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Retro Game Review: Pokemon Blue & Red

Updated on January 12, 2016

Box Art

Box Art
Box Art

Pokemon's 20th Anniversary is coming up, and to celebrate the occasion, Nintendo is releasing a special edition Pokemon 3ds. This console will come bundled with the original release versions of Pokemon Red & Blue preinstalled, and two interchangeable Pokemon skins.

No, I'm old enough to have played these games back in the 1990s, when they were originally released, but I know that many gamers to were born long after the release of these games, and were introduced to pokemon in later generations. It seems that no matter when you start your pokemon journey, you will find yourself believing that the generation yo started with is unarguably the best pokemon game to ever hit the shelves.

This idea has made me wonder... I have always loved the original pokemon games. I have always believed that Charizard is the best starter a trainer could ever hope for, that Team Rocket was the only true villainous gang in the pokemon universe, and that 151 was a completely obtainable number of creatures to collect without driving yourself mad.

Concept Art

Concept Art
Concept Art

The 1990s

0ne of the most difficult things to explain to people who did not live through the 1990s is how completely different the gaming atmosphere was from the environment that they may be familiar with today. 0n-line gaming was simply not a thing. The Dreamcast had tried to make it a thing, but internet connections at the time were just not up to the task of real-time gaming. The ambition was there, but the hardware wasn't capable of making it a reality. That means that things live IV and EV structures weren't a thing, because competitive battling was a pipe dream. Today, Pokemon is often boiled down to math, but back in the day, this wasn't really the case.

At the time these games came out, there had never been a project that required players to interact with each other in order to complete a goal. 0ne cannot complete the pokedex alone. It can't be done. You need to trade with other players to get Pokemon that were exclusive to the particular version you weren't playing. Not to mention the other starters, the eeveelutios... there is no pokemon master operating alone. This kind of cooperation was not really something that existed prior to pokemon.


Sprite Sheet
Sprite Sheet | Source


Series creator Satoshi Tajiri was inspired by his childhood in the wilderness, where he found and collected insects. Unfortunately, being captured by a human child and impris0ned in a jar with like... a stick a leaf in it, you know, to simulate what they're used to, is a horrible situation for the insect. No insect has ever thrived in those conditions. That's just a bunch of dead lightning bugs, is all that is. Plus, kids that live in major cities don't really have this experience.

0riginally, he wanted to call the series "Capsule Monsters", and pokeballs were based on the capsules that children get by putting a toy into a machine. Generally the child puts the money in, turns a crank, and out pops a capsule with a toy inside. However, there were problems copyrighting that name, so he settled on "Pocket Monsters" instead. Because the capsules would allow you to fit the monsters in your pocket.

So initially, the company, Game Freak, released two versions of Pokemon to the Japanese market, the Red and Green versions. These versions have been criticized, because the sprite art does not really match the concept art. Some critics will call it downright ugly. In response to this criticism, the Blue Version was released, with new sprite art for all 151 Pokemon. When the the games were localized for the United States, the updated sprites were used for the red and blue versions, and the green version was not localized. Eventually a third version, Pokemon Yellow, was released with updated sprites to more closely tie in with the television show.


Red vs Fire Red
Red vs Fire Red

Is it as Good as I Remember

Are these games as good as I remember? 0r have I been blinded by nostalgia? Unfortunetly, I can't give an absolute answer to this question. I think that it's more accurate to say that I've been spoiled by the games in the series that I have come after the originals. There are things that I have come to expect from a pokemon game that just aren't there in the first two.

In this playthrough I realized, for example, that the game doesn't tell me what Pokemon I've already caught. In the newer games, a tiny pokeball icon appears next to the wild pokemon's name to let you know that you've already caught it. Red & Blue expect you to just remember that. Also, your Pokemon that you catch, but that won't fit in your party, are transferred to the pokemon storage system on Bill's PC. BUT when your current box is full, it doesn't send the pokemon to the next non-full box, it /lets them free/. Even if it's a legendary. If you're used to those boxes automatially changing, you will screw yourself, unless you have the world's best memory. You can't catch anything until you go back to the Pokemon center and change the box manually.

If you want to use an HM, you have to go into the menu and select it. You can't just walk up to a tree and press A and expect a "Do you want to use CUT?" dialogue box. It's not gonna happen. 0pening a new path is an ordeal. And speaking of HMs, my Charizard, the fire dragon, with giant wings, couldn't learn FLY. A doduo, which has no wings, can fly, but not my DRAG0N. The hm/tm movesets are particularly odd altogether.

However, having said that, none of these issues mattered to me when I was a child, because I didn't know that they were supposed to. These games have their problems, but the gameplay is solid, the story is well-written, and the music is gorgeous for a gameboy. The sprite art went through many different incarnations to be as pretty as it is. This game is definitely worth a playthrough, whether it's your first introduction to the pokemon series, as it was mine, or if you have been playing for years. If you started with a later generation, you could really benefit from seeing how the phenomenon started.


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