Pokémon Red/Blue - Review

How To Start A Plague Of Plushies

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 3
   Originality 7
   Plot 3
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

60-80 hours


   Pokémon merchandise is everywhere today. From cartoons to toys to card games, and even RPGs based on a card game. All of this makes it easy to forget that what started everything was a quirky RPG for the Gameboy.

   What sets Pokémon apart from all proceeding RPGs is that the main character does not fight for himself. Instead, all battles in the game take place between Pokémon, the random monsters found throughout the world. At the beginning of the game, players choose one of three unique starting Pokémon. Using a special type of item, it is later possible to weaken and capture wild Pokémon yielding a party of up to six Pokémon with up to 240 in reserve.

   Each of the 151 varieties of Pokémon in the game has it's own stat progressions, list of moves, and one or two elements which determine its strengths and weaknesses. Unlike most RPGs which settle for four, Pokémon has fifteen elements, with complex relations. While as they gain levels, Pokémon will learn moves from two or three different elements, no Pokémon can know more than four moves at once, making the creation of a well balanced party a surprisingly tricky task.

   Creating such a well balanced party is rarely necessary however. Most areas in the game feature Pokémon of just a single type. Therefore one can simply bring only Pokémon which are strong against water to watery areas and so forth. Even then, if a player focuses on using just one or two Pokémon, they will quickly rise to a high enough level for such element matching to be unnecessary. Only at the very end of the game, or when fighting against a human opponent via gamelink, is creating a well balanced party truly important.

   The story of Pokémon can be described as utilitarian. Everyone in the world is obsessed with capturing Pokémon and using them to battle in a healthy competitive nature, thus the story simply follows the main character as he wanders from town to town besting the local champions on the road to becoming the undisputed master. A number of sub-plots also factor in, but it's not a story driven game by any means.

   Aside from the main goal of simply finishing the game, Pokémon has an implied secondary goal of acquiring one of each of the 151 varieties of Pokémon. This very involving and time consuming quest is the key to the game's addictive nature. Most Pokémon can be caught in the wild, usually in only one specific location. Others evolve from more common Pokémon either at a certain level or when a special item is used. Still more can only be obtained by trading between the different versions of the game.

   Aside from these surprisingly complex monster catching elements, Pokémon embodies many of the negative stereotypes associated with portable RPGs. The graphics are fairly simple and undetailed when not fighting, and at that, one's own Pokémon are extremely pixelated. The music for the most part is very annoying and repetitive. Entirely too much time is spent navigating unfriendly menus. Then of course there is the translation which, while decent, tends to start far too many words with the prefix Poké-.

   On the whole however, the sophisticated game mechanics and addictive nature of Pokémon more than adequately balance out its shortcomings. Of course, with its record setting sales and mounds of merchandise, you probably already knew that.

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