Review by Aganar

Reviewed: 03/01/03 | Updated: 03/02/03

One game to start them all, one game to find them

Well, it's been 6 years. But even after the first year of this huge phenomenon, if you did not know what Pokemon is, there is something wrong with you. Pokémon, or Pocket Monsters has been spread around the world with their games, videos, and tons of merchandise. Well, despite all of the crap that it has become, its source was not the heart of Satan. From the masterminds of Nintendo came this little RPG, simplified to range to all viewers. The original version, and even the rest of the Gameboy series managed to stay good and true to the original, unlike all of the milked upon milked crap.

You play as a young boy, no less than 10. The world you live in is inhabited by strange creatures called Pokémon. While some use the creatures as nothing more than mere pets, others like to train them to use them in battle, as you believe. Now that you are old enough, it is time to begin your Pokemon journey to become a master trainer! This of course leaves the plothole of how intelligent this world is if their kids are sent off at the age of 10-14.

After saying goodbye to everyone in Pallet Town, it is time for you to start your journey. But wait, you don't have a Pokemon! No worries, your good friend Professor Oak will let you have one of his. You may choose between three basic types: the grass pokemon, Bulbasaur; the water pokemon, Squirtle; or the fire pokemon, Charmander. However, your rival wants one too. Sure why not? After all, he is Oak's grandson. No matter which pokemon you choose, he will choose the one, which has an advantage over it. So, if you chose Charmander, he will get Squirtle, etc.

As you travel along with your new little buddy, you encounter wild pokemon. These creatures are untamed, and somewhat hostile. So, to survive, or merely increase your battling skills, you must fight them. Using a range of attacks, you can beat them. As your pokemon fights more, he will get stronger and gain experience. The experience can allow him to just improve his stats. But, it can also let him learn some new moves to allow for a wider variety of combat skills.

The further the go, you go into your standard RPG towns. They have a mart, a free inn, and some random houses. They also have a gym, where you can get into trainer battles. In trainer battles, you use your own pokemon to fight against a computer's arranged team. Unlike wild battles, you cannot capture the enemy pokemon once you weaken it, and it is usually a bit harder. However, if you do win, you are rewarded. Trainers give you money once they are beaten. There is a gym leader, the toughest of the trainers around, which you must beat to continue. Beating a gym leader will give you a badge, which not only signifies that you beat the gym leader and allows you to get into new areas, but it holds some special skills for your pokemon. The ultimate goal is to beat the Elite 4, the greatest of all trainers, and finally beat your rival.

There is one other way that experience changes pokemon. If they are given enough experience, they can evolve. Evolving is simply what it says. They mutate into a newer more powerful version of themselves. While most pokemon simply evolve through experience, there are other ways. Some will not evolve unless they are given to a friend. Others, cannot evolve without the unique radiation emitted from a special stone.

The core of the game however, is not in training your pokemon. Training is only the excuse for the real ''fun'' of the game. When you weaken an enemy pokemon, you may pull out one of your items to use on it. The item, or better known as a Pokéball, can be thrown at the enemy. Once thrown, it encases them within itself, therefore ''capturing'' it. Capturing a pokemon allows it to join your team and be used for your own purposes. Now, why beating up a creature then enslaving it makes it willingly obey you I don't know.

The idea is to catch as many pokemon as you can. There is the actual quest, but it requires you to capture a large amount of pokemon. You are supposed to experiment with different types and make a balanced team to fight enemies. You are supposed to learn what times effect which. As such, when a trainer brings out a grass pokemon like an Oddish, you will want to bring out a fire pokemon like Arcanine. Not only will your fire based moves to twice as much damage as a normal move would do to Oddish, but Oddish's grass type moves will do only 1/2 the damage that a normal blow would do.

This does several things for the group. One, it encourages you to get a balanced array of team members, so any type that comes out will have a counter in your team waiting. Two, it encourages you to develop different move tactics to defend against pokemon which have an advantage against your own. Finally, it encourages you to learn a variety of types of moves. When I developed my pokemon and he had only Fire type moves, I found out that he would run into some trouble against fire-protected pokemon. So, you must add variety. And, smart trainers will actually give pokemon a move of their opposite type, so they'll have something to work with. As such, a pokemon, which is weak against water, might want to learn an electric type move, so if they face a water pokemon, they will have something to fight back with.

Visually, it pushes the Gameboy hardware to its limits. The characters on the over-map are fairly small and SD, but the backgrounds look quite nice. In battle, the graphics change to quite detailed monsters fighting. The graphics could afford to look great, because it is a white screen and they never move. They don't even move when they attack. You merely see the attack inflicted on the opposing pokemon. That is rather annoying, but the Gameboy couldn't really handle much better. So, for this game, it is excused. It does not excuse the later games, and I am rather pissed that it still exists in Ruby and Sapphire.

The art style of the game is another arguable area. The monster designs are very mixed. While they are supposed to be monsters, many of them are just way too cute. Don't get me wrong, some of them are monsters: Nidoking, Onix, Charizard, those are some excellent designs. But it's somewhat intimidating when your hard-trained Charizard is knocked out by a Pikachu, or smacked in the face by a Clefairy. I would've liked it if more of the monsters had a serious look.

The game is filled with some OK tunes, a couple good tunes, and some of the most god-awful tunes ever to slither into my gameboy. While some tunes are bearable, and one cave theme I actually really like, wandering through fields you find yourself listening to a midi version of polly-wolly-doodle. Then there is the other cave theme which reminds you just how annoying the dungeons are. And of course the mediocre boss battle tunes. The sounds are really no better.

Besides sound/music, this game sounds really great. And it is, but unfortunately, my rating of it has gone severely down. When I first played it, I thought it was the greatest thing ever. It was simple, addictive, and most importantly fun. I had over 120 hours logged on and I thought I would love it forever. Well, I still do, but now some of the more glaring errors are more apparent.

Despite what bashers said, I was always convinced that the game was about battle and how you customized your pokemon, because that is what I loved. But now, I can deny it no longer. The game is about catching them. And catching is not very fun. You merely throw the ball and it works or it doesn't. It has an extreme amount of frustration involved, since your ultra ball can catch some of the toughest monsters around but a level 2 Pikachu can break out.

And, the battles are not as deep as I once gave them credit for. Yes, it is still fairly deep, but this is no Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, instead of revolving around individual Pokemon and how you train them, it becomes merely about strong ones. You are not rewarded anymore for beating the game with pokemon you all raised from level 2 up then you are for a freshly caught team of pokemon you captured in the dungeon you had to go through to get here. Even though the game even says that a real trainer must use pokemon they like, not strong ones, it makes you use strong ones, because that is the only way you can win.

One thing no one can deny however, is the incredible amount of replay value this game has. There are over 150 monsters to catch. Not only that, but all of the skills you can catch. There is the ones they learn naturally, but there are others you can teach them. These are called TM's. Some you can even use out of battle. If you teach your pokemon surf, when in your party they can ride on the water and you can get to new areas. This was also the first game to encourage trading with your friends. To catch them all, you must trade certain pokemon to others, because the versions have some pokemon that cannot be found in others. You may also battle just to see who has the better team. And when you finally get all 150, you get a diploma from the game designers signifying your accomplishment.

You have no idea how much I wanted to give this a 9, or even a 10. But, the game does not age well. One can pull it out and play it anytime, but it will never have the same glint it once had when you first play through it. I really once liked this more than any other gameboy game (I'm sorry Link's Awakening!), but now, it is merely another one of my titles. I love this game with a passion, but because the sequels are just more of the same the errors become more and more annoying. Considering that this game can be found for 20 bucks, it is still a must have, just so you can know that it did not start out evil.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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