Review by Superloserboy
"Is the game that started one of Nintendo's greatest franchises really all that great?"
At this time of writing, it's been well over a decade since the games that started it all, Red and Blue (or Red and Green, depending where you are in the world), were released, and quite frankly, the numbers speak for themselves. Millions of Pokemon games sold worldwide, billions of dollars in merchandise, and the continual appeal factor? Seemingly infinite. So it stands to reason that the first generation of Pokemon games were absolutely incredible, right? Well, not really, for reasons explained hereafter:
Primitive as RBY is compared to its sequel, the fundamentals of gameplay remain largely the same. Like pretty much every other RPG, you transition from navigating around the overworld (in which you'll be buying stuff in shops, talking to people, and other tasks generally associated with RPGs), to battling other trainers or wild Pokemon. First though, let's focus on the overworld gameplay.
When you first start, you're given pretty much nothing at all, and are forbidden from heading into patches of tall grass, where wild Pokemon lie in wait. Soon, you're given a choice between three kinds of starter Pokemon- a Grass, Fire, or Water type. With a Pokemon now in your employ, you can venture out into the overworld proper. Sure this may seem like a tedious bore to first-timers, but at least it's short and relatively painless. Later on you can get a bike that allows for fast outdoor travel, and by teaching your Pokemon HM's (Hidden Machines- called so even though they're not "hidden" from you by any stretch), you can progress further and access previously inaccessible areas. More on HM's later.
Battles happen when you trigger a random wild Pokemon encounter in grass, caves, etc; walk into the path of another Trainer not battled before, or in a scripted event. When this happens, you're given an over-the-shoulder view of your Pokemon, as it faces off against the opposing Pokemon. The first Pokemon on the top of your Pokemon list (accessible in the pause menu) will be the first Pokemon that you deploy in battle. You can switch Pokemon's position on your list at any time outside of battle (I mean, you're already IN a battle, it wouldn't make much sense to start rearranging them now would it?), but any rearrangements below the first slot are purely cosmetic (or if you want to compare the stats of certain Pokemon in your party easier). You're given four options at this point: Fight, Bag, Pokemon, and of course, Run. Bag will open up your inventory, letting you use items like HP-healing Potions and other stuff. The Pokemon option opens up your current party roster, and lets you switch out Pokemon in battle, check their stats, moves, etc. Run, as you might expect, means trying to run away from the fight. A slower Pokemon in play will have a tough time trying to run from a faster opponent, reducing your chances of a successful retreat, and Run is not an option when fighting other Trainers. And Fight means that you politely settle your quarrel with your opponent and you both live happily ever after.
No seriously. What do you think it means?
Selecting Fight brings up a sub-menu, displaying your Pokemon's moves at your disposal. There are moves that do damage (such as Tackle and Quick Attack), moves that buff, nerf, or otherwise alter you or your opponent's stats (like Growl or Screech), or moves that alter your opponent's status (such as Thunder Wave and Sing, which causes paralysis and sleep respectively). Some attack moves may inflict status changes too (like Fire Blast carrying a possibility of giving your opponent an HP-chipping burn). Depending on the strength or usefulness of the move, the PP (Power Points- total number of times you can use that move) will be higher or lower. So that means a weak attack like Scratch would have 40 PP, while the super-powerful Hyper Beam only has 5. Running out of PP renders the move unuseable. Running out of ALL of your move's PP (as in, you can't use ANY moves anymore,) will make your Pokemon attack only with a pitiful little "Struggle" attack. PP can be restored with certain items or by visiting a Pokemon Center in the overworld. A win constitutes beating all the Pokemon your opponent throws at you, or in the case of a wild encounter, the Pokemon in question. Another way to end battles is to capture wild Pokemon in items called Pokeballs (No, you can't catch another Trainer's Pokemon. No easy way out for you). Depending on the species, level, and health remaining of the wild Pokemon, your chances of the Pokeball successfully capturing it or having the Pokemon break free vary. So catching a low-level dime-a-dozen Pokemon like Zubat is an easy task. But the few high-powered Pokemon like Zapdos will take a whole ton of Pokeballs, luck, and a lot of patience. But that's not all. Different Pokemon will have different types (sometimes two), and so will their attacks. These can win or break a battle. For instance, using a Fire attack on a Grass type Pokemon will deal bonus damage, while using a Fire attack on a Water type will penalize you with reduced damage. And some attacks (like Ground) will have no effect on certain types (in this case, against Flying). All in all, there are 15 different types, so the best team is one that can deal all sorts of type damage.
Pokemon can gain power by Evolving. Some Pokemon evolve at a certain level, others need an item to be used on them, some need to be traded to another copy of the game (Yes, if you have a link cable you can trade Pokemon with another person), and others don't evolve at all.
Along the way in your travels, you'll find TMs and HMs. These can be used to teach moves to your Pokemon that they would be otherwise unable to learn though levelling up. TMs are single-use only, so be careful which Pokemon you use them on. HMs, however, are of infinite use and can be used outside of battle to clear obstacles, but the Pokemon that learns them will be stuck with those HM moves forever. I wouldn't complain about this normally, except one HM that you must learn in order to progress is painfully useless in battle, and effectively ruins the Pokemon you taught it to.
Another thing that draws my ire is the overpowered Psychic type. Sure it has weaknesses to Bug and Ghost attacks, but said Bug and Ghost attacks are, in a word, pitiful. And keep in mind that the most powerful Pokemon available in the game is a Psychic type (which you will have to face if you want to properly finish the game), so having an effective counter to Psychics is, well, another Psychic. And that's about as effective as it gets. Fighting types have gotten the short end of the stick along with Bug and Ghost; their attacks having among the worst effective-ineffective ratio in the game. One of their weaknesses? SURPRISE! It's Psychic! And for supposedly being Psychic-counters, the only three Ghost types and most of the Bug-move learning Pokemon are also Poison-types, which (you guessed it!) are also weak against Psychic attacks.
So with all the travelling and fighting you'll be doing, what's the whole point of Pokemon? That's right, getting all 150 (well, 151, but we're not supposed to know about the last one, are we?) Pokemon logged in your Pokedex- a pause menu option that records images of Pokemon you've encountered, and writes a blurb about the ones you've captured or evolved.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Honestly, nothing impressive in either department. The "Over the shoulder" shot in the battle screen renders your Pokemon fuzzy and pixelated. Was this an attempt to imitate the "camera" being out of focus in the foreground? Who knows. All I know is that it doesn't look good.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
- 200+ hours of gameplay
- almost infinite replay value
- interesting and still functional battle system
- balance issues with some types
- mediocre presentation
- Nowhere near as good as the GSC sequel.
Overall, Pokemon RBY is a good way to waste a lot of time. Balance issues and bland visuals hinder the game a little, but all in all, it's still an enjoyable ride.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 06/11/09
Game Release: Pokemon Red Version (US, 09/30/98)
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