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Pokemon Red (Game Boy) artwork

Pokemon Red (Game Boy) review


"This game needs no introduction. It started as a little Japanese game, and then became a worldwide phenomenon. Eventually, the games became so popular that even the figurative “guy on the bus” knew the difference between Pikachu and Blastoise. Hell, even the Pope took notice! Unfortunately, the original Red and Blue games have shown their age with the news of GBA remakes, but they still have their joy and nostalgia. Maybe it’s because it’s an innovative RPG with animal catching built in, or beca..."



This game needs no introduction. It started as a little Japanese game, and then became a worldwide phenomenon. Eventually, the games became so popular that even the figurative “guy on the bus” knew the difference between Pikachu and Blastoise. Hell, even the Pope took notice! Unfortunately, the original Red and Blue games have shown their age with the news of GBA remakes, but they still have their joy and nostalgia. Maybe it’s because it’s an innovative RPG with animal catching built in, or because of the game’s replay value. Ignore the mediocre graphics, difficulty (read: very, very easy) and annoying tunes, and you can see that it still feels amazing to say “Go, Charizard!” one more time.

As you turn on your Game Boy and select New Game, you’ll quickly find out that your character is a young boy with a dream of becoming a Pokemon Master. Once you receive your first monster, you are an official Pokemon trainer, and your goal is to be the best of the best. In order to accomplish such a feat, you’ll travel through forests, caves and office buildings, fighting crime and ultimately challenging the Elite Four, the finest trainers in the world.

But before you do any of this, you must first receive your very first Pokemon. The friendly Professor Oak will grant you with one of three choices: the plant-like Bulbasaur, the fire lizard Charmander or the aquatic tortoise Squirtle. Once you choose a companion, your neighbor (who happens to be the professor's grandson) will take his own Pokemon and challenge you to a fight. Attack with Tackle, Growl, Tail Whip or Scratch, but eventually you must grasp victory. Then, your Pokemon adventure begins and you walk boldly into the RPG world. You'll find 151 Pokemon in the wild grass or caves, and you are always pressured by Oak to ''catch 'em all!'' You can have up to six Pokemon in your party, and each can use up to four moves at any one time. As you level up your critters, they will learn new attacks such as Bite and Solarbeam, and forget weaker techniques like Vine Whip and Splash. But that's not all! The versatile player can also teach Pokemon new moves with the use of machines called TMs and HMs. Want to teach a Charizard ''Swords Dance'' to back up its Slash attack? You can! Want to teach your Clefable ''Psychic'' to give it strong special (magic) attacks as well as physical ones? No problem! All this and more is available to your Pokemon, but you must first work long and hard for the right machines.

However, what's even more important is the type of a Pokemon. Each Pokemon has one or two types, ranging from the basics such as Fire and Water to the unusual types like Ghost and Psychic. Each type has a weakness to another type, but its attacks are powerful against yet another type. Although the ground-type Diglett may be completely immune to Electric attacks, it is vulnerable to Water attacks like Bubblebeam or Grass attacks like Razor Leaf. And the Ice/Flying type Articuno has no problem dealing with Fighting and Ground types (Pokemon that would normally give Ice types some trouble), but it takes quadruple damage from a rock-type attack! When choosing the six Pokemon necessary for your party and the four moves they will each be able to use, you must consider what strengths and weaknesses your team has as a whole. This makes it impossible to make an entire team based on one type or level up one Pokemon exclusively.

Yes, it's obvious that the main focus of Pokemon is battles. In addition to fighting hostile creatures in the wild, other trainers abound and would love nothing more than to watch your Pokemon bleed with defeat smeared all over their unfortunate faces. (No, there's no real blood in the game.) Manage to emerge victorious in the trainer battles and you may even be ready to challenge the gym leaders, the strongest trainers around. Upon their shocking defeat, they will reward you with a badge of recognition: earn all eight badges for the right to enter the Pokemon League and challenge the best of the best. Are you ready for this daunting task? If you're not, there's no need to worry. While training your Pokemon for the gym fights, you can play a mini-game, shop around, and talk to the various locals for hints. And there's a nasty mafia of trainers known as Team Rocket, who are causing crimes around town. Locals are helpless to prevent them, so it's up to you to bring them justice.

Pokemon is not without its problems, however. The game is unbalanced: it's very easy to simply raise a Psychic-type Pokemon like Alakazam or Hypno and defeat anything that dare step in your path. Status effects seem a bit too harsh: Sleep lasts even after battles, and it won't go away until your Pokemon suddenly wakes up or you heal it. When your entire party is inflicted with a negative status condition, the going can get very tough. Finally, after defeating the Elite Four, you may notice that the game clock only has timed about 20 hours. It's safe to say that Pokemon is a bit too short for RPG standards.

These flaws can hamper gameplay, but they still can't completely ruin your Pokemon experience. Why? Pokemon is a game with an unbelievable amount of personality. There are so many Pokemon to catch, and you can always experiment with different combinations. Is the snake-like Arbok or the crab-like Kingler a better Pokemon? Should you give your Tauros a variety of Special moves for versatility or many Physical attacks to compliment its strength? Would you teach your Fire-type Pokemon Fire Blast for power, or Flamethrower for accuracy? While using the legendary bird Pokemon (Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres) may be an easy way to complete the game, it feels much more satisfying to use your Nidoking you raised from the very beginning to win battles. It's so rewarding to see such a sight, and even as you step into the world of Pokemon, you never want to leave.

Additionally, the quest gets even better if you happen to have a friend who still plays the game. Using two Game Boys, two copies of the game (either version), and a link cable, you can trade Pokemon with a friend or fight a battle with your favorite woodland animals. Trading is a must to get every Pokemon, because some are version-specific like Ekans and Sandshrew or are extremely rare like Hitmonchan. Some people battle regularly on the internet and consider this the real depth of the game, so it really shows that Pokemon's deep battle system is worth a few sacrifices.

You're going to like Pokemon. You may not love it as so many people did back in 1998, but chances are you'll still like it. The cute and colorful characters, the abundance of replay value and the sheer portability make it a game that can be played anywhere, anytime (that is, if you don't mind being mocked by the ignorant people in the world). This game is truly a great idea born into reality.

Pardon me; I'm going to play the original Pokemon again. I still want to catch the ever-elusive Chansey.

Rating: 8.0/10

eoib's avatar
Community review by eoib (August 25, 2004)

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