It’s time to argue about Pokémon for a bit
In September of 1998, Pokémon Red and Blue were unleashed in North America. I remember the day very well, because, for weeks, there had been a little six inch sticker on the glass of the video games shelf at my local Super K-Mart that said “Pokémon is coming!”, with pictures of Blastoise and Pikachu under it and the date of the game’s release. This tiny piece of art left me entranced. Who was this gun turtle? Who was this fellow with the ears? I must get to know them. Commercials and Nintendo Power articles only heightended my anticipation, and when the game finally came out and I got my copy of the Red Version (along with a purple Game Boy Color,) I plopped down onto my living room floor and experienced video game perfection.
That was over twenty years ago, and the Pokémon series has changed a lot since then. However, my affinity for the first “generation” of the franchise (Red/Blue/Yellow) still stays strong, even if there are better games in the series. That said, twenty years gives people a lot of time to come up with strong opinions about these games that I don’t really agree with. I’m not saying that you’re not enjoying the games properly if you feel this way about them. I’m just saying that you’re wrong, possibly about everything.
And that’s why I’ve come to Crunchyoll to look over some of these beliefs and challenge them. It’s time to argue about Pokémon, y’all, in the first edition of EVERYTHING YOU GOT WRONG ABOUT POKEMON. Here, I’ll focus on Red/Blue/Yellow, and I don’t think there’s a better starting point than….
RED/BLUE/YELLOW ARE WAY LESS LINEAR THAN THE NEWER GAMES
I see this a lot, and it often feels less like we’re praising the old games, and more like we’re just mad at the new games always hustling us from Point A to Point B. Red/Blue/Yellow do have some non-linear aspects to them. For example, you can choose to challenge Koga in Fuschia City before you fight Sabrina in Saffron if you want to. Or, if you want to go to Cinnabar Island but feel like skipping the Seafoam Islands, you can just surf down there from Pallet Town and ignore those damp, dark, puzzle caves entirely.
But I think, a lot of times, we get linearity confused with the obscene amount of backtracking that’s involved in these games. Yeah, you get to move between towns in a lot of different ways, but you’re usually heading back through the same towns you’ve already visited. Heck, the first mission in the game is heading to Viridian City to pick up an item and then walking it back to start. When you first go to Cerulean City, you’re tasked with heading up to Bill’s house, walking back down through Cerulean to Vermillion, then going through Diglett’s Cave to Route 2 (where you’ve already been.) Then you go back through that same portion of Diglett’s Cave to Vermillion, and then up through Cerulean again, in order to finally get to Rock Tunnel. And you do most of this, not by travelling through vibrant areas, but by trudging through “Underground Paths,” because you’re not allowed to actually enter Saffron City yet.
I don’t expect a lush open world experience on a Game Boy, something that was only slightly more technologically advanced than a Pop Tart, but I also don’t believe that “You get to choose sometimes just HOW you want to backtrack” makes for an especially non-linear experience.
THE REGION IN POKEMON RED/BLUE/YELLOW IS SUPER DULL
Johto feels very rustic, and is beautifully bathed in its own tradition. Hoenn is filled with water and tropical areas. Sinnoh is mountainous and cold. Unova is full of metropolitan spots. Kalos is charming and often quaint. Alola is a big beach paradise. And Kanto has….ummm….paths.
Okay, I kind of see where this one is coming from. Kanto doesn’t have as strong of a theme as the other regions, and that’s because the Pokémon games were still in their infancy. They were still trying to nail down exactly what worked and what didn’t. But as someone that hails from North Carolina, I kind of appreciate what Kanto is more and more as I get older. Because Kanto has a lot of stuff to offer.
See, as all second grade public school classes in the state of NC will tell you, North Carolina is made up of three regions: the Mountains, the Piedmont, and the Coastal Plain. It’s got everything. But it’s not known for being a beach state or flat state, especially with South Carolina, Georgia and Florida being right below it. And while it has the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains running across its butt (I swear that this article isn’t just a tourist brochure for North Carolina), people sometimes tend to associate states like Virginia and West Virginia more with that range.
In short, North Carolina is the Kanto region. There’s a lot of beauty to find in it, even if you can’t describe it very simply.
RED/BLUE/YELLOW ARE WAY MORE DIFFICULT THAN NEWER GAMES
Again, this often feels more like a diss on the newer games than an accurate appraisal of the old ones. And while I’ll wait for my specific articles about those newer games to discuss the complaint that modern Pokémon games are for infants, I’d like to address the idea that Red/Blue/Yellow are the peak of Pokémon difficulty levels. Because, eh, not really.
It’s not that hard to plow through the games with one or two Pokémon if you’re willing to grind for a bit. In my first playthrough, I got a Charizard and a Dragonite, leveled them up copiously, and basically destroyed the world. Type differences do matter, but there’s less importance placed on having a well-balanced team and more on “My Pokémon’s levels are ten times higher than yours, so pray to your god for a swift demise.”
This is especially prevalent when you consider how few moves certain types have. There is one Dragon-type move and it does 40 damage no matter who you’re firing it at. There are three Ghost-type moves, and they do nothing against Psychic-type Pokémon (EVEN THOUGH THE ANIME PROMISED ME THAT GHOST MOVES WERE PSYCHIC-TYPE KRYPTONITE.) And the move Gust isn’t a Flying-type move. The move that the second Pokémon that you probably ever catch (Pidgey) knows isn’t even the type that it’s logically supposed to be. So good luck against all the Bugs that you’ll face in an hour.
So what do you do if you can’t really count on the type differences that have become standard in later games? You saddle your ‘mons with Blizzards and Fire Blasts and Thunders and Earthquakes and other absurdly powerful moves and you just kind of steamroll your way through the game. There can be some oddly challenging moments (If you pick Charmander, it will get crushed by Brock and Misty), but other than that, higher levels usually break down any problems you may have with type disadvantages. Kanto is a great region if you don’t want to put too much thought into crushing all who oppose you.
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Crunchyroll. He has a Twitter.
This article was originally published on Crunchyroll.