It’s a great time to journey to the Johto region with the release of Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver on Nintendo eShop for systems in the Nintendo 3DS family. Whether you’re taking on the Pokémon League for the first time or a tested veteran with wonderful memories of your first adventures in Johto, we’re sure you’ll find a spark of inspiration from the official visitor’s guide and the ten activities you can’t miss during your adventure.
Lots of Trainers fondly remember engaging in battles against their friends—but you won’t have to dust off your link cables to battle this time. Read on for some tips about how to take down your friends in these classic battles—or to learn about how different battles were early in the world of Pokémon!
Pokémon games have changed quite a lot since the release of Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver. Back then, not only did Trainers need to compose their teams using the limited moves, held items, and Pokémon available, but some gameplay elements were very different from Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, too. Plus, the only battle mode available was Single Battles, and most Trainers competed using full teams of six Pokémon—not the abbreviated three-on-three matches featured at the Battle Spot.
Battling, Johto Style
Competitive battles during the heyday of Pokémon Gold, Pokémon Silver, and Pokémon Crystal were notoriously lengthy due to the limited strategies available. Many Trainers, having comparatively few held items available to them, stocked their team with a buffet of HP-restoring Leftovers. Most also included heavy doses of the moves Rest, Sleep Talk, and Heal Bell on their teams. The focus on restoring HP resulted in many battles being decided by which team started to run out of PP first. One of the most successful teams from these historic battles famously only had five attacking moves across a team of six Pokémon!
Also, some of the gameplay differences between these titles and modern games favored defensive strategies. All moves of a certain type were either physical or special—for example, all Fire-type attacks were special attacks. This meant that Trainers could never hit mainstays like Blissey with a supereffective special attack or Skarmory with a supereffective physical attack. Each of a Pokémon’s base stats could also be trained to their maximum instead of having a shared cap between stats. All Pokémon having their maximum HP, Defense, and Special Defense made for a big swing toward defense compared to modern battles.
Another crucial factor was a difference in how the move Sleep Talk operated. Sleep Talk allows a sleeping Pokémon to use one of its other moves, selected at random. If Sleep Talk selects Rest in Pokémon Ruby, Pokémon Sapphire, and in all later titles, it fails. But if the same thing happens in Pokémon Gold or Pokémon Silver, the Pokémon that used Sleep Talk will have all its HP restored and sleep for two more turns. It’s no wonder some Trainers found battles in Johto to be a snoozefest!
When the move Curse was introduced in Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver, it debuted at its maximum strength. Its effect is the same as in modern titles—a Pokémon that isn’t Ghost-type increases its own Attack and Defense while lowering its Speed—but the tepid pace of battles in Johto ensures there’s plenty of time to power up. And unlike in newer games, if two Pokémon used Roar or Whirlwind on the same turn, the slower Pokémon was the one that succeeded. This made the combination of Curse and Roar extremely difficult to stop. Use the TMs for Rest (TM44), Sleep Talk (TM35), and Curse (TM03) with care if you’re looking to battle other Trainers.
Slow and Steady
The duo of Skarmory and Blissey was so challenging to defeat that they helped define a generation of battles. Few physical attackers could hope to penetrate Skarmory’s healthy Defense stat, and its Whirlwind move ejected those hoping to increase their stats using Curse. Blissey was nearly impervious to special attacks, and some key attacks made it the anchor of most teams. Soft-Boiled allowed it to restore its own HP, while Heal Bell healed the status conditions of its whole team—crucially including Rest’s self-inflicted slumber.
There’s no true equal to this duo, but Trainers who’d prefer to go a different route—perhaps because they’re playing Pokémon Gold and can’t catch Skarmory—should look at Forretress and Miltank. Forretress can’t use Roar or Whirlwind, but damage from its Spikes adds up in battles with lots of switching, while Miltank’s Growl (of all moves!) can help keep opponents with Curse from getting out of control. Steelix provides a more parallel swap for Skarmory, but beware it has weaknesses against types that deal physical damage.
Blissey and Miltank somehow weren’t even the most powerful Normal-type competitors around. That title goes to Snorlax, which may have been stronger in Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver than any other Pokémon in any other Pokémon game, excluding Legendary and Mythical Pokémon. With monstrous HP, stout Special Defense, and Curse to increase its Attack and Defense, Snorlax was almost unstoppable. It could even make some incredible last stands once all its teammates were defeated and it could no longer be effected by Roar or Whirlwind.
A few other Pokémon were selected because of their defensive aptitude at lesser frequencies—Meganium, Slowbro, and Venusaur, and stand out as other Pokémon that were tough to move on defensive teams.
Catch Those Pokémon!
Blissey (evolve Chansey, found in Routes 13, 14, and 15)
Suggested Moves: Soft-Boiled, Heal Bell, Flamethrower, Sing
Forretress (evolve Pineco, found by using Headbutt on trees in Johto)
Suggested Moves: Toxic, Spikes, Rapid Spin, Explosion
Miltank (find in Routes 38 and 39)
Suggested Moves: Heal Bell, Milk Drink, Growl, Body Slam
Skarmory (find in Route 45 in Pokémon Silver only)
Suggested Moves: Drill Peck, Curse, Whirlwind, Rest
Snorlax (find in Vermillion City)
Suggested Moves: Double-Edge, Curse, Rest, Sleep Talk
A Balanced Approach
Each knockout in these matches was critical, so most top-performing Pokémon balanced defense with offense. The combination of Rest and Sleep Talk enabled Pokémon such as Raikou, Suicune, Tyranitar, and Zapdos to dish out damage over long battles without compromising defense.
Creative use of Mean Look enabled players to mesh offense and defense more directly. Umbreon could entrap foes with a stare before lowering their Attack stat with Charm. It could then handoff its hapless foe to a teammate with an advantageous matchup using Baton Pass, helping create the rarest of scenarios—a probable knockout. Misdreavus was scarier yet. The combination of Perish Song, Mean Look, and Hypnosis was so powerful that some players refused to battle against Misdreavus that knew all three moves!
The one-hit KO moves Fissure, Guillotine, and Horn Drill formed another oft-prohibited tactic capable of scoring quick knockouts without sacrificing defense. Massive Defense stats and Leftovers meant nothing against these moves, so many Trainers preferred to avoid them completely. Use them to your advantage if you want a quick match—especially if you can trade a Tauros that knows Fissure and Horn Drill from Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, or Pokémon Yellow!
Catch Those Pokémon!
Misdreavus (catch in Mt. Silver at night)
Suggested Moves: Perish Song, Mean Look, Thunder, Protect
Tauros (catch in Routes 38 and 39)
Suggest Moves: Fissure, Horn Drill, Rest, Sleep Talk
Umbreon (evolve Eevee received in Goldenrod City)
Suggested Moves: Charm, Mean Look, Baton Pass, Rest
Going on the Offense
Pokémon that sacrificed defense for offense tended to be at a disadvantage in Johto, but they could still succeed in the hands of a careful Trainer. Most Trainers either elected for just one of these Pokémon to push the tempo at a key moment or for a full team to play a different style entirely. Mixing-and-matching tended not to pan out—hybrid strategies were often stalled out by conventional teams.
Belly Drum represents the most decisive commitment to offense. Sacrificing HP with Belly Drum wasn’t quite the same precursor to being knocked out it would become in later titles, but still gave battles a firm push toward their conclusions. Snorlax was the most popular member of the drumline, sacrificing stoutness from Curse for immediate offensive pressure. Fan-favorite Charizard was another solid option. It was much easier to take down than Snorlax was, but it was much quicker and more effective against Steel types.
The only offensive held item fit for competitive battles was Marowak’s Attack-doubling Thick Club, and it could further increase its own Attack using Swords Dance. But Marowak’s Speed was too plodding to dominate battles on its own, so Trainers tended to pair it with a Jolteon that knew Baton Pass and Agility. A Marowak that received two levels of increased Speed from Jolteon was so powerful it could often win battles.
Few moves accelerate battles more quickly than Explosion, and it was even more powerful in Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver. Explosion only took half of the target’s Defense stat into account, making its base power an effective 500. Pokémon like Exeggutor and Gengar were especially dangerous when taught Explosion—opponents looking to use Blissey or Snorlax to absorb their powerful special attacks could find themselves losing a key Pokémon to a glorious blast.
There weren’t too many other options for offensive-minded Trainers, but Heracross, Machamp, Nidoking, Tentacruel, and Typhlosion stood out as top choices.
Catch Those Pokémon!
Charizard (trade from Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, or Pokémon Yellow)
Suggested Moves: Belly Drum, Earthquake, Fire Blast, Rock Slide
Exeggutor (evolve Exeggcute found by using Headbutt on trees in Johto)
Suggested Moves: Psychic, Giga Drain, Sleep Powder, Explosion
Gengar (find as Gastly in Sprout Tower at night)
Suggested Moves: Thunderbolt, Ice Punch, Dynamic Punch, Explosion
Jolteon (evolve Eevee received in Goldenrod City)
Suggested Moves: Thunderbolt, Hidden Power, Agility, Baton Pass
Marowak (find in Rock Tunnel)
Suggested Moves: Earthquake, Rock Slide, Fire Blast, Swords Dance
Snorlax (find in Vermillion City)
Suggested Moves: Belly Drum, Body Slam, Earthquake, Rest
Stand Alone in the Victory Circle
With two regions of Pokémon available in Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver, don’t be afraid to come up with your own strategies for battle. Perhaps you’ll discover powerful strategies that flew under the radar during the battles of yesteryear! Or maybe it’d be easier just to use Snorlax.