Review by psyduck22

"My favourite game of all time."

POKEMON YELLOW VERSION: SPECIAL PIKACHU EDITION
(NINTENDO GAME BOY)

INTRODUCTION

Let's face it, if you haven't heard of Pokemon, where on earth have you been hiding yourself for the last decade? The Pocket Monsters (eastern name) blasted onto Japanese Game Boys in 1996 with little fanfare, but word of its brilliance soon spread like wildfire. By 1999 the world was gripped by Pokemon fever. The game spawned an acclaimed anime, a trading card phenomenon, countless toys and products covering just about every merchandising aspect you can imagine. The downside to all this success was that a few unlucky souls overlooked the game, believing that it was based on the cartoon show and unfairly dismissing it as a ‘one for the kids'. They couldn't have been more wrong. Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow, remain amongst the most playable, charming, engrossing and downright addictive games ever created.

I have chosen to review Pokemon Yellow over Red and Blue, because although they are almost identical to the untrained eye, the extra polish and other improvements help the overall package shine brighter than ever. To explain a few things before we start; Pokemon Yellow was released following the success of the cartoon series. The game is basically the same as Red and Blue (which preceded the television series), but it incorporates minor elements that made the show such a hit. Instead of beginning the game with a choice of the three starter Pokemon, our hero ends up receiving the electric mouse Pokemon- Pikachu, possibly the most popular of the one hundred and fifty creatures available. Pikachu is also the fighting partner of trainer Ash Ketchum in the cartoon series. Just like the series, Pikachu is unique and refuses to stay inside his PokeBall (a device for capturing and storing Pokemon); you therefore have Pikachu on screen at all times whenever he's in your team. By looking after Pikachu properly, certain events will occur along your journey. Saying anything further would spoil the story, but I will add that Pikachu doesn't become some annoying virtual pet. He merely wishes, by way of an expression (sad, happy etc...), that you let him fight regularly without letting him faint. A small touch, but one that helps immerse you further in the spirit of the story.

Other additions include appearances from Jessie, James and Meowth, the bad guys from the cartoon. The Pokemon themselves look much more polished than they do in the earlier versions; also the graphics display additional colouring if you are playing on a Game Boy Color. The distribution of Pokemon is also slightly different, just like Red and Blue differed before it. Once again, Pokemon must be traded between versions to fill your Pokedex, as every game has a set list of around thirteen missing Pokemon. No new Pokemon are available in Yellow, you merely get a different bunch of missing monsters to Bed and Blue.

STORY/ CONCEPT- 10/10

The word ‘Pokemon' is short for ‘Pocket Monster' and no two Pokemon in the game are ever the same, even if they are the same species and level. Pokemon Yellow is set in the region of Kanto. In Kanto, some people catch Pokemon with devices called PokeBalls, keeping them as pets and living happily together; others study their many species and mysteries, whilst many are ‘Trainers'. Trainers dedicate their time teaching their Pokemon to fight other Trainers' creatures in one-on-one battles. The ultimate challenge in the Pokemon world is to obtain eight gym badges, giving you a chance to face and beat the renowned Elite Four. The prize for you efforts is the title of Champion, immortalizing you and your Pokemon in the Hall of Fame.

To those who think the idea of animals engaging in combat is wrong: A Pokemon can never die in a battle, it merely faints. It takes your characters' friendship, determination and faith in your Pokemon to succeed, while disrespect and abuse of the innocent creatures is strictly frowned upon and punishable by law. Your character is also against Team Rocket, an organization despised and outlawed for using Pokemon to do their dirty work.

At the start of the game, your character is setting off on his journey to become a Pokemon master, about to cross the dangerous grassland surrounding Pallet Town. Just in time, kindly Professor Oak runs out after you, intercepting an unfriendly Pikachu which is about to attack. The Professor then invites you over to his lab. After some sound advice, he gives you the unfriendly Pikachu on the promise that you will take good care of it, because the world of Pokemon is a dangerous place without a good partner to protect you. After completing a small errand and trying your hand at battling a few wild Pokemon, Professor Oak sees that you are suited to training the Pikachu and asks a very special favour of you. He hands over a Pokedex, an encyclopedia type device which can store details of every species of Pokemon known to man. Professor Oak if far too old to try and complete the Pokedex himself, as each species of Pokemon has to be caught to be registered. He therefore asks if you could complete as much of the Pokedex as possible on your Pokemon journey…

GAMEPLAY- 10/10

Pokemon Yellow is basically a role-playing game, complete with statistics, menu screens, leveling up and random battles. Don't run away screaming just yet though as everything is so subtly pushed into play, you will barely notice how involved you have become, until you look at the clock and realize you've been adventuring for six hours.

In its simplest form, Pokemon Yellow revolves around beating opposing trainers in turn-based battles, improving your Pokemon squad in the process. The twist that makes Pokemon really stand out is where the “gotta catch ‘em all” part comes in. Instead of being restricted to roughly the same set of team members in games like Final Fantasy VII, Pokemon practically demands that you find a team that works for you, and only you. There are exactly one hundred and fifty species of Pokemon available over the three versions of the original game (Red, Blue and Yellow). Yellow sports a slightly different variation of Pokemon to its sister games, as I mentioned earlier. Many species are encountered and caught in tall grass, caves and abandoned buildings scattering rural areas of the game, whilst a select few Pokemon must physically be traded with other copies of the game, using the Game Boy Link Cable. Back in the day, trading with friends really gave the Pokemon experience a community spirit. Not only can you trade, you can also battle other Pokemon players to earn ultimate bragging rights.

The capture of Wild Pokemon involves exploring patches of tall grass or other places, engaging them in battle and weakening them with attacks. Harm one too much and it faints, destroying your chance to capture it. When the time is right, you hurl a suitable PokeBall at the specimen and wait for the movement to stop. Waiting for the PokeBall to stop rattling is an extremely tense moment against rarer or tougher Pokemon, but the satisfaction of a successful catch is unrivalled. Once caught, you can simply store your new addition away, release it (a captured Pokemon species remains in your Pokedex permanently) or train it to fight in your team, consisting of a total of up to six members. Pokemon trainers are scattered all over the region of Kanto and increase in strength as you progress, therefore, you need to have a strong and balanced team of fighters at your disposal. Battling wild Pokemon and other trainers will increase the level of your party, but having stronger Pokemon than your opponent isn't always an advantage. Pokemon are just like real animals, they all have physical strengths and weaknesses, they all excel and suffer in certain situations and they all have their own special abilities. Every Pokemon is categorized with a possible total of two types, for example; a Charmander is a fire type Pokemon specializing in fire attacks. Fire attacks are great against grass type Pokemon but less effective against water types. A water attack aimed at a Charmander will be much more harmful than a grass attack would be…..and so on. Knowledge of the best type match-ups, along with strengths and weaknesses is the key to winning battles with minimum fuss. Like many role-playing games, simply leveling up and becoming ridiculously strong is one possible way to complete the game. But even so, pitting a highly trained Pokemon against an opponent with a type advantage could still lead to defeat. Therefore, strategy and balance is the key to success. Training a Pokemon up will lead to the learning of new moves, higher strength and other attributes. A Pokemon can only learn a combined total of four moves, be they offensive or defensive. It's up to you to raise your Pokemon exactly as you choose, moulding your team to your own style of play. Experimenting with different species, discovering new favourites, switching Pokemon in battles to suit type match-ups and learning how to use moves properly, becomes extremely satisfying and engrossing before you realize how deeply involved you've become.

The most exciting prospect when training new monsters is Evolution; certain Pokemon (not all) can evolve into completely new creatures at certain levels, or when certain conditions are met. A newly evolved Pokemon will fill a new gap in your Pokedex; certain Pokemon can only be uncovered by evolving them. You can get hints from other trainers on your travels about evolution, or if you are observant enough, you can work many evolution patterns out for yourself. For example; you can tell just by looking at them together that a Squirtle evolves into a Wartortle. Both are water types but Wartortle has changed colour, grown much larger and looks much stronger than the humble Squirtle. The character design is so clever that it's a bit like making a comparison to real life evolution theories, like humans evolving from apes. Unexpectedly seeing a beloved Pokemon evolve after a tough battle is a gaming moment you won't forget in a hurry.

In each major town in Kanto you will come across many familiar landmarks, including a PokeMart which buys and sells, a Pokemon Center (for healing injured team members) and a Pokemon Gym. Gym leaders and their associates are much stronger than regular trainers and deal with specific types of Pokemon; rock, grass, psychic etc. By beating a Gym leader you will earn one of the regions' eight Gym Badges, taking you one step closer in your quest for the Elite Four. You could also receive additional rewards for your troubles, such as new moves to teach to a Pokemon which can only be used once. You may be granted permission to use certain special moves whilst out exploring; These special moves, known as ‘Hidden Machines' (HM's) cover several abilities, each used for manipulating the environment in some way, helping open up whole new areas on the map. You could reach a whole new city or new pastures containing new species of Pokemon, more trainers and tougher, but make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the notorious Team Rocket along the way….who knows what they're up to? This sense of discovery, mystery and progression really makes your investment worthwhile and is quite remarkable for a handheld title.

GRAPHICS- 8/10

Some people would call the graphics in Pokemon Yellow basic. I would describe them as very stylized and highly tailored to their purpose. Everything looks like it should; there are no massively sparse areas and Game Boy style shading is used perfectly, as the developers had a monochrome display to contend with. If you are playing on a Game Boy Color however, everything will be a tad prettier and the Pokemon will appear in their signature colours. The Pokemon artwork is much more consistent in Yellow, making it the version of choice in my opinion. Besides these enhancements, everything else is graphically faithful to the Red and Blue versions.

SOUND- 10/10

The games' audio will split its audience down the middle; I absolutely love the music used throughout and recall it fondly. Every area has its very own tune; some are actually rather long and very catchy. Your love for the games' soundtrack solely depends on whether you wish to be sat on the bus humming the ‘Battle Theme'. Pikachu actually talks, which was astounding at the time, whilst other sounds fit the action nicely and rarely annoy.

LIFESPAN- 10/10

Pokemon Yellow could almost last you forever. Beating the Elite four and completing your Pokedex will take in excess of a hundred hours, easily. To technically exhaust the game completely, you would need to raise all one hundred and fifty Pokemon to their maximum level (one hundred), collect all items and TM's and beat all the trainers. The frightening thing is that it is all too easy to become a Pokemaniac, and millions of fans all over the world can't be wrong. Can they?

SUMMARY

Phew! Hopefully this review has shed some light on the phenomenon they call Pokemania. If you haven't tried it still, what are you waiting for? It isn't too late to sample what I believe to be ‘The Greatest Game of All Time'.

OVERALL SCORE- 10/10 (not an average)

PRO'S

+ There simply isn't another series like it.
+ Possibly the most accessible role-playing game in existence.
+ Not just for the kids.

CON'S

- Cute doesn't suit everyone.
- Some people simply won't try it.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/31/07


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