Review by discoinferno84

"Gotta catch'em all..."

I remember a time when the Pokemon franchise was new. Back then, I had never even paid close attention to the new games that Nintendo and all the other gaming companies were releasing. Perhaps you could call it blissful ignorance. But that all changed years ago, when I received a videotape from Nintendo Power in the mail. This tape previewed the beginning of the Pokemon franchise that was supposed to arrive sometime in the fall. The preview for the show was a little entertaining, but I was more interested in the two Pokemon games that were to be released. So when I got the Pokemon Red and Blue versions, I eagerly chose a cartridge and stuffed it into my Gameboy. I spent days, then weeks, and eventually months catching every Pokemon in the two games to complete my collection. Satisfied, I put the cartridges away and moved on. I recently dug out the old games out of my game collection. I needed a reminder of what made these games great.

While we’ve all become accustomed and bored with the generic Pokemon plot now, the story was fresh and different at the start. While the Pokemon story may be a little lacking compared to those of other RPGs, it is still unique. Pokemon are essentially animals that exist freely throughout the world. When a child reaches the age of ten, they are thrust into the world of Pokemon. The child is obligated to go on a Pokemon journey and becoming a Pokemon Trainer. The trainer's goal is to find as many Pokemon as they can, then train the Pokemon through battling other trainer's Pokemon. By battling the best, the Pokemon trainer can achieve the title of the best trainer in the region. While becoming the best Pokemon trainer is the basic goal of the storyline, your other goal is to collect as many of the Pokemon species as possible in order to complete your collection.

You're presented with a Pokemon at the beginning of the game. You can choose what type of Pokemon you want. Pokemon come in several different types with certain strengths and weaknesses. For example, a Grass Type Pokemon will be strong against a Water Type Pokemon, but weak against a Fire Type. You must strengthen your Pokemon by battling with other wild Pokemon or other trainer's Pokemon. You roam in the tall grass of the various rods in between towns in order to find Pokemon. Also, you can't just stick with one Pokemon; you must capture wild Pokemon by weakening them and capturing them in Pokeballs. After some training, you go into the next town and face the local Pokemon Gym Leader. If defeated, the Gym Leader will give you a badge that signifies your victory. You must travel all over the region, collecting badges and Pokemon. Eventually, you'll face the region champions in Pokemon battles of epic proportions. If your team of battle-hardened Pokemon is ready for the challenge, you will become the region champion.

The basic goal of the game is to defeat every trainer in the region, thus making you the Pokemon Champion. But with that basic goal comes an underlying use of strategic battling. As stated before, all Pokemon have weaknesses. It’s up to you to figure out how to get past these weaknesses. Sure, you could create a powerful team using nothing but Fire Pokemon. But where will that leave you when a trainer unleashes a mighty Water Pokemon? In order to make up for individual Pokemon weakness, you must create a team of Pokemon that can balance out the weakness of every Pokemon. If you’ve got a Fire Pokemon in your team, make sure that you have something that can take out an enemy Water Pokemon. Sure, the trainers in these games are pushovers once you’ve leveled enough. However, creating a well-balanced Pokemon team eases battling and can be essential to your victory.

But the real success of the Red/Blue series lies with the addictiveness. The phrase “Gotta catch ‘em all,” says it all. You’ve got one hundred and fifty Pokemon to capture to complete your collection. While capturing all the Pokemon species is not vital to the completion of the story, it does give you countless options of finding, training, and assembling various Pokemon teams. Searching for Pokemon can go from casual searching to obsessive hunting in a matter of gaming sessions. If there’s a certain Pokemon you want to catch, you’ll drive yourself mad from looking for the exact spot that the Pokemon appears. Thus the addictive quality of the Pokemon games comes from the desperate search to complete your collection. Once you’ve found as many Pokemon as you wish, you can train different teams. Also, there are plenty of different move sets for each Pokemon. The options concerning your Pokemon teams and their abilities are endless.

Pokemon Red/Blue makes great use of the Gameboy’s sound and graphical abilities. Sure, they are nothing compared with later versions of the game, but the effort placed in these early games is endearing. Every Pokemon has their own animation. While these animations look more like individual pixels than Pokemon, there is enough resemblance among the pictures to see what you’re battling with. The best part of the graphics comes with the dozens of attacks used throughout the battles. The Hyper Beam cuts across the battlefield, causing the screen to flash black and white as if some brilliant source of energy was made present. Also, each Pokemon has an individual battle cry. These battle cries are really just digital squawking that can be a little harsh on the ears. However, I appreciate the effort that each Pokemon has a unique sound. The same sentiments go for the music. Sure, the themes of the different towns may be a little bland. But by Gameboy standards they are still decent.

The Pokemon Red/Blue series was the start of a new franchise. Pokemon won’t appeal to everyone, the kiddy connotation notwithstanding. If you hate repetition, stay far away from this game. If you enjoy collecting things and leveling characters, this game is for you. These games may seem simplistic in this new generation of games, but they offer great strategic aspects and addictive gameplay. That’s what Pokemon Red/Blue is all about.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/11/04

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