From the opening Gamefreak jingle to the iconic music, booting up Pokémon Red felt like meeting an old friend from twenty years ago… and that’s exactly what it was.
Growing up in the mid 1990’s was a fun era for gamers. We had Nintendo and Sega at loggerheads, whilst new kid on the block, Playstation, wowed us stole our loyalty from our childhood heroes. Even PC gaming was slowly and quietly building up a fan-base with games like ‘Warcraft’ and ‘Command & Conquer,’ coming into their own. Yet all of a sudden we saw herds of children and teens alike, grabbing their old black and white Gameboy consoles and bury their heads for hours at a time. The reason? Pokémon had arrived. Now twenty years on, the game has changed dramatically. From the little black and white sprites and basic music we now have beautiful multi colour three-dimensional characters, crisp HD music and six (soon to be seven) generations of pocket monsters to remember.
For the 20th Anniversary we had our nostalgia tested to its limits as Pokémon Direct made Red, Blue and Yellow, available as a digital downloads on the 3ds. It was a gamble… and it paid off. Original players of the game, now most likely in their thirties scrambled to reclaim their lost youth, with Pokémon Yellow seeing to be the most popular. Whilst Red and Blue were inspired by the insanely popular tv series, yellow was actually inspired by it. The promise of an interactive Pikachu, all three starters and, Jessie James and Meowth seemed too good of a deal – I myself personally downloaded Red and Yellow.
The game itself hasn’t changed, why mess with a classic? Of course it’s running on a much more powerful platform and for that, it’s been fined tuned. Controls are responsive and the sound seems clearer but the surprising thing is that the glitches of the game have deliberately been left in too. These aren’t the kind of glitches that make the game unplayable but rather unlock hidden items and characters – the most famous ones being Mew on nugget bridge and the ‘Missingo’ encounter, used to create endless supplies of items. Like I said, why mess with a classic? The one and only change doesn’t appear until Pokémon yellow. This version of the game bought a splash of colour to the black and white world and was one of the first games for Gameboy colour. Whilst most of us were dazzled by this leap in technology, one very distinct character was noticed for all the wrong reasons. ‘Jynx’ is a ‘human shape Pokémon’ and was originally portrayed as having a black face, and large pink lips… sadly the attention on these details and the floodgates opened for racist remarks and complaints. Since then her skin tone has been changed to purple and people seem to have calmed down. However if you have an old version of Pokémon yellow, you can see Jynx in her original glory that simply doesn’t exist anymore.
Of course the technology of the new system does add some very neat extras. For example years ago if you wanted to trade monsters (remember you MUST trade between two games to complete your Pokedex) you had to meet up with someone who had Pokémon Blue – if you had Red and vice versa- armed with a connecting cable and trade your monsters that way. Of course thanks to the power of the internet and wi-fi, the desk to the ‘Cable Club’ still exists and still goes by the same name, but trading just got a whole lot easier and convenient meaning that you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your room or see another human face to complete the game. (Yay?)
Building on this is the final drawback ironed out thanks to Pokémon bank. When Nintendo began churning out generation after generation of monsters, many people wanted to know one very simple thing. Can my original team be transferred across to newer cartridges? The short answer was no, no they cannot. This was disappointing not least because it meant trawling through the games to find old Pokémon – some of them infuriatingly rare and difficult to find- to get your team to be complete again. Now of course, we have the ingenious invention Pokémon bank – a virtual storage system meaning that generations can be moved seamlessly from one system to another. And with more games and almost certainly more games on the horizon, it may be the case of mixing old with the new to become a true Pokémon Master – until gen 8 at least!
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