Pokémon Blue

Pokémon Blue is a role-playing game for the Game Boy. The story is simple. You’re a young Pokémon trainer that dreams of becoming a Pokémon master. To do so, you’ll have to travel the world, catch and train Pokémon, fight other trainers, get the 8 gym badges, and beat the Pokémon League. At this point you may be wondering… what are Pokémon? Well, think of them generally as animals with super powers. They could also be plants or objects, but… well you get the picture. So the gameplay consists of catching these creatures and leveling them up through battles. It’s standard RPG stuff except that your party consists of your pets instead of you and your friends. Not that pets can’t be friends, or Pokémon for that matter, but just… I wanted to make the concept of Pokémon a little clearer in case you weren’t familiar. At the start of the game you can pick one of three Pokémon. Your rival will then pick whichever one has the type advantage against yours. Remember that, as it’s only the beginning of his dickish deeds. You will then be forced to battle him to get you acquainted with the concept as well as your new Pokémon.

Battles are turn-based. The Pokémon with the highest speed stat goes first. Some elements are better against others, such as water being good against fire and electricity being good against water. The attacks themselves carry the elemental type as well as the move being physical (determined by the attack stat) or special (determined by the special stat). Your Pokémon also gets bonus STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus) damage if the selected attack is the same type as the Pokémon. The defense against a certain kind of attack depends on if your type is neutral to it, resists it, or is weak to it. Some even have total immunities. The defense is also determined by the defense stat, which will decrease physical damage, and the special stat, which will decrease special damage. Once a Pokémon runs out of hit points, it will faint and can no longer be used in battle until revived and healed. There are also a limited number of uses for each move your Pokémon knows, and they can only have four moves at a time, so be prepared. Long trips without visiting a Pokémon Center to heal your Pokémon and refill their power points (used for attacking) can lead to some tough stretches. This is a good way to keep you from simply spamming one move the entire time, especially a particularly powerful one. Victory in battle happens when your opponent has no more usable Pokémon. To catch Pokémon, you need to find them out in the wild in various locations. You’ll have to battle them to get them weak, and then throw some variety of Pokéball at them. They’ll be put inside and try to break out. If they escape, you’ll have to try again, but if they can’t break free then you’ve just caught yourself a brand new Pokémon. There are 151 total to collect. You can only carry a maximum of 6 with you at a time, but the rest will be stored in the PCs that are found in every Pokémon Center.

You level up your Pokémon by battling. Your Pokémon gain experience after surviving in battles and winning. As they gain levels their stats will increase and they will learn new moves. They may also evolve into stronger Pokémon in this way as well. You can further strengthen them by giving them items and teaching them new moves from machines found in the game. Be sure not to grind too much, though. If you don’t have the appropriate badge then you’ll end up with a disobedient Pokémon on your hands once their level is too high. To get badges you’ll need to go to different towns to find gyms. There will be trainers in them as well as a gym leader. Beat the leader to earn their badge. Get all 8 and you’re ready to take on the Pokémon League in a marathon fight against the Elite Four. Along the way you’ll also learn some moves and get some items that will allow you to access new areas. The applications to the overworld as well as being moves in battle gives a good feel of usefulness and purpose for progression. There are also some side quests along the way.

There are two other versions of the game as well. Pokémon Red launched alongside Pokémon Blue and is almost identical. Each one has a few Pokémon only attainable in their version and excluded from the other. Also, the monochrome color scheme of each is based around the color in their corresponding title, which is interesting considering the games are for the Game Boy, which did not have color. There is also Pokémon Yellow, which also has some Pokémon unavailable in it that are available in the other two. However, there are a few more differences. Changes in Pokémon and character sprites, trainer Pokémon teams, levels of some Pokémon, and new events all show up to reflect the animated show of the same name. The largest defining feature is that you have to start the game with Pikachu every time, just as the character from the show did. You can connect between any combination, even duplicates, of these three games with the use of the Game Link Cable. Using the cable to connect them, you can battle and trade with friends, which is a very interesting idea and a new concept for handhelds at the time. However, this is where I want to start in on some of my gripes with these three games.

While the connection idea is nice, and forgetting the fact that it requires an extra purchase for the cord and a second game and Game Boy if you’re by yourself trying to trade, the fact that you HAVE to trade in order to get all of the Pokémon in the games is annoying. Anyone looking for total completion is going to need these trades and the tech to do it. There’s also very little reward for doing it anyway. There’s also the ability to connect the games to Pokémon Stadium on Nintendo 64 for making teams to battle with or to play the games through the N64, but this requires another extra device called the transfer pak. For the games themselves, they have some strange glitches and inconsistencies in them. Sometimes attacks will behave in ways they are not intended, or the type effectiveness won’t calculate properly, or maybe just the message explaining what’s going on in the battle will lie. These things should’ve been ironed out since these games were actually the second run of the idea, and while many bugs were fixed, other obvious ones remain. Another annoyance, though a bit unfair since these were the first Pokémon games, is that some of the ways moves work, or the type effectiveness, or other details of the games have become inconsistent with the newer, more standardized games that came after them. The combination of the special stat is a bit deceptive as well, being both for special attack and special defense. This makes it confusing as to what actually represents what. The way types work is also confusing. Sure, water puts out fire and water conducts electricity, so those are simple enough to understand. How are you supposed to guess what things like psychic or poison are strong or weak against? And why is psychic type so overpowered? It’s good against fighting and poison types, and the only type it’s weak against is other psychic types. There’s only one type that’s good against psychic, which is bug type. The problem is that most bug Pokémon also have a second type of poison, which makes them easy targets. There are also a few types that need fleshing out. There are only three dragon type Pokémon and three ghost type Pokémon in the entire game. They don’t have much for moves, either. Ghost only has three or four moves, and dragon has only one move with no type effectiveness applied. More Pokémon and moves would’ve been nice to see. Not to mention that most Pokémon have singular types or else they usually all have a common secondary type to match their first. Normal-flying, grass-posion, bug-poison, bug-flying, rock-ground, water-ice. There could be so much more variety. Plus there’s the whole convenience issue. Often times on leveling up you’re asked if you want to learn a new move. Well, unless you’ve played before, there’s not much of a way to tell what the move will do or if it’s better or worse than the ones you already have aside from guessing by the name. This and many other things in general could be more convenient, which is proven by the fact that they are in later games. As for the different versions, there’s not much use in getting them all because the differences aren’t big enough to warrant another whole purchase if you already own one.

Still, I have to admit that I do love the first generation of Pokémon games, Pokémon Blue being the one I still have. It’s one of the few RPGs I could get into as a kid because it was simple and easy to understand. Yet it’s fun enough to keep me replaying it time and time again years later. Is there some nostalgia in that? Sure. It’s not perfect, and later Pokémon games are much better in design, but that doesn’t mean this one is bad. It was fun to be able to pick it up and understand your goals, the stakes, and the fact that every Pokémon you face could end up as one at your side. You understand the enemy because all of the trainers have access to the same Pokémon, the same moves, and the same experience. And with so many people in real life jumping on the wagon with the games, the show, the cards, the merchandise, and everything else… it was hard not to be part of the movement. For those of us who grew up during this time, Pokémon is something we all remember fondly. It was one time in my life where I actually felt normal, like I fit in, and that’s certainly something to remember. Pokémon Blue is good game and probably won’t run you too much money used. I’d say that, if you’re a Pokémon fan who hasn’t tried the generation one originals, or just a fan of simple RPGs, you should definitely give them a shot. Just don’t bother getting all the games and trying to catch them all… it’s really not worth it. Pokémon Blue is a fun, simple RPG with high replay value and being portable to boot. The only question is, do YOU have what it takes to be a Pokémon master? 

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