It’s funny that one of my highly anticipated is a rerelease of one of my very first video games. I’ll bitch and moan about all the HD rereleases of games less than 10, even 5, years ago. But when Nintendo remake or release an old school title, I’ll not just allow it, I’ll hyperventilate about it. All just because the nostalgia is stronger.
So when I jumped into Pokemon Blue, I started going through the motions- name my character, name my rival, go into the long grass, etc. It’s classic Pokemon, but really, what were you expecting? Unfortunately, the very bare-bones nature of being the first in the franchise did damage the overall feeling of nostalgia, like all things. Pokemon as a franchise evolved so much since these games, and it’s actually interesting to see how much we’ve been taking for granted in the more recent games! Even simple things like breeding, day/night cycle, running shoes… they’re simply not here in Gen 1. And training each Pokemon in your party individually! It’s a lengthier process, but having more direct input to how your Pokemon are trained is actually a lot better in the long run.
I also knew exactly where to go, what Pokemon evolved to what, at what level, so the feeling of discovery was just never going to happen while replaying Blue. Which is sort of a bummer, but again, expected. I blew through Blue in just a few days, catching all the Legendary birds, then taking on the Elite Four- and beating them first try. It was all part of a formula that we still see today, and still works.
Despite all this, the game is still… fun. It’s simpler. I mean, of course it is, but the simplicity means I can go through and focus on multiple Pokemon. I could beat a gym, then go hunt for new Pokemon. I could spend an hour or so in the Safari Zone. It just feels like an overall “One thing at a time” experience. In the newer games, there’s an overarching story, your rivals are a bit more present, and there’s a stronger end game. In Gen 1, your rival will show up in just a handful of places, the Team Rocket subplot is solved in 2-3 encounters, and the main goals are to just become the Pokemon Champion and complete your Pokedex. It was, I suppose, a lot more disjointed.
But of course, when I first played this as a child, I made many mistakes. I defeated the birds and the two Snorlax’s without realising I could catch them. I didn’t catch Mewtwo until a friend pointed out it existed, and when I tried, I defeated it. I didn’t even think to save and restart the Game Boy! So going back to Blue while learning from these mistakes, I managed to make a much better run of it, catching every legendary, and even finding a Dratini!
I’d still have a hard time recommending these games to someone who wasn’t caught up in the zeitgeist in the 90s. It’s rather obtuse when it comes to figuring out where to go, especially when it comes to the Team Rocket storyline and Cinnabar Island. But for anyone around my age, who grew up with Pokemon so prominent in their lives, get it. Relive it. See how far it’s come, in every aspect. Art, music, mechanics- it’s amazing.
Here’s to another 20 years of Pokemon!