Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Love Letter toPok mon Red and Blue

With theof a brand spanking new pair of Pok mon games, Black 2 and White 2, Nintendo's Pocket Monsters are back in the media spotlight. I'm sure there are adults and kids out there whose first foray into the Pok mon series was with the original Black and White on the Nintendo DS, but I bet a large number of those people don't realize the humble origins of the series. They have a staggering 649 Pok mon now, did you know that? The series has certainly come a long way since its release over 10 years ago, but it's lost none of its addictive charm. Let's go back in time; back to the beginning.

Let me tell you why I love Pok mon Red and Blue.


Let me begin by saying I loved the Pok mon cartoon, but I had no idea a game even existed. I would come home every day after school and watch a brand new episode; I looked forward to seeing what crazy adventures Ash and Pikachu would get into next. If it became clear there was a Gym Leader battle coming up, I would get hopelessly excited. I was 10-years-old at the time, and it was getting close to my birthday, so I had to decide on what present I wanted.

"Pok mon," was the answer I gave.

Not knowing what exactly these "pokemen" were, my sister took me into town to help me pick out a present. We went into a store and lo and behold, there were stacks of a brand new Pok mon game that had just come out that week. My sister asked if that was what I wanted and, pretending I knew all about the game, I said of course it was. She bought me Pok mon Red and told me I could have it on my birthday. Fast forward to the night before the big day. I'm allowed to open one present before I go to bed. My sister's gift wasn't there, so my dad hands me another one instead. I had a sneaking suspicion that he'd bought me a Gameboy Color, and I was very happy when I saw the shape of the box. Excitedly, I ripped the wrapping paper from around the box with the energy only a 10-year-old can muster and saw my presentGodzilla on VHS. I didn't want to seem ungrateful, so I feigned surprise and told my dad it was awesome. He said I could go upstairs and watch it before I went to sleep, so off I went to my bedroom.

I turned the TV and VHS player on, ready for some giant lizard action, but when I opened the box there was no tape inside. Instead, there was a Gameboy Color already loaded with a copy of Pok mon Blue! Classic dad, the old switcheroo! This marked the beginning of my quest to become a Pok mon master.


The game was like nothing I had ever played before. My brother had a NES and a SNES, but we didn't have any Final Fantasy games, so turn-based combat was something I had no experience with. After choosing my first Pok mon, Bulbasaur (the choice of champions), I had my first battle with my rival. I was disappointed to see that neither Pok mon knew any cool moves yet, but I won the fight anyway and was ready to start my adventure. I battled my way to Pewter City to fight Brock, the first Gym Leader. Luckily I had been able to catch a few new Pok mon along the way, and Bulbasaur had just learned Vine Whip, so things went a lot better than I'd hoped. With my first badge in hand, I found out I had to go to a mysterious place called "Mount Moon." I'm sure you felt the same as me when you got there. "Why the hell are there so many Zubats?"

Luckily, fighting so many of those stupid bats had a payoff; my Bulbasaur evolved into an Ivysaur! It was at this point I knew I was hooked. Following this, nearly 150 hours were spent collecting Pok mon, battling trainers, trading, exploring and crafting a perfect team. I won't detail my entire adventure, but here are a few reasons why I knew I loved this game.


A pure adrenaline rush. Was there anything better than facing a Gym Leader with your favorite Pok mon? That moment when you realize your Pok mon are heavily outmatched is enough to break your heart; do you do the honorable thing and accept defeat? Or do you take the route of the coward, turning the game off and reloading a previous save?


One of the few gaming maps that I'm certain I could draw with my eyes closed, every corner of Kanto was a pleasure to discover. There was the darkness of Rock Tunnel, the skyscraper of Saffron City, the sprawling Safari Zone, the extremely creepy Lavender town and the industrial Power Plant; each one was filled with new Pok mon to add to the family.


From the opening theme you could tell the music of this game was going to be something special. There are so many memorable pieces that still stick in your mind; it's hard to believe they were composed for a Gameboy game. Who could forget the iconic Battle Theme or the soothing sounds of the Pok mon Center? From the music to the sound effects, it was all gold. It's definitely some of Nintendo's finest work.


The number of legendary Pok mon, as of the most recent game, now sits at 47. In the beginning there were only four: Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres and Mewtwo. These guys were the cream of the crop, the coolest Pok mon around. They were hidden in the deepest reaches of the world, where only the best trainers could seek them out. Catching one of these monsters cemented your claim as a Pok mon master. There was even a fifth legendary Pok mon, unobtainable in the game by conventional means and only hinted at by the story. This brings me to my next point


A secret Pok mon only available through special Nintendo events, Mew was a real trophy for a Pok mon trainer. Capable of learning any move and containing the DNA of all Pok mon, this little guy was a real mystery. His relationship with Mewtwo gave the player a glimpse into a deeper story than the surface hinted at. It also helped make me king of the playground for a while as I was able to clone my official Mew and give it to my friends! Thanks Nintendo!


Possibly the most famous glitch of all time, Missingno could be encountered on Cinnabar Island and came with a few strange effects. A battle with it would cause the sixth item in the trainer's bag to be duplicated multiple times (allowing for some cheeky Rare Candy exploits), if caught it could be evolved into a Kangaskhan, your Hall of Fame records would be ruined and you might even be unlucky enough to have your save file corrupted. Worth the risk? Possibly not. Awesome? Yes, to the max.

I could go on and on about these games for days. There's so much I haven't covered, like the version specific Pok mon or the special tournaments Nintendo set up, but I have to stop myself. I just want to finish by saying that even if the number of Pok mon is now reaching critically stupid levels and the amount of merchandise is frankly ridiculous, the series still holds a special place in this ol' gamer's heart. I tell myself every generation that I won't be suckered into buying another Pok mon game, but I always do, and I'm always glad I didn't listen to my stupid brain.
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