- Original release year: 1996
- Consoles: GameBoy (later: 3DS)
With the recent re-release of the classic original Pokemon titles on the 3DS, which managed to break Nintendo’s eShop records, and it being the franchise’s 20th anniversary, now seems like as good a time as anytime to talk about Pokemon Blue, Red and Yellow. Man, it seems like only yesterday I was in the school yard, arguing and discussing with my mates over which of Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle was the best Pokemon to choose at the start of the game (Squirtle is obviously the best).
So what can I say about Red and Blue (and Yellow) that hasn’t already been said a million times before? The originals were a global, cultural phenomenon, that became perhaps the biggest fads of my generation. The brand completely transcended being just a video game success, but launched everything from a cartoon series, films, a trading card game, spin off video games, posters, magazines, clothes etc. Pretty much anything you could shove the Pokemon licence on and sell, got made and sold by the bucket load. And it’s not like this was just peripheral products that were sold on the side; No, the trading card game and the TV series/films were arguably just as big as the video game itself. In fact, it’s because of the anime programme and films, that Pokemon Yellow was made (with it being essentially being a colour remaster of Red and Blue, with a few different pokemon and being inspired by the anime – e.g. Pikachu being given to the character from the start, following the character around instead of sitting in a pokeball, Jesse and James from Team Rocket being antagonists etc.).
So after 20 years, numerous entries in the Pokemon video games series, about 600 more Pokemon (maybe? Pokemon fanatics will correct me on that), the fad having waned in popularity slightly (although the games still sell like hot cakes), the series has definitely moved on a bit since the primitive original, that ‘only’ had 151 Pokemon to catch. Still, there’s something very endearing and likable about the original generation. It was such a simple concept, but it tapped into something that was very compelling, accessible and addictive, particularly for children and young teens, but also for a variety of age ranges and demographics.
Pokemon is essentially a basic overhead 2D RPG, with random (and nonrandom) turn based battles. What sets it apart from most RPGs though, is you play as just one hero, a young boy, who embarks on a journey to collect all 150 (or 151 including the hidden Mew) pokemon, who do your battling for you. Each pokemon has different moves to utilise and battles are a little bit like rock, paper, scissors. Why? Well, because grass Pokemon are strong against water pokemon, and water pokemon are strong against fire pokemon, but fire pokemon are strong against grass pokemon and don’t forget electric pokemon are strong against water, but rock pokemon are strong against electric, and so on and so on…
Other than collecting Pokemon, you’re main aim is to travel across the island, defeating all the gym masters one at a time, before facing the final opponents, the elite four. That’s more or less all there is to the game, but it really was so addictive. I think what made it stand out, was how it became such a social game. Although the main game is a single player story based affair, there is the option to fight your friend’s Pokemon or even trade pokemon with each other (you will need to do this if you want to get all of them, as Red and Blue each have a handful of exclusives each). This coupled with lots of exciting, rare, hard to find Pokemon for you to boast to your mates about catching, made the game a lot of fun.
When I was young, I absolutely loved Pokemon. I did everything you could possibly do in the game, including catching all 150…. The only thing I didn’t get, is the mystical Mew, who little did anyone know at the time, could actually be found in the game’s code all along and could be accessed without even using a game genie. You see, #151, Mew was originally given to players at special gaming events, but it was later found that Mew was actually hidden in the game’s code already. So, with the use of a game genie device, players could get their hands on Mew. Years later though, someone was clever enough to find a way of finding a wild level 7 Mew without the need of a cheat device.
So overall, despite the fact Pokemon was initially written off as a ‘silly fad’ for kids, I think time has proven just how important and undeniably good the Pokemon games are. Whilst the cartoons and trading cards etc. may not be as popular, Pokemon remains one of Nintendo’s best selling franchises. They continue to keep making brilliant games and gamers just keep buying them. Although each new installment has generally improved upon the basic formula, the originals are still a hell of a lot of fun and well worth checking out, especially as they’re now on the 3DS.