I was surprised to find (because I know astoundingly little about the series) that the game is not called Pokémon in its native country. I mean I get that it's a portmanteau, but I assumed the name originated in Japan, like with 'Tamagotchi'. In fact the original Japanese title for this is basically just pronounced as 'Pocket Monsters'; so someone took a sensible English title and then mangled it up for the English release. It's a perfectly likeable mangled up name though, so I ain't complaining.
wikipedia's List of best-selling video games.
I'm not sure if this is the first game to come in two nearly identical variants you could link together, but nothing older is coming to mind. In Japan though the colours were originally Red and Green, with Blue being a third updated version released eight months later. Then they took the Japanese Blue, translated it, and split it into the Western Red and Blue you're looking at in the picture. Then there was another updated release called Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition. Oh, plus the FireRed and LeafGreen remakes for the Game Boy Advance...
Sorry I'll shut up and play the game now. I only really showed this photo to remind you what colour looks like, because you won't be seeing it again for a long while.
There seems to be a bit of a 'woody' theme going on with the character names so far, with Oak and Ash, but I couldn't fit 'Yggdrasil' in so I gave up and just called my guy Bart. The remake later added the option to play as a girl, but in this one you're stuck with a male character.
|Pokémon FireRed (GBA)|
I don't know why I'm so preoccupied with his console anyway, when the thing is sitting in bedroom like 8 meters across. My young Pokémon trainer has a room bigger than some entire houses, complete with its own staircase. And yet there's no bathroom on this floor.
Out of curiosity I walked over to the PC to see what games he had, and found he was actually running item storage software on it, recording real world objects as computer data. Very Tron. Anyway I found a potion in there and moved it from the hard drive into my backpack before logging off.
She tells me that all boys leave home some day, and that she heard that on TV. I tried to reply by saying that most of them wait until they're at least in their teens, but there's no dialogue options in this.
Out of curiosity I walked over to the TV to see what she's watching, and from the description it seems to be that Stand By Me movie from '86 with Wesley Crusher and Jack Bauer in it. She's getting her parenting advice from a Steven King film.
Anyway I can't hang around this place forever, I need to go out and... actually I have no idea what my goal is. My only objective so far has been to 'leave home', which I have successfully achieved, but I guess I could try leaving my home town as well.
In the Yellow version a Pikachu jumps out here and Oak manages to save the day by catching it in a Poké Ball, but nothing so dramatic happens in Red, Green or Blue.
He's also brought my rival-since-infancy here, but seeing as Oak likes me better than his own grandson, I get to have first choice of the three available Pokémon on the table.
|Pocket Monsters Red/Green (1996) | Pokémon Red/Blue (1998) | Pokémon FireRed/LeafGreen (2004)|
A dragon seems like a good bet for early success to me though. He seems like he's the Pokémon equivalent of Blackbeard the pirate, except that he puts fear into his enemies with a flaming tail instead of a burning beard. Plus he's on the box cover of the version I'm playing, so I pretty much already made my choice.
Though straight after I picked Charmander, my rival went with Squirtle and now I'm starting to worry that fire plus water may not equal steamed turtle.
EPIC BATTLE ANIMATION!
(Youtube link for battle music)
My dragon's so low res!
Given the choice between GROWL and SCRATCH, I decided that SCRATCH seemed to be the move more likely to do anything useful, and went with that. But that turtle must have had the type advantage, as his attacks really hammered my health bar. Fortunately though I'd smuggled in that potion I'd found in my PC, and using it kept me in the fight just long enough to scratch that Squirtle to death.
Oh hang on, I guess he actually just fainted. The funny thing is, if he'd kept hitting me instead of using tail whip to lower my defence, he would've won that.
Alright, now I've got a fightin' pet with a victory under his belt I'm going back outside to brave THE LONG GRASS.
Okay then, now that I have my Pokémon to protect me I can head off into the world and do... something. The best clue I've got is an email I found on Prof. Oak's PC earlier mentioning the elite trainers of POKéMON LEAGUE, but I don't think I'm quite ready for them yet. seeing as I've only got the one Pokémon so far.
The thing about having just the one Pokémon and no potions, is that even if I win a fight, I come out of it weaker. Health doesn't regenerate between battles so these rats are nibbling my Charmander to death one fight at a time. Plus I only get a limited number of uses from each move until it's out of ammo.
I just hope these little rodents are as outgoing when I finally get myself some Poké Balls and come back to the long grass do some recruiting.
A SCREEN OR TWO NORTH.
I don't meant imply that there's some kind of vendetta between the two of them, the shopkeeper's just got a mysterious package that he wants me to deliver to him. Immediately.
Well fuck that guy then, I'm going exploring!
Alright Charmander get your tail lit, we've got some rats to burn.
EIGHT SCREENS SOUTH, IN PALLET TOWN.
|Pokémon: FireRed (GBA)|
Hey Oak, does that mean that you're going to let me take that ultra-rare one just sitting right there on your desk then? I mean, I need to catch it to scan the data in right?
Oh fine, I guess I'll go find my own Bulbasaur then! I would've traded my Charmander for my rival's Squirtle, but he ran off too fast, so I can't scan that one either.
SEVEN SCREENS NORTH AGAIN.
I guess I'll take a POKé BALL... and nine more POKé BALLs. Alright now I can at last start catching 'em all!
It seems that Pokémon can only be captured in the wild, after they've jumped out to fight me. First though it's apparently best to smack them around a little, as wounded animals are easier to trap. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll be very comfortable stuffed inside that tiny ball. I think POKéSCIENTISTS must have stumbled across the same technology that genies use to shrink themselves down into a lamp.
Right, now I can cross pidgeon off the list of animals to capture. Time to go hunting for rats.
Oh, he used bubble on me, which apparently counts as an offensive move in the world of Pokémon as I just lost. Crap, I can't even remember the last time I saved the game.
Distraught by the loss of all his Pokémon at the hands of the man who first taught him the concept of hate, Bart blacks out right in the middle of the road.
Oh, plus he helped myself to half my money it seems. That bastard!
At least it seems that the guy blocking the road has had his coffee now, so I should probably save and continue north. There's no save points in this by the way, I can save the game any time I want! It's always nice to be able to turn a game off whenever I feel like it without worrying about losing progress.
Trainer battles are important though, because even though I can't grab their Pokémon they seem to be the only way I can raise money (short of selling stuff). Now that I know that money is such a limited resource in this, I'm even more paranoid about blacking out in a fight and losing half of it.
Hang on, are all these cities named after colours? It's Pallet Town actually supposed to be Palette Town?
|Pokémon: Red Version (Super Game Boy)|
Anyway I've got a full set of Pokémon now, trained in the forest and healed in the Pokémon Center. Plus I've even been able to grab a few $300 potions, so I think that I'm finally ready to take on my first gym.
Uh, why am I getting gym badges again? Oh right yeah, I need a full set from the gyms in every city to gain access to the Pokémon League and fight the elite trainers to prove that I'm the best trainer in the world!
Also I can't move on to the next area without getting the gym badge, which kind of impedes my ability to catch 'em all.
Brock definitely seems to have the better team, but he made the amateur mistake of only bringing out two Pokémon. It took my whole team of six to wear down this Onix, but I got him in the end.
Oh it's a one-use item to teach a certain move to one of my Pokémon. Well, I'm not sure I'm going to keep this team for long, so I'll leave the thing in my inventory for now. If I start teaching Stanley the Weedle advanced combat moves I might be too tempted to keep him in the party even when a wild Godzillahulk or Mammothtank or whatever shows up.
LATER, AT MT. MOON.
Oh, it turns out that the fish is a piece of crap with only a single move, called 'Splash'. In fact the thing is so lame that I have to wonder if there's some kind of use for it later. I've already got a full party though, so it gets sent to a computer hard drive instead, where it can hang out with all the other Pokémon I've been finding and not using
I'll deposit one of my team into the network using that PC over there, and then pull the fish out and put it in my party to level it up a bit. Inactive Pokémon don't get the slightest bit of XP, so I gotta use 'em to improve 'em.
Speaking of water types, I actually sent the fish out first but his
I'm definitely getting buyers remorse with that thing now.
A FEW NARROW ESCAPES LATER.
These guys have come down here to steal some fossils, which is apparently a bigger deal than it sounds. I remember reading a sign requesting that people come forward to the police with information on fossil thieves way back in Pewter City in fact.
But now that I'm here I have a chance to but an end to their thieving ways... by knocking out all their Pokémon and leaving them trapped and helpless in the dark surrounded by Zubats. The same thing I did to all those young Pokémon trainers on the way down here in fact. Perhaps the real monster was me all along...
First though I need to get out of here to recharge my troops, as that fight left me with just 6hp on my final Pokémon. ESCAPE ROPE!
ANOTHER TRIP BACK UNDER THE MOUNTAIN LATER.
Hmm, do I want the HELIX FOSSIL? Do I really want to steal a fossil from this cave even after it has been repeatedly mentioned that taking fossils is a crime?
Sure, I guess.
EVENTUALLY, AT CERULEAN CITY.
Alright what's going to be good against water? Electricity maybe? Judging by the starter Pokémon on Oak's table, Frogbulb is the one that's good against Squirtle, but who knows what that thing's meant to be. Plant type I guess?
Seems like there's nothing in this water but more useless Magikarps, so I'll put my recruitment scheme on hold for now.
SOON, AFTER MEETING ANOTHER TRAINER.
I've managed to trade Spearmint the Spearow for a Farfetch'd called Dux from one of the NPCs, but I'm not sure that gaining another flying Pokémon is going to help me any. Still, it's another entry in the Pokédex. 20 something down, 130 to go.
I'll be lucky if I have anyone left by the end of this tunnel and I definitely don't have any faith that I could survive a return trip. The only reason I've lasted this long is because I have an Abra with a Teleport skill that gets me out of battles.
Well not entirely screwed. But I'm too cheap to buy potions, so I'm carrying a fair amount of cash right now which would be halved if all my Pokémon faint, and I'd really like to hold onto it all if possible. I guess all I can do is take my chances in the Diglett cave again, head back through to civilization, and hope for a miracle.
A COUPLE OF MINUTES LATER...
Oh it wasn't Gyarados who got me back out of the Diglett cave again by the way; this evolution actually happened shortly after I got outside. No, my unlikely escape was all thanks to my fluky little Rattata, who survived the trip practically on his own by the end of it. That guy is NEVER leaving my party from now on; he's earned his place.
Funny thing though... I learned shortly afterwards that Abra's Teleport skill could've instantly brought me back to the last Pokémon Center I'd visited, letting me skip the return trip through the cave entirely.
Anyway, what was I doing? Oh right, I've got to go fight Misty. Come on Gyarados, we've got a badge to get.
TWO MINUTES LATER.
But by beating Misty I've gained the ability to use the CUT command on the field to remove small bushes! But only for Pokémon who know Cut, which right now is roughly none of them. So now I guess I go back to breaking into people's houses and talking to everyone until someone points me in the right direction.
Last time I got an ability like this, I'd stumbled across Team Rocket trying to steal it. Instead of bringing the ability machine back to the victim, our heroic Pokémon trainer just decided to keep it for himself. So that's twice now I've beaten Team Rocket at their own crime.
ONE LONG TRIP THROUGH THE CRUISE SHIP S.S. ANNE LATER.
In one line, Pokémon is an addictive RPG thing built around a genius idea, spoiled a little by the grind.
I love how relentlessly focused the thing is on Pokémon though. That man who wanted some coffee is practically the only NPC in the game whose issues don't relate to Pokémon in some way. Every bookcase is full of Pokémon books (that I can't read), schools only teach about Pokémon, shops only sell Pokémon gear, everything in this world revolves around the cute little collectable capsule creatures, and that makes your quest to catch 'em all feel so important. To succeed as a Pokémon trainer, fighter and scholar means really something in this society, so it means something to the player too.
It's a little annoying that it doesn't tell you what any of the Pokémon's moves do, so it's all about trying things out and guesswork. Or more accurately, all about swapping advice with the other kids at school or checking the internet. I suppose I can forgive Game Freak though, seeing as they probably couldn't fit another byte of data on that cartridge without the whole thing crashing down.
The game's an easy gold star, but the way that only Pokémon that participate in battles gain XP really hurts it for me. You can't build up your own handpicked team without putting in the time and sitting through some tedious grinding, and that's just... tedious. The presentation helps to offset the frustrations though, which isn't something I get to say about Game Boy games all that often. The music is this is so horrifically catchy that I'll likely still be humming it all the time next year, and long after I've forgotten where it's from. The GBA remake doesn't quite do so well musically, but the graphics are definitely a lot more colourful, in that they have colour at all.
I'd play either version again though, so like I said, it gets a star: