various details such as house lights change depending on the time. The Pokémon now have little battle introduction animations that are rather cute. An example of this would be Rattata's se-xy (right) little butt wiggle, or Jigglypuff puffing out her cheeks before a fight. The Squirrel approves of such things. Seeing Mew shiver before he commences destroying my opponent is a thrilling sight! The animations add a certain degree of character to the normally stiff Pokémon in the Game Boy games. The animated introduction before the title screen is rather impressive.
The music in the game features some pleasant new tunes and remixes of music from the previous games. Each Pokémon has its own specific "cry" as well. Not too bad in my opinion. The game has a slight bounce to it that lends a sense of fun to it. The music is well composed and enhances the game instead of detracting from it.
The control is improved slightly over Red/Blue/Yellow and the changes are rather good. The newest addition is SELECT Registration. You can register an item like the Bicycle or Fishing Rod to the SELECT button. This is an incredibly convenient option as it saves time and means that you do not have to wade through menus to use the Bicycle.
The second control tweak was worked into the game as the Pokégear. It's a wristwatch that would make 007 jealous. It tells you where on the map you are, lets you listen to the radio in the game, talk to people you get phone numbers from, and acts like a clock. Your items are now better arranged inside your backpack. Your backpack is divided into several pockets that hold specific items such as Pokéballs and Technical Machines. You can also rename the boxes inside your computer.
My final opinion on Pokémon Crystal is that it is worth owning, even if you have caught them all in Gold and Silver. It is the best version of Pokémon available and offers more for your money in its additional features. It also looks the best on Game Boy Advance and comes in a clear blue cartridge with sprinkles of gold and silver confetti embedded into the milky blue cartridge's plastic. This is a pure joy of Pokémon gameplay and it has sprinkles. Mmm... sprinkles.