Pokemon - Retroview

Fun In Class Or For Long Trips, But Not Pika-Perfect

By: Stewart Bishop

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 2
   Originality 9
   Plot 4
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 9
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

10-20 Hours



   Unless you've been sleeping in an underground missile silo for the past 2 years, you know what Pokemon is. It infests our schools, our TVs, our Nintendo game systems, our children, our younger siblings, our older siblings, college students...well, practically everyone. Though the popularity has dwindled since this game and the anime series were first released, Pokemon still holds a special place in many peoples' hearts. This game is proof that a simple concept can rule above all...especially when cute, furry critters accompany it.

   Of course, this is not to say that Pokemon was bull-headed by concept and critters alone. Another contributing factor to Pokemon's success is the way it was released into the market. With a lot of hype building up in the US, there were many people and children awaiting Pokemon's release. It stormed in with two video games and an anime series. Little children glanced at Pikachu for one second on the TV and were instantly captivated by its cuteness. This, in turn led to the buying of the game, which led to the healthy obsession that still consumes this latest generation. The game is also very friendly to the young audience, using large text and simple dialogue, which is good, but I've learned that abbreviations aren't healthy for growing minds (I've heard kids call Professor Oak "PoofOak").

   The whole idea and of Pokemon is to catch as many of the critters as you possibly can and to train them to be lean, mean, KOing machines to use against other Pokemon and Pokemon trainers. With a concept like this, the plot becomes questionable. While there is a plot of some sort, it's nothing spectacular. You assume the role of a young boy aspiring to become the greatest Pokemon trainer of all time. On the way, you'll bump into your rival and the evil Pokemon organization, Team Rocket. You also journey around the world collecting badges for entry to the Pokemon League. Simply put, if it's a story you're after, watch the anime series.

One of the Best Reasons to Own a Super Gameboy  

   While the plot isn't all that sophisticated, the battle system is. The thought of collecting Pokemon is simple enough, but effective battling requires a bit of memorization. One to six Pokemon are present in your lineup, and as the battle begins, your first Pokemon on the list is thrown into the fray. From here, we are given "Attack", "Item", "PKMN" (Pokemon) and "Run". While Item and Run are self-explanatory, selecting Attack will pop up a list of techniques that your current Pokemon has and how many times that particular move can be used. PKMN is a special command that lets you switch to another Pokemon if you so desire. The system is also heavily geared towards the different elements of the Pokemon world; there are fifteen Pokemon and attack types, which are Grass, Fire, Ground, Poison, Electric, Water, Rock, Flying, Ice, Normal, Bug, Ghost, Fighting, Dragon and Psychic. Certain types are more effective against some, and others are less effective. Water-type Pokemon are susceptible to Electric and Grass attacks, but are quite resilient to Fire attacks. It's important to memorize what types Pokemon are so you know which attacks would be best to use against them. Of course, it also helps to actually have the correct Pokemon to perform these attacks.

   Your quest to become the greatest Pokemon trainer of all time unfolds in giant 2D world a la classic Zelda games. Sadly, until you get the bicycle, you are plagued with an unbearably slow walking speed, so it should delight you to know that routes are short and puzzles are kept to a minimum. There's also the ability to FLY (teleport) to other towns, but you get that later as well. Menus are simple and easy to navigate, but organization is a different (and grotesque) story. There are no auto-arrange features of any sort for your items and the PC storage system is absolutely horrid, especially for the Pokemon. After exceeding the six ones you are carrying, captured Pokemon are sent to the PC in 'Boxes'. There are several boxes, which allow for organization if you ever have the patience. There is no simple exchange option that lets you swap Pokemon from box to box. Instead, you have to remove the Pokemon and place them into another box. When you couple this with the fact that you have to do them six at a time and that you always have to be carrying at least one Pokemon, things start to get ugly.

   Not as ugly as the sound gets, however. The music is simply horrible and repetitive, while the sound effects are loud and annoying. Basically, what emits from your Gameboy speaker is a chaotic offering of loud and obnoxious beeps and chimes, which will make you very happy that the Gameboy has a volume adjust knob. Then again, why would you have the sound on anyway? It only attracts unwanted attention...

   You'll play Pokemon in school, at work, at home, in the car, on a plane, on a train, with a cat, with a rat, here or there, anywhere, with Sam I Am, Green Eggs and Ham, and so forth. It is that addictive. Pokemon is a real treat in terms of replayability, which is why you'll be coming back for more in this never-ending cycle of collect and conquer. By the end of the game, you'll probably have a good amount of Pokemon, but you still have to collect all 150 (151 if you've got a Game Genie or Gameshark). In order to catch all of them, you'll have to train your Pokemon so that they evolve into better ones. Interestingly, this task cannot be done with one cartridge alone. The blue version contains some Pokemon that the red version does not, and vice versa. Trading via Gameboy link is essential; some Pokemon only evolve while they are being traded. You can also battle another players' Pokemon as well. If battling through Gameboys isn't quite enough for you, pick up a copy of Pokemon Stadium and battle your opponents with your Pokemon on the N64. The possibilities are endless.

Heal is Good
You'll Be in These Places a Lot...  

   Another element worthy of praise are the visuals. The graphics are also some of the best I've seen for the Gameboy. If you have a Super Gameboy (for the SNES), you can also play the game in color, which is quite nice. In battles, the animation is pretty smooth considering that it's a Gameboy game, and the pictures of each individual Pokemon are great. Despite all this, however, the out of battle graphics are very simple and lack detail, the animation gets a bit sluggish and there are occasional signs of extreme slowdown.

Since Pokemon was aimed at little children, you shouldn't find it to be difficult in the least. Pokemon in the field are usually inferior to the likes of yours, even if they are a higher level. The other trainers in the game are also quite easy, when coupled to the fact that at most they will only carry five Pokemon (except for one battle I believe). Even the so-called Elite Four will fall to your one starting Pokemon with ease as long as you didn't stuff it in a box after catching your first Pidgey. Nothing difficult here, but the real challenge is collecting all the Pokemon. A few of the Pokemon seem to have a capture rate of 1%, and others you only have one chance to capture them in the whole game. I missed out on one of the rare birds and a Snorlax before I found this out.

With the recent release of Pokemon Gold and Silver, it seems like the Pokemon fiasco is happening all over again. Nintendo is truly squeezing everything they possibly can out of it (and rightly so, it's one of their best selling products). Though Red and Blue may eventually become obsolete, they were the first and as such, deserve as much respect as can be given from any hardcore Pokemon fan.

Looks Like a Nidoran and a Gengar?
Electrode Diglett Nidoran Mankey...  

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