It's been a little bit over a decade since the Pokémon craze ran wild all over Britain, but I still remember it like it was only yesterday. The endless number of trading cards (my younger brother use to buy them almost every day!), the movies, the cartoon series which SM:TV Live showed every Saturday morning, the commercials ...heck, virtually every single piece of merchandise in the shops had a happy looking Pikachu on the front of it. For a while Ash Ketchum was the Don of cartoon characters, and made kids like Bart Simpson and Eric Cartman look small and pathetic.
Also embedded amongst the craze was, of course the video games. Two of the earliest games were Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue for the Game Boy. Many more games have been released over the years which have gotten better in the graphics department and higher in the features count. Because of this Red and Blue seem completely irrelevant; but to me, even after all these years, they still provide plenty of depth, challenge and entertainment.
First of all, for anybody who doesn't know the differences between Red and Blue, I tell you. Red comes on a red cartridge and Blue comes on blue. Also, certain Pokémon appear in Red but not Blue, and vice-versa. Now onto the plot. You play the role of a ten year old boy who you need to provide a name for. You can call him Red or Ash or anything that comes to your mind. You also need to provide a name for your rival. You can call him Blue or Gary, or again anything that comes to your mind.
The game starts off in the small and very peaceful Pallet Town. You're about to leave town and see the world when Professor Oak stops you. Apparently it's too dangerous to venture out alone and you need a companion. So the Professor invites you back to his lab and allows you to pick from one of three Pokémon: the fire type, Charmander; the water type, Squirtle; or the grass type, Bulbasaur. Afterwards your rival, who has a bit of a competitive streak, challenges you to a match.
After that you have two main objectives to complete. The first is to gain access to the Pokémon League. You do this by travelling around the region (identified as Kanto in the Gold and Silver games) to different towns and cities, visit the Gyms, defeat the Gym leaders and win their badges. Then when you've won all eight badges you make your way to the league, where you have to defeat the Elite Four and then the Pokémon champion himself to become Pokémon champion.
But in order to do all this you'll need Pokémon, and this is where the game's impressive depth comes into play. The two versions combined have 150 different Pokémon, each one having their own strengths and weaknesses. For example: fire types are strong against grass types but weak against water types; and electric types will make fried chicken out of flying types but are absolutely useless against rock types. These different types mean that the games give you a chance to try out different Pokémon in your line up to see what suits your battling style the best.
Oh, the second objective? Catch all 150 Pokémon. You can pick up Pokéballs from shops in the towns and cities. Then when you see a Pokémon in the wild that you like, you weaken it by fighting it and then throw a Pokéball to capture it. But as mentioned earlier some Pokémon only appear in one version of the game and not the other. To "catch 'em all," sometimes you'll need to trade. If you have the Red version you'll need to link up with somebody who has the Blue version by using a link cable to connect two Game Boys, and then go to trading areas of a Pokémon Centre. Some Pokémon are hard to capture and will provide a satisfying challenge to gaming veterans. Meanwhile the trading, although in an out-of-practice method given today's internet capabilities, is ideal for making friends and improves your ability to socialize, so more positive points there.
Pokemon Red/Blue is supposed to be one great big adventure. But in a way it actually feels like several small adventures combined to make one epic game. Your first Pokemon battle; delivering a package to Professor Oak; catching your first Pokémon in the wild; wondering through Viridian Forest...It sounds (and is!) very appetizing, and this is all before you begin your pursuit of the first Gym badge.
For those who have never played a Pokémon game before there is a lot of stuff to pick up on, with many different items to use, Pokémon strengths and weaknesses, and where to actually go next among other things. But if you're willing to put in the time you'll find that it's an amazing experience that'll make you wish it would last forever. The most enjoyable aspect of the games is the pleasure you get in spending time with your caught Pokémon, travelling with them, raising them, watching them battle and win and gain EXP. points, and sometimes seeing them evolve into stronger Pokémon. It's pretty much like Final Fantasy, except you're not training humans you're training "Pocket Monsters."
Yes the graphics are old and look worse than an Etch-A-Sketch drawing by Michael J. Fox, but Pokémon Red/Blue is still an outstanding piece of gaming artwork, and if you still own a Game Boy you must get a hold of either copy. Even if you're a younger gamer enjoying the 3D-ish graphics and numerous other features in the Black and White versions on the Nintendo DS, if you have even the SLIGHTEST hint of curiosity as to how the Pokémon gaming series began, get a Game Boy on the cheap and pick up a copy of Red or Blue ASAP. If you don't you'll make Pikachu very angry, and you won't like him when he's angry.