Pokťmon FireRed & LeafGreen
What were you doing in 1998? Were you some tiny freshman trying to make it through high school? Were you just starting on your very first paying job? Were you blissfully unaware as your adolescent existence protected you from the reality of impending adulthood? Just thinking about the good old days can bring a little tear to my eye. While I canít predict the precise actions of every gamer around the world, I can bet that the majority of Americaís teenybopper population was caught up in a craze of incredible proportions. That little yellow rat called Pikachu burst into the mainstream of pop culture, cementing a new Nintendo franchise almost overnight. Letís be honest here-Who didnít hear of Pokemon all those years ago? How long was it before the phrase ďGotta catch Ďem allĒ was drilled into your memory? And when that first batch of Pokemon games came stateside, how many of you obsessively collected all 150 of the critters and annihilated the Elite Four? Iím sure Iím not the only one with fond memories of that first game. So when I heard that an updated remake of the original was being released, I knew it was time to satisfy my Pokemon craving yet again.
Itís been a while since all the faithful fans have seen the Kanto region. After having to deal with Hoenn in the last installment of the series, chances are that youíre ready for a nice homecoming back in Pallet Town. And while itís good to be back where the Pokemon adventure really started, youíve still got quite an adventure ahead of you. As a mere child of ten, itís your obligation to undertake a journey, a quest of incredible scope and difficulty. Using some tenacity, advanced technology, and a truckload of luck, you must catch some wild animals called Pokemon. These strange and wonderful creatures co-exist with humans, but offer plenty in terms of economy, lifestyle, and emotional security in general. However, the main trend lies solely with catching the critters and training them to battle each other. The more the Pokemon battle, the more powerful they become, and the more prestige youíll attain. As you battle your way through the game, youíll make a few friends, take out some formidable enemies, and challenge some of the most powerful Pokemon Trainers of all time. If you manage to overcome the adversity, you will become the Pokemon Champion, the greatest trainer to ever grace the region of Kanto.
You begin in Pallet Town, a humble community of only your family and a few neighbors. Before you embark on your epic journey, youíre only given one Pokemon to see you through your trials and tribulations. But as you traverse into the heart of Kanto, youíll get the opportunity to acquire new and varied species, thereby allowing you to build up a team of loyal friends ready to fight for you. All you have to do is sic your faithful pet on a wild Pokemon, weaken it, and then use a tiny sphere called a Pokeball to capture it. Once the newly acquired Pokemon is secured, you now have another addition to your ever-growing empire. Thus the vicious cycle of catching and battling continues throughout the game, letting you build up your forces for the countless adversaries youíll meet along the way. You didnít honestly think that you were the only Pokemon trainer in Kanto, did you? Youíll meet up with plenty of other people with their own teams of Pokemon, ready and willing to take you out of the competition. You have to travel from town to town, taking whatever trainer may come at you. Youíll also have to challenge the various Gym Leaders that operate in the different cities. With each Gym Leader that you beat, the more recognition youíll attain, allowing you to mingle and battle with the some of the truly great trainers of the region.
Itís the same concept that weíve all grown to love or despise. You catch a Pokemon, level it to a certain extent, defeat a Gym Leader, and move on. Itís the same tried and true gameplay setup that was used in the original Red and Blue versions. However, there have been a few changes to the old Gameboy game that we all know and love. The entire game map has been expanded and fleshed out, giving a refreshing look at Kanto in its entirety. While the old locales havenít changed their initial positions on the map, everything looks drastically different. Veterans of the game will notice that the various roads and routes have been revamped with new sections, level design, and a vast amount of trainers. Also, the game designers have taken the game design used in Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire and grafted onto this older game. Itís only a few little changes, like the blue experience point gauge on the battle screen or the Running Shoes. Also, the Pokemon themselves have been updated. Not only to you get to see Charmander, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and the rest of the original lineup, but you also get to take a look at their personalities, and their preferences. While these may not sound like much, they add a whole new dimension as to how your battles play out. You can some items that were never used in the old game, like the Fame Checker, the Berry Pouch, and the Teachy TV. While these new features may offer little to seasoned Pokemon veterans, they have a still give out a wealth of information.
But despite the flash and flair of this latest installment, the core of the gameplay remains unchanged. Youíve still got to train your Pokemon if you ever hope of making it through this game. You have to assess your Pokemonís weaknesses and figure out how to use it to your advantage. When in battle, every Pokemon has some sort of weakness, some sort of vulnerability for you to exploit. You could create a team of nothing but Fire Pokemon, letting your Charizard, Arcanine, and Ninetales burn everything to a crisp. But what happens if you come up against a team of Water Pokemon? Youíll watch in despair as your precious Fire Pokemon are drowned out as wave after wave of Water attacks slams the team. How can you get around that obvious weakness? Itís up to you to create a balanced team of Pokemon, a team where one Pokemonís strengths can help protect anotherís weakness. You have to come up with some sort of strategy if you ever hope to win the day.If you somehow find that balance between power and limitations, you will be able to annihilate anything in your path.
However, the actual collecting of the Pokemon still remains the most addictive part of this game. For all of you that are obsessed with collecting, welcome to paradise. As usual, youíre given the choice of one of three Pokemon at the very beginning of the game. However, your collection of the pocket monsters will grow as you progress through the game. The Fire Red and Leaf Green versions of the Pokemon series allows you access to all 386 species of Pokemon, a feat unmatched by all previous series installments. You can amass your forces by the hundreds, greedily hoarding every single specimen until your faithful Pokedex is completed. Letís face it, there are plenty of bragging rights when you have every Pokemon in existence. Since this game allows you to track down and trade every Pokemon, you will spend countless hours hunting down all of them. With such an unprecedented roster at your disposal, you can fine-tune your Pokemon dream teams until you create the most dominant fighting force to ever be assembled.
And as you gaze proudly at your ultimate collection of Pokemon, youíll get even more satisfaction out of their revamped designs. Quite a few of the original species have been redrawn with a refreshing amount of detail and coloring, offering a more vibrant presentation. You can proudly show off your super-charged Pikachu with its red little cheeks and its sleek yellow skin. Also, all of the towns, paths, and locales have been redone, allowing for more detail and an improved vision of the Pokemon world we all used to know. Even most of characters are decked out with a whole new set of clothes. Also, most of the music tracks have been remixed, offering a wonderful blend of both new and old tunes for your journey. Unfortunately, most of the sound effects remain the same. All of the Pokemon have retained their old voices, which mainly consist digital squawking and garbled nonsense. While the battle cries may be a little hard on the ears, the other sound effects make up for it. While it may not be spotless, this games presentation is just what veterans of the original games are hoping for.
When will Pokemon die out? How many more versions will come our way? How many Pokemon will it take before this great franchise is finally laid to rest? With the advent of the Fire Red and Leaf Green series, the future of the Pokemon series looks pretty bright. While Nintendo has been serving up re-releases of their classic and groundbreaking games of old, they still didnít forget to serve its loyal Pokemon fans. With this fresh spin on the oldest Pokemon game in the series, we now have yet another reason to pick up our Gameboys and start catching Ďem all again. This game was built to appeal to both the veterans of the series and the new folks just itching to give Pokemon a try. Itís a fair bet that the fans will get this game without much hesitation. But if youíre into collecting, this is the ultimate GBA game to add to your library. If you canít stand repetition, avoid this game like the plague. And if youíre a veteran to the series, be prepared to embark on that journey, one more time.
Nine out of ten