Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition is a role-playing game for the Game Boy. It was released later than Pokémon Red and Blue with a handful of updates, but is mostly the same game for a majority of the content. Because of this, I’m going assume you’ve already read my review of Pokémon Blue or are at least familiar with the previous versions that came prior to this special edition. Also, while I’ve played the original many times, I figured it would add even more interest to talk about the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console version so that we’re covering a bit more ground than just the original update. Besides, any good Pokémon fan needs to get ’em all, right?
Pokémon Yellow has basically the same plot, layout, and gameplay as Red and Blue. You’re on your quest to become the Pokémon League Champion. However, there have been some changes this time around. Right off the bat you’ll notice that you get no choice in what your first Pokémon will be. Instead, it will always be a Pikachu. You’ll soon come to learn that this is no ordinary Pikachu. For starters, this little guy actually says his own name! He also hates being kept inside his Pokéball. This will be familiar to anyone who watched the cartoon show. In fact, many of the events, characters, and artwork of the game have been altered to more closely resemble the anime. It even includes Jessie and James of Team Rocket. Most of the iconic trainers you face, notably gym leaders, will have their rosters altered to more closely resemble the episode of the show as well. You can even acquire the three starters from the previous games, just like good ol’ Ash. Also like Ash, you’ll have to slowly earn your Pikachu’s love and respect. The more good things the two of you endure, the better his attitude towards you. You can always check on this by turning around and talking to him, as he’ll be walking along behind you the whole way. This Pikachu is also as stubborn as Ash’s and won’t let you evolve it. This mean you’ll still need to do some trading with other versions to get all of the Pokémon as this version has its own exclusions. Also, most of the opponents in the game have had their levels lowered, perhaps to compensate for the limited capabilities of your start.
The 3DS version comes with its own few adjustments aside from displaying the game as though it were on a Game Boy Color or Advance. The system obviously does not support a Game Link Cable, but instead uses its local wireless capabilities for battling and trading with others that have a compatible 3DS version of the first generation games. It also does not support suspend points or restore points like most 3DS Virtual Console titles. These decisions seem to be done to as closely emulate the original experience as possible. A few more changes have been made as well. Many of the harsh flashing visuals for moves have been altered to reduce the risk of seizures. This usually dims the flashing colors if not removing them entirely, blurring rapid shaking movements, and perhaps others I didn’t even notice. One other noticeable change I DID notice was the Pokémon Jynx, which originally had black skin but was later changed in other games to be purple instead. I believe the fear was that the original design may have been seen as racist or otherwise offensive, and so they opted the make the colorization change retroactively here as well. The one change you might miss is the ability to play a minigame on the beach south of Fuchsia City. Here you can access Pikachu’s Beach, where you play as Pikachu on a surfboard riding waves like ramps. The goal is to use left and right to spin around in the air to get points and stick the landing. The more landings you stick, the more points you get. Originally, you needed to get a special kind of Pikachu that could learn surf in order to access this minigame. However, due to the inability to acquire on in such a fashion in this version, it has been altered to allow your starter Pikachu to access it instead.
I really like Pokémon Yellow, but I think a lot of that is due to my nostalgia. I remember watching the show, playing the games, collecting the cards and merchandise and… oh, so much more. So having the game more closely resemble the show was a big plus for me. Not to mention the reworked art is more in-line with the rest of the games later on anyway. It retains what was great about the previous two and just adds a little more to the mix. More specifically, I think having the Team Rocket members fight you a few times adds another bit to your sense of progression. Now not only do you fight your rival and Giovanni multiple times but Team Rocket as well. You can see the growth of their Pokémon as well as your own. Plus, the colorization of this one gives a lot more life and identity to the art of the game. They don’t call this edition special for nothing. The 3DS version is also pretty nice for its backlit screen, low cost, small file size, and not needing to worry about the game’s internal battery crapping out on you. It’s also more readily available in this location and I do appreciate the attention to detail when trying to make the experience as authentic as possible.
Though, that authenticity comes at a price. There’s no suspend points, restore points, or online capabilities even though it would likely be very possible. It also doesn’t fix many of the game’s glitches or even the incorrect effectiveness messages. And as mentioned, it changes the appearance of Jynx and a number of attack animations. So they seemed to pick and choose what was worth changing and what was worth keeping authentic rather than committing either way. I don’t see how online functionality would’ve been such a bad idea if we were already seeing changes. I guess that’s the main part of it being annoyingly contradictory. While the inclusion of the Pikachu’s Beach minigame is nice, it’s not a very fun game. It’s a rather pointless distraction that’s a severely watered-down take on Excitebike… pun intended. They could’ve at LEAST made Jynx a darker shade of purple to make her match the original design more closely. Besides the 3DS version alterations, the original isn’t exactly free from criticisms either. It was still a very glitchy game in many respects, even if it WAS slightly better. It’s about 98% the same game as Red and Blue when it comes right down to it. Ultimately it’s a more limited, dumbed down version of Red and Blue and turns version exclusives into version exclusions.
As far as recommendations go, it’s a bit all over the place with this one. If you’re a fan of the old cartoon, then Pokémon Yellow is the way to go with gen one. If you already have one of the other two, then it’s really not worth it outside of collectors and big Pokémon fans. It’s definitely a better way to see the origins of Pokémon than the gen III remakes on Game Boy Advance. Though, if you just wanted to experience the region and story without the primitive nature of the first games, then those remakes may be a better way to go. The real deal I’d say is worth about 25 to 30 bucks to the general person interested, and perhaps up to 40 for those seriously desiring it. The 3DS version, despite its changes, is still incredibly faithful to the original in many ways. It’s very available and, while it’s expensive for a Game Boy Color game on the eshop, it’s well worth the full 10 bucks. That way you can play some version of every generation of Pokémon games on your 3DS! I would say, if nothing else, look at it as a backup copy if you already really like Red or Blue. It’s nice to have options and backups. Either way you go, you’re in for something that sparked a phenomenon. It may not hold up real well for fans of the newer titles, but it’s by no means a bad game. Just… don’t put your Pikachu in the box or else it’ll feel like the other two all over again and that’s lame, man. That Pikachu trusted you! What the hell is wrong with you!? At least I didn’t end the review with a pickup line about Pikachu… THIS time.