Review by EJRICH

Reviewed: 08/01/07 | Updated: 12/22/09

Yellow Thunder...

For those of you not in the know (and that’d be incredibly hard to believe at this point, unless as the old saying goes, you were under a rock for the last couple of years, at which point you’d be as flat as a pancake. So you must likely know it then since you aren’t a pancake), Pokemon Red and Blue came out a couple of years ago and changed the gaming world as we know it. They weren’t anything really special, just a couple of games that did what they needed to do right at the right time. Basically, they were as complex as a game that was not complex could be without being complex. That was the original Pokemon title’s greatest strength – they were simple.

It’s now a couple of years later and Nintendo is looking to take a route that many game developers seem to love to take. They reinvent the magic. Knowing that the public would most likely eat up anything that that they would put the Pokemon stamp of approval on, Nintendo remade the originals into something that solved what made the originals out of text, the actual story. You see, right around the time that the first Pokemon titles came out, the show was just starting to hit the American airways. Little children joined the amazing duo of Ash and his pal Pikachu as they stalked the land of Kanto, collecting badges and eventually taking on the Pokemon league.

One problem, though.

That heart-warming tale of man and his rodent never appeared in the original games. Sure, kids would start up their packs and meet the old professor for the first time, get to choose a Pokemon that would wet their appetites, but they wouldn’t be playing as Ash, the beloved trainer from the show. Neither would they be able to take a starter rodent as their first Pokemon. Well, hearing those innocent pleas of the children, and knowing that a boatload of cash waited for them if they could get around to making a game that solved that problem, Nintendo created the classic remake of the originals, Pokemon Yellow.

Pokemon Yellow reintroduces the player to the world of Kanto, a place filled with a bunch of animal like things called Pokemon. When they are in the wild, Pokemon find a way to live peacefully with the human societies around them, taking the progress that is constantly going up and finding a way to live around it. Some even benefit the population by being nurses, police dogs, or other stations that could make use of their particular talents. Probably the most prevalent, though, is their coming under the ownership of a young snot called a trainer. At the age of ten (mommy?), young children receive their first Pokemon freebie from the local professor. That child then takes that Pokemon, trains it like a dog until it can literally crush boulders, buffs it up so it can become incredibly strong, and finally battles it with other trainers across the globe. Sure, they’ll have to walk miles away from their homes, possibly thousands if they want to go for a certain goal, but that doesn’t matter. They want to win.

If they want to be the best, though, they’ll have to do more then just train up a Pokemon until its muscles are the size of golf balls. Scattered across the large Kanto region are eight gyms, and if a trainer wants access to the Pokemon League, they’ll have to beat the leader located at each gym and collect the badge at the end. Then, and only then, can they enter the Pokemon League and attempt to take on the largely over powered Elite 4. If they manage to whoop them, then they can finally claim the title of Pokemon Master and rule the Pokemon world with an iron fist. Just kidding. All they get is access to some lame cave. Big whoop. That’s a long way off, though, but the dream’s still there. I wish most dreams had a happier ending. Training, away!!!

One-hundred and fifty-one Pokemon inhabit the land of Pokemon Yellow, each fitting in under the 15 unique types that the game offers. If a new trainer wishes to do well in the league, they’ll have to master each and every one of those types while learning how to get the most out of each Pokemon on their six spot team. A team of six fire types would obviously be a bad idea, because if that trainer were to encounter a team with a water or ground type Pokemon on it, they’ll take super effective damage and be able to offer little resistance in return. It doesn’t stop there, however. With 15 types available in the game, and each being trumped by one another, Pokemon Yellow really makes a trainer think every time they send out a Pokemon to fight. Will my flaming lizard be able to beat that little tadpole in the water? Why the heck is my rock solid boulder beast being beaten by only vines? Questions like that must all be accounted for when you go to make a team, and if you wish to come out on top and win the league, you’ll have to make the most out of every type available.

So you’ve made a team, possibly gotten together some super powered critters out of the 151 available. Now what? It’s time to battle. Whenever you walk into a patch of grass, or possibly come under the hawkeyed view of another trainer, you and your teammates will have to duke it out for the ultimate victory. Battles are handled in turn-based fashion, with each trainer throwing out a single Pokemon to battle. There are four options on the menu: fight, pokemon, item, and run. Fight brings up your Pokemon’s attacks, which is what you’ll need to use if you wish to beat out the opposing Pokemon. Your Pokemon can only hold up to four moves (four’s a chore), with each move being something different from which you can attack with. For instance, Charmander, the fire type starter, has a Scratch attack built right in. If you want to try and lower your opponents stats, though, you can use a move called Leer. As a Pokemon levels up it will obviously gain moves dependant on its type, and it will be up to you to create a move set that will benefit it the most.

Another thing that your Pokemon will gain as it levels up (levels can be obtained by collecting experience points, which can be acquired by defeating opposing Pokemon), are stats. Each Pokemon is completely different from another – no two Pokemon will ever be the same. Stats are divided up into several categories, attack, defense, special, and speed. Your Pokemon will have a stat for each type, with its stats reflecting on its base. For instance, if a Pokemon is a rock type, it will obviously be better in defense then it will be in speed (get it, rocks don’t move. I love my puns). A fire type will probably be fast. One of the Pokemon’s biggest strengths is its ability to allow players to customize a party of their own, and it’s clearly evident by the stat system.

Don’t like battling? No problem. You can always take a shot at exploring the Kanto region of Pokemon Yellow. To put it lightly, it’s big. Very big. And the best part is you won’t be going at it alone. As long as you never evolve the Pikachu that you received at the beginning of the game, it will always follow you around, chasing you down and being a general partner to you, just like in the actual show. You can even talk to the little rodent to see how happy it is with you. Depending on how it likes you, it will do several little motions, which can be fun to watch. Back to the landscape, though, right? At first, you probably will be content with its lulling fields of grass and dense forests. As the game goes on, though, that contended spirit may be introduced to possibly one of the most exciting experiences possible. Right after getting out of the second town, and traveling down a path stuffed with trainers with you little electric rodent at your side, you’ll be introduced to one of the game’s first large dungeons – Mt. Moon. If you wish to get to Cerulean City on the other side – where your next badge is located – you’ll have to ascend its depths and explore its dark chasms. It just stop there, though. While your journeying to become a Pokemon master you’ll literally encounter dozens of landmarks, from rich rivers with fish Pokemon galore to a mysterious tower where dead Pokemon are buried. To top it all off, they even decided to include a gigantic safari. You’ll visit them all as you progress through the game looking for different gyms, and each one seems to outdo the next like few other games could.

By some weird chance that none of the aforementioned material doesn’t interest you, Pokemon Yellow offers loads more to pike anyone’s interest. You know how before I stated that there are 151 Pokemon in the game? Each one of them is obtainable. Each and every last diminutive mongrel. The thought of catching even 50 of them could be enough to scare some people, let alone triple that amount. Some are catch-able, others can be obtained by leveling up their pre-evolution forms, and others can be evolved by giving them certain stones. Either way, it’s going to take a long time to get all of those Pokemon, guaranteeing you a ton of replay value.

For those of you also looking to get a bit more out of your games (and I know some of you like to drown it down to every last little minute you can), Pokemon Yellow give several replay options for the trainer to take part in. One is in exclusive Pokemon. Unlike Pokemon Red and Blue, which made you restart the game several times or trade a Pokemon with a friend, this game allows the player to collect all three of the original starter Pokemon in a single play-through. Located across the Pokemon globe are three people with a bit of a problem. If you prove to be a good trainer to your existing Pokemon, they may give you the starter Pokemon to raise and train.

Fine, that solves my problem of having to get the actual starters, but what about the lot of other Pokemon that don’t appear in my version? Do I forget that they even exist? How will I ever get my Pokedex back up to its former glory? That’s where your buddy down the block comes in. Since Pokemon Yellow, Red, and Blue are three separate versions, there’s obviously going to be things that separate them in nature. That thing is version exclusive Pokemon. Although there aren’t a ton of Pokemon different to a single version, if you want to complete your collection, you’ll have to find a way to obtain them. Through trading, you can. By simply hooking up your Gameboys and having the Pokemon you want to trade in your party, you have the opportunity to trade them with a friend. After trading, you can always battle to see who got the better deal. Trading can make anyone’s work at completing a Pokedex much faster, and it’ll definitely prove helpful in your quest.

Now, being as though Pokemon Yellow is a game for the original Gameboy, it obviously doesn’t have the graphics or soundtracks to make it a classic. Thankfully, it does have the graphics and soundtracks to make it passable. The game is obviously black and white, so no colors are available to it, but the detail in the pack is amazing. Even without the darn color. Each Pokemon has a different sprite, with a separate pixel to give them a bit of differentiation on the party screen depending on their typing. The music is another thing that got its job done. Although it isn’t going to make any ears turn, tracks are surprisingly varied, and tunes actually fit in the circumstances that they are played in. They are pixilated in quality, and a trip through an amp. would have helped tremendously. But it still gets its job done, and I give it credit for that.

Probably my biggest gripe with the game is in its difficulty, unfortunately. While Pokemon Yellow is technically a slightly harder game then the originals, it still is garbage in terms of difficulty past the first gym. Any sane player can take a team of six Pokemon, power through each of the eight gyms, and then go on to slaughter the Elite 4 without much problem at all. Having a built in Pikachu only makes things easier. Some people even manage to take their Pikachu and beat the heck out of the game without any problems at all. If for some reason you do have a problem with the game, you can always level grind a bit, but the thought of even having to do that is a long shot at best.

So that leaves me with a question. Does Pokemon Yellow warrant a purchase if you’ve played the originals? Maybe. Although you do have the opportunity to fight a few extra battles and have a Pikachu follow you around for the duration of the game, very few things, if anything at all, separate this title from the originals except the bloated price tag that comes along with a new game. If you’re willing to put up with the garbage and possibly relive the magic that the first games allowed you to live, then Pokemon Yellow may be just for you. If you’re not really into that, though, and are really only in this for new content, stay far away.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Pokemon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (US, 10/19/99)

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