Hello Vingle! Welcome to the first Syre Reviews (October is aware that he has yet to introduce the character of Syre yet but oh well). For my first review I had a difficult time choosing what game to present to you beautiful creatures. But then October reminded me the significance of this month and the decision became clear. Friends, today I review Pokemon Red and Blue versions!
History: For many of the Pokemon game fans this will be information you already know. But if I don't really present any information, known or not, what kind of reviews would these be? Pokemon was created by Satoshi Tajiri. First going by the name Capsule Monsters, Pokemon was just a hobby for Tajiri that Incorporated his love of bug catching and influences from TV shows like Ultraman, where the main character used monsters contained in capsules to help him fight. After partnering up with several friends, one of which being Ken Sugimori who would be responsible for the art in the games, Tajiri formed Game Freak. With the discovery of the Game Boy and it's Link Cable, Tajiri was able to envision the bugs traveling along the cable between the devices and the idea for Pokemon was set. Master plan in hand he pitched the now famous game to Nintendo...which promptly refused him; several times. It was not until help came in the form of Shigeru Miyamoto, who you all know as the creator of Mario and The Legend of Zelda franchises, that Nintendo began to fund the project. Copy rights issues led to the game title being changed to Pocket Monsters. Initial sales were not astounding for Pokemon Red and Green until it became known that Game Freak included Mew in the games' code but kept the legendary Pokemon hidden. Upon the discovery, CoroCoro Magazine held an event to distribute Mew to twenty entrants. The magazine received an estimated 78,000 entries and sales for the game spiked. The surge cemented the popularity of the games, gave the base model for Pokemon distribution events that continue today, and allowed for manga and anime adaptations. With the surge the developers released Pokemon Blue version, which fixed multiple bugs and updated art assets. These were the version to be localized over seas and the ones being looked at today. Localization teams originally feared the cute look of Pokemon wouldn't win over Western audiences but requests to change designs were rejected. The anime and games both appears to North American audiences in September 1998 with the anime debuting first. The anime gave powerful force behind Pokemon and led for a push to develop Pokemon Yellow to better match some events in the show, but that, my friends is for another time.
Story: Oh come on really? Do I really have to review the "story" of a Pokemon game? Wha? October says I do...fine...I'll try but guys it's a Pokemon game. The first ones at that. The game starts with the classic animation screen of a Gengar fighting a Nidorino; a scene the anime used to open their series with as well. Transition to Pokemon Professor Oak to introduce us into the world of Pokemon. He asks for your name (no gender confusion jokes here ad Gen 1 only had male playable characters). He does forget his own grandson's name somehow but kids needed a way to name their rival. Your start in your room in Pallets Town. A quick trip through town to see the few pieces here and upon attempting to leave town professor Oak stops you, we warning of the Pokemon in the tall grass. He takes you to his lab to choose your first Pokemon.
Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle. The original starters that have since sent many a trainer off on their first journey. Professor Oak also gives you a Pokedex and tasks the player with completing by catching every known species of Pokemon. You are also informed about the Pokemon Gym Challenge to collect all 8 badges and compete against the Elite Four to prove your skills as a Pokemon master. The tag line "gotta catch em all" now understood, the player sets off. During your travels, as a ten year old boy, you run across the threat to the Pokemon world known as Team Rocket. Ruthless Pokemon thieves bent on stealing the strongest Pokemon and controlling the world with their power. Various times throughout the journey, you get caught up in their plans and you and your Pokemon must stand against the evil organization. Here is where many would question why a ten year old must fight a professional band of thieves but I do not. For you see, this is the core of Pokemon games in my opinion. It shows how anyone can be a hero. Age, history, and background do not matter and anyone can try their best and work their hardest to achieve their dreams. This is a message Pokemon later begins to hold at it forefront in both games and anime, and I believe that is why it is still popular two decades later. More on this later.
Art: Limited to Gameboy hardware, Pokemon had really Little it could do art wise. However, for the times it did pretty well. In battle, each Pokemon had a unique front and rear view sprite and attacks were all distinctive as well; different versions of each set the titles apart as well. Overworld models were reused for non essential characters and items but all were different enough for players to identify what was important.
Sounds: The music created by Junichi Masuda l,ike many older games, have become iconic and instantly recognizable. Again limited to Gameboy capabilities, Masuda was able to create not only a successful soundtrack but a full ensemble of unique sound effects for Pokemom cries and attacks, giving each a unique identity. While obviously dated by today's standards and some of the screeches of Pokemon cries sounded more demonic and "claiming your soul as we speak", most were quick simple and again unique enough to be able to identify any one of the 151 Pokemon by cry alone.
Challenge and Gameplay: Pokemon as a whole in all its generations is not the most challenging game. Sure some post game content in later generations are difficult but the main bulk of in-game experiences is not terribly difficult u less the play puts limits on themselves. However, challenging gameplay was not the point of Pokemon. Tajiri wanted everyone or any age to experience the joy he felt whe. collecting bugs as a kid. And that focus was easily accomplished. These games established the Pokemon formula of travel and catch them all that all the games have stayed true to up to this point. Slight variations on how, where, and when to find Pokemon as well as how to catch them get added with each new game, but they all maintain this rather simple yet somehow addicting and rewarding experience. I'm won't say it doesn't become a grind to find Pokemon or to level up your team at times, bit overall it is a very rewarding experience and the amount of times I needed to grind was when I wanted to accomplish something that wasn't required for the game to progress, like evolving my Pokemon sooner or learning a new move. The true challenge of Pokemon comes from the Link Cable and later wireless communication. Gameplay and story for Pokemon is exactly the same regardless of the version you choose. The only difference is version exclusive Pokemon. This was done to promote the need to trading with friends and to make Pokemon feel more like a communal thing. You were not the only trainer trying to catch all the Pokemon or trying to be the best. You had everyone else in the world in this journey with you. You needed to trade with them to get all the Pokemon, and you could battle them to see who was the best and to improve your skills.
Lasting effect: Do I even need to talk about it? We are celebrating Pokemon's 20th anniversary. This game that nearly bankrupted Game Freak has become a phenomena in multiple countries for multiple generations. Pokemon has brought people together, it helped bring Anime to the Western world. Hell even the well known and rather numerous glitches in these games have lore all their own. As stated before Pokemon has become something much greater than anything Tajiri could have hoped for. Showing anyone could be a hero regardless of age, race, or even gender. Admittedly race and gender choices wouldn't be introduced as available options for the main player until later generations but even in these early games Pokémon showed acceptance and appeal for everyone. It was one of the few products at the time where whether it was the games, anime, or card games, it held all audiences equal. You weren't a warrior rescuing a princess, girls weren't just frail and fair archetypes, guys were not all sullen, strong, and masculine all the time. Pokemon was created with the intent that it be for everyone and it continues to exists and be the force it is today because it succeeded in doing so. Personal experience for me, it introduced me to some of the coolest people I've met and, while at one time I was ashamed for liking it at my age, it has shown me the countless others who do so as well. And it is all thanks to these original games. But, these were not my original games. No friends, I did not start my Pokemon journey in Kanto with a Charmander. I started mine elsewhere, in a new and different Pokemon world. And next Syre Reviews, we will look at where my journey started. In this whole new world, with a brand new attitude.