Top 25 Gameboy Review: #2 – Pokemon Red And Blue (1998)

This Game is Slow and Hideous.

But you know, I still kind of like it 😀.

Game Informer’s Ranking: #3/25
My Rating: StarStarStar

At ten years old, I forged a new found appreciation for the protestant work ethic when I realized I had to own a gameboy color. After several weeks of doing chores around the house, I finally earned enough to get one. All my mom could say — “you worked that hard for the screen the size of a postage stamp?”

While that was just the start of my family undercutting things important to me, playing this game in 2021 really made that resonate again. While the pixel art of the SNES and early PS1 games is an appreciable form of modern pointillism, the gameboy is sometimes very difficulty to look at. I mean, look at this thing:

A whole new meaning to “Who’s that Pokemon?

What makes things worse is how slow this game is. There is a double sin of not only having to walk, walk, walk between tons of stores and locations but grind, grind, grind, as you fight through extreme encounter rates.

While you think that would be enough to sully the adventure, pokémon is too damn cute to be held down. I still love collecting my favorite pokemon (Cubone, anyone?) and there is surprising amount of depth with the battles between these pocket monsters.

Bulbasaur or an alien? Your call.

[OVERVIEW]

Taking a gander at the pokémon wiki is pretty impressive: it is the second best video game franchise of all time behind Mario, best card trading game of all time, and has a watch-along-anime with over 1000 episodes. Pokémon is one of the prevalent and ubiquitous franchises around.

Game Freak, the company that created pokémon, was really a moniker for Satoshi Tajiri whose company originally started as just a video game magazine. They made a couple of games for the NES and SNES but then hit it out of the park in 1996 with the release of Pocket Monsters Red and Green in Japan. This would turn into red and blue for American audiences with the phrase Pokémon and “Gotta Catch Them All” used as marketing devices for the American Public.

Brock, a thing of nightmares.

[ANALYSIS]

I’ve already harped on what I don’t like — the game is pretty ugly and too damn much walking! There is a severely taxing cave near the end that has a puzzle with boulders and lots of winding rooms with enemy encounters every three steps. It is not punishing due to difficulty but rather inflicting a deep, visceral pain as you watch time slowly drip away. Everything in this game is SO. DANG. SLOW.

So why do I still like it?

So Cute It Hurts.

You can’t look at the these characters and not have your heart swoon.

Look at this derpy, proud boy Arcanine:

Or how about my two favorite ecstasy users Jiggly and Wiggly?

Has there ever been a more motherly figure than Chansey?

Or worse drag performance than Jynx?

There’s something for everyone here folks!

Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Outside of collecting, the best part of pokémon is the fighting.

Pokémon is pretty straight forward: every creature has a base type that has strengths and weaknesses. A fire pokémon is weak against water, water is weak against lightning, lightening against rock, rock against grass, and then grass against fire to go full circle. While this is the predominate relationship between pokemon, you have extra layers to make things trickier.

Some pokemon have multiple types creating a more diverse skill set. You can also teach different pokemon different moves. This means that you have some options of how you can flesh out your pokémon to have more options in battle. This is important because you need to have a team of pokémon flexible enough to win in any situation.

An epic battle between a Bellsprout and Jigglypuff.

There are also different ways of going about battles.

Some pokémon can put their enemies to sleep. This allows you to have a random amount of turns uninterrupted. There are other, similar ailments like paralyze, confuse, poison, or burn that have their own advantages. Instead of using brute force, you chip away at an enemies’ stats to take advantage of a weakness you created. Another way is just going full postal and trying to amplify your pokémon’s natural type. Arcanine with flamethrower was deadly against most creatures — Hitmonlee didn’t have a prayer.

And thus begins the strategy of building your perfect team. You will eventually run up against a meat grinder and realize there is a missing piece. You’ll tinker, switch, and change until you are the best pokemon trainer of them all!

[CONCLUSION]

I’m looking forward to playing the next entry in the series to get much needed quality of life upgrades but the original is still decent.

Other People’s Takes:

  • MORSELS: “I love to see great things achieved in the face of major limitations, and for games, limitations don’t get much more major than being developed for the original Game Boy – a handheld platform from 1989 with a black-and-white, 160×144 screen that was already seven years old at the time of these games’ release.
  • Nathan Brennan: “…it would be wrong to pretend Red & Blue’s age isn’t obviously shown, with the games being a product of their time in almost every capacity. Despite the slog that they are though, the fact that they were once innovative and unique will have to be taken into account when concluding their final rating..”
  • Defy The Majority: “My favorite part of any Pokémon game is, of course, the Pokémon! I’m most fond of this generation of Pokémon probably because of nostalgia.

4 comments

  1. I never did finish this game. I used to play it on my bike ride home from school (I got really good at riding with no hands and taking back roads). I’ve gone back to it a couple times but I fear it will remain unbeaten. I just don’t have the time for it now that is needed to grind my way to victory!

    Like

    1. That’s pretty impressive. Yea, this game is super slow and the grind isn’t really rewarding. It asks a lot of your time but not of your talents which makes the 30 or so hours to complete that much worse.

      Like

  2. The dual aspects of having a main storyline as well as a wider goal of collecting all the Pokémon seems pretty unique for that era.

    The remake of these original games in Leaf Green/Fire Red was amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was this graphic floating around on twitter where people marked a line between the generations of pokemon games and I realized I only had played Blue/Red. I’m working my way through them now!

      Like

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