Review by Absolute Nobody

"Play Catch"

Pokemon is such a household name nowadays that it's fun to look back and figure out how it all began. It had been going strong in japan for a good two years before Nintendo had tested the craze elsewhere, curious to see if it would reach the same popularity. Many of us probably remember receiving a video about Pokemon in the mail. We popped it in, watched the brief 20-minute introduction, took it out, and said, “Whatever." But then everyone else was suddenly playing the game, so we decided to try it out of simple curiosity. You plopped the Game Boy into your hand, unaware that five hours have just gone by. You have the Pokemon in your hands...or do the Pokemon have you? And the rest is history. Pokemon Red and Blue may seem primitive compared to modern Pokemon games, but it's still easy to see why they sparked such a phenomenon.

The basics:
So your character is a young 10-year-old boy who is about to begin his Pokemon journey. After all, in this way-better-than-Earth world, it's the hip things that kids do once they turn ten and realize school is a huge waste of their time. Starting out in Pallet Town, you are pulled out of the tall grass and taken to Professor Oak's laboratory to select your first Pokemon. Your first of many. The region of Kanto is vast, and you are able to walk around freely with your character through towns, into buildings, and pretty much everything else you can do in a basic classic-style RPG. Wild Pokemon are found in tall grass. They appear at random, and once you run into one, you will immediately go into battle. Pokemon has certain attacks they can use. The attacks do more or less damage than normal if the opponent is a certain type of Pokemon. For example, a fire attack like Ember will deal double the damage against a grass type.

Once you whittle down an enemy Pokemon's HP, they faint. However, if it's a wild Pokemon, you can throw a PokeBall at them to catch them, which works better with the less HP that the Pokemon has. Once you capture a Pokemon, you can put it on your team and battle with it. You will want to build a party of Pokemon, train them, and use them to progress further in the game. You can have up to six Pokemon on your team at a time, with any more than that being automatically to your PC, where you can swap out Pokemon you want or do not want on your team. Red and Blue contain 150 Pokemon total, with certain ones only being found in one version or the other. It's always been the money-making foundation of the franchise, and by using a link cable, you can trade between the two games to collect them all. Don't have Red but have a friend who has it, or vice versa? This is where trading comes in handy, although the trading process is ridiculously slow in these games.

With a few exceptions, if a Pokemon gains enough levels, it will evolve into a more powerful form. Evolution can also happen a number of other interesting ways, like giving it an item or trading it to another game. You will also engage in trainer battles quite frequently. If a trainer spots you on one of the few dozen “routes” in the game, you will immediately go into battle with him or her. After you defeat them, your Pokemon will earn experience and you will receive money, which you can use to buy items from shops. In order to progress to the Pokemon League, you must travel around the Kanto region to collect eight badges from the different gyms. Gym leaders specialize in specific types and require specific planning in your team and attacks before you challenge them.

While Pokemon Red and Blue are as charming as ever, there are a few areas time has not been kind to. The Kanto region as a whole is pretty small, with very short routes connecting each town. Team Rocket is a pretty boring and generic villain team, who would not become more interesting until Yellow. There is also an over-abundance of obnoxious caves to navigate, usually filled with a high encounter rate of the same Pokemon over and over again. Still, the adventure is pretty fun in spite of feeling primitive now. In addition to a large collecting aspect that will require connecting to other games, you can also battle your friends with the link cable, adding to the multi-player aspect of the game quite nicely. The Pokemon games have always been very addictive, and even without another game to trade to, catching everything you want will take quite some time.

Pokemon Red and Blue have rightfully earned their status as portable classics. What was once a fad is now a permanent fixture in big-name Nintendo franchises. They are fun, addictive titles that may seem a little light on content compared to later titles, but are still just as enjoyable. With no Virtual Console releases, the updated FireRed and LeafGreen titles for Game Boy Advance are probably way easier to find, and those games are certainly an acceptable way to experience this original adventure. At the same time, though, there is something charming about playing these games without any color. Whichever way you can play these games if you missed the boat the first time around or were just too young, you will find it well worth your time.

Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/14/14

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

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