Pokémon Blue Version Review

Check out our video review:

Pokémon. As of this review, it’s the highest-grossing media franchise of all time and I was on that train for a little while. I was only nine years old when the first games came out in America and like a lot of other kids, they consumed me. I think Pokémon Red is the first RPG I ever played. I stopped after Gold and Silver but for a while there, I was obsessed. It’s funny, too, because I was never into turn-based games back then but I loved Pokémon. I was also never into anime but I made sure to catch the reruns of the anime series before school every day. I still have my original cards and some of the toys. In fact, I remember the Pokédex being one of the most disappointing toys I ever received. I wanted that thing so badly for some reason and I don’t know what I expected but when I got it I was so disappointed to discover that it’s just a glorified calculator. Thinking back, it’s not that surprising that the franchise has been so financially successful. The release of multiple games for each generation, the trading cards and other merchandise, the anime series, movies, general marketing – I remember it being in your face all the time, especially if you were a kid.

Developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo, Pocket Monsters Red and Green Versions released for Game Boy in Japan in February, 1996. These were followed up by Pocket Monsters Blue Version which features updated in-game artwork among other things and it released in October of that same year. These games were localized for North America and released as Pokémon Red and Blue Versions in October, 1998 and are based on the updated Japanese Blue Version. Another version titled Pokémon Yellow was released in Japan in September, 1998 and in North America in October, 1999 and is designed to resemble the anime series and does include some new features.

For this review, I played Blue mainly because I played Red and Yellow as a kid and I did play it via emulation through RetroArch. My friend played Red along with me. As you may or may not know, the series is all about catching and battling Pokémon. “Gotta catch ’em all” as they say and the big difference between the versions is the Pokémon included. Some are exclusive to Red, others Blue and not even Yellow includes every Pokémon so to catch them all will require players to trade which requires the Game Link Cable to connect two Game Boys. Since I played via emulation, I used the PKHeX save editor to get around the trading and trade evolutions.

Set in the region of Kanto, the player assumes the role of a trainer and starts their journey in their hometown of Pallet Town. Before jumping into the game, you will have to name your trainer and rival who you will encounter numerous times throughout the story. The adventure truly begins when Pokémon researcher Professor Oak takes the trainer to his laboratory where they meet his grandson, the trainer’s rival, and Oak instructs both to choose one starter Pokémon. After the two battle each other, the trainer is free to explore the world, battle other trainers, catch Pokémon, defeat Gym leaders, and work their way to the Pokémon League and battle the Elite Four, the best Pokémon trainers in the region. The trainer will also have to contend with Team Rocket from time to time, a criminal organization that uses Pokémon for various crimes. To beat the game is to become the Pokémon champion. That’s how you see the credits, anyway.

The story here is actually pretty simple and straightforward. One could say the real goal of these games is to catch all the Pokémon. What are Pokémon, you ask? Pokémon are creatures or monsters and most seem to be based on real-world wildlife. They all have unique appearances and names and come in different types. Pokémon can be acquired by numerous methods. The most common being catching them by throwing Poké Balls or their variants at them.

I find the world of Pokémon to be hilarious. Almost everyone you encounter is obsessed with Pokémon. That’s all they like to talk about. They live, breathe, and talk Pokémon twenty-four-seven. Most of these people don’t seem to have a life outside of Pokémon and all problems are resolved by battling Pokémon. You navigate the world, encounter trainers, battle them, win and take their money. That’s how you progress. Whether you approach a trainer or they see you, you will be forced to battle them because that’s just how things work in this world. All conflicts are settled by battling Pokémon and even friendly interactions with trainers are followed up by battles. Many of the trainers you encounter say random, stupid, and silly things before battling and most of them don’t have balanced Pokémon teams which I find humorous. For a world obsessed with Pokémon, a lot of these people come across as really stupid. Although, to be fair it is possible to brute your way through the game with just one Pokémon. I did that in Red as a kid. I used Charmander and his evolutions exclusively. I remember getting frustrated at points and decided to never do it again and for this playthrough I always tried to maintain a balanced team.

Catching and battling Pokémon are the real draws here. Catching Pokémon can be addictive and battling them is fun and there is depth to it. You can have a team of six Pokémon with you and any others you catch will be stored in boxes that can be accessed from in-game PCs. Pokémon come in all different types including fire, grass, water, electric, ground, psychic, and fighting among others. Battles are turn-based and the different types make for a rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay. For example, fire is strong against grass but weak to water. Electric is strong against water but weak to ground. When you battle Pokémon, they do gain experience and after gaining enough, they level up and their stats improve. When Pokémon level up, they will sometimes want to learn new moves but can only know four at a time and you can replace moves. Pokémon can also evolve into different forms. Some evolve by reaching certain levels and others evolve by other means like by trading or using one of multiple types of stones. It should be noted that you can battle other players but experience is not gained from multiplayer battles.

The moves the Pokémon can learn also represent the different types; normal-type moves, bug-type moves, psychic-type moves, etc. And moves have different stats in power and accuracy and come with different amounts of Power Points or PPs. Power Points simply represent how many times the Pokémon can use the move. As mentioned before, Pokémon can learn moves by leveling up but you can also teach them moves by using TMs or HMs which stand for Technical Machines and Hidden Machines, respectively. One difference between them is that HMs cannot be forgotten or replaced. Some Pokémon are a mix of types and/or can learn multiple types of moves and knowing multiple types is often beneficial. For example, Gastly and his evolutions are ghost/poison type Pokémon but they can learn electric moves like Thunderbolt. Basically, it’s wise to have a balanced team with different types of moves.

As indicated earlier, the Red and Blue Versions contain exclusive Pokémon. Furthermore, there are choices you make in these games that result in you obtaining specific Pokémon and that means you miss out on others so the only legitimate way to catch them all would be to trade and traded Pokémon do gain more experience. I can see how the multiple games concept is a way to encourage trading but it’s also not hard to see the financial benefit for those behind these titles and I can also understand how consumers could view it as greed because other than the exclusive Pokémon, Red and Blue are the exact same game. This trend of multiple games would continue for generations and I do feel it is more problematic later on but that’s a topic for another time.

It’s no secret that Pokémon Red and Blue are buggy games and some Pokémon can be found and caught through exploits like Mew for example. Mew is a legendary or mythical Pokémon and from what I understand, the official way to get it was through a giveaway event back in the day. For this playthrough, I used an exploit. I also utilized an exploit to increase the amount of certain items in my inventory like the Master Ball which never fails to catch Pokémon. You only get one legitimately. The exploit can grant you hundreds. This exploit actually proves to be quite significant because it makes certain aspects of the game a lot easier or more convenient. I guess you could say it breaks the game.

The Pokémon games are far from perfect. Some things I can let go because this is the first generation of the series. But I admit I’m spoiled by some modern conventions. The amount of grinding and/or farming here can be insane but the item amount exploit can help reduce that significantly. I utilized the exploit to increase my Rare Candies. Rare Candy is an item that will instantly level up a Pokémon and this basically eliminates the need to farm and grind. Pokémon only gain experience if they battle. If you don’t use them, they don’t gain experience. So if your Pokémon are underleveled for a certain area, you may be able to navigate a different route or you’ll have to find an area full of wild Pokémon and battle them repeatedly to level up your team and this can be time consuming, especially if you’re trying to get a newly caught Pokémon up to par.

Unfortunately, you can’t battle trainers again once you’ve defeated them, minus the Elite Four, so grinding and farming will boil down to battling wild Pokémon and I found that, often times, they’re at a lower level than the Pokémon of the trainers in the area. I don’t really understand why you can’t battle trainers again because I think that would have been a better way to handle the grind. I’m going to assume it’s because you would end up farming for money as well but one has to wonder why the player can’t just battle them again and not be awarded money for winning. I’ve read some posts from users online claiming that it would be boring if you could. But I say so is battling the same wild Pokémon over and over again.

You’ll encounter new and higher level Pokémon as you progress whether it be trainer Pokémon or wild Pokémon so you’ll want to make sure your team is at the appropriate levels to face the threats. However, I found that normal progression always resulted in my team being around or close to the levels of the Pokémon in the area or gym. At certain points, I would grind a little just to ensure I was ready for a gym leader or tough trainer but for the most part, I can’t say I had to grind all that much. Keep in mind this is assuming you keep the same Pokémon on your team. If you like to experiment and swap your Pokémon out often, you’ll most likely have to grind more. You can obtain an item called Exp.All which halves the experience earned for the participating Pokémon and distributes the rest to all party members. Although, this does become annoying because it drags out the battles just because of all the text you have to scroll through. Despite the fact you can’t battle trainers again after beating them, there are plenty of trainers to battle in the game. You’ll navigate multiple routes, caves or dungeons if you want to call them that, and buildings populated with trainers and wild Pokémon.

Pokémon will faint if they’re defeated and you can’t use them until they’re revived which can be done by using certain items or by taking them to Pokémon Centers where they will be healed and have their Power Points restored for free. Pokémon Centers and Poké Marts can be found in every major town. Poké Marts are where you can buy and sell items. You can only store a certain amount of items in your inventory and more can be deposited and withdrawn from your inventory on a PC which can be found at Pokémon Centers. The PC is also where you can change boxes. The boxes are where Pokémon are stored but only twenty can be stored in a single box and there’s no warning when you reach the limit or get close to it. This can be annoying if you’re out in the wild and encounter a Pokémon you don’t have yet only to find out you can’t catch it because you’ve reached the box limit. You have to change boxes manually.

Pokémon is a fairly linear game. At a certain point, you’re granted some freedom but the world is designed in a way that basically keeps you contained and on specific routes and paths. Despite the linear nature of the world, the intended routes don’t expose everything. If you take the time to explore and wander off the beaten path, you can come across items lying around and even legendary Pokémon. And some areas are blocked off until you reach a certain point. Some routes are long with a lot of trainers and no Pokémon Centers along the way and it can be tedious to have to trek all the way back to a town just to visit a Pokémon Center and then travel back. This is assuming you don’t have a way to quickly leave the area like by using Fly, Dig, or an Escape Rope. And if you’re simply struggling to win battles along the route, you may need to farm and grind to get your Pokémon leveled up just to survive the long trek. Stocking up on healing items can be helpful, too.

Some routes are filled with wild encounters which are random and this is good for grinding. But if you just want to travel from A to B, it can be a nuisance running into wild Pokémon every few steps but there are ways to alleviate some of the more annoying aspects of trekking. You do have the option to run from wild Pokémon, you can get around faster on a bicycle, and you can use Repels to keep wild Pokémon at bay. Nevertheless, the design of the world can still make getting to certain locations a pain in the ass just because of the obstacles you have to navigate around and the paths you will be forced to navigate. Some moves like those learned from HMs allow you to get around easier and some are even required to progress. Cut allows you to remove plants blocking certain paths, Fly allows you to fly to any town, Strength allows you to push boulders, and Surf allows you to navigate around water. Keep in mind, you do need to have Pokémon on your team that know these moves in order to use them. Not only that, you will need certain badges to use certain HMs outside of battle. Badges are earned by defeating gym leaders.

You will have to solve puzzles from time to time and complete certain tasks to progress and even acquire certain Pokémon. Giving a Saffron City guard fresh water will grant you access to the city and you’ll need to use the Poké Flute to wake up Snorlaxes blocking certain routes. There are also some things you can do outside of the story elements. You can find people in the world that want to trade Pokémon, pay money to enter the Safari Zone where you can find and catch wild and rare Pokémon, and you can bet coins on games at the Game Corner and spend your winnings to acquire certain Pokémon. As I mentioned before, the focus on catching all the Pokémon is a big thing here. And some can only be acquired by certain methods so exploring and talking to everyone is highly encouraged.

I would say Pokémon showcases a simple but charming presentation. The sprite work is good, all the Pokémon look different, and the battle effects or animations help make the turn-based battles somewhat visually interesting. The gameplay is backed by a pretty great soundtrack in my opinion. You will often hear the same tunes repeatedly but a lot of them are catchy and memorable. Some songs are more intense than others and I think the battle music really helps make battles feel more dramatic. On the technical side, I did not encounter any issues but I do want to mention again that I did play this via emulation through RetroArch.

Playing through Pokémon Blue was a nice nostalgia trip. I stopped after Gold and Silver and didn’t play another game until one of my friends got me Black or White. But I haven’t really dedicated much time to the series like I did when I was a kid. I think Pokémon Red and Blue are still solid games and very accessible RPGs. Sure, there are elements that have been improved in the sequels but the different Pokémon types and moves can make you actually think during battles. And, sure, the games are a bit buggy and, yeah, you can take advantage of significant exploits that basically break things but with one hundred and fifty one different Pokémon, there are so many options when it comes to building a team and there’s a lot here to keep the player engaged.

Many things that I perceive as annoying or odd are undoubtedly due to the game’s age, the fact this is the first generation of Pokémon games, and some things are most likely the result of limitations of the Game Boy. So I can let some things slide. However, I will say the gameplay can get repetitive and navigating around certain areas can be tedious. But on the plus side, there is a lot to do and you can invest a lot of time trying to catch all the Pokémon and level them up. Trying to catch them all can be addictive, there is some depth to the gameplay, and some strategy can be found in battling. But Pokémon is certainly not super challenging. As I mentioned before, it’s very accessible. Anyone can basically pick it up and get a grasp on things pretty quickly. Once you understand how it works, it’s not very difficult to get through the game.

I would recommend Pokémon Blue, Red, or Yellow because they’re fun games. You can also play them on-the-go. Pokémon definitely shows its age, especially if you’re accustomed to the more modern entries but this is where it all started and I feel these games do hold up relatively well. They’re not perfect but they are fun and should keep you occupied for a while.

Similar posts

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *