Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Retro Review: Pokemon Red/Blue

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the original Pokemon games (Red and Green) in Japan, and to celebrate Nintendo re-released the Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow to download via the Nintendo eShop.

The beauty of Pokemon Red and Blue (slightly improved versions of the original Red and Green that were released outside of Japan) are that their sheer simplicity and streamlined version of the franchise that fans have become used to over the last twenty years is so well put together that it still hold up today as an engaging and entertaining gaming experience.

For those not in the know, Pokemon is a game that lets you take on the role of a young, first time Pokemon trainer.  You are tasked with picking your first Pokemon, one of the original three starters, Squritle, Charmander and Bulbasaur, before setting out on a journey to collect every single Pokemon and become the greatest trainer in the land.

From here you're free to tackle the adventure in relative freedom.  You can capture new Pokemon after battling them and add them to your team of six monsters.  With 151 Pokemon available there are plenty of combinations you can build your team around, with each Pokemon having their own type, move set and statistics that give each Pokemon their own advantages and disadvantages.

Where future games in the series have altered the stats for the creatures, introduced new monsters, abilities, natures and special statistics called IV's and EV's, generation one keeps things simple, and you can see where the groundwork for many of these future innovations came from.

It's not just the gameplay that's a simplified version, but the graphics also.  Being two decades old and made for the original Game Boy the graphics are basic at best, and a lot of the time many Pokemon struggle to look like the creatures we're used to, with a few brilliant exceptions.

The gameplay is simple, and in a few places buggy, and the graphics take a little suspension of disbelief that what you're seeing really is the Pokemon the text says it is, but the core gameplay that has created the second highest selling game series of all time (yes, it's a better selling series than Call of Duty or GTA) is still here and means that a game two decades old is still engaging enough to keep you playing for hours and hours.

The main criticisms would come more from a place of having played the newer games and missing some of the features introduced later in the series.  Without the experience share it takes much longer to train up and evolve your Pokemon, having to do so one at a time.  Certain moves aren't typed the way we're used to, such as Gust not being a flying move.

Whilst these might make parts of the game a little more frustrating, it's only because we've become used to the way the series has progressed.  Taken on it's own Pokemon Red and Blue are still solid games, with strong gameplay and a fun open world adventure.

The transfer of the original titles to the download store means that many fans of the franchise who never had the opportunity to play the games when they were first released can experience the games that started it all for the first time, as well as giving those who remember the original the opportunity to go back and relive a massive part of their childhood.


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