Pokemon Blue

Year Released in US: 1998
System: Gameboy

Proving once again that I'm far from a lightning fast player, this game took me the better part of two years to complete. Much of that time was spend mindlessly leveling up, which is something I typically abhor in any RPG, but at the same time, I found I really wanted to level. Two more levels and my Psyduck will become a Golduck! Four more and my Lapras will learn Body Slam! You see how it goes. All this was made eviler by the fact I actually bought a strategy guide for this game. Not so much because I normally cheat my way through a game, but because of a few twinks that come with the fact this is a Gameboy game, and not the most advanced piece of software out there.

First of all, this is a game built around capturing little monsters (most of them being obscenely cute) with different attributes such as fire, water, and rock and building them into a powerful fighting team. You also get special items from various people in the game depending on how many different types of pokemon you have caught. As a result, it's not entirely surprising to have several dozen by the end of the game (I had 98 and I didn't go as capture crazy as I could have), even if you only use six of them on a regular basis.

One of the problems with managing such a large number of pokemon is the storage system used in the game. Dealing with it reminds you just how archaic a piece of equipment a Gameboy is. You have twelve boxes you can store pokemon in (they hold roughly 15-20 pokemon each). Obviously, you're going to wind up using several boxes. The annoying part though is that you must save the game each time you want to change boxes. Let's say you don't remember which box you left your Sandshrew in but you're dying for a Ground-type because you'll be fighting Electric enemies. You know it's in one of five boxes, but checking them all can be a huge pain. Even if you come up with a system for organizing your pokemon to minimize problems like that, it's still extremely annoying every time that reminder to save your game pops up.

A smaller annoyance is the fact that you can't even look inside a box unless you have space to hold a pokemon. Let's say you're currently pointed at Box 1 and you have a full load of six pokemon. You don't remember what's in box 1, but you think it might be the one with your Sandshrew. You can't check though because you already have six. So you have to deposit one (let's say it's Pikachu). Then you can open the box. Oops, the Sandshrew is not there. Well, time to grab Pikachu and then save and switch boxes again. Or you could leave Pikachu there. But maybe your party is set except for the sixth pokemon, and you want to compare Sandshrew and Pikachu to see who you'd rather bring along. Better grab Pikachu and repeat this process at all the other boxes until you find that Sandshrew. Needless to say, that can get extremely irritating when changing a team's lineup or trying to level up some of your secondary pokemon.

Another shortfall of this being a Gameboy game is the Technical Machines. These TMs teach special moves to pokemon, sometimes allowing them to learn something they would not have been able to otherwise. TMs are identified by number, and each one teaches a different move. The bad part is, there are fifty of them. The only way to check which move a TM has is to boot it up, which you can't do if they're stuck in storage (and most of the time they probably will be since they're no use in your personal inventory unless you plan to use them in the immediate future). This is what the strategy guide is most handy for. There's no way you can store all the items you need and the majority of the TMs you find in the game. There isn't enough space on you or in storage. So the guide saved me a lot of trouble shuffling equipment back and forth by letting me check except what each TM did and which I could afford to sell. Thank goodness for small miracles!

So yes, Pokemon is a management nightmare. But beyond the managing (and the incredible lack of a plot) it's actually kinda fun. There's something to be said for putting together a good team with diverse abilities capable of kicking the Elite Four from here to next week. Trainer versus trainer battles are undoubtedly the best part of the game. I also tend to be a person who likes to do everything (unless doing everything is extremely painful as it was in Final Fantasy VIII) so I spent a lot of time raising pokemon I wouldn't have touched otherwise. Sometimes it lead to a pleasant surprise. I discovered I liked using pokemon like Beedrill, Fearow, and Raticate, pokemon who seldom wind up in anyone's favorite lineup. If I ever go through this game again (I have a copy of Pokemon Yellow too so I wouldn't have to erase my Blue game to start over) I think I might do a few things differently.

The only thing I'm really not happy about is that I understand it's virtually impossible to get Mew without using a cheat device like a Game Genie or a Gameshark. In the Japanese version it was possible to get Mew by collecting all 150 pokemon (my brother has Pokemon Red so that would be possible for us), but that feature was taken out of the American version. Instead Mew is only available in Nintendo sanctioned giveaways. Bah... Forget that. I guess I'll never have my own Mew.

And if you'll excuse a bit of indulgence on my part, my final team that beat the game was Venusaur (level 53), Gyarados (level 42), Sandslash (level 41), Flareon (level 40), Articuno (level 50), and Pidgeot (level 36). Pidgeot was something of a last minute throwin because I couldn't decide who to round out the team with. Not that Pidgeot did any rounding, but he was the first pokemon I caught so I guess you could say he was there for sentimental reasons. Raichu might have been a better pick though since he was higher level (43) and an Electric-type. In any case, by the end of the final battle all of my pokemon, including Pidgeot, had served a vital role in handing me victory.

I think all that's left now is to make a run through the Unknown Dungeon and catch myself a Mewtwo.