Pokémon Heart Gold vs. Crystal: Which Version is a better choice?

Gold was my first ever Pokémon video game to play as a child. So, the game holds a lot of nostalgia for me ❣️. As such I was excited to get both Crystal and Heart Gold as soon as they were released. At the time I was simply curious to see how the game had changed or been improved.

Recently, however, a friend of mine wanted to get Heart Gold but wasn’t sure whether it was worth it, given that Crystal was an enhanced version of both Pokémon Gold and Silver. When he asked me for my opinion, I realized I had never thought of comparing the two games to see which of the two was a better-improved version of the original Gen II 🤔.

So, I dusted off my Pokémon Crystal and replayed both games. Now in this article, I will share my first-hand experience with what I thought of both versions. So, if you’ve also been struggling with deciding between Pokémon Crystal and Heart Gold, then this article is for you. In it, I will cover a detailed comparison of the two games and offer my final verdict. Therefore, ensure you read until the end 😃.

Pokémon Heart Gold vs. Crystal – How They Compare

But first, below is a quick look at the summary of the differences between the two games that we will be discussing in detail, later in the article:


Pokémon Crystal

Pokémon Heart Gold

Game Features and Enhancements

  • Introduced female player option.
  • Animated sprites
  • Better animations than Crystal
  • Also has a female player option
  • Has Battle Frontier
  • Additional games like Pokéathalon
  • Pokémon can travel out of Pokeballs
  • Interactions with Pokémon

Main Legendary Pokémon

  • Suicune
  • Ho-oh

Available Pokémon

  • Weedle /Kakuna/Butterfree
  • Vulpix/Ninetales
  • Phanpy/Donphan
  • Meowth/Persian
  • Ledyba/Ledian
  • Delibird
  • Skarmory
  • Mareep /Flaafy/Ampharos
  • Mankey/Primeape
  • Remoraid/Octillery
  • Girafarig
  • Bulbasaur
  • Charmander
  • Squirtle
  • Articuno
  • Moltres
  • Zapdos

What are the differences between Pokémon Heart Gold and Crystal?

Pokémon Heart Gold
Pokémon Crystal Version. Image source: Pokemon

Both Pokémon Crystal and Heart Gold are based on the original Gen II games. As such there are several similarities between them such as the region they are set in and other core features. However, Heart Gold is sorely based on Pokémon Gold, whereas Crystal is a combination of Gold and Silver. Therefore, there are also some notable differences.

So, to answer the question of which of the two is a better choice, the following are what I thought were the important differences to consider:

Game Features and Enhancements

Before I go into the differences in the enhancements that each version brought to the table, it is worth noting that Heart Gold did borrow some elements from Crystal and improve on them. For example, both games offer gender differentiation. Meaning you can choose between male👦 and female👧 players. But in Heart Gold, the genders are more defined especially in the Pokémon, right from the design to the stats.

Heart Gold did also borrow a little from Pokémon Yellow. Even better than in the latter, your Pokémon can all travel with you outside the Poke ball not just your starter😃. I also noted the Pokémon in Heart Gold had increased personality and interactions. For example, I could tell whether my Pokémon were tired😫 or happy🤗. Some Pokémon even had special interactions that could boost their happiness. I thought these enhancements were pretty cool and made the game more immersive.

In addition to that, Heart Gold introduced new games and challenges that weren’t present in Crystal. The one I enjoyed the most was the Battle Frontier. Although challenging, I felt it was a great way to improve my skills as a trainer💪. Some fun additions like the Pokéathalon came with a series of great mini-games.

But the most important enhancements were in the graphics and mechanics of the game. As you know, although Crystal and Heart Gold are enhanced versions of Gen II, the former was designed for Game Boy Color. Let’s be honest, compared to Nintendo DS, which Heart Gold was designed for, GBC had several limitations😑. That coupled with the fact that Heart Gold was part of the fourth generation, meant that it had far superior graphics and visual appeal.

In Heart Gold, I found the graphics were ten times better and the colors were more vibrant. The game’s designers seemed to have also taken full advantage of the Nintendo DS capabilities and improved on the animations. For example, the gym leaders and Elite 4 had better-animated battle sprites and even battle intros😍.

Aside from that, I also appreciated many of the life improvements in the game including redesigning many of the gyms. What I didn’t care for, however, is the fact that some of the puzzles in the gyms were changed. I get that this was done to make the game more challenging, but I strongly prefer the puzzles that were in Crystal😒.

For example, Pryce’s gym was even more confusing😵 and took even longer to get through in Heart Gold, and don’t get me started on Sabrina’s Gym😠. It took me hours to get figure out where the teleporters went. I think Jasmine was my favorite gym, simple and straight to the point. But hey, that’s just my opinion🤷, some players found the new puzzles easier. All I know was that this was my brain after getting through the 16 gyms…

Via Tenor

Overall, while Crystal was better than Gold and Silver, I would have to say Heart Gold is a much better-enhanced version of the two when it came to the Gen 2 games.

Available Pokémon

Pokémon Heart Gold vs. Crystal
Pokémon HeartGold Version. Image source: Pokemon

As you may know, every Pokémon game comes with its set of exclusive Pokémon. It’s the same for Heart Gold and Crystal. Although the latter was a combination of both Gold and Silver, there are certain Pokémon that were missing in the game like Mareep and Girafarig😢.

Heart Gold, on the other hand, is a faithful remake of the original Pokémon Gold. Therefore, while it has all the Pokémon from Gold plus more, I found that the Silver exclusive Pokémon were still missing from the game. Even so, Heart Gold has a wider Pokedex compared to its predecessor, plus a wider variety of Pokémon including those from Gen 4😃.

What’s even cooler is that you can actually get all 493 Pokémon in the game. Of course, trade some of them from Pokémon Diamond. I also got others through events. Although I can’t say I have captured all 493 of them😅 it’s great to know it’s possible. But what I loved most about the available Pokémon in Heart Gold, is that the Gen 1 starters were available in the game. I got them from Professor Oak after defeating Red, the Champion in the post-game.

So, all things considered, I’d have to say, Heart Gold has more Pokémon available for capture. It also has a wider variety when compared to Pokémon Crystal.

Legendary Pokémon

Pokémon Heart Gold vs. Crystal
Legendary Pokémon in Pokémon Crystal. Image source: Pokemon

While we are on the topic of available Pokémon, let’s discuss the available legendary Pokémon in each game as well. In both games you will be able to capture, Ho-oh, Lugia, Suicune, Entei, and Raikou, the only difference is who the main legendary is and at what point you can capture each.

In Heart Gold Ho-oh is the main legendary at the heart of the game’s story, while in Crystal, Suicune becomes the main Legendary. But, although I was able to capture Suicune at level 40 in both games, in Crystal, Ho-oh was only available for capture after I captured all the 3 legendary beasts.

Aside from the legendries available in both games, it may excite you to know that the legendary birds from Red and Blue are also available in Heart Gold. I was able to capture them after getting all 16 badges, which was great because they were missing in Crystal.

But it is worth noting that if you have Crystal Virtual Console, you can get the mystical Pokémon, Celebi. A bonus note is, with Crystal VC you can even transfer your Pokémon with their Hidden abilities.

Even so, I would have to say, Heart Gold is the winner here, because it had more available Legendary Pokémon. I also felt it easier to capture Ho-oh in Heart Gold than in Crystal, but that’s just my opinion.

Final Verdict: So, Which is better? – Pokémon Heart Gold or Crystal

Now down to the main point of this article, which game is better, the enhanced version of Gen 2 or the remake? All things considered, Heart Gold is the better game in terms of improved graphics, additional content, and a wider variety of available Pokémon and Legendries. The gameplay experience was also, smoother than playing Crystal.

However, it is worth noting that Heart Gold is the faithful remake of Gold whereas Crystal is the combination of both Gold and Silver. If you’ve played Gold before, you wouldn’t be getting anything new in terms of content, since the core of both the original and the remake, are identical. But with Crystal, you get to experience a different storyline, as well as a few new characters. Plus, if you have Crystal VC, you can enjoy some of the perks Heart Gold offers such as wireless connectivity.

So, in the end, it boils down to what’s more important to you, reliving your favorite childhood game or getting the best of both Gen 2 games. If it is the former then go with Heart Gold, but if is the latter, then Crystal is your best bet. Of course, you can always just play both, if possible.

FAQ Section

Which is more popular Pokémon Heart Gold or Crystal?

The answer varies depending on which player you ask. But according to Bulbapedia, Pokémon Heart Gold had a better reception by the media compared to Pokémon Crystal. The site reports that GameRankings gave Heart Gold a score of 85% while Crystal received 79.86%.

Is Pokémon Heart Gold more successful than Pokémon Crystal?

Yes, Pokémon Heart Gold is more successful than Pokémon Crystal based on the sales. According to VGChartz, by May 2023, Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver have a total of 12.72 million sold copies whereas Pokémon Crystal only has 6.39 million sold copies. According to Bulbapedia, in Japan, Heart Gold sold 720, 086 copies in its first week, whereas Crystal only sold 549,135 copies in its first week.

How many hours does it take to finish Pokémon Heart Gold and Crystal?

For Pokémon Crystal, it takes roughly 29 hours if you are focusing on the main objectives, but for full completion that should take about 147 hours. As for Pokémon Heart Gold, it takes approximately 37 hours, if you focus on the main objectives. But if you want to explore all aspects of the game for 100% completion then that will take around 214 hours.

Which game is longer between Pokémon Heart Gold and Crystal?

Pokémon Heart Gold is longer than Pokémon Crystal since it has more content and hence would take longer to complete compared to the latter.

Can you replace Pokémon Heart Gold with Crystal?

No, while both games are based on the original GEN II games, Pokémon Heart Gold is a faithful remake of the Gold version. Pokémon Crystal on the other hand combines aspects of both the Gold and Silver version. Therefore, each game has a different experience.

Are Pokémon Heart Gold and Crystal the same story?

Yes, aside from a few changes, the core story in both games remains the same. They are both set in the same regions and the main plot is still about a protagonist seeking to become champion.

Which one has a better game, Pokémon Heart Gold or Crystal?

Objectively speaking, Pokémon Heart Gold has better graphics and animations. Plus, it offers more of a challenge in terms of gameplay compared to Crystal. Therefore, would be considered the better game. However, depending on who you ask, players will have differing views on which game is better.

Is Crystal harder than Heart Gold?

The level of difficulty will depend on your skill and experience as a player. Although, as most players speculate, some of the older versions of Pokémon games are more challenging compared to the recent ones, so by that logic, Crystal would be more challenging than Heart Gold.

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