By Jack Snell
Pokemon Red and Blue (Green in Japan) were the games that started the behemoth Pokemon franchise. An intensely addictive pair of games built around catching and growing 150 different creatures and having them to do battle for fortune and glory. One of the most notable things about these two games is that they are essentially the same game, but with different encounter sets. In other words, if you wanted to catch all 150 Pokemon without having to resort to cheating or exploiting glitches, you would need to buy both versions, Red and Blue, and trade the exclusive Pokemon between each game. This was a genius marketing strategy that allowed Nintendo to almost double its sales, and it’s now become a tradition in the franchise.
The games begin in Palett town, where the player meets Professor Oak and receives his first Pokemon, either a Charmander, Squirtle or Bulbasaur, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. From here the player embarks on a journey around the region of Kanto to defeat all eight Gym Leaders to win the eight badges required to enter the Pokemon League and take on the Elite Four and the Champion. Along the way you will capture a variety of Pokemon and raise a team that will be your main fighting force. After reaching a certain point in their training, certain Pokemon will evolve into greater, more powerful forms with increased stats and access to better moves.
The overall effect is addictive, all the while unrewarding in the end. Essentially, once you’ve beaten the Elite Four and the Champion, all the challenge is removed from the game. The only thing left is to pit your team against your friend’s team, although this isn’t something everyone can do, I know I certainly wasn’t able to do it very often in my youth. Later Pokemon games do a lot more to increase the replayability. That’s not to say there’s not a lot to do in Red and Blue, but once it’s done, it’s done and only a new game can make it fun and interesting again.
One thing I would especially like to point out is that Pokemon Red and Blue do have a certain charm to their map design and story progression that later games don’t have. You tend to revisit old places a lot more on the normal path of your journey without much backtracking and there’s usually something interesting to see or do upon your return visit that you couldn’t do before. There’s a greater conservation of detail, I guess you could say, that adds a great deal to the overall appeal of the games.
These are two genre definining games that command your attention during the time you are playing them. The story is compelling, you’ll feel the sense of caring or and raising your own Pokemon more than any other version of the game, and there are even some emotional moments, the Cubone mourning over its deceased mother comes to mind.
Granted the graphics are terrible but when you have a core concept as refined and addictive as Pokemon, the gameplay is most important. Overall I give Pokemon Red/Blue 97% and I think you must experience these games for yourself. They bring memories of my childhood flooding back as Im sure they do or many of you, but they hold up as great games today and are as close to videogaming perfection as Ive ever played.