Review by RavenousGuy

"The phenomenon started here"

For every legend, there must be a start. And for a phenomenon known as Pokemon, a world of wonderful creatures created by Satoshi Tajiri, this is the one that started it all. Pokemon Red and Blue,a couple of RPG games for the Game Boy, is the root of the franchise's numerous incarnations: an animated TV series, trading cards, merchandises, and the following games in Nintendo systems.

This game is the first that introduced us to Pokemon, creatures that live and reach maturity by battling each other. These creatures can be a winged lizard, electrical rodent, ghost, turtle, poisonous goo, or a dragon; each of the species has unique characteristic and grow up in different ways. The game put the players in the role of a Trainer, those who capture and raise these creatures to fulfill their utmost potential. You will start with one Pokemon (out of three that you can pick from), catch more as you progressed on the journey, and build a party of six Pokemon; which is completely interchangeable, as you can swap and try out between the 150 species available in both games. In fact, the collecting aspect of the Pokemon is enormously encouraged by the series, which running catch-phrase is the players ‘gotta catch em all'.

Gameplay

Now, Pokemon Red/Blue is revolutionary in more than one way. First, they are essentially the same game in separate packaging; the only difference is that you can get several certain Pokemon in the Red version but not in the Blue, and vice versa. This encouraged the players to find another player who have different version, and utilize the link cable feature to trade Pokemon between versions. Or even better (for the company), to buy both versions at once! Although it was admittedly rather cheap, it's still a very clever marketing technique which has been copied by many game publishers.

Secondly, this game is the landmark of the monster-breeding genre. It's the kind of RPG which is more focused on the collecting, breeding, and battling aspects; rather than the exploration and storyline aspect like more traditional RPGs. So, it can be said that the core of these games lies on its battle system. The battle system of the Pokemon is easy to grasp; it's a one-on-one turn-based affair, and the one who finished off the opposition's party will be declared victorious. The battling Pokemon can have up to four techniques to use, and its capability is determined by the standard RPG attributes like Level, HP, Attack, Defense, and Speed.

But, behind the deceptively simple concept, there are an impressive layers of strategy. As mentioned above, each species of Pokemon is unique and require different kind of strategy to be used effectively in battle. Some are powerful, some are speedy, some are sturdy defenders, and some learn better techniques than the others. Each of them also have elemental types, which determine what kind of techniques they can use, and to which kind of opponent they're strong/weak to. And finally, some of them can even be a stronger version of themselves by evolving. Evolution can happens if a Pokemon hit a certain level, being exposed to a specific evolution stone, or even by being traded to another game (an even more encouragement for linking)

All these elements made Pokemon Red/Blue a very enjoyable and long-lasting game. With so many Pokemon to choose from, you can easily endure several playthroughs of the game just to raise another Pokemon or to experiment with different party. And of course, even after you exhausted the in-game challenges by defeating all the CPU trainers, you can always link up with fellow players and have a real competitive battle.

However, the awesome battle mechanic isn't perfect. Some techniques didn't work out the way they should, thus rendering them useless. Then, the concept of element types are supposed to be an act of balancing all the Pokemon types, but everyone who have played this game will agree that Psychic type was too overpowered here. There are also glitches, the most noticeable one is the infamous Missing No glitch. It is a potentially harmful glitch activated by fulfilling a chain of requirements, which can mess up with your game data. But, don't worry; as long as you're not looking for it, you're safe.

Storyline

Despite the magnificent concept of Pokemon battling, the plot is really lackluster by an RPG standard. You're a boy who left out in a Pokemon journey, to be the best trainer in the world. In order to reach that goal, you have to beat special trainers known as Gym Leaders, who are scattered in various cities. By beating all eight of them, you'll gain privilege to challenge the Elite Four, the four most powerful Trainers in the game. But, along your journey, you must also thwart an evil organization known as Team Rocket; who uses Pokemon for evil purposes. That's really the whole story, and don't expect any kind of plot twists or character development.

Graphic & Sound

In the audiovisual department, the game did okay. Its graphic and sound quality exceeded most games in Game Boy and NES libraries, and is easily in the caliber of Game Boy Color games. There are some memorable tunes, and the art design for the Pokemon are really interesting; though, a few are downright ugly to look at. It's only after the animated TV series, and the release of Pokemon Yellow (the third package of the first-generation Pokemon games, with a few cosmetic touches from the Red/Blue games), that the design of all the Pokemon are eventually perfected.

Replay Value

Many hours will be devoted to build a party of Pokemon; and with so much diversity in the options, the possibility is endless. The magnificent replay value is extended furthermore via link-cable battles, and there's always the daunting challenge to complete your Pokedex by collecting all 150 kinds of Pokemon (there's also an additional one, which can be gotten from Nintendo promotional event)


Recap

The Good Points:

(+) An almost perfect system of raising and battling Pokemon
(+) With so many Pokemon available, there's a limitless possibility in building a party
(+) You will be playing this for a very, very long time...it will never get old
(+) Decent graphic and sound

The Bad Points:

(-) For an RPG, the storyline's pretty uninspiring
(-) A few minor flaws in the battle mechanic

Conclusion

Pokemon Red isn't actually my favorite Pokemon game, or even my first (I played it after Pokemon Gold and Yellow) But, I still enjoyed it immensely. This game is what started a great franchise; the kind of games that you can still play, even years after your first playthrough. Despite its shortcomings (most of which will be addressed in the later installment of the series), Pokemon Red/Blue is still a very worthy start of a series that has been and will always be a shining jewel in Nintendo crown.

It's the one that started the whole Pokemon legend.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/28/09

Game Release: Pokemon Red Version (US, 09/30/98)


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