Developer: Game Freak
Format: Gameboy Colour
Released: October 1999
17 years prior to the current craze that is Pokémon Go there was another crack-like equivalent portable game that very similarly involved you collecting hundreds of tiny and not so tiny pocket monsters. Guess what? It also had Pokémon in its title.
I am of course talking about the gameboy’s Pokémon Red and Blue with the difference between each making as much difference as that social media post you once made complaining about equality in the world. Red put a red tint on everything and blue put a blue tint on everything. Oh and there were a handful of Pokémon specific to each one which helped Nintendo cash in on its sub-par link system between Gameboys so you could hopefully trade with a player who had a blue version. Tricksy Nintendo!
Pokémon (I’m electing a colour-blind approach and dropping the red/blue from this review) has you live out the ultimate dream for all trainers; catching all the Pokémon and locking them in your own personal Pokésex dungeon… Or just on some guy called Bill’s computer. Whatever. You start out by choosing your trainers name, followed shortly enough by your rivals name and then picking one of the not-so-nutty-but-definitely-eccentric Professor Oak’s Pokémon who is also your rivals grandfather. Despite gearing you up to catch ’em all he only let’s you pick one of his three awesome Pokémon while one goes to your rival and the final one stays in its pokéball for all eternity… Probably.
Professor Oak gives you a Pokédex, a tool used to record the various Pokémon you can capture allowing you to keep track of your progression on enslaving all the Pokémon. You’re also introduced to a side goal which is to compete in and win the Pokémon leagues and particularly the Elite Four who are considered the pinnacle of all Pokémon trainers. Though you’ll continuously work your way towards being the very best like no one ever was, your rival will continuously try and do you over opting to battle you throughout the entire course of the game. Oh and because he picked second his Pokémon is the perfect type to expose your starters weaknesses – cheating prick!
Most of Pokémon plays out very similar to old school JRPGs with a top down view and you controlling a sprite of the cool, cap-wearing trainer. You’ll make your way through the various geographical regions of the Kantõ and luckily it’s the most diverse land the world has ever seen giving you ample opportunities to catch the multitude of Pokémon types available helping you get the almighty 151. The battle system works predominantly in one of two ways. You walk into the long grass despite Ajay’s advice not to and randomly encounter wild Pokémon indigenous to that region or you encounter other trainers in the wild who once you break their line of sight they harass you into battling your current lineup of Pokémon. There are some exceptions but for the most part this is how you Pokémons.
The battle system plays out very like any other JRPG wherein you select from a list of actions that your Pokémon will carry out one turn at a time. You can also switch between your roster of 6 selected pocket monsters (just like in gym battles for Pokémon Go) to make the most of your attacks and expose weaknesses in your opponent. For the most part you’ll be selecting your weakest Pokémon first and switching to your strongest or best suited to gain XP for your less than stellar Pokémon (google Magikarp).
As you only get XP for Pokémon who actually exit their Pokéball the previous switching tactic becomes the biggest downside to the game and forces you to constantly waste at least one turn changing out your Poogey to your fully evolved Charizard. It takes time but given that a knocked out Pokémon gets no experience, you would ultimately fail as a trainer without adopting a similar technique meaning you essentially spend the whole game putting the team on the back of your strongest creature.
Coming across new wild Pokémon by comparison to the dull switchero gameplay is an absolute rush. It will probably happen over a hundred times through playing and catching wild creatures is fairly similar to the regular battle except it ends with you throwing a Pokéball at the little bastard and hold your breath as you wait to see if it escapes or not. Likewise when you finally manage to evolve a creature it’s a glorious affair that will have you first pumping with the best of them.
Beyond mechanics, the game as a whole oozes charisma with lovely drawn Pokémon sprites for each of the 151 creatures and perfectly suited audio to match. The music is a fantastic example of the brilliant soundtracks that you’d normally find in old school JRPGs and is catchy ad fuck which is a blessing and a curse as all those who’ve been caught humming a tune they wouldn’t normally even consider thinking about AKA everyone in the God damn world!!!
In all Pokémon started as a success so it’s not surprising it’s continued to grow. Fair play to the Nintendo/Game Freak team for continuing to grow and push the brand and games to a state that it’s increased Nintendo’s shares by a £6.5 billion lift on the latest release of Pokémon Go which started as an April Fools joke… Or was it??
My retro review score: