Review by EJRICH

"If Red is Blue and Blue is Red, my head must be off"

Wanted: A simple battle RPG turn-based battling system. Must have some sort of complexity. Customization is a huge plus. Exploration should be implemented to the fullest extent possible. Must be playable for more than 50 hours. Replay value is always a bonus. If you can oblige, please contact your nearest portable gaming system.

More then ten years ago when Pokemon was first created, that aforementioned resume was extraordinarily hard to come by. The mere thought of some sort of complexity on a hand held system was rubbish – the RPG genre was practically a dumping ground for old ports. So when a development team by the name of Gamefreak got together to make a game that would accomplish all of those requests, people laughed. And they laughed. And you know, they laughed some more. To their credit, the public in general doubted something like that could be accomplished. Maybe on a console system, but never on a handheld. Months went on and they continued to mock, continued to spout all of their idiocy until one day a box rolled into my local Toys R Us. In fact, those boxes were rolling into a lot of Toys R Us stores across the globe. Within 24 hours, the world would never be the same. Within 24 hours, those critics would be made fun of widely. Within 24 hours, Pokemon Red and Blue were born.

Pokemon Red and Blue introduces the player to the world of Kanto, a wide-open land full of mysterious beings called Pokemon. In their natural state, Pokemon live and co-exist with the human populations around them. Some benefit the population by being nurses, police dogs, or other stations that could make use of their particular talents. Most importantly, though, most come under the ownership of a trainer. At the age of ten (school, bah), young children receive their first Pokemon from the local professor. That child then takes that Pokemon, trains it to fight, 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.

To become the best, though, they'll have to do a bit of work. When a trainer first gets his or her Pokemon, they also register for something called the Pokemon League. If they can manage to rise up in the rankings and collect the eight badges scattered across the Kanto region, they can then enter the league and compete against the Elite 4, possibly the greatest group of trainers on the planet. If they manage to beat them, and that's a gigantic if, they can claim the hallowed title of Pokemon Master. Every kid in their right mind wants to claim that title, but in order to do that, they have to master the Pokemon basics first.

There are 151 Pokemon in Pokemon Red and Blue, 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 Red and Blue 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. To put it lightly, it's big. Very big. 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, 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 Red and Blue offer 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 Red and Blue give several replay options for the trainer to take part in. Probably the biggest are the exclusive Pokemon available in each version. When you start the game, you'll have a choice of three “Starter” Pokemon. The ones you don't choose can never be obtained in any other way, so if you don't have some magic swami to make them appear in your game, you'll have to restart at one point or another to go through the game with those other Pokemon. There are also several other one-shotters, but it's up to you to find them out.

But what happens if a certain Pokemon does't appear in my version, though? That's where your buddy down the block comes in. Since Pokemon Red and Blue are two 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 Red and Blue are games for the original Gameboy, they obviously don't have the graphics or soundtracks to make them classics. Thankfully, they do have the graphics and soundtracks to make them passable. The games are obviously black and white, so no colors are available in either, but the detail in each 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 everything else was nearly flawless, this section really was garbage. 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. Some people even manage to take their starter 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. Do Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue fit the description provided at the beginning of the review? In short, yes. Few other games have since been able to copy that classic, amazingly conclusive game play experience that these games provided, and most doubt that any other games ever will. Pokemon has run the gamut of colors over the years, even trying its luck with a couple of precious stones. But the fact remains. There's nothing like the originals. Back when a time was simple, and most people never thought handhelds would really take off, two games came out. Red. And Blue. Thank God they did.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/31/07, Updated 12/22/09

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

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