Version Played – Pokémon Red (Game Boy)
It’s been 20 years since Pokémon Red and Green first hit Japan on 27th February 1996. 20 years we’ve been trying to catch them all, 20 years of Pikachu in all our lives and 20 years since a phenomenon gripped the world.
Released as Pokémon Red and Blue internationally, these pair of games single-handedly extended the life of the ageing Game Boy, with kids catching, trading and battling their favourite creatures in one of the more sociable gaming crazes to hit the playground. So the question is, how do Red and Blue hold up today? These pair of games combine the RPG genre with a rock-paper-scissors battle system. Players must catch Pokémon of various types, such as Electric, Water and Fighting, and master the art of building a balanced team of six creatures in order to overcome any obstacle along the way. The games are also paired versions of the same game, with available Pokémon differing between the two to encourage players to trade and interact with their friends. The plot is fairly simple, particularly for an RPG, tasking players to obtain eight Gym Badges which grant them passage into the Pokémon League, all the while putting a villainous team into place and battling your smug rival. The graphics are barely basic too, not exactly being the greatest to grace the 8-bit handheld system. Yet it’s neither of these things that make Pokémon so memorable, but the easy to pick up, difficult to master, wholly addictive gameplay.
Now I’ve covered what makes Pokémon Red and Blue so great in another piece so we don’t want to cover the same ground once more. Ultimately the one aspect of Pokémon that really stands out across its 20 year history is that at its core the entire experience remains the same. New types, abilities and strategies have found a home in the series and the Pokedex now stands at a huge 721, but these are all still within the confines of the battle system found in Red and Blue. Thus indeed Pokémon Red and Blue remain a great experience to play today, perhaps even more so than its successors as the game has a much more pick up and play feel than any other. We always feel like we’re making some kind of progress in here no matter how long a play session we’ve had and ultimately with a mere 151 Pokémon to capture, the ultimate goal of the series seems entirely achievable by today’s standards. Indeed there are balancing issues, with an over abundance of Normal and Poison types on the one hand and Psychic type dominating the scene on the other. This can make the games difficult to return to for anyone who isn’t captivated by nostalgia but otherwise these are just as good titles as any other in the series.
However, there is one aspect of Red and Blue that to some make these games more interesting than any other in the franchise. The games are chock full of exploitable glitches, ranging from the mysterious Pokémon Missingno, to item duplication, glitch cities and finding any Pokémon on the shoreline of Cinnabar Island. Interestingly however, these glitches are actually cherished by most players; rather than breaking the games like one might expect, they added yet a whole extra realm of mystery and secrets for us to discover. Thus there is an appeal about coming back to Pokémon Red and Blue that perhaps no other title in the series has ever replicated.
If one doesn’t own a Game Boy anymore or fancies trying the very first titles in this beloved series, than by all means pick them up when they finally hit Virtual Console later this month. They may not be as well-rounded as their successors and there may not be as many bells and whistles to distract us along the way, but there’s a reason many today swear there will only ever be 151 Pokémon; nostalgia or not Pokémon Red and Blue are definitely special and memorable games.
If you can’t get enough of Pokémon like me, then please check out my article on why Red and Blue are better than any other Pokémon game. Just click here.
Or check out the World of Pokémon tab here, a journey through the real life Kanto region.