- Developer: Game Freak
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Available On: Game Boy, 3DS Virtual Console
- Release Date: September 28, 1998 (Game Boy), February 27, 2016 (3DS Virtual Console)
- Version Reviewed: Game Boy
Back in 1998, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue brought the pocket monsters craze to the US. Nearly every Game Boy had one version or the other in it. Friendly rivalries were formed to see who was the strongest in battle, as well as help to catch all 150 different species available between the two versions. If not for Pokémon Blue, I doubt I would have become a fan of the Pokémon universe. My journey to fill up my Pokédex with all 150 entries, and eventually receiving a Mew to complete my collection at 151 Pokémon solidified my love for this series.
Pokémon Red and Blue are two halves of the same game. Story-wise, everything plays out exactly the same in both versions. You are a 10 year old from the town of Palette that is leaving home to become a Pokémon Master after receiving your partner from Professor Oak. After picking either Squirtle the Water type, Bulbasaur the Grass/Poison type or Charmander the Fire type, you have your first battle against your rival who chooses whichever will be strong against your choice. From here you travel the land of Kanto, adding Pokémon to your team, winning Gym Badges and finally face the Elite Four in hopes of becoming the Pokémon Champion!
Here is where I have to remove the “nostalgia glasses.” Given the original hardware limitations and the time period Red and Blue were originally released, these games look great. But that does not mean they have aged well. I did my play through of Pokémon Blue on the Nintendo 64 using a copy of Pokémon Stadium and the N64 Transfer Pak. While the display of a Game Boy is green and black, this setup allowed for some additional colors here and there. However, even though my play through was a tad prettier than if I played on the Game Boy, the game still suffers from outdated graphics that newer players may not find appealing.
Not a whole lot has changed between Red/Blue and Sun/Moon when it comes to gameplay. You get a starter, win battles and become the champion. All throughout your journey, you encounter different Pokémon depending on the environment you are in and capture them to fill the 5 remaining slots for your dream team. You also take time defeat other Trainers in turn-based battles. You even get to take down a Pokémon crime syndicate. Seems simple enough, right? Well there is a bit more to the battling part. Battling can get pretty tricky. Each Pokémon has one or two elemental types. These types not only determine the move set that it can learn, but also determines strengths and weakness. While Water types are strong against Fire or Rock types, they are weak against Grass or Electric types. Even if your Blastoise (Water type) is at level 50, a level 35 Raichu (Electric type) could still pose a significant threat. As simple as the overall gameplay is, type advantages add an extra layer of strategy that keeps you on your feet when it comes to developing your team.
Being one of the first games in the series, Pokémon Blue has its flaws. But there is not much that really constitutes as a struggle in this one. Players that have played the newer titles maybe have trouble adapting to some different typings and evolutions, but overall this is a pretty solid game that does not take long to learn. The only time you may encounter a challenge will be facing the Elite Four and the final showdown against your rival. These five battles occur back-to-back against the best of the best. Unless you have stocked up on healing items, you will not be able to heal your team in between these battles. Aside from this, completing the Pokédex can be a daunting, if not impossible task. Playing on the original Game Boy, it may be nearly impossible to find someone with the console, game and a link cable to trade with. 3DS players can utilize the Pokémon Bank so that makes it easier for them. But no matter which version you play, if you want to add the legendary Mewtwo to your team, you better not waste your one and only Master Ball.
Pokémon Blue – Verdict
For me, playing Pokémon Blue was like going back to my childhood. While I never found the game to be unfair or not fun, I found myself missing features from the newer installments. The biggest thing I kept forgetting was that there was no Physical/Special split in the first generation titles. That does not change the game experience too much, but it was an inconvenience that was hard to overcome. There were also times where the overall story kind of stalled around the Lavender Town arc. It takes a long time to get from one Gym to the next during this and I found myself starting to lose interest. However, even though the story slows down here, it is a good opportunity to level up the Pokémon that you know will be on your final team against the Elite Four and the final showdown with your rival. Should Pokemon Blue have a space in you library? I can honestly say that even when I take the “nostalgia glasses” off, Pokémon Blue is still a fun game and any fan of the series should give it a play!
Have you played Pokémon Blue (or Red)? Let us know what you think of the game in the comments below!