Review by discoinferno84

"They call me mellow yellow..."

Let's take a trip back in time. Let's go to a faraway place called the past, where Nintendo was dominating the video game industry with its new mascot: Pikachu. Using this strange electric mouse, Nintendo wielded enough popular influence to rival even Mario. I mean, Pokemon was everywhere, from that crazy card game to low quality lunch boxes. But for the majority of mainstream America, the real madness of the trend revolved around the television show. Every afternoon, you got to watch that stupid wannabe trainer take on the likes of Team Rocket, learn some sort of life lesson and move on. And sadly, the majority of the kids who watched the show goggled up every single piece of cookie cutter American dubbed anime that was given to them. Recognizing the ever-growing popularity of the trials and tribulations of Ash and Pikachu, Nintendo decided to release a third volume to compliment the classic Red/Blue Pokemon games that were sweeping the nation. And although this game offered something to the rabid fans, it still comes off as a gimmick.

If you haven't heard of Pokemon by now, congratulations, you are one of the few and proud living under a rock of blissful pop culture ignorance. But for those of you that have already had your fill of the one hundred and fifty pocket monsters, you already know where I'm going with this. You play as an adolescent human living in a world of strange creatures called Pokemon. When you reach that tender young age of ten, it's your unwritten obligation to undergo a Pokemon journey. Basically, you go out into the wild, beat up one of these creatures, and store it inside a small Pokeball for later use. Once you've caught a Pokemon, you can command it to viciously battle one of their own, thus allowing you to capture it and add it to your team. Eventually, you'll be riding high and laughing easy as your enslaved creatures do your bidding. And if you capture enough and beat everyone else's teams, you'll become the Pokemon champion! At least, until the next version comes out…

We all know the plot of this game like the back of our hands. The key difference with the Yellow Version is that the story revolves around the Pokemon cartoon show. That's right, this game is based on a show that's based on a game. It's a small world when it comes to marketing techniques, isn't it? And just as the television show, you play as Ash, a young trainer setting off from the proverbial Eden of Pallet Town. But unlike in the other games, you aren't given the option of your starting Pokemon. Instead, you're presented with a scruffy little yellow thing called a Pikachu. This rodent may look cute, but he's got enough electricity to power Las Vegas for a day. But this little critter comes with a lot of baggage as well. Apparently, it hates to be stuck in a Pokeball and carried around. And so he follows you on foot, trailing behind you like some sort of pathetic stray animal. And even though Pikachu is obsessed with you, you still have to care for it and love just like any other Pokemon on your team.

And even though working one-on-one with Pikachu sounds like something new and innovative, it really boils down to just having an extra character tagging along behind you. As far as the gameplay setup goes, nothing has been changed. You still set off from a town, go into some tall grass and hopefully catch a wild Pokemon. All you have to do is instruct your Pokemon to weaken the poor critter, then capture it with one of your Pokeballs. Your goal is to capture and train any number of these animals, then have them compete for prestigious titles at the various battle gyms in the various cities. You goal is to defeat every trainer in the region, giving you the prestige and supremacy of a Pokemon Master.

In order to train your team of pocket monsters, you have to pit them against countless rivals and their formidable forces. But in order for you to stand a chance in those battles, you have to recognize the strengths and capabilities of your team. All Pokemon have weakness, and it's up to you to figure out how to get past these weaknesses. Sure, you could create a powerful team using nothing but Fire Pokemon. But where will that leave you when a trainer unleashes a Blastoise or some other mighty Water Pokemon? In order to make up for individual weakness, you must create a team of that can balance out the weakness of every Pokemon. So if you're training Fire Pokemon in your team, make sure that you have something that can take out an enemy Water Pokemon. Sure, the trainers in these games are pushovers once you've leveled enough. However, creating a well-balanced Pokemon team eases battling and can be essential to your victory.

But in order to become a truly the best trainer in all the land, it's your duty to track down and capture every Pokemon around, risking life, limb and likely status ailments in the process. And it's this unwritten goal that makes the Pokemon series so darned addictive. You have one hundred and fifty of these things to find, most of them hiding in the far reaches of the various paths and routes. You can spend countless hours going over the same old beaten roads, searching for new Pokemon to add to your collection. If you're looking for a specific species, casual searching can turn into an obsessive hunt for that last piece of your team. It's that strange obsession that makes the adventure so addictive. And this time around, you've got Pikachu to back you up.

Even though this game plays and feels almost like its predecessors, the game designers tried to implement a few new features to attract the crowds. One of the main selling gimmicks of this game was the supposed emphasis on updated graphics and sound. Anyone that has played the first games will notice the difference, or lack thereof. A few of the Pokemon animations seem new and vibrant, even exceptional for the Gameboy's capabilities. Pikachu has been redone with more detail and color than ever giving more personality to your devoted pet. Also, your faithful put comes with a fully functional and garbled voice. You'll hear plenty of “Pika Pika!” and such gibberish on your long quest to greatness. Unfortunately, not all Pokemon are created equal. Quite a few original monsters still have that distinct lack of coloring or detail that can make for a bland presentation. It's like the graphics designers places to much emphasis on your yellow rodent than on the rest of the well-deserving team.

I can't deny that this first batch of Pokemon games is great. All of the addiction, all of the collecting, all of the battles, everything fits perfectly to make for a wonderfully fun and innovative gaming experience. I think that the problem started when Nintendo decided to take its fans for a loop and make a game based directly on the television show. Even though this game attempted to offer some slight variations on a concrete formula, it still comes off lacking the originality and charm of the previous games. It feels like we're just playing a carbon copy of the television show more than playing the game itself. The only things that save this game are all of the standard elements of any Pokemon game. But unless you're a true fan of the show or a true devotee to the franchise, you'll get sick of that leg-hugging Pikachu pretty quickly.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/12/04


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