Review by terrisus
"Pokémon: Perhaps you've heard of it?"
(Side note: Apparently review body text doesn't allow the e with an acute accent mark over it. So, you'll just have to deal with the name of the game being spelled without the proper accent mark throughout this review. Not that probably anyone cares, but, little things like that would bother me).
There's this little game called Pokemon, it seems to have gathered a bit of popularity. Have you ever heard of it?
Ok, seriously, probably by now everyone who's coming to this website in the first place has at least heard of Pokemon. So, why write a review for it? Well, even if everyone's heard of it, everyone might not have had a chance to give it a try, or hasn't wanted to give it a try, for whatever reason. This review is to say that, well, if you haven't, you probably should.
First, a bit of background with respect to myself and my experience with Pokemon, which may be found useful to anyone who has any preconceived notions about the game. How I first came across this game was, back sometime around late 1998, not too long after its initial release in the US. I'd never heard of it, but, a friend of mine had it and I had the chance to play it and found it interesting. So, I went out and bought my own copy, and went from there. At that time, I was 16 years old. I'm currently, at the time of writing this review, 21. Why is that important? Well, really it shouldn't be one way or the other, but, it's worth mentioning. Age doesn't really matter. You could be older than me and feel the same, you could be younger than me and feel the same. Just figured I should point it out, for anyone who cares about that sort of thing.
Also worth mentioning, for quite a while after first getting into it, I was basically unaware of any of the surroundings to this game. That is, I didn't watch the TV shows, didn't collect the cards, didn't see the movies, didn't have a room overtaken with stuffed versions of them, didn't go around all day saying "Pikachu!" to anyone I ran into. Perhaps by now you've come across all of that, but, the point is, none of that is really central to the game.
So, basically, that should be enough introductory information for now. The point of that information was that, this review has nothing to do with age, to do with whether or not you like the TV show or any of that other stuff, nothing other than just whether or not the game is enjoyable. When it comes to a video game, that really should be the only important aspect, whether you enjoy the game or not. It's not like you should have to go off and hide in a dark corner away from people because you're ashamed of what you're playing or something. It's just a video game after all.
So, hopefully by now we've gotten all that out of the way, and you're willing to give the game a fair shot. From here on in, I'm not going to be dwelling on dealing with any preconceived notions of the game, or any of that other stuff. The rest of this review is only about the game itself, not any of the surrounding information.
The beginning of Pokemon is straightforward enough. One day you're given your own Pokemon (you can choose from one of three different ones to start with), and from there you head off on a journey to become the best Pokemon trainer in the world. Along the way, of course, you'll run into a number of trials and tribulations, distractions, and other things that get in the way of you accomplishing your goal.
As mentioned, at the start of the game you'll be able to choose from one of three Pokemon to begin your journey. The basics of the battles in this game should be somewhat familiar to anyone who's played an RPG before, as you're wandering around you'll randomly run into something and a battle will begin. In Pokemon, however, it's not actually you who is doing the battling, but your Pokemon. When the battle begins, your selected Pokemon will go out onto the battlefield against the Pokemon you've encountered, and you'll give it attack commands in a turn-based battle. At the end, you'll (or, rather, the Pokemon who won) gain experience, and go back out onto the map screen.
There's much more to it than that however. While you only start with one Pokemon, there are 151 Pokemon in total, all with their own different strengths, weaknesses, abilities, skills and other qualities. As you encounter Pokemon out in the wild, along with being able to defeat them, your other option is that, using a " Poke-ball," you can attempt to capture them. If you're successful, the Pokemon you've captured will now be part of your team, and you can use it in battle. While you can only use one Pokemon at a time in battle, your active roster consists of 6 Pokemon (the rest after 6 are sent into storage, and you can switch your active and stored ones at various buildings), and you can switch which one you're using for battle at any time. So, if the one you're using becomes weak, or you find it isn't as strong against a particular enemy, you can switch for another one. If you switch Pokemon during battle, the experience will be split up between the ones that took part in the battle. Each Pokemon has its own experience and statistics and gains in them individually.
Now, in theory (and in reality, since it's how I played), it's entirely possible to go through the entire game just using one Pokemon. You don't, if you don't want to, have to deal with catching a hundred different ones, managing just which one is the best for a particular situation, and doing all of that switching. You can, if you want, just make it through the entire game with one really strong Pokemon and ignore all the rest of them. That's one style of play, and, if you desire, it's entirely possible. The other style, of course, is to try to catch and raise many different types of Pokemon, and use them in battle. If you're facing a water Pokemon, you'd want to switch to one of your Pokemon who is strong against water, as opposed to one that is weak against it. There are, obviously, a large number of Pokemon out there to catch, and most all of them can be very useful in the proper situation. So, whether you choose to do it one way or the other is up to you, the game doesn't overly restrict your particular choice of style.
In addition to the Pokemon you encounter in the wild, on your journey you'll also run into other trainers with their own Pokemon who want to battle you. As opposed to ones in the wild where there's only one of them to defeat, other trainers, like you, might have up to 6 Pokemon to battle with. So, for these you'll have a longer battle than you normally would, but, of course, the result is also greater. Also in battles against other trainers, you don't have the option of trying to catch their Pokemon. That wouldn't be very nice of you, would it?
Your ultimate goal is the game is to become the best Pokemon trainer in the world. To do this, there's a tournament you have to win at the end. Before you can take part in the tournament, however, you'll have to win "Gym Badges" from Pokemon gyms across the land. These gyms are headed by leaders with strength in a particular type of Pokemon (that is, for instance, the water gym consists of battles against strong water-type Pokemon). Once you've defeated a gym leader, you'll gain a badge from them. So, that is, essentially, your "goal" in the game, to find all of the gyms and win the gym badges so you can take part in the tournament at the end. It's not as easy as that though, it's not as if the gyms are all lined up in a row for you to fight them, they're spread out in different towns, and you'll have to make your way to all of them, past any obstacle along the way.
Aside from the battling aspect, Pokemon shares many similarities with any other RPG. There are items you can buy, to heal your Pokemon in battle or give them temporary stat boosts or whatnot. In the towns that you come across and explore, there are people you can talk to, who will give you information about what is going on, what you need to do, and other useful things. While it isn't the same as every other RPG, you might like other RPGs but not like this or you might not like other RPGs but like this, in general, if you don't like the standard RPG format (that of wandering around, random battles, stat building, talking to people, all of that), if you haven't liked it before you probably won't like it here. It is different, but not that different. Still, it is interesting.
As far as graphics and sound go, Pokemon isn't particularly interesting in either of them. It was one of the later games to be released for the original Gameboy (which does mean, yes, if that's the only Gameboy you have, you can play it on that), so, while it does take some advantage of the Gameboy Color's color pallet, it's nothing particularly spectacular. One nice thing is, if you're playing this on a Super Gameboy for SNES, it has its own special border for the game (which, unfortunately, you don't get if you're playing it on the Gameboy Player for GCN). There's also an option within Pokemon Stadium for N64 where you can play this game on the N64, but, I haven't spent any extensive time trying that out, so, I can't comment too much on that. Sound, like graphics, isn't anything special to speak of, you're probably just as well playing the game on mute. It's not that the sound's that bad or anything, just, it doesn't really add too much to the game.
The other aspect of the game to mention, is the multiplayer aspect. There's a two-player battle mode, where you and a friend can connect and battle each other's Pokemon. The other multiplayer aspect is, while there are 151 different Pokemon, not all of them can be caught in the game you have. There's two versions of Pokemon, Blue and Red. This review is being submitted under Pokemon Blue (Why? That's the one I have. Why is it the one I have? Well, I like the color Blue. That's about all there is to that). In each version, roughly around 130 of the Pokemon are catchable, but, to get the rest you'll have to trade with a person who has the other version (that is, there are some Pokemon you can catch in Blue but not in Red, and in Red but not in Blue). It's not that big of a deal really though, don't think you'll be missing out on too much if you "pick the wrong version" or if you don't know someone else with the other version. For all of the ones that can be only caught in one of the versions, it's not like they're some super-strong and unique thing that would really make things easier for you if you had or something. It's just a matter of, if you want to catch all of them, you'll have to do some trading. That said, you don't "need" to catch them all to beat the game, there's no secret ending, or anything like that. As mentioned earlier, it's entirely possible to make it through the game only using one Pokemon in battle (you'll need a few others for various tasks along the way, but, you don't need to strengthen them or use them in battle or anything). So, don't worry too much about that, it's not a big deal or anything.
Once you've beat the game, there's still a great deal of replay value to be had. Obviously if you have friends with the game, you can battle them, try to build up a full, rounded, team of six to do well against them. As well, if you want, you can go back through the game, trying to catch the Pokemon you missed and all of that. Or, you could just start a new game, try using different Pokemon and see what it's like. Even after you beat the game, there's still much to do and try.
So, in the end, the question is, should you buy Pokemon? As mentioned at the beginning of the review, that question has nothing to do with one's age, with one's maturity, if one likes the TV show or collects the cards or if you're afraid your friends will laugh at you or anything silly like that. The only question should be, does Pokemon sound like a game that you would like, a game that you would find interesting.
As mentioned earlier, if you have played RPGs in the past and really haven't like them, particularly if you don't like random battles and all that, you're probably not going to like Pokemon. It isn't that different where even if you don't like other RPGs you're going to like this game or anything. It is different, but not that much. So, if you don't like RPGs, odds are you won't like this game. It still might be worth giving a shot, but, no guarantees.
That said, if you've liked RPGs in the past, there's a good chance you might like this game. It is a different type of game, certainly not like many of the other games you might have played, but similar enough where you'll feel comfortable. You're not forced one way or the other to go around collecting all of these different Pokemon, that's entirely up to you. If you do like RPGs, this is something interesting, something different, and there's a good chance this is something you will find enjoyable.
So, the question is, should you try Pokemon? Yes, you really should at least give it a try. You might not like it, who knows. Still though, it's an interesting game, and something that may pull you in very strongly. In the end, it's fun, and that's what matters most.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/24/04
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