So here it is, 20 years after Pokémon Red and Green released in Japan, the original games finally see release on Virtual Console. Though, of course, in the west, we don’t get the originals. Ours were based on the updated engine of Japan’s Pokémon Blue, with the encounter rates of Pokémon Red and Green.
Pokémon Red and Blue are, at the core, a coming of age adventure game. You play as a character who is leaving home to explore the region of Kanto, collecting, raising and battling Pokémon. Throughout the game, you will encounter various memorable characters and even tackle an evil organisation, Team Rocket, who are intent on stealing Pokémon and furthering their villainous ways.
For those who don’t know, the battle system is turn-based, where Pokémon of specific types use moves that can be ‘Super Effective,’ ‘Neutral’ or ‘Not Very Effective’ depending on the opposing Pokémon’s type, with a rock-paper-scissors style of play.
In some ways, the game has aged incredibly well, but in others, the cracks start to show but demonstrates how far Pokémon has come since the originals. This game is ridiculously glitchy. There are glitches in encounters, in how moves work and so forth. For example, the move Focus Energy has the complete reverse effect to the one it is meant to have in that it lowers the Critical Hit chance rather than raising it.
There are also a lot of ridiculous mechanics which can make the game feel so unbelievably frustrating. For example, if a Bellsprout is faster than you and uses Wrap, you will be unable to get out of it and attack because the move Wrap prevents the target from doing anything.
There is also no way to see what moves actually do in this game. You could be levelling up a Pokémon, and when a new move can be learned you wouldn’t know what it did without checking sites online. If you’re new to the series that can be particularly confusing, as there’s no way to get the move you replace back. These things really have caused the game to age badly, and it truly does show how much better the series has become. You may often find yourself asking ‘How did we cope with this back in the 90s?’.
Despite these issues though, the game can be a lot of fun to play through. Raising your team of Pokémon and saving people from Team Rocket is immensely satisfying, and with the ability to send these Pokémon to the upcoming games Pokémon Sun and Moon it gives you further incentive to raise your team.
Another cool feature, and one that Pokémon is based on, is the inclusion of wireless trading and battling. While most Virtual Console games lack these features, Pokémon Red and Blue have added them in spades and essentially mimic the original Game Boy Link Cable. This makes the experience much more rewarding as it allows for you to finish your Pokédex and completely destroy your friends in battle unless they destroy you first.
The graphics for the game were never the strongest part, even having felt dated back in 1999 when they first hit Europe. However, there is a quaint charm to them even to this day. The animations for the moves do sometimes take a while, but it’s still enjoyable to watch how Pokémon used to be. The game probably looks best when played in the ‘Pixel Perfect’ mode. It’s worth noting that some of the moves have had their animations toned down when they were very flash happy.
The music is a massive high point for the game. The melodies are ridiculously catchy, and the chiptune just works well. The Pokémon all make a synthesised noise, but it’s not unpleasant. On the whole, it’s quite an audio treat.
Pokémon Red and Blue are great games to get if you have the nostalgia itch. They will help you feel like you’re a child again going on your adventure, and with the ability to send your team over to Pokémon Sun and Moon later this year, it opens up some cool opportunities for the future. However, if this would be your first foray into the Pokémon world, it is a bit hard to recommend these games.
As fun as they are, there are a lot of fundamental flaws and it would be easier, and better, for you to start on one of the more recent titles. That’s not to say that these games are bad, but a lot of their charm comes from them being your first game that you played in the series. It’s definitely interesting to play, but there are flaws. The series has come far. Train On.