Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 10/20/08

The little cartridge that started a worldwide phenomenon

About ten years ago, the popularity of Pokemon was at its peak. The anime was still in its early stages, the cards were still cool to buy, and the game, the original Red and Blue versions, had taken handheld gaming to a whole new level. Seriously, these games were so immensely popular and great that they extended the Game Boy’s lifespan far past what it technically should have been. I spent many hours with this title, and looking back, I don’t regret one minute of it.

You should probably be familiar with the way Pokemon works by now. At the very beginning, you go to Professor Oak’s house and choose between three possible Pokemon. Your choices are Bulbasaur, Squirtle, or Charmander. Now, choosing your Pokemon isn’t just based on random selection, you will want to choose your Pokemon based on what type of Pokemon you think you’ll be best with. Bulbasaur is a grass type Pokemon, so that means he is super effective against water types, but weak against fire types. The opposite goes for Squirtle, while Charmander is super effective against grass types, but weak against water types.

Your rival will choose whatever Pokemon is strongest against your Pokemon, and you’ll meet up with him to battle every so often throughout the game. You aren’t limited to your starter Pokemon though; you will soon be able to purchase items called Pokeballs to capture wild Pokemon that are engaged through random battles.

All of your Pokemon can gain levels by the traditional RPG leveling of simply winning battles with the Pokemon. If more than one Pokemon is involved in a particular battle, then the Pokemon will have to split the experience points gained. As your Pokemon gain levels, they can learn new and stronger moves and they can even evolve into different Pokemon with even better stats. This is part of what makes Pokemon so addicting; not knowing what your little creatures are going to turn into next.

However, some Pokemon can’t be leveled up by simply gaining levels. Sometimes you’ll have to find special elemental stones to make your Pokemon evolve and other times you’ll have to trade with a friend to make your Pokemon evolve.

As you travel around the world of Pokemon and interact with various townspeople, do battle against the evil Team Rocket, and capture Pokemon, your main goal is to collect badges from gym leaders in order to enter into the Pokemon League and become the Pokemon League Champion. These Gym Leaders are specialists and you usually have to battle a few other Trainers before you can engage them.

Battles in Pokemon are turn-based, similar to the Final Fantasy series. Thinking strategically is a most in some situations, as you will want a Pokemon type that is strong against whatever type of Pokemon you are battling. As you attack, moves can only be used a certain amount of times, so you’ll want to save your stronger moves for the stronger Pokemon. Some moves don’t even hurt your opponents’ HP, but rather take down their stats to make the battle go by faster. You can heal your Pokemon in battles and such, but this will count as your turn, and it can be strategically crippling.

You can teach your Pokemon new moves as well by finding items that do so. Some of these moves can be used in the overworld in order to progress further in dungeons or around the towns.

You can only carry six Pokemon with you at one time, so you need to utilize special computers to store them. These computers are located at hospitals scattered throughout the region where you can go to heal your Pokemon for free.

One of the largest parts of Pokemon is filling up your Pokedex. At the beginning of the game, you are given a Pokedex by Professor Oak, and he expects you to see as many Pokemon as possible and to fill the Pokedex. So, your secondary goal is to fill the entire Pokedex by seeing every single Pokemon there is to see present in these versions (and there are 150). Unfortunately, it is impossible to see all of the Pokemon with only the Blue version, so that means you also need to buy another copy of the game, Red version.

This is where multiplayer comes into play. By using the Game Boy Link Cable, you can trade with friends or even do battle.

While Pokemon Blue has a pretty weak plot for an RPG, at least there is some effort put worth. Quite honestly, the game would have sold buckets if it had no story whatsoever. You play as a new Pokemon Trainer and your goal is to become the Pokemon League Champion while taking down Team Rocket, an evil organization using Pokemon for evil reasons. Yeah, it’s paper thin, but it works.

Graphically, the Game Boy does a little bit better than the NES, and as a result, Pokemon Blue looks pretty damn good running on the hardware. Considering that this was one of the last Game Boy games around, the hardware was pretty much figured out. Sprites are crisp and the Pokemon look pretty good, except for when you see the Pokemon you’re controlling from behind (it just looks like a mesh of sprites). The environments aren’t that varied, but they’re easy on the eyes and there is plenty of variety between the gyms to make sure things don’t get too bland.

Pokemon Blue’s score is legendary. Nearly everyone in the world could hear the tune and immediately place it with Pokemon. The tunes are catchy and definitely remind us why Nintendo are the gods at making memorable musical scores. It goes right up there with Mario and Zelda. The weird noises that the Pokemon make are a little out of place at times and sometimes even annoying, but the overall audio experience is a more than decent one.

Like most RPGs, Pokemon Blue is a decently lengthy adventure, providing anywhere from twenty to thirty hours of playtime during the first time through. After that though there’s still a hell of a lot of things to discover. There are plenty of secrets to uncover, Pokemon to catch, and you could even go through the game a couple more times with a different starter for a different experience. Link cables can provide some multiplayer action if you have them available, which only furthers deepens the game. Hell, even if none of that appeals to you, you level grinding nuts can work to build your Pokemon team all the way to level one-hundred.

Pokemon Blue and Red started the whole Pokemon craze. Since then there has been countless sequels, spin-offs, an anime adaptation, movies, toys, clothes, and a ton of other merchandise. Pokemon Blue was the game that sucked me into the whole thing and was a huge part of my childhood and me becoming a gamer in the first place. Pokemon Blue is a game that holds special for many gamers out there, and for good reason. The gameplay is unbelievably addicting, the soundtrack is great, the graphics are pretty good, and there is practically unlimited replayability. If you somehow have never had the pleasure of playing this game, I urge you to go out and buy this game as quickly as possible. It’s never too late to become a Pokemaniac.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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

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