Typically in a generation of Pokémon games, three main titles are released. One would have the initial two titles released alongside each other as a pair with a third game following. The third game is usually the same game as the other two with various revisions, such as different Pokémon placement, some moved bosses, changed dialogue etc. This formula does not ring true with the first generation, however. Instead, while the two games released alongside each other (Red and Green in Japan, Red and Blue outside of Japan) are the same but for minor Pokémon placements, Pokémon Yellow offered a different story-line and game play style as it followed the anime. As a result, if someone was to desire a conventional Pokémon game from the first generation for their collection, then Pokémon Yellow would not likely fit the requirements as the refinements made were game changing. Is blue or red worth revisiting beyond nostalgic musings, and if so which game?
To answer the latter question, it doesn't completely matter which one beyond what little Pokémon differences there are and that they got a different overall lens tone. In Pokémon Red, red is the dominant colouration depending on the handheld it's played on or in some versions (like the emulators on Vizzed) black and white. A translated version of Green would later be found online but the translations, unlike for Red and the remade Blue, were extremely poor and the sprites can range in quality so that version is not generally recommended.Now, what of Red? Was Red a good game, or was it over-hyped and overrated in subsequent years of it's release? For the purposes of this documentation it will almost be perfectly applicable to Pokémon Blue so should one find Pokémon Blue available for sale and wondering whether or not to purchase, then read onwards.
To those unfamiliar with the series, Pokémon is about catching these wild creatures known as Pokémon and raising them in teams for battle and (later) contests. Teams of up to 6 will be constructed of Pokémon caught from the wild, or traded/given to the player. They would have to be raised by battling wild Pokémon or other trainers, with he player eventually hoping to become the champion. Yet are the hours and trudging along to raise the team worthwhile?
The soundtrack is considered a memorable one and one that would be rather recognizable in subsequent years, but is this a good thing? This game's soundtrack is relatively diverse encompassing different tunes, but the majority tend to take on a more upbeat feel. For the system that this game was released on, the actual music is fairly high quality. It may not necessarily hold up as well over 15 years later, but those with nostalgic memories flooding from the deepest cores of their brain won't mind: it isn't a mish-mash of random 8 bit audio. The biggest issue with the music itself is the bicycle music: it never stops. Whenever one should decide to speed their journey up, the music starts to play...and NEVER stops! If one should enter an area that has a music theme they like, they instead get the bicycle theme. Admittedly, this is not a problem if someone should enjoy the bicycle theme, as music is subjective, but the approach in later games where entering a new area changes the music is a much desired fix (whether a bug fix or simply a change in direction). The sound effects varies from effective to just meh...the effects used for the poke ball is excellent as is the healing at Pokémon centers. Like with most games with cartridges instead of CDs or beyond, the effects can grow annoying to gamers accustomed to CD quality audio but for the game boy, it is sufficient.
Visually, a simplistic but functional game bearing a resemblance to Final Fantasy. Since it isn't possible to mention the visuals without talking about the game play, as each visual style has their own game play aspects associated with them, this segment will also talk about the basic game play mechanics. The three big styles are the character adventure mode, the battles and Pokedex views, and the various systems like the inventory and PCs.
The adventure mode is basically where the player controls their trainer and travels across the region, Kanto. This style is most reminiscent of the original Final Fantasy in that it is a birds eye view, which makes sense seeing that Nintendo published this title. The big difference is that instead of icons on a map for towns, the player actually enters the town as they would in real life (unless using a map or flying). The scale isn't perfect by any means but it don't need to be, especially on a game boy cartridge. This is where the player would travel from town to town, cave to cave, building to build etc. In caves, tall grass, or on water is where Pokémon will naturally "spawn" and can be battled and caught. Considering the limits of the handheld and what needed to be done, this aspect works well enough for the most part. A lot of strategy is done this way, as teams would be customized and items bought outside of battle. The actual customization, however, actually is done through the text.
The majority of the applications where teams and items would be tended to are purely text based. The text and, technically the interface can be described as...exceptionally cluttered and clunky to say the least. While some
of the criticisms is due to it being among the first games in the series can theoretically be void, it still deserves criticism. The TM and HM (both are items that can be used to teach Pokémon moves) names in particular is annoying as instead of clearly being labelled, they are simply called "TM 14" or similar. Admittedly, since there are only five HM (repeating items, the moves taught are permanent) items, they can be memorized easily enough but there are 50 TM moves...to add further insult to injury of having to sort through them all, they are almost guaranteed to take up a lot of inventory space and must be deposited in the PC. The PC itself is also cluttered and time consuming to sort through, as there is no means to organize items properly unless done manually with the select button. The Pokémon storage admittedly is better, as there are boxes of Twenty but as it is also purely text based with minimal organizational capacities it also grows cluttered as the capacity increases. Furthermore, there is little indication of when a box starts to fill up making it more frustrating.
What of the battles and the visuals associated with them? When a battle starts, sprites of each Pokémon will appear and they would use a basic battle command menu: attack (with one of up to four moves), use an item, look or switch to another Pokémon, or try to run away (in trainer battles this isn't possible). This formula would largely stay unchanged except for enhanced visuals and animation. The images aren't fantastic but again considering the limited hardware capabilities, they are still quite nice. The animation is very basic but it doesn't need to be that elaborate for what the game is trying to accomplish.
The two big game play goals are battling to build a strong team to beat all opposing trainers, and to collect all 150 Pokémon (152 if one counts Mew and Missingno). In battling, there is a fair variety of Pokémon and the actual system itself works quite well. The actual mechanics are good and when in an actual challenge or an important battle, this burn based system could easily be a lot of fun. However...it has two key flaws. The first of which is simply that the training in this game simply to grow stronger can easily grow rather dull, repetitive and simply boring. The other flaw is that it is impossible to re challenge defeated trainers or gym leaders severely reducing the replay value of the game (it is simply rubbing salt into the wound when one person wishes to build a new team but have to delete their level 90 team simply because the other trainers refuses to play against one again). This would be alleviated in the second and third generations with re challenging players and gym leaders being added respectively, but here...it is non-existent.
Gathering all 150 Pokémon has always been a huge challenge for the time and to this day remains a personal goal of many Pokémon collectors, especially people only just beginning to enjoy the series. It is not supposed to be easy, which is perfectly fine (who would want such a goal to be a cakewalk anyways?) but one aspect brings the whole experience down...
The trading system.
If it has been said once, it has been said many times: This is a royal pain to the quotidian gamer. The immense annoyances of trying to accumulate all 150 Pokémon without a friend is evident like in all other games. Fortunately, since it is the first generation the numbers of necessary Pokémon are limited (only around 15 of the 150 are necessary to have another game for) but it still does not alleviate the irritations caused to players without a friend who would trade with or another handheld readily available with another game.
The storyline is kept rather vague in many regards, but some aspects are recurring. For instance, the concept of a rival continuously beating the player is a recurring plot point and the fact that a gang is trying to take over, while the means is cliché and potentially moronic, is also present. For the most part, however, the story is kept rather vague...and this is a good choice in this type of rpg adventure game. The reason is that these are the types of games players will pick up because they want to put themselves in another person's shoes and craft their own story around the world created: Pokémon allows that to be done.
The game itself is one of those games that the first play-through can very easily be challenging but once the player knows exactly what is coming and/or how to handle every single situation (knowing the elemental tables to perfection for instance)...the challenge is largely lost. The only way then to maintain a true sense of challenge is set those self-imposed challenges like the nuzlocke game-play mode. The real challenge in the vanilla game in the long run is actually in multiplayer against other humans and deciding how to handle their diverse and potentially sentient adversaries but without access to multiplayer, this is completely useless.
After all the Pokémon waged their battles and they rest inside their Pokeballs, the trainer sits and wonders "was that battle really worth it?" just like how a person may think when seeing this game on a pawn store's shelf. Despite flaws associated with being a first generation release within the series, and some flaws that were never fixed for anti-social gamers, it is still an excellent game in it's own right. It is definitely worth checking out, if not for actual game play reasons then for nostalgia of what many consider a groundbreaking game.