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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.
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Fond Memories
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.
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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!
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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.
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