The year was 1996, and little did people know, that there was a new phenomenon about to sweep the world in the form of little ‘Pocket Monsters’ created by Satoshi Tajiri for Nintendo Game Boy. The 90’s kids were still replacing the batteries of their Game Boys handhelds from Nintendo, and enjoying games like Super Mario Land, and Tetris. Little did they know that soon they would have to make one of the toughest decisions of their lives…choosing a starter Pokémon!
You have just turned 10 years old, which means you are now old enough to be given your very own Pokémon, who will accompany you as your Mum, along with the towns local Pokémon Researcher, Professor Oak, sends you out into the great wild world on your own to discover, catch and battle the creatures known as Pokémon or ‘Pocket Monsters’.
Get ready to go on an adventure through the Kanto region, a singularly distinct region with multiple georgaphical habitats for you to explore, from Forests and Fields, to Caves and Cities, and even the Open Sea (though with border restrictions) later on in the game. You must journey through Kanto and train your Pokémon hard in order to level them up and make them stronger, so that they can evolve and take new forms, as well as help you defeat the eight Gym Leaders across the land, who will reward your victories with a gym badge. Collect all 8 to unlock your final challenge, The Elite Four!
Throughout the game you will also come across your rival, the nephew of Professor Oak, who you can either name yourself or choose a name for from one of the options. To make things difficult, your rival will always choose the starter Pokémon of the opposite type to whichever you choose, for example if you choose Charmander, a fire type, your rival will choose Squirtle, a water type, making your Charmander a weaker opponent to your rival because Fire is weak against Water.
All across Kanto you will discover and catch over 100 different Pokémon of various levels, sizes and genders, including the three Legendary Bird Pokémon; Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, and not to forget the two Mythical Pokémon Mew and Mewtwo. There are 151 Pokémon in the original 3 games (Pokémon Red/Blue & Green) so make sure you have plenty of Pokéballs because as the slogan says you “Gotta Catch ’em All”.
Game Boy consoles were designed to play nothing more than 8-bit games, so of course, that’s what Pokémon Red & Blue were, 8-bit games filled with wonderful little 8-bit sprites. This didn’t stop the creators of Pokémon from designing a wonderful game filled with awesome and unique creatures however, even if by today’s standards the sprites for some of the original 151 aren’t as good as they were later down the line. There is often the joke about the differences between the original sprites and the revamped ones, such as Pikachu becoming slimmer in the later games.
Every region in the game is also unique and distinguishable by it’s layout such as the open rural area of you home in Pallet Town, to the cramped urban landscape of Cerulean City. Ironically, despite being a game without colour to it (Colour would later be added in the Game Boy Colour versions of the games) each town is actually named after a different colour, whether it’s Viridian (a blue-green color), Cerulean (a deep blue), Saffron (a golden-yellow), Lavender (a pale purple) or one of the others, it’s a great little design element that makes the game more enjoyable, because you know there’s been a lot of thought put into the settings as well as the plot.
Pokémon is a turn-based JRPG, meaning that when in combat, each opponent takes a single turn to make a move. When battling, you can choose from four possible options;
- Fight – Pick an attack move that your Pokémon knows.
- Item – Choose and item from your bag to use this turn. This could be anything from using a Pokéball to catch the wild Pokémon you are battling, or perhaps a Potion to restore some health to your wounded Pokémon.
- Pokémon – Choose another Pokémon to bring out into the battle, replacing the current Pokémon that is on the battlefield.
- Run – Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you were trying to get somewhere and the pesky tall grass or open water was in your way, so you keep running into Pokémon that you don’t want to deal with right now. You can use the ‘Run’ option to escape the battle. Or perhaps your facing a powerful Pokémon and don’t want to pay the cost of ‘whiting out’ so you choose instead to run away. This option cannot be used in Trainer/Gym Battles
Winning battles against Pokémon will grant any of your Pokémon that participated in the fight, some experience points, also known as XP. Winning battles against other trainers will grant you XP but will also grant you a cash reward, as well as a gym badge if your opponent is a Gym Leader. However, be careful and choose wisely with your Pokémon, because if your entire party of Pokémon are defeated in battle, you will ‘white out’ and be sent to the nearest Pokémon Center to heal, but you will also have to pay up some cash for losing.
Pokémon is a game of skill, as much as some people might think otherwise, and the skill comes from learning the different Pokémon ‘Types’. In the original games, there are 15 different ‘Types’ of Pokémon and some Pokémon fit into two type groups. The ‘Types’ include;
Each type has it’s strengths and weaknesses, such as Fire being weak against Water but being strong against Grass for example. It takes time, patience and skill to truly learn each Pokémon’s type and what it is strong or weak against, especially since some Pokémon take on two different types which makes understanding them that little bit harder. However there are plenty of guides on the wonderful world of the Internet today such as the Chart below that was posted on IGN, but back in the 90’s, the kids had to figure it all out by themselves or discuss these matters between friends.
The RPG side of things comes in the form of naming both yourself and the Pokémon you catch, as well as the tough decision of choosing which six Pokémon you will have in your party, since there are only six slots available and 151 Pokémon, the decisions aren’t easy and you will certainly be swapping your Pocket Monsters constantly.
Some people who are unfamiliar with the games often wonder why there are always two or sometimes three games released at a time. This is because of the trading mechanic involved with Pokémon games, which allows players to trade Pokémon with another player in order to build the Pokédex and truly catch them all. In the case of Pokémon Red and Blue, players will discover that there are certain Pokémon that do not appear in their game, but do appear in the opposing game. This is because Nintendo wanted to encourage trading with friends so that you could meet up and have fun, or if you were/are lucky enough to own both games and two consoles, then you can easily trade the version exclusives between consoles and catch them all yourself in true loner fashion.
There are also certain Pokémon that can only evolve into their final forms via trading, such as Haunter who is unable to evolve into Gengar unless it is traded to another console and then traded back. This was also introduced to promote the trading mechanic of the game, to bring friends and Pokémon players across the globe, together.
There were a lot of elements in the first generation of Pokémon games that didn’t get sorted until Gen 2 (Gold, Silver & Crystal), and some didn’t get perfected until Gen 3 (Ruby, Sapphire, Emeral, & Fire Red/Leaf Green), including the backpack. If you have played the later games in the series, and wanted to try your hand at playing the originals, then you will be in for a shock, as your backpack can fill up and you will sometimes have to choose between dropping an item that you may never get back, or using it to make room for the new item you’ve found, so for those of you who horde TM’s, then be prepared because you won’t be able to do that in this version.
Though modern day players will easily point out the many strange faults with the games plot, such as sending a 10 year old kid out into the world on their own, or the cruelty of enslaving creatures and forcing them to fight one another, there is no denying that the world was all in for the game when it first released, and has since gained one of, if not THE biggest mass following for any franchise ever created. Pokémon has not stopped producing a sea of merchandise from Video Games, to TV Shows and Films, Toys, Accessories, and whatever else you can think of, guaranteed if it exists, there’s a version of it with Pokémon, and yes, much to many peoples regret and to few people’s delight, that includes the adult film industry.
Pokémon is more than just a household name, and there have even been studies into what is known as ‘Pokémon Memory’, which suggests that even someone who has not watched, played or had any real connection to Pokémon, can recognize a Pokémon if they saw a picture of one, especially the original 151, and even more specifically, it is said that if you show someone a Pikachu, they’ll know who it is regardless, since the little electric mouse is one of the most recognizable icons in the world.
Since Pokémon Red, Blue and Green, there have been countless Pokémon video games, trading cards, tournaments, competitions, merchandising and even themed attractions such as Pokémon Cafe’s etc. and there is no sign of this phenomenon slowing down. There are many who will say that after a certain point, kids grow out of the Pokémon trend, and to some degree they’re right, but when many of us think that Pokémon grew out of fashion and came back, what was really happening was that it was only slowing down with the people we knew, because I can’t imagine a single year where Pokémon hasn’t sold a ridiculous amount of merchandise. There are many adult fans of Pokémon and there may even be a few adult fans who won’t admit it because there are those in the world that shun and laugh at an adult playing a ‘kids game’. Here at Level Up Reviews, we say play it loud and play it proud. Video Games are meant to be enjoyed and shared with friends, family and potential new friends. The online communities are swamped with players of all ages and none of them should be ashamed for loving these kids games.
Pokémon is a game that will live on and on, for as long as Nintendo keeps making Pokémon games and merchandise, players across the globe will keep buying them. The phenomenon has produced hundreds upon thousands of hours of joy for gamers and casual players across the globe in all languages, and whilst there have often been certain conflicts over it’s themes, designs, and overall production, it still remains one of the greatest games of all time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all of the Pokémon names from memory, or if you know what types match up with what when it comes to battling, because the game can be a relaxing experience for old and new players. The nostalgia factors in heavily here, but due to restrictions of the earlier games compared to the later versions, it’s hard to give these games a full 5 stars and call it fair, because later generations of Pokémon players might not find them as good as older Pokémon players do, because we have that nostalgia. So, as much as I want to give this game 5 stars for it’s unique Sprite designs, game elements and being one of the most legendary games of all time, I can only fairly give it 4 and a half stars.
Check out our Gallery below for some nostalgia;