Review by Jerrynsteph4eva

"Pikachu lovers unite for the close of Pokemon's first generation"

Believe it or not, Pokemon Yellow is not the upgraded third version of first generation Pokemon, as seen later in Crystal, Emerald and Platinum, it is actually the fourth version (the actual third version is the japanese Blue, which our Red and Blue was based off of). Nonetheless, Pokemon Yellow may as well be as it adds new features exclusive to this version while keeping the same basic gameplay from the other two games.

When Pokemon Yellow came out, the world was in the midst of Pokemon fever and was going frantic for merchandise, games and the animated TV show. People were excited over the soon-to-be-released Pokemon Gold and Silver and new pokemon were being leaked all the time, making the wait even more unbearable. The solution? Make another version of Pokemon to tide people until Gold/Silver could be released.

My friends and I were in the midst of Pokemania and when we weren't playing it we were talking to each other about our Pokemon accomplishments or sleeping. So naturally, I had to get the newest installment of Pokemon when it came out, even though I was eagerly anticipating Pokemon Gold/Silver (and ignoring all the numerous rumors of how to get Gold/Silver pokemon in Red/Blue). After calling numerous stores on release day, we found a copy and soon I was even more hooked as I tested out the new features while keeping up with my copies of Blue and Red. But what are the new features? Read on.

For those of you who never played the original two or any Pokemon game in general, the game is a JRPG that follows a young boy who decides to become the best Pokemon trainer in the world. Pokemon are various creatures that roam throughout the world and can be captured using Poke Balls, who will then assist their captor in battles. After the local Pokemon Professor gives you a Pokemon, your goal is to catch all 151 Pokemon as well as beat the eight gym leaders (who specialize in a certain type of Pokemon) for a chance at the Elite 4, the four best trainers in the land (aside from the champion). The story doesn't evolve much more than that.

Pokemon Yellow updates most of the “story” of the game to more closely match the TV show. While this mainly means you'll encounter Jesse and James instead of nameless Team Rocket members and the Gym Leaders have updated Pokemon to match the show, there are a few gameplay changes that come about because of it.

You'll notice the first major change right away. Rather than Oak stopping you from going into the grass, Oak lets you wander out and encounter a wild Pikachu, whom he saves you from by capturing it. Once back at the lab, you'll notice that Oak only has one pokemon (Eevee) who he intends to give you but Gary steals him (who will later evolve into one of the three Eeveelutions depending on your skill facing him), leaving you with Pikachu (you don't have a choice this time). It isn't called “Special Pikachu Edition” for nothing!

But this Pikachu has a few things that separate it from other Pokemon and that not even a traded Pikachu can achieve. First of all, it will follow you around the whole game, refusing to stay in its Poke Ball. Talking to it will display a close up of Pikachu, who will have different emotions depending on what's going on (a sleeping Pikachu will be dozing, a Pikachu just revived will be mad etc.) The game also introduces a system for Pikachu that would become more fleshed out and universal in Gold/Silver: a friendship system. The better you take care of Pikachu, the happier it will be and act around you. You can even get a reward for making your Pikachu happy (more on this later). Your Pikachu will even talk like in the TV show, using grainy voice samples rather than the typical buzz cry you'll hear in Red/Blue and even later games. You can even play a special surfing game with Pikachu if you manage to teach it surf (which is only obtainable in Stadium).

While Pikachu may be the biggest addition of Yellow, there are several other features revamped in Yellow. First of all, players using a Game Boy Color will notice that the game halfway supports it (though not to the extent of the later games) and all the Pokemon images have been revamped to look closer to the official artwork and TV show. The game's final dungeon, Cerulean Cave, got a massive overhaul as well, with the layout being changed and redesigned. Certain Pokemon will also be able to learn moves they normally couldn't in Red/Blue (such as Charizard learning Fly, etc). Players will also notice that many of the glitches that plagued Red and Blue were fixed or corrected (though many still remain and some can be achieved through other means) which results in smoother gameplay. You'll also notice that you can catch many Pokemon that were version exclusives, some that you wouldn't normally find until later in the game (such as Pidgeotto in Viridian Forest) and even some you had to trade for (Lickitung, Farfetch'd), though the game introduces different Pokemon you have to trade for.

One of the cooler features is the fact that you can get all three starters from Red/Blue in the game without trading, each being offered by different trainers as a gift for doing various things (such as making Pikachu happy or defeating a gym leader). This helps eliminate the search for players who are willing to trade unevolved starters, especially since Yellow only offers Pikachu as a starter (which can be caught in Viridian Forest in the other games).

The game also sports a new link battle mode: Colosseum 2. This mode is similar to Pokemon Stadium as it offers three different cups with their own rules and regulations: the Pika Cup (level 15-20 with a combined level limit of 50), the Petit cup (levels 15-20 shorter than 6'8”) and Poke Cup (levels 50-55 with a combined level limit of 155). While you have to find a friend with a copy of Yellow to battle with, it's still interesting and fun to try and build teams that meet the rules and guidelines while still being effective (and excluding the powerhouse Mewtwo).

That being said, the game has it's downfalls just like Red and Blue do. The trading emphasis is still there (though the inclusion of the starters and two trade exclusives helps reduce it a bit) and introduces a new list of Pokemon you have to obtain through trading with the other two games (Weedle, Ekans, Raichu, Meowth, Koffing, Jynx, Electabuzz, Magmar). This means you not only have to track down a friend with Red version for their exclusive pokemon but also a friend with Blue version (unless you have a copy of these and two gameboys/Pokemon Stadium) to complete your Yellow Pokedex.

Another somewhat annoying feature of Yellow is Pikachu's refusal to evolve. Most players will come to find out that Pokemon that evolve become much stronger and when you try to do so with Pikachu, he will swat away the Thunderstone, leaving you with stuck with him. Even though evolving him would result in most of Yellow's new features going away, those who focus on both the battling and strategy aspects of the game will realize that your starter's stats will ultimately pale in comparison to others on your team. This also means that you'll have to trade to Red/Yellow for another Pikachu to evolve into Raichu.

If you're so inclined to release, trade or somehow lose your Pikachu, you'll soon find another of the game's shortcomings: the fact that your only Pikachu is unique. Even if you trade to other versions for a Pikachu, you'll find that their Pikachu acts like it would if you were playing Red/Blue and will not utilize any of the new features of Yellow. The only way to get back your unique Pikachu is if you either trade back (and find that Pikachu's happiness is reset) or use a Gameshark to catch a Pikachu (as the game tracks your special Pikachu using your trainer ID).

The game is also noticeably harder earlier in the game, especially in the gym battle against Brock. With most of the beginning Pokemon weak to Rock (Butterfree, Pidgey, Pidgeotto) or not very effective against it (Rattata), as well as Pikachu being completely ineffective against them (due to being half ground type), you'll find yourself thankful when you finally reach Mt. Moon and realize the hard part is mainly over.

Also, unless you're a huge Pikachu fan or obsessed with the TV show, Yellow offers very little reason to upgrade if you already own the other two versions. While it is certainly the pinnacle of the first generation, there's really no reason to purchase it if you're a casual Pokemon player or looking for lots of new features as the game is still plagued by many of Red/Blue's weaknesses (Psychic dominance, trade emphasis, glitches).

Pokemon Yellow does offer some cool new features as well as a friendship system that would later work itself into Gold/Silver, but there's simply not enough new to upgrade from the previous versions (unless you're a collector or a TV show fan). It's still the same, awesome game that you found in Red/Blue with less bugs and certainly worth picking up if you've never owned any of the first generation Pokemon games, but if you've already got one or both of the previous games, you'll want to test it out first to see if the changes suit you. While it certainly isn't the sequel most fans were waiting for, it's still an amazing game that's worth buying and you won't regret it, though check it out first if you've got the other first gen games.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/04/12

Game Release: Pokemon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (US, 10/19/99)


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