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Pokemon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (Game Boy) artwork

Pokemon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (Game Boy) review

"I remember the days when Pokemon was all the rage in my primary school years. Trading card swapping was everywhere, rushing from school to catch the program on TV and eventually most schools banned any merchandise being brought in because of card theft. How dare they! Those were the days when everyone kept saying Pokemon would never go out of fashion… "

I remember the days when Pokemon was all the rage in my primary school years. Trading card swapping was everywhere, rushing from school to catch the program on TV and eventually most schools banned any merchandise being brought in because of card theft. How dare they! Those were the days when everyone kept saying Pokemon would never go out of fashion…

And it did. Alas, the one thing good about the franchise is the one thing that still exists today: the games themselves. Over the years the “Gotta catch ‘em all” principle has remained unchanged: fill out your Pokedex by catching wild Pokemon (amongst other methods) and become the ultimate Pokemon trainer. Us Europeans never got to see the franchise until late 1999, some three years after it was introduced in Japan as the unabbreviated Pocket Monsters. The original two editions released were mostly similar, but to complete their inventory a player would have to trade Pokemon via Link Cable to obtain Pokemon not available in their version. Heck, you can even use the Link Cable to battle your team against theirs.

Despite some changes in the plot to make this title more faithful to the anime series, the game is in many ways more of the same. When Ash reaches his tenth birthday he becomes eligible for a Pokemon license. Having been caught by Professor Oak when wandering in the long grass outside Pallet Town, Oak catches a Pikachu which he gives to Ash when his rival Gary snatches the Eevee left on the table. Unique to this Pikachu is how he refuses to stay in his Pokeball and thus follows Ash on his fat ass. After receiving the Pokedex from the professor, he sets him the ultimate quest: become a Pokemon Master by beating all eight gym leaders around Kanto’s cities, the Pokemon leagues Elite Four and complete the Pokedex by catching all 150 of Kanto’s Pokemon. Not withholding whupping Gary’s butt on a few occasions.

Apart from the Pokemon receiving a significant facelift in battle sequences, to resemble the anime renditions, the battle system is mostly unchanged. Up to six Pokemon can be carried for use in battle, the rest being stored in a computer network accessible at Pokemon Centres, and each Pokemon has a skill-set of up to four moves with limited PP. Pokemon vary considerably with regards to elemental attacks and some moves can inflict negative status ailments to be annoying. Pokemon usually have to be caught in the wild (don’t try other trainers!) when at critical health in battle, and with environments ranging from grasslands between towns, caves, the sea and underground there are so many different types. Catching is only one way, as most evolve into stronger forms either by levelling up, elemental stone exposure or even trade. In-game competitions like the Celadon Casino and the Fuchsia City safari park even offer rare Pokemon as prizes.

That aside, Kanto has masses of like-minded trainers wanting a battle. Bug-catchers, rock-using hikers and surfers are just some of the different kinds, although none of trainers are exactly challenging to any half-decently trained party. However, dungeons are aplenty, many involving the criminal gang Team Rocket (now with Jesse and James), who use Pokemon with the aim on domination. The Silph Co. building and the Celadon Casino involve monolithically ploughing through each floor, fighting endless battles against Rocket executives. Like the trainer battles, none are hard-to-beat but the sheer number can challenge the endurance of your team’s health. Beating lots of trainers is fun and great for experience points, but there is an unrealistic gulf in difficulty between those and the Gym and Elite Four battles which could’ve easily been narrowed out.

Considering this Special Pikachu Edition. is meant to be more orientated to the anime series, it is a disappointing adaptation. Indeed, there are some changes, such as Pikachu following Ash around because he refuses to stay in his Poke ball, doesn’t want to be evolved via a thunderstone and the real Team Rocket are present complete with a Meowth. A highly-addictive Pikachu’s Beach mini-game is accessible by teaching Pikachu surf on the N64’s Pokemon Stadium, and it’s now possible to have a Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle in your party. Aside from some reshuffling in which Pokemon appear also, not much differs from Red and Blue. Where’s Misty and Brock, or that weird guy in Viridian Forest, and why’s the Elite Four's unchanged? Indeed implementing every event from the anime series would’ve been impossible, but many that could’ve been put in are sorely absent. Consequently one asks what legit purpose there is to this remake other than being a money-spinner.

Barring the questionable ethics of this release, Pokemon Yellow is as good as before. The unique magic behind the series has been how it lets you decide how you’ll undertake your quest to become a Pokemon Master. Which six Pokemon you take is entirely your choice and even more-so whether you choose to evolve them, what moves they learn, and even their attributes. The plot here doesn’t hold your hand until the end, how you progress through the game is mostly your choice. Obviously, some restrictions are present, certain teachable moves are forbidden in normal play, such as the ability to cut hedges, fly or surf on water if you don’t have the right gym badge. Furthermore certain passages are blocked, such as the need to find a Pokeflute from the Pokemon memorial tower to budge a giant Snorlax blocking the route, or giving the Saffron City guards a drink to gain entry, you get the general idea. While the game does guide the way to an extent, Pokemon mostly gives you a start, what’s needed to reach the end, but in many ways the rest is up to you.

This Special Pikachu release may technically be better than Red and Blue, but amidst the enhancements this title does have “cash-in” written all over it. This game needed more changes to be justifiable. Even if it was fully colourised it would’ve been a seller, rather than the additional partial colouring implemented here. Nevertheless, Pokemon Yellow is the same time-consuming RPG epic its predecessors were. Pokemon is very much like the liberal-minded parents in your teen years, you’re free to do whatever you want as long as do your school work, stay off the drugs and booze and are back for dinner. In this sense you choose your path, as long as you get those gym badges if you want to progress. Lets hope Nintendo don’t pull off a franchise-milking stunt like this again. Did someone say Pokemon Crystal? Bugger.

bigcj34's avatar
Community review by bigcj34 (December 06, 2008)

Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.

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