Pokémon nostalgia is at a high right now as the Gold and Silver version re-releases appeared in stores earlier this week for the #Nintendo 3DS. There is something immensely appealing about the idea of choosing a starter companion and walking around the colourful world of Pokémon, catching new members for your team and growing stronger together.
As far as nostalgia for the #Pokémon series goes, there is perhaps no game with such a devoted fanbase as the originals; Pokémon Red and Blue (technically Red and Green in Japan, but who's counting?). It's where the series began, and where many gamers - including myself - first found themselves introduced to the world of Pokémon. There is even a section of the fanbase (sometimes referred to as "Genwunners") who refuse to accept anything outside of Pokémon Red and Blue as valid additions to the series. They believe the designs of the original 151 are perfect and the region of Kanto was never surpassed in quality.
As is so often the case with nostalgia, however, the collective memory of Pokémon Red and Blue is blind to the myriad of flaws these games had. If you take a step back and replay these games again, comparing them to more recent additions to the series, it becomes clear that in many ways Pokémon Red and Blue are not as good as gamers remember. Here are the main five reasons I have identified for this being the case.
1) Seriously Flawed Battle Mechanics
There are so many weird design choices or outright programming errors related to Pokémon battles in Red and Blue that I could probably write an entire list about these alone. Here are some of the biggest offenders:
- Wrap, Bind, Fire Spin and Clamp prevented the opponent from taking ANY actions for the next 2-5 turns. You could very easily be locked into an infinite-wrap cycle and suffer a slow and boring defeat.
- Pokémon waking up from a Sleep effect took an entire turn doing so, meaning they can't attack on the turn they wake up and effectively broadcast to your opponent that you're ready to be put back to sleep!
- Critical Hits were based off speed, so fast Pokémon could sweep through entire teams with little opportunity for retaliation. Tauros, with 110 base speed, will critical hit OVER 20% OF THE TIME because of this.
- Focus Energy is supposed to double your Critical Hit rate. It actually cuts it by 75% due to a programming error.
- All moves (aside from Swift) have at least a 1/256 chance of missing, even if they are listed as a 100 Accuracy move. What's the point (or fun) in that?
2) The "Special" Stat
Technically this could be seen as a battle mechanic, but it's so outrageously imbalanced that it really does need a section of its own.
In Pokémon Red and Blue, instead of having a separate "Special Attack" and "Special Defence" stat, there was a single "SPECIAL" stat that effectively combined the two. This means any Pokémon with a high Special stat is naturally much more useful than ones with a low Special, since they dealt more damage and took less damage in return.
In general, this meant Pokémon of the psychic type - who's main gimmick was their powerful Special attacks - were as bulky as they were powerful. Just the idea of an Alakazam playing the role of a tank instead of a glass cannon is ridiculous to think about, and yet in Pokémon Red and Blue that's how it was.
Thankfully Nintendo realised how imbalanced this was for the competitive side of the game and split the Special stat in future releases.
3) Glitches! So Many Glitches!
The amount of content Nintendo managed to squeeze onto the cartridges of Pokémon Red and Blue was extraordinary, but with such an ambitious game there were always going to be errors and glitches that made their way through.
One of the most notorious of these was the "Missingno" glitch, whereby following a fairly simple set of instructions you could cause a horrible mess of a Pokémon to appear. Defeating it would cause the item in your sixth slot to multiply hundreds of times (hello, infinite Rare Candies and Master Balls!)... catching it would permanently glitch up your Hall of Fame until you started a new save file.
There were loads of other smaller glitches throughout the original games too:
- There's a hotel in Celadon City which has an invisible (and fully functional) PC
- By switching your game off while trading, you can duplicate Pokémon.
- You can skip the first gym entirely by performing certain movement actions near the NPC guarding the exit to the city.
- By performing certain actions in the Safari Zone, it was possible to be thrown into an entire "Glitch City" - oh, and if you don't have a Pokémon that knows Fly or Teleport, you're stuck in there forever.
4) The Original 151 Aren't Perfect!
One of the main criticisms the "Genwunners" have against the newer Pokémon titles is the design of the new Pokémon themselves. It's often said that Nintendo has run out of ideas and the designs reflect that (Trubbish is often cited as an example of this).
And yes, maybe having a trash-bag Pokémon and one that is literally just an ice cream aren't the most inspiring designs ever, but there are tons of cool new ones coming out all the time. As well as this, just LOOK at some of the original 151 Pokémon designs. The game is filled with examples of Pokémon that would be ridiculed as "running out of ideas" or simply ridiculous if they were to come out today, but they seem to get a free pass by many gamers simply because they starred in the original games.
And some of the most well-liked Pokémon from Red and Blue aren't impressive at all in their first appearance: powerful Dragon types like Dragonite only had a single Dragon type move to their name - Dragon Rage - which was a pathetic 40-power move. Not really doing the awesome designs justice there.
5) The Newer Games Added So Much
Don't let anybody tell you that Pokémon Red and Blue contained everything the series needed for it to have a successful future without changing anything or adding significant areas of content.
There were so many areas to improve on, both for the competitive players and the ones who just wanted to enjoy a great game. Every single Pokémon game released has added great things to the series and kept it fresh. A lot of these mechanics listed below completely revolutionised the way these games are played, and the series would not be as popular as it is today without them.
- Generation 2: Held items, Special Defence/Attack Split, Dark and Steel types, Day/Night cycle, Female character option, Weather, Happiness, Breeding.
- Generation 3: Double battles, Abilities, Natures, Battle Frontier, Contests, Vs Seeker, Running Shoes, Secret Bases
- Generation 4: Online capability, Physical/Special move split
- Generation 5: Triple and rotation battles, Pokémon World Tournament, Seasons, the Dreamworld, Difficulty settings, Infinite TM usage
- Generation 6: EV stats visible, Super Training, Mega Evolutions, Fairy Type, Trainer Customisation
- Generation 7: End of Grid-Based Movement, Z-Moves, Festival Plaza, Poké Pelago, Type Effectiveness Displayed in Battle, Battle Royal.
Pokémon Red and Blue are still legendary games, and they are well worth playing today, despite their flaws. They acted as a solid foundation for all the games to come afterward and build on, and this role is so important.
The world of Kanto is still a great one to explore, but I would suggest doing so through the remakes Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green if you want a more pleasant gaming experience, since they feature some of the improvements added to the series as listed above.
Looking at how far the series has come since the original titles, I am so excited to see what Nintendo does with Pokémon in the future, as they continue to develop the new generation on Nintendo #Switch.