Pokémon: Nostalgia Review

You don’t get to 150 Pokémon, without making a Rival

Pokémon Red / Blue
Game Boy | Game Freak | September 1998

Nostalgia Reviews look back and highlight the greatest games of previous generations. The review is rooted in fond memories and appreciation of the game during that era. There are times when memories differ from reality or modern techniques are superior to earlier design.

Pokemon Loading ScreenCan one game save an entire console? If that game is Pokémon and that console the Game Boy than the answer is an enthusiastic, Yes! When Pokémon released in the states with a one-two punch of television show and videogame; children were playing Game Boy’s on the playground, parents were tired of hearing stats on how Pokémon evolve and an entire generation was infected with Pokérus.

Pokémon is the tale of ten year old boy who leaves home (don’t worry, children mature faster in the Kanto region) to discover all the pocket monsters in the world. Professor Oak will provide the first monster, but the player must capture, trade and evolve to earn the remaining 149. Along the way, players will grow a rivalry with a childhood friend, solve exploration puzzles, uncover a conspiracy to conquer the world and possibly become the greatest Pokémon champion ever…until the sequels.

What is a Critical Hit!

Deemed a simple kid’s game by most, Pokémon actually sports a complex battle system. Players control up to six monsters, which posses four moves, but can learn 40+ attacks. With fifteen class types, and some Pokémon sporting multiple classes, and a complicated chart of rock-paper-scissors-psychics to determine type advantages there is no one master team. A competitive community of battlers was created, who developed their own meta-game, classified the monsters into tiers (Mewtwo and Mew were uPokemon Allber because they broke the game) or modified moves that create an unfair advantage (can’t have more than one monster impacted by sleep). Though the campaign contained simple, pickup and play mechanics the player versus player battles took true tactics and strategy to win.

Everyone who played had a favorite Pokémon, usually Charizard. There was a good variety of powers, attributes and designs within that first batch of 150. If you ask fans who their favorite is today, most often the answer will come from the original group of Kanto residents. There were cute pixel monsters such as Jiggilypuff, Pikachu or Clefairy but were balanced by the more ferocious Scyther, Hitmonchan or Nidoking. Plus with “only” 150, capturing them all was a feasible feet.

Exploration within Pokémon expanded as the player gained additional abilities. Remember that odd looking bush from the beginning; with the right skill you might be able to cut it down. This backtracking method and route expansion helped provide an intricate system of traveling in the world, akin to Metroid gating sections until earning a certain power. The entire region was interconnected and even on foot, nothing was ever too far away. Once a trainer had the right tools, they could comb through previously explored areas for additional items, monsters or secrets.

What is Not Very Effective…

If you were a lone gamer, capturing all 150 monsters was an impossible task. The game required players to interact with others if they wanted Pokémon only available in the other verision, trade for alternative creatures when a choice must occur (such as with the starters) or evolve a handful of monsters. This was a great marketing campaign to encourage player engagement but a true pain Pokemon Battlepoint if you had no one to interact with.

Even by 1998 standards, the graphics on the Game Boy were lacking. Pokémon did the best it could with the black and white screen, but it had limits. The creatures were still during battles, assets were reused and the creatures were not accurately represented within the quick menu or over world.

Status Summary

Pokémon does an excellent job of being accessible and enjoyable to multiple types of gamers. Players who want to progress through the game’s story and sidequests are able to do so, at their leisure. OCD collectors will rummage through every cavern and waterway to catch each monster. Tacticians will match wits with their contemporaries. And fans of the television show will do their best to capture a Pikachu in Viridian Forest and recreate Ash’s team.

If you prefer games with high graphical fidelity or challenging AI opponents than this might not be the game to choose, but if you enjoy a surprisingly deep combat system, with a plethora of collectible companions based around solid RPG mechanics than this entry will evolve your gaming library.


Score: 9.5 /10
+ Variety of Monsters
+ Gated Exploration
+ Competitive Community
+ Trading with Friends
– Low Graphical Output
– Lone Gamers are Punished

Level Up, Friends!