Review by Crestfallen Dreamer
"PokéMe PokéYou Pokémon!"
My apologies for the non accented "Poke" in my review, as if I try: Poké anything, well, there ya go. Anyway....
At the end of my favorite decade, there were many things saturating the pop culture landscape that I remember: pro "wrestling," pop music, a rappin' granny, something called a "Lewinski," and a little series called Pokemon. Yep; during the twilight years of the nineties this new series from Nintendo made its debut in the U.S. to adoring kids willing to steal from, and punch the crap out of each other for cards in a trading card game that bore the cute little bastard Pokies within. (By the way, what the hell was with you kids at the end of the nineties?)
The digital games themselves featuring the "pocket monsters" were not only a series embraced by kids, but also by others as well. While I did watch the some of the animated series when it debuted and had relatives who played the Pokemon games, I didn't really get bitten by the craze until almost two years after the games were released in the U.S., and that would make it a decade ago, as of August 2010, that I first tasted my dose of the "Pokecrack."
There was something about the premise that just sparked my curiosity. I remember humorously discussing the premise to others: catch the little monsters, raise them/train them, then fight them (to which a humorous comment was made paralleling Pokemon to children, but I think the critters are much more tolerable). And it was he premise is what made me finally decide not only to get the game, but to venture into handheld gaming.
Being a simple premise, the game is incredibly easy to pick up and play. Often referred to as a "beginner's Role Playing Game" in offering a light adventure, the game never deludes the player into believing it more than what it is in gameplay and appearance, but it does immerse the player into an addictive continuous pull to find all the various oddly named and presented creatures called "Pokemon" within.
Starting off after naming your player, to which I chose the name "Ash" from the animated series, you then select one of three starter Pokemon creatures from a Professor to take with you and begin snatching the mostly cute little beasts. You first must defeat a rival, Gary, that acts as a tutorial to get you used to the battling aspect of the game by selecting from a list of your Pokemon's attacks to use on another via a standard 2-D battle menu.
The game uses a "rock, paper, scissors" approach to make battling more intuitive, but you can really battle with a style of your choosing. Fire, water and even psychic forces can come into play with psychic being the strongest, or so say I with my beefed up Mewtwo. Once you lower an opposing beast's health, after a rather plain looking battle, you can then defeat it and make it faint (the Pokemon don't die), or throw an item called a "Pokeball" to catch it and then begin the process to raise it.
Of course stronger Pokemon won't go down easy and may need stronger Pokeballs which can be bought in item shops in various towns to make battling a bit easier along with standard fare items such as those that heal and aid your Pokemon in battle. As you battle wild Pokemon to trainers, both amicable and enemy, and often entering some of those loathsome (to many) random battles you can gain more and more Pokemon, and thus create a team of six of your liking and continue to find and battle. You can store Pokemon you don't want on a PC and heal them at various clinics, so the managing of your collection is very easy. By levelling up, your Pokemon can evolve into more forms allowing for more moves to be learned. New moves can also be learned by obtaining "Training Machines." In this there is a bit of strategy as if your moves are completely maxed out, you can remove one move for another. "Hidden Machines" are moves that you can use on the overhead field map by using them on specific Pokemon such as using the move of "cut" on a grass Pokemon to cut down some tall grass.
The region known as Kanto is at your disposal for catching as many Pokemon as you can and adding them to your "Pokedex" to fill it up and find all that the region has to offer. Aside from getting lost there, there is a task at hand in being the world's greatest Pokemon Trainer. In that quest you must fight more than random battles and your rival who continuously challenges you. You must also go after "Gym Leaders" that are mainly the bosses of the game. Beat them and you can rise in the ranks at being the best finally making it to the top "Elite Four."
And that's all that is really to the game: battle, capture and train/evolve to make a team worthy of your time. That is if you only want what's given to you. You see, to compliment this game, there is also another game: Pokemon Red. While similar in content, Pokemon Red has more creatures that can be found, and by transferring between both carts your Pokedex will be filled and certain creatures can evolve.
To be quite honest, I never really liked the two version releases. There is actually three versions, with the third game having more content added to which I also find a bit too much (with Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue came Pokemon Yellow featuring Pokemon mascot Pikachu and incorporating more from the animated series).
With this game you had to have had someone else to physically trade with or have two GameBoys with the two carts and a link cable, so I never got to trade between both carts myself. Since the demographic for this game and series was mostly skewed to the young, I didn't really think parents would want someone such as myself to walk up to their kid and start talking about "Squirtles" or a "Peekatchu" (Pikachu). Currently The Nintendo DS has alleviated some of this with WiFi, but since I have a Lite which does not work with my connection, this is still not an option for the current batch of games for me.
I much more would have tolerated it if Nintendo and developer GameFreak would have released a complete Pokedex'd game, but understand that battling/trading/socializing with others is a big part of the game and series Nintendo likes to push (as well as pulling the 'ol "Udders 'O Gold" and milking it extreme).
There is a good chance you arrived here via link on my contributor page, as I don't believe you just decided to wander on over and read Pokemon Blue reviews, and there might also be a chance you never played a Pokemon game before. Perhaps you thought it was too dumb, or "kiddy," or just never got around to it, but I assure you, having played RPGs across systems for a little over two decades now (dear Lord), I can honestly say that this game and series is solid RPG fun.
And perhaps a look into the series might make you venture into handheld gaming if you haven't done so already. As I stated, I wasn't into handheld gaming before Blue. I always put off getting a handheld, because really I just felt it wasn't for me. I held a colorblind GameBoy and it was nice, so was an Atari Lynx and a Sega GameGear, but I really wasn't compelled to keep them in my hands and enter the downsized portable gaming scene.
Curiosity of this game finally pushed me over the edge. I remember, finally, going off to a Toys 'R Us to buy my kiwi green GameBoy Color and matching wormlight (it had to match), then scurrying to another store to finally buy this game my first handheld game Pokemon Blue. I took them home, played for hours, and couldn't be more satisfied on a simple little premise that I still find incredibly captivating today. And now with a GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS Lite, Neo Geo Pocket Color, and PlayStation Portable, and with what the future might bring, the premise of handheld gaming will never leave my hands.
I can only hope if your not into Pokemon or handheld gaming that you do give them a chance and have that same feeling of "not yet regret" at coming late to the scene. And how could you not when new Pokemon games are still coming out (I can't wait for the inevitable Nintendo 3DS versions) and handhelds are still hot (well the DS at least, but all is good on the handheld front for me).
If too archaic for you to try, as a decade old GameBoy game may be for many despite having some solid music and overall tolerable appearance (it does look drawn by pencils both solid and colored in a GameBoy Color), both Pokemon Blue and Pokemon Red were remade as Pokemon FireRed and Pokemon LeafGreen for the GameBoy Advance, so you could try them instead. The main point, though, is to try. If not a Pokemon gamer, or even handheld gamer, at worst you will find a simple RPG not for you and you can go and find something much more and meatier (guaranteed), but at best you will find a game that will suck you into its fun and addictive premise for a rather nice amount of time.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/27/10, Updated 10/29/10
Game Release: Pokemon Blue Version (US, 09/30/98)
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