Feb 01, 2024, 06:27AM

Pokémon Forever

Pokémon Crystal is a rare Gameboy Color cartridge—if piracy is wrong then I don't want to be right! 

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I’m one of the few left in 2024 who still carries around a Gameboy Color, and thanks to piracy, I can get great games that work well at an affordable price. Buying retro video games that work is a challenge. I resorted to a pirated game because of negative experiences trying to buy original ones. I saw Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon Gold for sale at the Raynham Flea Market and purchased both. Yellow worked fine until about 20 hours into gameplay. The save battery stopped working after that. The save battery in Gold never worked, and when I tried returning the broken Gold game, the douchey vendor said no refunds, but I could have the other copy of Pokémon Gold he had for sale. Great, except that one also had a busted save function.

I started researching battery replacements on Etsy since this guy also told me they wouldn’t replace the busted battery on the broken games he sold me. A person in Boston does them for $15 apiece with free shipping, but then I saw something better while browsing Etsy: brand-new Pokémon Gameboy Color cartridges. Some people pirate the games, put them on cartridges with an almost identical appearance to the originals, and sell them online. They call the games replica cartridges. When I saw these for sale for a similar cost to repairing the old games—something I will do at some point this year—I bought a pirate cartridge of Pokémon Crystal instead.

Pokémon Crystal is a beefed-up version of Pokémon Gold and Silver that came out for Gameboy Color in 2001. It’s rare. Original copies often sell for $120 to $130. It sold fewer copies than many other Pokémon games because Gold and Silver—the other two second-generation Pokémon games—were out for a year when the game came out, and Nintendo also released the Gameboy Advance in 2001.

I found the battling portion of the game easy, though I remember struggling with these games as a little kid. Crystal was also the first Pokémon game to feature a prompt at the beginning asking the player if they’re a boy or a girl; anything that promotes two genders I like, but it's also nice that girls can play as a girl if they want. The game lets you return to the Kanto Region once you complete gameplay to explore the region from the first generation games (Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow), battle in gyms, and catch Pokémon, giving players far more gameplay.

Buying and selling used Pokémon games from over 20 years ago doesn’t benefit Pokémon or Nintendo, yet neither entity makes new copies of these games available for consumers. The games use obsolete technology, making them simple and cheap to produce, hence why random people on Etsy can offer brand new cartridges for less than $20 shipped.

When people lack a legal way to do something, they resort to illegal methods to get things done. Illegality adds friction and can make an event less common. This is sometimes a net good because even harmful black markets confined to a few are better than allowing entities to push certain ills onto the masses. Pokémon games with an E rating aren’t like fentanyl, cockfighting, or female genital mutilation, so Nintendo and the Pokémon Company have little justification to keep us from purchasing new copies of these games legally.

They’ll never incentivize me to purchase a Nintendo Switch to play the newest Pokémon game; over 1000 Pokémon now exist in the franchise. One Pokémon now is merely a nose, and another is a vanilla ice cream cone.

One Etsy pirate I recently spoke with told me they’ll soon make more Pokémon Red Super Nintendo cartridges available. I own a Retron 3, which plays Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis games, so I may buy a copy when the seller makes more copies available. Pokémon Red was a Gameboy Color game, but having an easy way to play it on a big-screen TV without getting the Nintendo 64, Pokémon Stadium, and Transfer Pak involved sounds nice. 


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