Reviews: Pokemon Redand Blue
Fond Memories, but that's it.
Alright, time to own my cardinal sin: I don't like this series. Any of it. Its annoying cash cow status, the way it feels like a cruch for Nintendo's handhelds when it has far better games, I do not like Pokemon. So then- I do, despite this, have a lot of memories of early playthroughs of the first games, most of them fond. And they are still good memories of a decent RPG system, some interesting designs and some dhallenging levels. But upon a replay, I was just struck with such complete apathy for the whole situation. It's ironic that Professor Oak praises me for treating my mons with love when I have so many in the PC I've never even used and, except for the HM moments, The player really only uses Pokemon as tools of combat. They are a means to an end, and in my mind the "bond between mon and trainer" is superfluous at best. And there are ways that could work fine. The Scribblenauts series is one of my favorite series ever and they have virtually no plot and almost no characters matter. But Pokemon insists on praising me for something I'm simply not doing. I feel the same way beating Giovanni in a Poke battle that I would beating him in tennis. Sure I trained for this, but nothing about it feels particularly heroic. Red and Blue suffer from this weird dichotomy where it feels like a sport most of the time, but I'm apparently being heroic other times. One or the other people, please. The highest stake I have to fear is "I don't want to battle this guy again" or "I don't want to play that dungeon again". My Pokemon are never in danger of death, the world is never in any real danger, the stakes are illusions. And yes, maybe they are in other video games, but they are way better at hiding it. The designs are fine I guess. Not great, just servicable for a first outing. I'm not a genwunner, I don't really like these games for much more than memorial value. There's a lot of Franchise Original Sin some forget about. I will own to never playing a game past Ruby, but comparing conversations with others, I really don't want to. To me, it's a superfluous experience.
Pokemon Leaf Green
This review concerns the main adventure (beating up bad guys and becoming Champ). Contests, multiplayer, postgame and catching 'em all are irrelevant here. Warning. I am the guy who likes to think newer is better. So opposite of Nostalgia Filter I am. This is the remake game, so it has advantage over Pokemon Emerald, and the other DS games sans HGSS that I plan to review. Even though I've said that I put Emerald before this I can't help but love this game over Emerald. My bias could stem from the atrocious bootleg that exposed me to Gen III or because I've been dying to see the familiar Pokemon I saw on TV. But enough rambling, here's my thoughts. First off, NO STORAGE LIMIT! Take that Gen III. Seriously, the Bag is great despite the low number of categories it is divided into. The VS seeker is great when farming for money. Steel and Dark did not debut until Gen II, so don't think about STAB-bing with crunch or metal claw. This is also before Physical/Special split so if your Pokemon's stats contradict its type then tough luck. For some reason all grass type are dual type with poison, so poison Pokemon here are actually useless against grass, mind blown! Team Rocket is a gang of Mafia and does not think big. They did kill Pokemon though so I gotta give credit to 'em. The final boss is merely a beefed up version of a boss that you beat several times. At least there's no Crippling Overspecialization, but still Poor, Predictable Rock. Objectively, I think Emerald and many others trump this one. That's not to say you shouldn't try this out. There is some charm to this simplistic adventure.
First Installment Wins: The Series
Even after so many years, R/B/Y holds up as hell. The Game Boy's last hurrah, Game Freaks utilized what little potential was left in the platform to bring us perhaps the greatest "casual" RPG of them all. As much as the sequels and stuff contained more content (mostly in the form of, what, 1,543 new Pokey Men when it was obvious they were running out of creativity halfway through G/S? Did they hire the guy who designed the Mega Man bosses or what?) and gameplay additions, they're just all bells and whistles that owes everything to the surprising depth of gameplay found here. You're a young dude, setting out to trap and enslave animals whose only crime was instinctively trying to protect themselves when you stepped near the grass where they were keeping their eggs. A jerk, basically. Along the way you uncover a plot to, hmm, something something, Mafia, yadda yadda, control the world. In short, who cares. The plot is ancillary in a game like this. It's pretty much a standard Saturday morning cartoon excuse-plot, though I will give it it's got that charming, half-assed, badly translated Mother vibe going on (though not Stylistic Suck this time), which makes it hard to dislike. Traveling around the world and finding the various Pokey Men and trapping them inside undoubtedly claustrophobia-inducing balls is almost always fun (when you aren't spending 12 accumulated hours fighting Zubats, naturally). You do tend to feel like a boss when you beat some old gambling dude in one-shot with a Blastoise named SHELLSHOCK (the only canon way to play). It may not necessarily be the most balanced game, but being a 10-year old dude at the time, I certainly didn't pay money to get my ass beat by no computer. The gameplay can be a little slow sometimes, and as with most Game Boy games, the slightly atonal music and sounds will drive you crazy for a while, so it's a good thing having sound on ain't an important part of the gameplay. If you're itching for some dumb Mon-catching and don't wanna spend, like, 200 hours of your life on it, accept no substitutes. Gen I is gonna treat you right.
I still remember getting my teal Game Boy Color and a copy of Pokemon Red for Christmas when I was 10. Looking back, it was my #1 Christmas present ever and I played it like a crazy person for weeks afterward. I actually couldn't wait for Christmas break to be over so I could return to school to trade and discuss with all of my friends who had the game. Looking back, it's easy to see that the game was a glitch, buggy, ugly mess, but at that time, it was the most complex game I had ever played. A while later, as a reward for good grades, my parents bought me Pokemon Yellow. I was a huge fan of the anime and this game came close to allowing me to play it. It was everything I loved about Red, but cleaned up and with improved appearance. Being able to get all 3 starters, just like in the show, was extremely satisfying. Eventually, sometime after Gold and Silver came out, I grew out Pokemon. Years later, while I was is in college, I bought a used Nintendo DS from my friend. It was the old style with a GBA slot, so I decided to look for some games to play when I discovered that FireRed and LeafGreen existed. I bought FireRed and it was a wonderful nostalgia trip for me. I highly, highly recommend it to fans of the original games who want something more recent. It's everything I love about the old games, but with the functional and graphical improvements of the newer generations present. Overall, I think these games absolutely qualify as "classics." They're surprisingly deep RPGs behind a mask of cute children's characters. In my list of all time favorite games, the original Red/Blue/Yellow games are certainly in my top 10, maybe even top 5, with FireRed/LeafGreen as worthy and faithful remakes.
Generation I review
I'll be reviewing each Gen in this format. Here it is: the pair of Gens that started it all. Initially released as Red and Green in Japan, the international release renamed Green as Blue. Yellow was later released to draw parallels to the anime, and much later, the games were remade as Fire Red and Leaf Green to accommodate for Gen III's lack of connectivity with the first 2 Gens. Setting: The Kanto region. Has a strong theme of genetic engineering with its Pokémon, particularly Mewtwo. Story: You pick 1 of 3 starter Pokémon and collect 8 badges from each gym while fighting the crime syndicate Team Rocket, led by Giovanni, who turns out to be the final Gym Leader. Not the most interesting plot but you have a good idea of what you're fighting against. You ultimately fight the Elite Four and face the Champion, who turns out to be the same prick whose ass you've been kicking throughout the game. You gain access to Cerulean Cave, fight Mewtwo, and the show's over. The remakes include the Sevii Islands. Pokemon: Many of this Gen's 151 Pokémon remain fan-favorites, particularly the fully evolved fire starter Charizard. They not only have appealing designs, but generally have well-balanced, if not extremely high stats, allowing them to remain useful as new Mons come in. Sadly, there are many fans of Gen I who refuse to acknowledge anything past this point (except maybe Gen 2, being a direct sequel) as any good, often spouting hypocritical complaints like the supposed lack of animal-based Mons while loving a Gen that included a ball of magnets, a mime, and a woman of (initially) controversial skin color. Verdict: Gen I undoubtedly deserves praise for starting a legend in video game history. However, to consider the actual Gen I GAMES higher in quality than any sequel would display a blatant Nostalgia Filter. Even by late 90's standards, these games were glitched up the ass. Psychics dominated the metagame with their powerful Special stat (which would be split into Sp. Atk and Def. next Gen) and lack of weaknesses. Finally, the game is practically over once Mewtwo is caught. You don't want to miss this Gen, but I would suggest Fire Red and Leaf Green for all the improvements. 7/10 Don't miss my next review of Gen II!
The one that started it all
It was on my eighth birthday when I received Pokémon Yellow, and I felt it was the best day of my life. To this day, it remains up there on my list of "best days ever". I liked the anime, it was the game that cemented my love for the franchise that continues to this day. At first, I got a lot of help (well, it was technically cheating) for a little bit before I could find my way around the game. I slowly learned of its secrets, of the creatures in the game, the story, the twists that made my jaw drop, and the excitement of self-fulfilled victory. My brothers eventually received Red and Blue, respectfully, so more was opened up to me as well in discovering the differences between games and the famous glitches. I took my Game Boy and Yellow cartridge everywhere I could. I have started the game over a few times (mostly unwillingly), but in hindsight, it was good fun gaining a slightly different team and game play each time. Sadly, my Yellow version doesn't work anymore, but I still hold fond memories. It helps that FireRed and LeafGreen were released, and I was able to relive nearly everything. I was literally close to tears when I heard of it, and when I got my hands on a copy. I may have technically finished the game and thus don't play it anymore, but I cherish it still, and will go back for the nostalgia from time to time. I love Pokémon, and I hope to continue loving Pokémon for years to come. These games are what remains of my childhood, and I am thankful I was able to experience the beginnings of Pokémon, and be part of the start of its pop culture status in America.