#ThrowbackThursday: Pokemon Red and Blue

Last week was a small hiatus for Throwback Thursday, but this week brings it back with two games that people still pop in to this day: Pokémon Red and Blue. These games have had an influence in television, movies, and the physical trading card game. However, how do these games hold up today?

First of all, it must be said the turn-based gameplay is still being used in RPGs to this day, especially in the Pokémon series. The gameplay is fluid and holds the standard for RPGs even now. The different types of pokémon and their attacks have changed and expanded from the first generation of the Pokémon games, but the core gameplay still stands.

Something that sadly also continues to this day is the storyline. A professor, usually named after some sort of tree (Oak, Birch, Juniper) gives you and a rival a pokémon. You choose from a Grass-type, Fire-type and Water-type. Your rival will choose the pokémon that exploits your pokemon’s weakness. As the professor sends you two off to explore the world and prays that your ten-year-old bodies don’t get torn to shreds by wild monsters, you encounter a team of criminals led by a boss trying to capture a super-powerful pokémon.

Even though this story isn’t the best, it works for the gameplay. I mean, how else would you justify battling pokémon for your entertainment unless it is to battle criminals. That makes us the good guy, right?

The graphics are your standard fare for the Game boy, but the simplistic graphics are oddly charming. With the newer RPGs that put more of an emphasis on graphics and not enough on the mechanics, it is nice to see these Game boy graphics. The game looks amazing even in the battles, although the animations could have been better as demonstrated with the sequels Gold and Silver.

One more idea Pokémon utilized that still exists to this day is the idea of sharing. In order to fill your Pokédex with the reasonable amount of 151 pokémon, you would have to trade pokémon with a friend who had the other edition of the game. In theory, this was great–being able to trade pokémon around the schoolyard would become a recess pastime for years to come. On the other hand, I could only find people who had Pokémon Red, so that wasn’t the best idea.

Plus, as special mention has to go to the recent internet event known as Twitch Plays Pokémon, where a Twitch stream was used to emulate a version of Pokemon Red. Using comments and a Democracy/Anarchy system, the viewers would control what happened throughout the story. It took about two weeks of 24/7 gameplay to get to the Elite Four, but the even went on to inspire memes, a fandom and more Twitch Plays series.

All in all, there is a reason why this became Nintendo’s go-to franchise for their handhelds. This game and its remake, FireRed and LeafGreen, were games that people loved for its simplicity and charm. Without Pokémon, the Game boy and the handheld market in general would not be what it is today. The game sold the Gameboy and thus the handheld gaming market was launched into modern times. Pokémon is still a huge franchise with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire announced and Pokémon X and Y being a huge step up in the franchise. Even though there have been several iterations in the main game and several spinoffs in games like Pokémon Snap! and Pokémon Colosseum, it was Pokémon Red and Blue that have been in the hearts of many. Sure, Pokémon Gold and Silver was better because it was basically Red and Blue with much more content, but the original generation is still great in its own right.


Shawn Richards studies games to understand how they work. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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