Pokemon hit the United States like a hurricane. The first two games were released in a fashion that remains a Pokemon tradition until this day, and in the U.S., it started with the Red and Blue versions of an RPG that took the whole world by storm. The impact that Pokemon Red and Blue left is still felt to this day. It has spawned an anime, several feature films based on the Anime, action figures, plushies, Happy Meal toys and so much more. Pokemon was an instant success and is still going strong to this day and it's not hard to see why. I had briefly heard about the series before I picked up this version, my first Pokemon game for my Gameboy Color.
"You've got to be the best!"
Story: 10/10: The game takes place in an alternate reality where the world is co-inhabited by mysterious creatures called Pokemon (short for "Pocket Monsters" because of their often diminutive size, though some are as big as Godzilla). Each Pokemon has their own power and humans have created a way of capturing these creatures with small spheres called "Poke-balls", which any size of Pokemon can fit into. Pokemon are captured and trained to duel against other Pokemon for the entertainment of the masses and to strengthen a Pokemon's fighting spirit, eventually having them go through a process of evolution into a more power Pokemon. Most who train Pokemon pride themselves in their abilities to train and care for Pokemon, though some would rather just perform the former act while abusing or harming the Pokemon, as one such known organization known as Team Rocket does. Team Rocket is a large criminal organization with a far reach and seemingly endless resources, all run by a mysterious man named Giovanni. Team Rocket will often use thievery or coercion to obtain their Pokemon instead of opting to capture them themselves.
You take the role of a young boy who one day dreams of being a Pokemon master, among the greatest trainers of all. To due so he obtains his license to capture and train Pokemon in hopes of capturing all 150 Pokemon and facing the Elite Four, the four best Pokemon trainers in the world. To enter the battle with the Elite Four, he must first journey across the countryside to various towns where there are Pokemon gyms, run by a gym leader. Upon beating a gym leader, the main character obtains a gym badge. Obtaining all eight gym badges will allow him to traverse Victory Road and do battle with the Elite Four to win the title of Pokemon Master, all the while attempting to fend of a rival Pokemon trainer who likes to make things personal.
Gameplay: 10/10: The gameplay is highly addictive as it caters to a lot of people's compulsion to collect things. What you collect in these games are the Pokemon themselves. It's an RPG style game where you walk around and get into what are known as random battles. The screen will flash and you'll be pitted against an enemy in a turn-based battle. Obviously, the main character does not fight himself, as the people never do. Whichever Pokemon is the first in your roster is released and you'll have four options to choose from. You can choose "Fight", which will allow you to select an attack for your Pokemon to execute. Another option is "Item" where you select an item you'd like to use such as a potion, or a poke-ball to try and catch the other Pokemon. You'll also have the option "PKMN" which will open up your roster and allow you to choose another Pokemon to engage in battle in place of the one that was already out. And of course final option is "Run" which will allow you to escape the battle, which will be helpful if you think you've run into a Pokemon that you think can decimate your team. Winning battles will grant your Pokemon experience points, which will allow them to level up (and eventually evolving into a more powerful version of themselves) and gain new abilities.
Along the way you can pick up a bike voucher which will allow you to purchase a bike and thus let you move around faster, and allows you access to Bicycle Road. The environment is also interactive. You'll obtain five special skills along the way that allow you to cut down tree stumps, move boulders, light up dark areas, and two type-specific abilities. One of them is Surf which you can teach to a water-based Pokemon and will allow you to traverse bodies of water. The other is fly which you can teach to flying Pokemon, which will allow you to fly from one town to another, assuming you've already been to that town first. You'll have to use all of these abilities in your journey to the Elite Four and becoming the crowned Pokemon Master. Along the way, you'll run into people who are standing around looking for a fight, some of which are members of Team Rocket.
Also, here's where Nintendo got creative with their marketing in a bold move that continues to this day. To double the profits, they released two games that are essentially the same game. The only difference is, neither games have all 150 Pokemon. While both of them do have some of the same Pokemon, some are absent from each version. To obtain all 150 Pokemon, you'll have to get a link cable and hook it up to your system and another system with the other version of the game. You can then trade your Pokemon with the other version, allowing you and a friend or sibling to obtain all 150 Pokemon.
Graphics: 10/10: For 8-bit graphics, they did an excellent job here. The Pokemon and environments are detailed well, and the animations are smooth as can be. This was probably close to the pinnacle of 8-bit graphics on a handheld system as the home consoles were transitioning to 16-bit. Although most Gameboy games were in black and white at the time, Pokemon Red and Blue generally featured a red or blue tint throughout the game, reminding you always which version you're playing. The Gameboy Color however allowed for different coloration as at the "GAMEBOY" screen, you could press different combination's of buttons, the D-pad included, to alter the colors of the game. I toyed around with this feature often, it was quite fun.
Audio: 10/10: The game features some pretty inspiring and catchy tunes, only helping to cater to the addictive style of play. It seemed like the music never got stale and you may find yourself humming it quite often, even years down the road. The composers did a great job and deserve some recognition for coming up with such addictive tunes. The fire also sounded great, as if something were burning. Big water attacks sounded like waves crashing. And even the blinding ability Sand Attack sounded like someone was tossing sand. The sound effects are as realistic as 8-bit can get in this game, pushing the handheld to it's limits at the time.
Overall: 10/10: Pokemon Red (and Blue), left a huge impact. It catered to peoples compulsive desires to collect things without having to move a muscle. Due to ease of gameplay, Nintendo's clever marketing ploy, and overall fun factor, the game took all of Japan and the US by storm and became so popular that the franchise is still alive almost a decade and a half down the road and still going strong with no sign of stopping. If you like RPGs and like collecting things, this is the game for you! Go ahead and buy yourself a copy and find someone with the other version so you can collect all 150 Pokemon!
Overall rating 5.0 - The Very Best, Like No Game Ever Was!