Nintendo nostalgia: Pokemon Red and Blue

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Pokémon is a franchise that many have held sacred since childhood.

Throughout the years, Nintendo has continued to focus on the fans. Although every generation of Pokémon games seems similar to the untrained eye, it is important to realize that every game released by the Pokémon Company is completely unique. The American releases of Pokémon started with the Red and Blue versions, and has continued even through 2016 with the upcoming releases of the Sun and Moon versions.

It has been twenty years since the original Japanese release of Pokémon. Since this time, the franchise has cultivated a massive audience that stretches every corner of the globe. A simple concept about a ten year old boy capturing and fighting other mutant animals until he becomes the greatest trainer has become timeless.

With each generation, the small changes have shaped Pokémon into a cultural staple in the “Role Playing Game” genre. This is, in part, due to the unique combat style: an over-complicated version of “rock paper scissors’ based on “elements” and “stat boost.”

While current installations might seem endless, the original American 1990 releases of Pokémon Red and Blue seemed more focused on collecting, and its RPG elements were more memorable as a single player experience. The token slogan for the game is “Gotta Catch ‘Em All ” which back then was a more reasonable goal as there were a reasonable 151 creatures to catch, compared to nowadays where there are well over 700.

Many fans of Pokémon find flaws in the original games, and it is definitely outdated and filled with glitches. Still, an undoubted charm exists in this broken yet undoubtedly fun to play game. “Red and Blue”, two almost identical video games, are the first generation of American Pokémon games, translating and fixing the sprites and most of the horrendous glitches of the Japanese “Red and Green.”

In this game the player is given a choice of three Pokémon, and his goal, as well as the NPC rival, is to try and become the best trainer ever. The game’s definition of “greatest trainer ever,” implies catching all 151 Pokémon, and beating the current champion, Lance. During your adventure you will also be involved in the schemes of the terrorist organization known as “Team Rocket.” After a brief introduction into the simple battle mechanics, and catching Pokémon, a map is given to you and the adventure mechanic of the game takes full form. Each area has a different collection of Pokémon with various percentages of encounter rates, rare to common.

Collecting all 151 Pokémon, however, is impossible without both versions of the game, which is a beautiful marketing idea, there aren’t enough version exclusives to take away from the experience because each game still has a strong variety. As the game goes on, the strategy of training stronger Pokémon grows strong, as the collected base stat totals rise from 200ish to 400ish. The stats being divided into HP, Attack, Defense, Special, and Speed. The strategy of Pokémon has always been a complicated math problem, but in the original games the formula was, needless to say, broken. There are many mistakes in the original Pokémon game to abuse to win, which were all fixed in the second generation of games: Gold, Silver and Crystal.

The gameplay features two kind of attacks divided by types of Pokémon; Physical and Special. The problem with this is the Special Stat covered both the attack and the defense, so for a more accurate measure of the Pokémon’s power multiply the special stat by two. Another broken mechanic are critical hits. A critical hit in RPGs is usually luck based say 1-5% chance to do double damage. However in the original games critical hits were based on speed, honestly I would have liked this change if it was distributed better. However in this game any Pokémon with a speed stat of 65 or above has a 20% chance to do double damage. This means 83 of the 151 Pokémon have this ridiculous advantage (or something better). The other 82 have a very low chance of pulling this critical hit. This almost destroys the strategy of the game, and it feels more of a game of chance. The worst offense in this game are psychic types. There are 15 different types in this game each having there one resistances/ weakness and the occasional immunity. Psychics at the time had resistances, an immunity to ghost, and the worst offense was the only weakness is the Bug type. In gen 1 the Bug type had no good attacks, and the strongest bug Pokémon did not learn any bug moves. Physics also took advantage having the high Special.

Broken mechanics aside, Pokémon did keep a fair job of finding most of the overpowered creatures away. The original games lack of balance does not matter if you do not take the time to hunt down the best, and break the game. Casually playing the original Red and Blue versions provide you with a reasonable 1-10% encounter rates on a singular route. The Pokémon encountered are not going to be captured, especially if you have already trained up a team. Most people simply will not care about the gritty details of a single Pokémon being better than the others, because it learns that one move at level 47, or has slightly more speed.

The game progresses well, providing a pseudo linear style story. There are 8 gyms which are essentially boss battles, each having a specific type. Between each gym, there is always some town to travel to, or Rocket operation to shut down. The story throws some plot twist, and every once in a while it has a dark sense of humor which really separates the game from its sequels. The finale is epic, to say the least. Your rival, once carrying a Level 5 starter Pokémon, now has a six high level Pokémon.

The post-game, is not the greatest. Basically after you beat the main story your only goal is to catch the remaining 151 Pokémon. However, a small cave is opened to reveal the strongest Pokémon in the game that has only been cleverly mentioned through backstory and minute detailing in text boxes in the game. This Pokémon is Mewtwo, a clone with the best overall stats, as well as being a pure psychic type. The Pokémon is at level 70, but the threat is nonexistent though, if you saved an item given to you mid game. The game difficulty varies on how you play, and the game’s greatest strength is you have freedom to play any way you want to. This year there are going to be even new Pokémon games with the announcement of Pokémon Sun and Moon.

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John Keusenkothen is a senior at St. Thomas and is the resident movie expert of The Eagle. Keusenkothen will answer any question about movies unless one asks him what his favorite is. His favorite holiday is National Nothing Day, (January 16th) and his favorite role model is himself. Approach with caution and possibly with chocolate milk.

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