21 September 2012

Remembering The Game Boy Pokémon

A few days ago I was walking through the George's Street Arcade (a sort of boutique market with some cafes rather than a videogame arcade (the latter never really took off in Europe)) and I saw a stand with a Game Boy Color.

I thought about it for awhile before circling back and buying it for €25 - used of course. It still has a back, that's rare I was told. It didn't matter, maybe a decade after giving my own away I had Game Boy Color again. The only retro console in my house.

It works. Now all I need is games.

Pokémon entertained me no-end back in the day, it still does, and having never grown up with Mario, Metroid or Zelda it's the one Nintendo franchise that I hold with any major reverence. Of course the shop didn't have any Pokémon games, neither did The Rage - a nearby vintage game store (and I know for a fact it had a copy of Pokémon Blue not that long ago).

So why would I want to buy games I've already played? Nostalgia is probably the best answer I can give you and Pokémon Yellow has never been remade - while the other first and second generation Pokémon games, which have been re-released, have never been released as downloads.

For me the early Pokémon games offered something more clear cut than their successors. There were only 150 Pokémon to catch for a start (there are now over 600) so yes it was easier in that regard but there was more too it than that.

The basis of each game has stayed much the same as it was when the franchise started, always a team of six Pokémon, always four moves per pocket monster and always a starter choice of three - either a fire, water, or grass type (Pokémon Yellow is the exception where only the electric Pikachu can be chosen).
Yellow and Black, the graphics may have advanced but the games are much the same.
Similarly the gameplay hasn't undergone any major revisions. Sure there new types of Pokémon and many new attacks but rock Pokémon have always been weak to water. You still go to a Pokémon Center to heal up after a battle and you still have access the Pokémon you can't take in your team from there (seriously, Game Freak people have mobiles and tablets now you need to update this feature).

Players still head to a Pokémon Mart to stockpile supplies for a long trip or a tough battle (a certain level 22 Miltank in Gold and Silver springs to mind) and there's always gym battles and the Pokémon League to get through. Yeah things do need to updated but the fact that the core for the series has remained untouched for so long is a testament to the foundation built in Yellow, Red and Blue.

How many other series can claim to be fundamentally unaltered after such a long period?

Pokémon Yellow came out in 1999 (in Europe) and Gold and Silver (released in Europe in 2001) mark a high point for the series that has not yet been matched (though Black and White have been the finest - and most innovative - since).

Red and Blue, as well as Gold and Silver, have been remade but until such time as they are released digitally in their original state nothing will quite match playing them on the console on which they were made. I'm looking forward to using my Game Boy Color and I'm looking forward to playing Pokémon on it all over again.

Oh, and Color should really be spelt with a 'u' Nintendo.

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