Pokemon Red and Blue
Reviewed by Meagan Lemons
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-03-17 GameBoy RPG E (Everyone) Game Freak / Nintendo

Throughout my middle school and even high school years, Pokemon was my guilty pleasure. I collected the cards, watched the dubbed anime on Cartoon Network, and, of course, played one of the original two handheld games. After the "new generations" of Pokemon started coming out, my interest in keeping up with the franchise waned and I moved on to bigger and more adult things (or at least that's what I like to tell myself), but I still keep a spot in my heart for this classic set of Game Boy games - Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue.

Like many U.S. fads and crazes, Pokemon started in Japan. Originally, the games were released there as Pocket Monster Red and Pocket Monster Green in 1996, then brought to North America in 1998 where they were released as Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. Since that time, many more games have been added to the series, which is still very popular internationally.

Pokemon Red and Blue are top-down RPGs in which the player adventures through the fictional region of Kanto capturing Pokemon and making them stronger by fighting against other Pokemon so he or she can eventually defeat the Elite Four and become the Champion. One can also try to complete the Pokedex, a database of all the Pokemon in the region, by collecting all the Pokemon available in the games.

Your adventure begins when you leave home to set out to become a Pokemon Trainer. You speak to Professor Oak in town and he gives you the Pokedex and lets you pick your very first Pokemon from a selection of three: Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander (I always picked Charmander because I'm a huge fan of fire-breathing dragons). With your own Pokemon to protect you, you can set out into the world and begin your journey to become strong enough to take on the Elite Four.

In order to do this, you must collect Pokemon during your adventure (much like bug-catching) and make them stronger by having them fight other Pokemon, be them wild or owned by other trainers. Your Pokemon will level up and/or evolve into stronger Pokemon. There are also items in the game you can find or buy that allow you to increase individual stats of a Pokemon and even items to increase your Pokemon's levels.

You will meet many trainers on your journey who will challenge you, including members of Team Rocket, the antagonists of the game who abuse Pokemon, and even your childhood rival. In addition, you can play against a friend who owns a copy of the game via the Game Link Cable. This cable also allows you to trade Pokemon with your friend, a new concept at the time and a necessity if you want to collect all of the Pokemon since some are only available in either Red of Blue, not both. Because of the need to trade with other players and the ability to challenge your friends, the multiplayer for Pokemon Red and Blue goes above and beyond that of most other handheld games.

While the plot isn't that in-depth, one could still reasonably spend thirty to forty hours on the game. The open-endedness allows filling the Pokedex to add a lot of hours as well. There is also a great deal of replay value in that you can play through the game with each of the different starting Pokemon or simply change up your roster and keep challenging the Elite Four.

There is actually quite a bit of strategy involved in the turn-based battles. Since Pokemon are of different elements, and each element is weaker and stronger against other elements, having a variety of Pokemon in your roster is a good idea. For instance, lightning Pokemon are strong against water- and flying-type Pokemon but do minimal damage against ground-type Pokemon. And since you can only carry six Pokemon with you at a time, you have to have a variety in order to survive any battle thrown at you. To do that, you'll need to visit every area of the game and collect many different Pokemon to have a large pool to choose from. And don't worry - all of your Pokemon are kept safe in a database accessible via computer when you aren't using them, so you can trade out Pokemon if you need or want to.

An interesting trademark of the games are "programming quirks", glitches, some rumored to be intentional, that can be exploited ruthlessly and add an entirely new challenge of trying to find them all. One (that I admittedly exploited with reckless abandon) gives the player a nearly infinite number of an item, and one even allows the player to capture the 151st pokemon, the most elusive of all - Mew.

The graphics and sound add a certain child-like quality that makes the games appealing to both the young and the young at heart. The visual style is cute and simple, with chubby little sprites and adorable character design for the Pokemon, and the music is fun and addicting. You will probably catch yourself humming the music as you play.

A special edition version was released a year later in each region called Pokemon Yellow and followed more closely the plot of the Pokemon anime, including the fact that your Pikachu follows you around instead of staying in his Poke ball. Red and Blue were remade for the Game Boy Advance and retitled Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen. Since then, many other titles have been added to the list and with them new regions to explore and new Pokemon to capture.

Pokemon Red and Blue were the beginning of a video game franchise that is still going strong. According to Wikipedia, five of the top ten best-selling games for the Game Boy are Pokemon titles. The Guinness Book of World Records even lists the original set as the best-selling RPG of all time, making these true classics and certainly worth a play-through.