Home Gaming Even after twenty years, Pokémon Red and Blue are still masterpieces

Even after twenty years, Pokémon Red and Blue are still masterpieces

5 min read


Saturday marked the official twentieth year of the Pokémon franchise. A duo of decades that has given birth to more pocket monsters than a high school with an open bar. You look at the original Pokémon games, compare that to the current sixth-generation titles which sport absolutely stunning visuals and a whole host of tweaks to the basic formula, and you see just how far the franchise has come.

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And with the original Pokémon Red and Blue (And Yellow!) games out now on the Nintendo eStore, that feeling is really hammered home. It feels like such a massive downgrade, a more limited experience that is devoid of actual colours or handy alterations that made the Pokémon franchise more user-friendly over the years. But that doesn’t mean that Red, Blue and Yellow aren’t still charming adventures in their own right.

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I’ve been playing Pokémon Red, reliving some great memories. I was fortunate enough to have a proper GameBoy Colour as a kid, a secondhand handheld donated to me by a fantastic aunt over in the US of A who shipped it on over. I don’t even know how many Pokémon games were available locally at the time, but I was massively fortunate enough to stumble upon Pokémon Red in a nearby Cash Crusaders, sitting on a shelf and begging for me to drop twenty of my Randelas on it. I was sold.

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I’ve played Pokémon Red…too many times. I’m more than familiar with every aspect of the original 11 megabyte games:

  • I caught every Pokémon possible without trading
  • I got my ass handed to me in the Pewter Town gym because I chose a Charmander as my starter
  • I came back with a vengeance after I evolved a Caterpie into Confusion-attack heavy Butterfree
  • That cave you navigate through after you get your first badge? TOO MANY DAMN ZUBATS!
  • Gary Oak is still a dick who waits for the worst f***ing time to challenge you to a battle
  • The SS Anne is still the only location in the franchise where you can earn an HM for stopping the captain from barfing everywhere
  • Lieutenant Surge has seen things man. Him and that Raichu? Every time they close their eyes, they can still hear the screams…
  • That f***ing Snorlax man
  • Saffron City: Home to some kickass fighting type Pokémon, a tricky Psychic gym and the mother of all gauntlets that nets you a Master Ball in the end
  • Moon stone ey? I wonder what would happen if I should use it on this Clefairy or Nidorino…
  • Holy crap, the ninja gym of Fuchsia City. Still an amazing piece of design
  • Missingno! You’ve been kept intact, you wonderful glitch Pokemon you!
  • You thought Saffron City and the Team Rocket gauntlet was tough? Victory Road will still eat you alive
  • Yay, the Elite Four beaten at last!

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Those are my memories. I haven’t even delved into reviving fossil Pokémon, catching Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres or wondering how many times Bill watched The Fly before he entered his weird DNA splicer machine. In many ways, Pokémon Red and Blue was ahead of the curve when it was first released. It was huge, detailed and crawling with secrets. Hell, I’ve yet to see a modern game these days with as much content as the original Pokémon games.

It set off a chain reaction in the industry, with clones as far as the eye could see within a year or two after launch. It’s easily outclassed by any recent Pokémon game, what with their infinite TMs, multiple evolutions, global trading system and online battles that don’t require you to actually find a flesh and blood human to start.

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But it’s still good. Damn good. Think of it as the original Star Wars movie compared to the recent Force Awakens. A doddering old fart that still has plenty of magic when compared to the newer, prettier and hipper offspring out there.Which one do you even go for? I’d put money on Pokémon Yellow personally.

It has sharper colours, a tweaked story and the chance to get your hands on all three starters without having to trade for them, due to the fact that it was heavily influenced by the mega-popular Pokémon cartoon. It also gives you a Pikachu shadow, an electric rat who operates as your own in-game tamagotchi, except this little bugger will shock you back.

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Nothing ever beats your first time. Sure, something sexier may eventually come along, but you can’t erase that initial memory from your brain. Whether it was magical and everything that you imagined, or an awkward scenario that resulted in a weird mess (Or so I’ve been told), the first time is always the real charm.

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Now, anyone looking to trade a Magmar for an Electabuzz?

Last Updated: February 29, 2016

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