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Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow Review Rewind

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On 02/05/2016 at 08:00 AM by Casey Curran


If you want the best Pokémon game, you can do much better. These games are only for curiosity, to see how the series has evolved over the years or nostalgia if you played these games when they were new.

I still remember when I first heard of Pokémon. My friends would show off their cards at school and once I started collecting my own, I needed more of them. I had no clue how to play the card game, yet I loved the designs to these creatures. I would hear of how much fun the video games were as well and I knew I had to try them. And once I got my first Gameboy, despite hating the idea of playing a game by navigating menus, I was hooked for life. Twenty years later, I’m still hooked to a formula that feels just as fun and addicting as it did so long ago.

Pokémon uses a formula which proved so popular it still remains largely unchanged today: You are a child who is given their first Pokémon by a scientist named Professor Oak who studies Pokémon for a living. He asks you to use this Pokémon to capture all 150 different Pokémon so he can study the data on him. Along the way you will capture a team of up to six Pokémon, all of whom will grow stronger as you take on other trainers. Many of these Pokémon evolve over time as into more powerful types of Pokémon. You will use your team to take on leaders of Pokémon Gyms to test your abilities, continually battle with his grandson, and stop a criminal organization trying to take over the world.

With each of the sequels games being so similar, however, it unfortunately gives little reason to want to go back and play the original three games.  What is good in other Pokemon games is still good here. Building your team allows a great deal of customization, giving this a large amount of replay value. The game’s structure is also amazingly compelling, always offering something to be excited for whether it be challenging a new gym, evolving one of your Pokémon, exploring a new area, or just getting a new move or item. Very few games can remain as captivating after twenty to thirty hours as a Pokémon game.

The game does have its own unique positives, however. Its selection of Pokémon has by far the best designs of the series to this day. The Kanto region also remains fun to explore to this day, as it remains full of fun secrets and has the most memorable towns, locations, and characters of any Pokémon game. It also is the least afraid to challenge the player, offering some brutal yet reasonable difficulty spikes along the way. Also for completionists, offering only 150 Pokémon makes catching them all never turn into the slog it would in future games, if you just have a friend to trade with it is very achievable.

Unfortunately, there are several weaknesses holding the game back. There is a severe imbalance between the Pokémon you will encounter, as Pokémon can have up to two of fifteen types in the game. These types offer their own strengths and weaknesses against others, such as how Fire types have the advantage over Grass types, but remain weak against Water. This presents a problem with diversity and usefulness between the types in the original games. Some types such as Ghost and Dragon only exist on three Pokémon each, with all of them in the same evolution line, limiting your options for the two.

There are then other types which got the shaft in the game. Fire, Bug, Poison, and Fighting types, for instance do not function well as a whole compared to other types while Normal and especially Psychic types dominate against a large portion of the others. Psychic is in fact so overpowered that its sequel created two different new types to have an advantage against Psychic types.

Your starting Pokémon Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle also are not created entirely equal. The game offers a choice between these three with them being Grass, Fire, and Water types respectively. However, Bulbasaur is by far the best of these options as Charmander’s evolution has an awful type combination and Squirtle’s final evolution is outclassed by five different Water types. Bulbasaur also will give an advantage in the early portions of the game, which gives more freedom in your team, as you have more time to wait for a Pokémon you want rather than capturing one you need straight away.

Menu navigation is also downright archaic. While future games would allow you to use certain items or Pokémon moves to get past obstacles while exploring, using either requires you to open the menu and find the item you want in your list to use them. Your item list is not divided into neat subsections like later games either and has a ridiculously small carry limit. Because of this, wandering the world and item management can feel very tedious, hurting the overall enjoyment of the game.

The original Pokémon games still carry many of its most iconic creatures, locations, and characters, yet lack many of the streamlined elements of future titles along with less customization and unbalanced mechanics. I would only recommend returning to these titles for nostalgia’s sake or if you want to get a sense of where the series started. These are not bad games at all, just very outclassed by their future sequels.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.

Side By Side - Version Differences

Red and Blue are largely the same game save for a few different Pokémon in each version. Yellow, on the other hand, takes a different turn offering only Pikachu while random trainers will give the original three starters throughout your journey. Yellow also famously lets Pikachu follow your trainer as well as a few different sprites and tweaks to various trainers thrown in. If you intend to catch every Pokémon, Yellow is the best choice as it requires the fewest training. If you just want to play through the game, however, I recommend Blue personally as exclusives Meowth and Persian are some of the best Pokémon in the game and unavailable in both other versions.



Jamie Alston Staff Writer

02/05/2016 at 02:24 PM

Wow, blast from the past dude. I had Blue; my brother had Red. But we also had the Game Genie, so we'd cheat and use codes that allowed version-specific Pokemon to appear in Red & Blue respectively. That way, we could get all 150 without ever using the trading mechanic (we never had a link cable).

Cary Woodham

02/05/2016 at 10:12 PM

I first read about Pokemon about a year before it came out in an issue of Nintendo Power.  They had an article about games that had just came out in Japan, and they mentioned briefly a game where you could trade and battle monsters via a link cable called Pocket Monsters.  I didn't pay much attention to it at the time, but a year or so later when I went to E3, they were showing Pokemon at Nintendo's booth (with the temporarly catch phrase "Catch 'em if You Can!").  I saw how they were going to heavily market Pokemon in the US and I knew it was going to be big.  When I got back, I immediately requested to my editor at The Dallas Morning News that I should cover everything Pokemon related.  He said, "Yeah, sure, whatever," not knowing how big it was going to be.  Well, when Pokemon did come out, I was writing Pokemon articles left and right, and got paid a pretty good amount of money for it.  I like to say that Pokemon helped pay my way through college.  I reviewed the blue version, by the way. 

Nowadays I don't play many of the main Pokemon games because they're not much different than the first one, which I OD'ed on.  But while I wish they would be different, a new generation of kids can enjoy each entry and it's new to them, and why fix what isn't broken, so I don't complain about it too much. 

You know what you should review?  Pokemon Channel!  I loved that game for some reason!  --Cary

Casey Curran Staff Writer

02/05/2016 at 11:31 PM

Well I hated what little I played of Pokemon Channel so I don't think I'll be reviewing it.

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