What Made Pokémon Crystal So Good? (Pokémon Crystal Review)

The Pokémon Generation 2 games are beloved by the Pokémon community.

No surprise here. Pokémon gold, silver, and crystal arrived right after the Pokémon craze was rampant around the world.

Generation 2 enhanced many aspects of the original Red, Blue, and Yellow Pokémon games plus added a lot of post-game content which was lacking in Generation 1.

Today we are reviewing Pokémon Crystal in order to answer the following question: Is Pokémon Crystal worth playing in 2023?

Let’s be frank. This game is over 20 years old and video games have come a long way since then.

If you have never played Pokémon Crystal before, would you enjoy it? Or is the hype for Crystal purely based on nostalgia?

I also created a youtube video on this same topic which you can check out here:

Main Game

Pokémon Crystal’s main game sticks with the Pokémon standard of collecting 8 gym badges and then challenging the elite 4 to become the champion. This time, you are exploring the Johto region.

What I noticed during my recent playthrough is that the gym badges feel a bit rushed. For the most part, you are taking on gym leader after gym leader with each new town/city you visit.

Unlike a game such as Pokémon Emerald, which adds many towns and storylines between the gym leaders.

Most likely, this is due to the fact that they had limited space on the old Gameboy color cartridges and there is very expansive post-game taking up cartridge real estate (more on that in a bit).

But despite the rather compact main game, the developers still made Johto feel like a full experience. NPCs had a lot more to say in this game when compared to Gen 1, and the map was designed in a thoughtful way that you revisit previous areas for new experiences.

Johto Map

Also, the game keeps you hooked with different time-based events that are accomplished through the day, night, and week cycle.

Day, night, and week cycle

The day, night, and week cycle was a brand new concept to Pokémon Silver, Gold, and Crystal. The game cartridge has an internal battery so the game can keep track of real-world time.

This adds a lot of content to the game giving you more playtime and unique experiences during multiple playthroughs.

Here is the bulk of what is offered via the day, night, and week cycle:

  • Lighting and sprite colors are different for the entire game whether you are playing during the morning, daytime, or nighttime.
  • Different Pokémon can be caught based on the day or night cycle.
  • Certain items are offered by different NPCs based on the day of the week you are playing.
  • Particular Pokémon are catchable on certain days of the week.
  • Different items for purchase are offered on other days of the week for select stores.
  • Berries grow based in real-time.
  • Certain events can only happen once per day such as creating Pokéballs through the Apricorn system.

As you can see from the list above, you can spend a lot of time collecting things by playing this game on different days and during different times of the day.

Post-Game (SPOILERS)

The post-game for Pokémon Silver, Gold, and Crystal is what makes gen 2 famous in Pokémon. After beating the game, you get to travel to the Kanto region to take on the original 8 gym leaders.

They basically gave you two games in one.

As a kid, this was an amazing experience. Just when you think the game is finished… BAM another game.

As an adult, the fact that Kanto is included in the post-game is a blast but the impact is not as great as when you discovered this as a kid.

Collecting the second 8 badges in Kanto can be described as a boss rush. There are very few side stories in the post-game and you’re really just traveling from town to town facing gym leader after gym leader.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the fact that there was a “second game” in the post-game. But is it really 2 games in 1? No, more like 1 and a half games.

After collecting the second 8 badges you can then challenge the ultimate trainer: Red.

Fighting Red in Pokemon Crystal

Red’s Pokémon are a huge level jump from the previous toughest trainer Blue. All of his Pokémon are in the 80s.

Don’t be alarmed. You can beat Red with a team of level 60 Pokemon without much trouble.

Still, facing Red will require some level of grinding due to the fact that there are not that many tough trainers in the post-game. I beat him by training on the elite 4 over and over.

If you hate level grinding, you will most likely dread this part of the post-game.

Aside from Kanto and Red, the only other post-game material is collecting every single Pokémon and the legendaries…


In Red, Blue, and Yellow, legendary Pokémon were not part of the main storyline at all. They were mysterious Pokémon that you could discover with some cave exploration but you could technically get through the game without seeing one.

Personally, I liked the way legendaries were treated in the first generation. It gave you a real sense of accomplishment when you found one of the legendary birds tucked away or when you finally found out that the cave by Cerulean City was hiding Mewtwo.

Pokémon Crystal does involve the legendary dog Pokémon in the plot. A trend that is going to be more and more prevalent in Pokémon games to come.

However, there are additional legendaries, like Lugia and Ho-Oh that you can find later in the post-game via sidequests.


Personally, I found Pokémon Crystal to be a great balance of difficulty without being frustrating.

Modern Pokémon games have become rather… easy. You can pretty much get through any modern Pokémon game without any grinding or real battle strategies.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet brought some difficulty back by allowing you to conquer the badges, titans, and bases in any order you want. But that’s a topic for another day.

Crystal, on the other hand, forced me to play more strategically in order to get through certain gym leaders and areas in the game.

For example, the infamous Whitney and her Miltank. That required some serious strategy, trial, and error on my part to get through.

Pokemon Crystal Miltank 3rd badge

There were also parts of the game that required some level grinding. I’m not the biggest fan of level grinding so I relied on battle strategies more in order to beat certain parts of the game.

Now it’s true, there are parts of Pokémon Crystal that don’t make sense difficulty-wise. Like why are the Kanto gym leaders significantly easier than the Johto elite 4?

Aside from these questionable decisions, Pokémon Crystal overall is a great difficulty experience for the average Pokemon player.


Most Pokémon games are very replayable due to the fact that you can build a different team of 6 Pokémon every playthrough.

It’s fun creating a new team and attempting to collect all the badges with different Pokémon.

To make the games even more difficult, players will also add self-imposed challenges. For example, try beating the game only using bug-type Pokémon.

Pokémon Crystal is good for replayability due to the variety of Pokémon you can catch early on thanks to the day, night, and week cycle.

Should You Play Pokémon Crystal Over Pokemon Silver or Gold?

Yes, I recommend playing Pokémon Crystal over Silver and Gold. Pokémon Crystal has pretty much everything Gold and Silver offer with extras.

Here are the key improvements:

  • Sprites move
  • Ability to pick a girl or boy
  • The battle tower was included
  • Extra story plot
  • A free Dratini

Although some players may be disappointed that Amphoros is not obtainable in Pokemon Crystal.

Is Pokémon Crystal Worth Playing In 2023

Is Pokémon Crystal worth playing in 2023? 100% yes!

Overall Pokémon Crystal is a joy to play. The graphics are dated, as you can imagine, but there’s something charming about the sprites used back then.

When I picked up Pokémon Crystal last month, I hadn’t played the game in over 20 years. I was nervous that my memories of the game were all based on nostalgia and I was not going to have fun.

But honestly, I genuinely had fun playing Pokémon Crystal.

The storyline was exactly what I was looking for in a Pokémon game. The rival was mean and funny. The game’s difficulty was a nice challenge for me and required some real brain power to beat.

Even though it kind of dragged on with all the grinding, all the different night, day, and weekly events kept the game entertaining until the end.

Where Can You Play Pokémon Crystal Today?

As of Summer 2023, Pokémon Crystal is difficult to obtain. You used to be able to download it for $10 via the Nintendo 3DS online store but unfortunately, that closed this year.

If you were not lucky enough to download Crystal before the e-shop closed, you can always pick up a physical copy but that will cost you a pretty penny. Especially a copy with a new battery for that internal clock.

Your best bet might be to wait until the Nintendo Switch adds Pokémon Crystal to its library of Gameboy Color games. I have a feeling that will happen soon… but we’ll see!

And then there are other methods of getting the game.

*cough* emulate *cough*

And that’s all I will say about that. Just make sure you own a physical copy of the game… even if it’s lost in your parent’s basement.

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