While my childhood was meaningfully impacted by several different games, I can’t think of a single one that stands out more than Pokemon.
The year was 1998. Nintendo Power had been teasing Pokemon for what felt like, and may have actually been, the entire year. Eventually they started slipping comics into magazine issues, which I’d later learn were just transcripts from the upcoming anime. I was 11 going on 12 at the time, and this story where, when a child turns 10 they’re released into the world with a Pokemon by their side was just fascinating for me. As an adult parent I can now recognize how hilariously ridiculous the premise was, but back then I accepted the idea wholesale. Later that year the anime released, and my brother and I would watch and tape every episode onto VHS’s, fancy labels and all. Every night I dreamed of becoming a Pokemon Master.
Then Christmas came. I honestly can’t remember any other gift I got that day, because the morning ended with our parents bringing out a trash bag and dumping it out in front of us. Pokemon figurines, toys and all other odds and ends, but what stood out immediately were two purple Gameboy Colors and a copy each of Pokemon Red and Blue.
I don’t know that we left our room for about three days…
Every morning we’d wake up and grab our Gameboys and start playing, up at 7:00 and out of bed at 10:00!
This have changed a lot in the last 17 years, more than I’d honestly care for them to, but that memory of that Christmas is still a strong and important one to me. I still have that purple Gameboy Color sitting on my shelf, still with the “JEFF RULES!” label maker sticker on the back, still with Pokemon Red inside it, and it even still works.
Another memory was how badly my friends and I learned to break the game early on! Rare Candy and Master Ball duplication, MissingNo’s et al. I thought about playing the game the “right” way, but I think it would be a disservice to my childhood if I didn’t try my best to wreck things! I’ll save a proper playthrough for Pokemon FireRed later on in the project.
EDIT: Or maybe I’ll just play it straight, we’ll see how things go. Nostalgia may have me wanting to just take it all in again.
Leave it to my PVR to crap out and not record any gameplay… That’s probably alright, since nothing really happened. I started up a new game and, just like I did over a decade and a half ago, chose Squirtle as my starter. I made it to Pewter City and defeated Brock to get my first badge! Had a long day today, so I decided to turn in early anyway. Tomorrow will be Cerulean City and maybe, just maybe, a Mew…
I will say the original Gameboy sprites and music have caused a flood of nostalgia, and it’s easy to see how I would have become so engrossed in this world as a kid. It’s good to be back, if only for a visit.
Leading up to my lunch break today I was thinking about how I was going to tackle this game. I was still very early in it, and starting over wouldn’t be too much of a hassle. It’s the oddest thing… feeling guilty for not cheating…
Ultimately I decided that early Pokemon games were made to be broken!
I didn’t want to deal with the headaches of catching an Abra, which I’d need for the early Mew, so I started with the Experience Undertow glitch for the lv100 Gengar.
It took about 45 minutes straight just to get RNG to cooperate with me, but I did eventually get it. The hardest part of the glitch is getting a wild Pokemon battle to trigger on the same space that would trigger a trainer battle, then lose the fight. I actually got this to happen pretty quickly, but it was against a Kakuna and I wasn’t poisoned, so I couldn’t lose and had to reset.
Now it’s off to go show Brock my new Pokemon! I’ll save Mew for when I either get Fly, or get lucky and catch an Abra.
Man, playing through the early game with a lv100 Pokemon almost feels like cheating… Oh wait…
During lunch I managed to work my way through the first two gyms and Mt. Moon, and am headed towards Vermilion Town. Despite how hilarious overpowered I am, it’s still fun taking in all the old sites again. I’ve even stopped long enough to catch a few Pokemon for nostalgia’s sake.
I actually forgot all about Mt. Moon, which is funny because of how awesome I thought it was during my very first playthrough. Every area, from Viridian Forest to Mt. Moon, felt so special and unique, and the prospect of seeing brand new Pokemon for the first time was SO exciting. The anime had a lot to do with this, which is why I found Mt. Moon so exciting back as a kid. Not only could i finally catch a Clefairy, but I could pick up a Moon Stone right there in the same cave!
My next objective is to hurry up and grab Fly so I can get my Mew!
My next stop was aboard the S.S. Anne to grab Cut, opening up a large portion of the game to me. Also fought my rival again here, though I had a slight advantage this time… Getting to Vermilion was also interesting. I forgot that completely block off the center area for a while. Finally, before facing off against Lt. Surge, I got my Bike Voucher!
Speaking of Surge, the “Lightning American”, I forgot how horrible his gym was… The switch pzzle is just the stupidest thing in the world. “The second switch is right next to the first switch”, except it isn’t, or it is, but it’s still one of the eight adjacent options at random. I finally resorted to finding the first switch, saving, then restarting until I finally picked the correct location for the second.
With that out of the way I’m off to Lavender Town, I think. Before I can do that I need to navigate the dark Rock Cave, which made me realize that I missed Flash somewhere along the way, so I’m off to go find that now, too…
I wasn’t able to go back and get Flash, or at least I couldn’t figure out how to. It seems like, unless I’m missing a pth, the route from Pewter to Cerulean is one way. That’s fine though, as I decided I’d go ahead and try for that Mew now. The first trick was catching an Abra, which proved to be especially challenging. The only debuff I had access to was Gengar’s Confuse Ray, so I had to hope that not only would the confuse stick, but that it was stick long enough for me to catch Abra at nearly full health!
It wasn’t until the fifth or sixth Abra that I finally succeeded, and it was all downhill after that. The glitch requires me to engage a trainer and use Teleport at the same time, making the game think I’m in combat when I’m actually not. Then I go fight another trainer, pictured above, and win the match. That’s enough to get me a Mew, but I want a lv100 Mew, which means I need to Growl that Slowpoke into submission so that the Mew I encounter is lv1, basically identical to the the Gengar glitch.
Since my Charmander was so under-leveled and that Slowpoke hit like a truck, I had to weave two Potions between each Growl, but I did eventually pull it off. Teleport back to town, go back up the bridge and…
…then we gain a few XP…
With that out of the way it was time to revisit the darkened Rock Cave. I stocked up on several Repels to make the trip easier and slowly felt my way through the pitch black environment. One of the trainers I ran into asked me if I was into “Costume Playing”, a reference I’d have never gotten back n ’98. Actually the trainers were pretty much the only real hindrance in getting through the cave, which turned out to be pretty easy to navigate. I now found myself in Lavender Town, and was immediately reminded how fantastic the music there was!
Before continuing I decided to take a major detour to Celadon City where I would pick up both the HM for Fly (finally!) but also a Poke Doll.
The Poke Doll allows me to end the fight with the ghost of Marowak without going through all the trouble of getting the Silph Scope!
After saving Mr. Fuji, getting the Poke Flute, and picking up my fourth badge from Erika, it was off to Fuchsia Town.
My first stop was the gym with the “invisible” walls. It’s funny because I was never able to see the walls on my Gameboy but up on the TV they’re clear as day! Once I was done sparring with ninjas I took a trip to the Safari Zone to pick up both HMs for Surf and Strength. It was now time to hit up Saffron City…
I always found the big Team Rocket Hideout quests to be tedious, and Silph Co is no exception. After a maze of teleportation pads and locked doors, I finally squared of with Giovanni, got my Master Ball, and evicted Team Rocket from the city. With them gone I was able to take down the psychic gym leader, Sabrina.
After a very long swim and what felt like an even longer cave expedition, I arrived at Cinnabar Island. I don’t remember much about the Burned House from my very first time playing through this game, but I made sure to actually read the journal entries this time. The allusions to Mew and Mewtwo were a lot of fun. I like to image that my Mew was hovering over my shoulder reading the notes about her…
Blaine was easy enough, considering my Mew had both Bubble Beam and Surf… and also was lv100… I decided now would be a good time to fire up another classic glitch that we abused heavily back in the day. First I’d fly to Viridian and learn how to catch a Pokemon from an old man, then fly back to the island and do some surfing, until finally…
Ah, memories. Defeating MissingNo. will duplicate the 6th item in your inventory up to 100 copies. Capturing MissngNo, who is over lv100, will give you 255 of that item. I decided not to try and break my game and opted only to defeat him, duplicating Rare Candy, Master Ball and Elixirs after three encounters.
Defeating Giovanni again in Viridian’s gym granted me access to Victory Road and Indigo Plateau where I’d finally face off against the Elite Four, and my rival one last time.
The fights were all as easy as expected, all things considered, and just for fun I swapped out Mew for my Charizard when Gary threw out Blastoise. A well placed Fire Blast took him out in one shot…
This was a lot of fun for me, as this was the first time I’ve seen Pokemon Red/Blue in its entirety since 1998-1999. Everything was immediately familiar, yet somehow I found new things at every location. Breaking this game was also a ton of fun, just like it was as a kid, and I don’t feel like it detracted from my experience at all. Plus, I’ll have a chance to redeem myself once it comes time to play the remake on the GBA list.
The graphics are about right for a 1996 (Japan) Gameboy RPG and the music will literally stay with me forever. One thing I found particularly interesting was the the game’s colors were considerably better on a Super Gameboy than on an actual Gameboy Color! This tends to be the opposite with other games, so it was fun to see.
The flow of the game also felt much better than Pokemon Gold and Silver. Everything felt more streamlined while still giving you a sense of freedom.
While I still can’t recommend this game over current gen entries, the last few days made for a fantastically nostalgic trip down memory lane.
– This is where it all began! It still looks and sounds as good as any top tier Gamboy game of its time.
– Pacing of the game makes it a great portable option.
– It’s said these games were held together with duct tape, and it’s true. What I did to break the game barely scratches the surface of what’s possible!
– The feels!
– Game flow was “nearly” perfect, but miss-able items like Flash were annoying.
– While not horrible, it’s easy to see how far we’ve come in terms of interface design with the franchise. I’m looking at the inventory system in particular. I was even shocked to see a lack of XP bars, as I was sure those were supposed to be there!
– While not a dislike exactly, this game reminded me of how much I miss there only being 151 Pokemon to worry about…