Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Retro Game Review: Pokémon (Red and Blue)

Hey, pals!

This review comes as a suggestion from loyal reader/listener, Brian Amato - thank you, good sir! I realize that I will probably fall into the very easy trap of bringing up later games in the series, but I will try my best to stick to the first two. I may delve into the Yellow Version just a bit, since it is a part of Generation I, but for the most part this post will cover the first two games of the Pokémon franchise released in the United States. Let's go!

*NOTE: This post will have a bunch of pictures and embedded videos, just in case your fancy gadget is ancient or your WiFi is trash.*

These games were introduced to me at the perfect time: I was the same age [10] as the main character in their release year, and my brother, Bill, was 12. He got Red, I got Blue, Uncle Mike gave us a Link Cable that Christmas - we had it made! If I could go back and replay any game for the first time, it would be this one. To be able to experience that sense of wonder again? It would be fantastic.

Each time the music changed to signal a wild beast appeared was an adventure on its own: What would it look like? Would it have a cool name? Would I be able to capture it? And if I did, would it be good for my team? (Not knowing about type advantages made the first time through a bit challenging, but learning about them was part of the fun.)

I cannot go any further without talking about the music in these games. As you know, I love me some video game music - I even made an entire episode of my live show out of it. I realize that the tunes aren't much more than MIDI tones, but it says something about them when I'm still humming along after all this time. My favorite tune? The S.S. Anne, which made the fact that the ship leaves the game for good by default a real bummer.

I also thoroughly enjoy the theme when Professor Oak welcomes you to the game, which is reused on Nugget Bridge, but the...rarity(?) of the ship theme gave it the nod. Other great tunes from this game for me include but are not limited to: Routes 1, 12, and 22; Cinnabar Mansion, and the Silph Co. Man, this game has great music.

Speaking of Silph Co. in Saffron City, that is my favorite location in the game. That you can't get into the city - then also the building - right away helps, I think. It's like an exclusive club opened up in your neighborhood. (Where would The Meter Room be in Kanto, anyway?) Plenty of opportunities to earn money and experience, a bunch of good items - TM26! - scattered throughout, a Rival battle, and a free Lapras. And I didn't even mention the warp tiles, the Giovanni fight, or the Master Ball! The Silph Co. office is tremendous.

I will admit that the grind of this game wore on me a bit, especially because I preferred to have my team leveled as high as I could before progressing. This took a while, but the payoff was great. (The process was eventually made shorter by a famous glitch/cheat, which we'll get to later.) Being able to really earn the experience growing my team and roll into Indigo Plateau was so satisfying. Gaining access to Mewtwo was also awesome, especially after reading the journals inside Cinnabar Mansion. It was a bit of a bummer though to excitedly go back to Celadon Mansion for your Pokédex completion reward and see this:

Thinking about it now, I'm not sure what a more suitable reward could have been. A final "official" battle with the Professor (similar to what awaited you at Mt. Silver as Generation II Champion) featuring high-level starters would have been pretty great, though.

Okay before we get to what the good people had to say, let's talk about some of the fun stuff: ideal teams and fun cheats. I'll start with my first squad:


I started with Squirtle, so of course my man got to ride with me to the end. Blizzard, Hydro Pump, Surf, and Ice Beam (or Skull Bash - can't remember the first list) made him a true force.


Its portrayal in the anime is probably what led to this, but Onix is my favorite Pokémon. Attack power is not strong at all, but the defense makes up for it. This is the one time I can use a move like Bide and be okay with it - dude can take a beating.


This is when it helped to have a buddy with a Link Cable. Kadabra is great on its own, but the final form is faster. Plus Psychic Pokémon were ridiculously overpowered in these games, so you couldn't go wrong having one in your party.


Catching Pikachu in Viridian Forest was a wonderful surprise. Raising in to a high level [for the speed!] before cashing in on the Thunderstone? Incredible.


I didn't learn about the level-100 glitch until years later, but this dude was legit either way. It probably would have worked out better for Blue to use this guy instead of Exeggutor (I do not understand the love here) - there's a reason Giovanni uses one, after all. That Earthquake/Thrash combo was lethal!


To this day I have no idea why Muk made my initial team, but it was a good choice. There's no real weakness for it on Indigo Plateau, and dropping Toxic on most opponents meant the end of the line.

I have swapped in some different dudes in replays (Slowbro was a beast in this generation, for example), but this was the first team I used to become the Champion.


Cheats and Glitches

A few of these will come up in your thoughts below, but I wanted to highlight some of the famous "fun stuff" that could be done in these games separately. Am I going to provide the steps to do these? Probably - I'm already this far and I have the screenshots.

MissingNo/'M: Infinite items

I think this was the most popular glitch for this game. If not, it was at least the first one I knew. This trick allowed you to duplicate items in your sixth slot to infinity 128 by utilizing the Old Man in Viridian City. You let him show you how to catch Pokémon,

then Fly to Cinnabar Island and surf along the coast

until you're greeted by this...thing (I couldn't get MissingNo to appear, but the game effect is the same):

Then whichever item is in your sixth slot will be duplicated and have a fun symbol next to the number. This means you can skip the grind by cloning some Rare Candy, clone a TM or several, and - my favorite, no longer worry about those tough Pokémon with way more than one Master Ball.

(The only downside I've found is that the graphics and music for your Hall of Fame will be warped, but my save files have been just fine.)

Fighting Safari Zone Pokémon in the Wild

Okay so I lied up there: this is the first "glitch" I knew. I'm not sure if this was supposed to happen, but when you surf along a coastline like Cinnabar or, how I learned it, Seafoam Islands

you could fight Pokémon from whichever area you were in last. This is why you may encounter random Sandshrew and Fearow at Cinnabar during the MissingNo process. This means that you can use all of your steps in a certain area of the Safari Zone, then surf southwest and have a much easier time capturing that Chansey. I am glad this also works at Cinnabar, because it's quite a bit faster.

The Ditto Glitch

This one was super fun: you not only got "legit" access to Mew, but you could use this method to catch any Pokémon you wanted. It was a bit of a process for the second part, but getting Mew was easy and you could do it as early as Cerulean City.

The gist: Find a long-range trainer and pause the game before you're spotted. Fly to Cerulean City and fight "The Mew Trainer" below - he has to walk up to you just like the Route 8 guy below would have or the game will freeze. When you return to Route 8, your menu will appear. Press B and you will be challenged by a level 7 Mew.

The first guide for this trick I read said to use this guy on Route 8 outside of Lavender Town:

But that means you have to skip "The Mew Trainer" and his Slowpoke on Route 25 and come back after you have Fly.

I learned years later that you can use the kid hiding from the Nugget Bridge trainers - and Teleport instead of Fly - which means you could have Mew or a number of other Pokémon before winning your second badge.

This glitch is based on the Special stat of the Pokémon you want. The Slowpoke you defeat has a Special stat of 21, which is the same as a level 7 Mew. The reason Mew appears when you return to the area is because the game still thinks you are about to engage in battle in that place.

To get any Pokémon: Fly from your first long-range trainer to Fuchsia City. Walk east to Route 15 and fight a different long-range trainer. Then search the grass until you find a Ditto. Allow it to transform into the Pokémon with the correct Special stat, then either defeat it or run. It must be the last Pokémon you encounter. Return to where you escaped from your first trainer - Route 8 most likely - and your menu should appear. Press B and you will be challenged by whichever Pokémon has the same Special stat as the one Ditto copied.

Here is a list of the Special stat your Pokémon needs to have to make the Ditto Glitch work (copied from Bulbapedia):

I really hope that spoiler tag code I used works, because the table is massive.

Level 100 Pokémon in Viridian Forest

I have never actually tried this, so I can't tell you how well it works. But like the Ditto Glitch, the Pokémon you encounter depends on the Special stat of the last Pokémon you fought. It stems from getting a wild encounter right in front of this trainer

and losing that battle. Then you have to find a Pokémon with the correct Special (I'm told level 3 Pidgey is the best bet for Nidoking), growl at it six times, and return to the forest. The menu will appear and you will be faced with a level 1 beast. Capture it and gain experience: its next level will be 100.

Other ways to play

Is that the most creative title? Not at all. But once people finished the main game, they began finding more creative ways to play through it.

One of my favorites is The Nuzlocke Challenge: you can only catch the first Pokémon you encounter in an area, you must nickname all of your Pokémon, and if one faints it is considered "dead" and must be released. I have played this way and all I can say is RIP Beedrill.

Another "mode" that Bill mentioned is the Team Rocket Challenge: you can only use Pokémon that Team Rocket grunts/bosses use in battle. This one is fun unless you hate Rattata. But at least you can use Nidoking?

This isn't really an alternate game mode, but it was always fun for me to be ahead of my rival in terms of the Pokédex. He famously says on the S.S. Anne:

And you can legitimately get at least 45 Pokémon before you reach that point. "Which ones, Pat?" Okay here goes - keeping in mind that your level cap at this time is 30:

Squirtle & Wartortle (or your starter and at least its second evolution)
Pidgey & Pidgeotto
Rattata & Raticate
Caterpie, Metapod, & Butterfree
Weedle, Kakuna, & Beedrill
Spearow & Fearow
Paras & Parasect
Geodude & Graveler
Zubat & Golbat
Sandshrew & Sandslash (or Ekans & Arbok)
Bellsprout & Weepinbell (or Oddish & Gloom)
Nidoran & Nidorino
Nidoran & Nidorina
Abra & Kadabra
Magikarp & Gyarados
Diglett & Dugtrio
Meowth & Persian (or Mankey & Primeape)
Drowzee & Hypno
Magnemite & Magneton
Mr. Mime

I know there are three Moon Stones available up to that point, which could push your total up to 48, but since they're not all able to evolve at this time I didn't include them. If you have to pick one Moon Stone evolution though, I would recommend Nidorino at level 23 so your Nidoking can learn Thrash.

Either way, in his face!


I just thought about three rumors I'd heard back in the day and I want to mention them here.

Where is Mew?

A popular rumor was that Mew was hiding somewhere in the game, but had anyone actually seen it? In the early online days, it wasn't so easy to tell who was lying. But according to my friend's uncle who works at Nintendo, you have to use Strength to push this truck toward the ship. Then you will find an item ball containing Mew. I can't believe such a rare Pokémon was so easy to get!


This one sounded so dumb, but so many people were convinced it was real. The "cheat" was that Pikablu (Marill, which did not appear until Generation II) was hiding inside the Vermilion City Gym. You had to walk from Lt. Surge to the trash can next to him, checking the trash 150 times, then talk to him. He would allegedly say something like "hey kid, you found my secret" and give you the Pokémon.

Fighting Professor Oak

Apparently there is a way to face your Professor using a glitch, but I don't know the details and that's not the story I want to tell. Here's how you could "totally do it without GameShark," according to the kid whose cousin beat the game before everyone else.

First, you can never get your Pokédex evaluated either via PC or by visiting the lab. Somehow that disabled the battle. Then, you had to have 149 Pokémon before you fight the Elite Four, leaving Mewtwo for last. After you capture it, head to the lab. Oak will be so impressed that you didn't come back for advice at all that he must challenge you. If you win, he gave you Mew.

I know that's a dumb tale, but how awesome would that have been? Instead of the diploma - or maybe in addition - you have to beat Professor Oak in his lab after you complete his mission for him. Then as a reward he gives you the true last Pokémon. They already had the Mew data, after all. Come on, Game Freak!

I'm sure I missed a few fun ones, but those three came to me as I was finishing the 40+ Pokémon list so I wanted to get them out before I forgot again.



I realize that the game isn't perfect, and this wouldn't be a fair review if I didn't point out some flaws:

Your Pokémon needed a full turn to wake from slumber. This means if your opponent guessed right, you could be put back to sleep before you can attack. The good part of this is that the only sleep "attack" that never misses is Spore. So if you're facing anything other than Paras/Parasect? You're [probably] good!

There was no real answer for the Psychic type. Sure Bug-type moves are strong against it, but there are only a few of those. And the one Pokémon [Beedrill] that can learn the strongest Bug-type move available [Twineedle] is weak to Psychic because it's part Poison. Luckily Kadabra's defense is so low!

The game did not raise experience points incrementally. Instead, if your Pokémon grew too fast, it would just skip to the next level based on total EXP. That is, if you were at level 6 but gained enough points to grow to level 8, your Pokémon would skip level 7. This could be problematic because you could miss learning a move that you want, like Bulbasaur's Leech Seed. I am glad the developers fixed this - actually all of these - in the next generation.

I know there are more issues here, but we've been here long enough without hearing from you. Plus the good far outweighs the bad, at least in my opinion.


Your thoughts

I asked people some questions about their teams and favorite parts of the game and I'm very glad that more people had fun with this. (Also I have no recollection of deleting Bill's first save file. I don't doubt that it happened, I just don't remember doing it. My bad.)


Starter: The first time, that you deleted btw, was Bulbasaur. Charmander from then on with Nido kicking Brock's ass.

Music: Celadon City was the best, surfing was the worst music. Item trick on Cinnabar and the quick fly to Lavender for Mew were the best.

Favorite team/Pokémon: Final team was usually Charizard, Nidoking, Articuno, Muk, Dragonite, and Jolteon. Favorite mon from this gen: Flareon, hands down.

What'd I miss?: Missing the two best ways to play: only rocket mons through the game (excluding the starter) and always being ahead of the rival in terms of Pokédex.

Brian Amato:

Version: I had Blue first then Yellow.

Starter: I chose Bulbasaur my first time on accident but stuck with him.

Music: I liked the bicycle music a lot.

Favorite team/Pokémon: Always had a Nidoking and Articuno and Venasaur. My favorite Gen 1 Pokémon was Nidoking.

What'd I miss?: I used the infinite item cheat where you swam on the side of Cinnabar Island.

Dave Wadding:

Version: I played Blue

Favorite team: My team was always something like Charizard / Raichu / Gyarados / Weepinbell / Kadabra and the last spot would rotate to keep my HM guy or whatever other Pokémon might be super necessary.

What'd I miss?: Always used the MissingNo glitch to have 1000000000 Master Balls and Rare Candies.


Version: Blue

Starter: Bulbasaur

Favorite team: Venusaur, Articuno, Magmar, Gengar, and Rhydon. Something like that.


Version: What were you doing when you were 11? Because I was playing POKEMON BLUE BABY!

Starter: Squirtle was my dude.

Favorite team: No idea what my original line up was the first time I played the game. Blastoise and Dugtrio were the only 2 Pokémon I really used though. Think I had Articuno when I went against the Elite Four the first time. My Blastoise was so op by the Elite Four it was a cakewalk though.

poopfromweiner dude:

Version: Pokémon Yellow was my game jam, still is to this day damn proud. If I’m playing the flag colors I’m playing baby blue all the way.

Favorite team/Pokémon: Squirtle was the man and so was Wartortle. I spoiled the shit outta Blastoise but I feel groovin with Wartortle through Celadon city for a decent fucking sit down date with our girl. Erika.

Corporate Cocksnogger:

I had Blue, started with a Charmander when I first played it. [But then me and my friend used the connector wire to get all 3 starters when I started a new game to “catch em all.” Still have that somewhere.]

Used the MissingNo glitch/cheat thing which fucked up my game. Not really sure what else there was.


I honestly didn't think I would make it all the way through this, but here we are! Special thanks to Brian Amato for the suggestion - I had a ton of fun doing the thing! And thanks to everyone who weighed in on the questions I had. Again I'm sure I missed some, so let me know in the comments and I may be able to write a second part.

Oh right: I guess since this is a review, I should give this game a score or something. Let's go with 151 out of 151 (despite some flaws) - would play again am still playing today. I love that these were released on the 3DS Virtual Console, and that the item/catch any Pokémon glitches still work. I saved $10 on a second game and was able to transfer all of the exclusives to my Pokémon Moon game. (Since Mew was not "legitimately obtained," my man couldn't take the ride. Bummer.) If you've never played this, of course I recommend it. If you have played it? You should start a new game with the free time you probably have right now. Try the Nuzlocke Challenge!

And that is [finally] that, my friends! Thanks for coming to the table for this one. I hope you were inspired to play more Pokémon...or to yell at me to write about something else. I may have an interview on the podcast this week if scheduling works out, and Danny Schmitz will return for episodes 5 and 6 of The Last Dance, so I hope you come back for that too.

Until then, don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Crap open a cold one!

(This post was brought to you by Broad Street Bound.)

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly enjoyed this review! When I played The S.S. Anne theme it brought me so much nostalgia i almost cried. Seriously. You are right that is the best song in the game! Keep up the good work Pat!