If asked, I’d always say that Pokémon Black remains my favourite journey in 17 years of conquering the Pokémon League. But, as to that which I cherished most at the time, it would have to be Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition.
As with millions of other impressionable youngsters at the time, the brand had completely captivated me. When I wasn’t honing my own team in Pokémon Blue or trying to collect that elusive Shiny Charizard card, I was sat in front of the television watching Ash Ketchum’s trek across the Kanto region. Some would say that my life hasn’t changed much since, but it was my fondness for a certain electric mouse that had spurred by enthusiasm for the series.
Say that your favourite Pokémon is Pikachu, and most will scoff in response. With the ever-growing Pokédex now listing 722 Pokémon – after Magearna‘s recent reveal – there are so many to be taken with. Perhaps I have allowed the character to embody my childhood and I relate to it in helping to remember a far simpler time in my life, but, regardless, Pikachu has always been by my side in my Pokémon adventures.
So, by this point, you can probably imagine why Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition means so much to me, which goes far beyond the nostalgic pangs that its release on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service has triggered. The Pokémon series has come a long way since we nervously first trod in the tall grass outside Pallet Town. Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition takes us back to the first evolutionary step that the series took, in that it allowed Game Freak the chance to enhance Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue.
No longer are players allowed to choose between Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. When your rival nabs the Eevee that Professor Oak was about to give you, players are left with an untamed Pikachu caught in the wild mere moments before. It, therefore, lacks the choice of starter Pokémon, but you soon discover that there’s a reason for that.
The Pikachu that you are given doesn’t like Poké Balls and therefore chooses to loyally wander around behind you. The joy in this is that at any time you can turn around and interact with the electric mouse to see how it feels about you. That sees a small window pop open, with a now dated animation showing Pikachu’s general mood towards you. You’ll be treated to a cold shoulder when your adventure starts, but, eventually, Pikachu will bond with you and be far more heartwarming.
When levelled up it will become happier, whereas letting it faint in battle repeatedly will unsurprisingly dampen its mood. It makes it unique in relation to other Pokémon, and it’s a shame that we haven’t really seen anything like this since. I guess Pokémon-Amie was an attempt at returning to the idea, but that obviously takes you away from your general trekking.
With Virtual Console adding the Game Boy Color version, this brings a far more vibrant colour palette in comparison to the monochromatic visuals that the original Game Boy was limited by. It’s still aged as expected, but that colour variance is more than enough to make it feel far more approachable than Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue.
By now the battling, training and trading have become second nature to those that have likely read this far, so I won’t delve into that too much. One hurdle that has been successfully overcome is the Cable Club, which are situated in every Pokémon Center. Game Boy Link Cables were needed to trade and battle before, but it is now possible for you to use Local Play on the Nintendo 3DS. Needless to say, it’s far simpler, and everything gets less tangled!
Unlike other games on the Virtual Console service, Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition cannot use Suspension Points or Restore Points. That’s an understandable move in many ways to make sure that you have a single save file, but I’m sure that players may still be left disappointed by the decision. Otherwise, you can choose to play at the Game Boy Color’s original resolution, which places the game in an outline of the celebrated handheld.
What has excited most, however, is the chance to transfer their assorted Pokédex collection to Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon later this year. That saves this from simply being a chance to retread the experience for a mere nostalgia trip, instead adding a welcome incentive that makes their return all the more meaningful.
Much is already known about Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, so there’s no surprises here. I’m glad to see that all three games have finally made their way to the Virtual Console service, especially with Local Play support. This is a welcome emulation that has given me chance to re-spark many childhood memories and sits as a worthy purchase for anyone that wishes to similarly reminisce.