On September 28th, 1998, the first Pokémon games were released outside of Japan. They were Red and Blue, and they are both classics. It, along with the anime that had debuted within a short time before, helped solidify my love of the franchise, making it along with Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon as my three gateway animes.
Over the years, the Pokémon franchise has seen numerous improvements, both in the anime quality, as well as the mechanics of the game (dare I say, evolved~?). It’s become a worldwide phenomenon and a staple of both the aforementioned media, and it shows no signs of stopping; so we’re more than likely going to keep enjoying the Pokémon franchise for years to come.
In between main-story releases, Nintendo has gotten into the habit of releasing remastered/updated versions of older titles, with FireRed and LeafGreen being remakes of Red and Blue, Heart Gold and Soul Silver being remakes of Gold and Silver, and the more recent Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire being remakes of Ruby and Sapphire. But this is the first time they’ve announced a straight-up port—mostly; I imagine the trading and connectivity might cause problems, going from link cable to local wireless—of older games. Come February 27th of 2016, 3DS users will be able to buy Red, Blue and Yellow and play them, and relive the launch of the franchise.
I have plenty of memories about the games, reading about them in Nintendo Power, seeing them on TV, deciding to use my lunch money to not buy lunch and secretly save it in an effort to eventually buy a copy in secret because my parents were deep in the you’re-too-old-for-that-shit shit in regards to one of the few things that kept me sane and (somewhat) happy during a very difficult high school career for me. I got Blue (at first, later getting all three just because), and my first starter was Charmander. And this was the only generation that I used my real name for my character instead of my pen name. Wow…typing all that made me feel old.
Anyhow, it’s important to take a look back at the shortcomings of the past so you know how to avoid them in the future. Pokémon had to start somewhere, but the first generation is not without its flaws. And while I am looking forward to getting at least one of the Virtual Console releases, it’s also bringing up a lot of bad memories…
- The Glitches
I and just about every gamer out there have heard about the notorious glitches in the first games, and GameStop discount bins have been full of game cartridges that were rendered completely unplayable thanks to rampant abuse thereof. The number, types, and effects of the glitches could easily fill a separate article. So let me concentrate on one of the more infamous of them—and the one I’m personally the most familiar with—the Item Duplication glitch.
Or the “Rare Candy” glitch, so called because that was the most frequently copied item.
By letting the Old Man of Viridian demonstrate the painfully obvious how to catch a Pokémon and then flying to Cinnabar and surfing up and down the coast where there are land tiles, you’ll battle a glitched-out Pokémon—possibly MissingNo., but not always. Get through that battle, and the sixth item in your bag will be 128-count. And people who used this to clone Rare Candy and force-feed them to all their Pokémon, since that was the quickest way to get their team up to level 100. Then the Pokémon Stadium games came out, and I got to find out the hard way that Rare Candy deprives your Pokémon of proper training and level-up bonuses and that my Pokémon were grievously underpowered, and my team got utterly destroyed by the higher-level opponents.
I should’ve used it to clone Master Balls. At least catching Legendaries would’ve been much, much simpler.
And considering the amount of glitches has gotten smaller and smaller with each preceding generation, playing the Gen. I games is gonna make me feel like just sneezing in my 3DS’ general direction will make it wonk out.
- The Game’s Mechanics
Like, the glitches, I could probably write an entire article about the mechanics of the game in and on its own. But for now, I’ll just summarize.
It was a bit on the difficult side to get money; you either had to beat whatever trainers were in the area—and they were all one-shot battles, as rematches, etc. weren’t implemented yet—and there was only so much junk you could sell for cash. The only consistent ways to get money were by grinding the Elite Four in the end- and post-game, or use the mediocre Pay Day move.
This could be me and tons of other players being spoiled from Gen. III onward, but it bares mentioning. The player’s bag was an unmitigated mess. Only a handful of items on screen at the time, no description of what a TM was (just its number), zero organization…it was time consuming and broke the flow of the game.
TMs were also highly unpolished. The moves were unimaginative, and a lot of them only had one copy available in the game; even the good moves like Thunderbolt and Ice Beam required the user to be absolutely certain to teach the Pokémon in question the move…and make sure they didn’t learn the move later down the road anyway, thus wasting it.
And if you knew that the AI tends to pick moves based almost exclusively on type advantage, you can take the piss out of even the most dramatic and climactic battles by getting, say, something that knows Agility to spam that repeatedly while a pitifully weak Pokémon chips away at it. Just ask Twitch.
- The Types Led to an Imbalanced Mess
Feast your eyes on this:
This is a picture of the type charts in regards to strengths and weaknesses for the first generation (left) with the current sixth generation (right) minus the Dark-, Steel-, and Fairy-types for brevity’s sake. Now obviously every type is going to have its share of weaknesses and resistances for the sake of balance. But it wasn’t always like this. Take a look at the column under Psychic on the left. Psychic’s weaknesses are Bug and Ghost (and Dark from Gen. II onward); the reasoning behind this was that these were all things that could disrupt a psychic’s concentration and/or induce primal fears; i.e. bugs swarming about, being haunted, or just darkness itself. But for the first generation it might as well have had no weaknesses at all.
There were only four Bug-type moves in the first generation. And aside from the one that only lowered a target’s speed, they were all pathetically weak. And any attempt at inflicting super-effective damage with them was futile, as they couldn’t benefit much from Same-Type Attack Bonuses (STAB), or because the bugs were also part Poison-type—one of the two types Psychic is super-effective against. Granted, Bug-types aren’t always seen as stuff you’d take to the end game, but there was no reason to have so few options for it. Ghost-type suffered a similar problem. There was only one Ghost-type line (the Gastly-Haunter-Gengar line), and it’s part-Poison. Its three moves were a fixed damage attack (based on user’s level), a viable but non-damaging confusion-inflicting move, and another very weak move. Ghost-type was supposed to be one of Psychic’s weaknesses, but thanks to said glitch, Ghost-type moves wouldn’t have done any damage anyway. Putting a Ghost up against a halfway competent Psychic-type would ensure it would get completely wrecked. The same could be said for Grass-types as well, as all but three were also part-Poison (and the ones that weren’t were mediocre at best).
“But wait! Dragon-type only has one type it’s super-effective against!” Slow down. There was exactly one Dragon-type move in the first generation. And it was a fixed damage move, meaning it would always deal (in this case) 40 damage to its target. That’s it. There was no way to cause super-effective damage with Dragon-types. Dragonite may be pseudo-legendary, but have fun going up against people who came prepared with Rock- and Ice-type moves. Sure, even with the implementation of the completely immune Dark-type and the resistant Steel-type, the games never recovered from the looming menace that was an overly powerful Psychic-type user, either as a Gym Leader or an Elite Four member.
- Gary Fucking Oak.
I have talked about this in the past. But it bears repeating.
The Pokémon fandom has mashed together the rival of the Gen. I games, Blue, and the first rival from the Pokémon anime, Gary Oak, into a chimeric thing commonly referred to as Gary Fucking Oak. Their ideal/imaginary version of their idol is perfect in ways that would make Red jealous, and be better at literally everything you could think of. And even Gary Oak had the decency and judgment to work with the protagonists on causes greater than himself…it just took him a while to get to that point, is all.
While the darker parts of the fandom do not hesitate to point out the differences between Ash Ketchum and Red, those same people seem to do the exact opposite with Blue and Gary. They also conveniently leave out the fact that both Blue and Gary were beaten—Blue was dethroned from the championship, and Gary left competitive battling altogether.
I may end up being wrong about this, but I’m predicting a surge of Gary Fucking Oak memes in the days and/or weeks following the rerelease. Some might be amusing, most of them won’t. Just understand that you can be a fan of Gary and not be obnoxious about it. It’s when you exalt him to the detriment of everyone and everything else that things get out of hand.
I may have been in high school when the first generation hit, but I lacked the mental bankruptcy that led to players naming the rival any combination of “douche” and/or profanity in whatever order du jour other players were coming up with. And I played three sports (including fucking football!) in high school.
Sweet merciful fuck.
Look, if you have fond memories of the first generation, and if you genuinely like the games in spite of their problems, that’s fine. It’s when you hold up the first games as absolutely perfect and look down on everything that came after as unworthy of standing in the first generation’s shadow that I and every rational fan of the franchise take exception. When fandoms exchange notes on what the worst parts of their respective fan bases are, the Pokémon fans don’t hesitate to shine a spotlight on the Glorious Genwunner Master Race™, those who look down their nose at very obvious improvements on the games over the years.
“Abilities? Screw that nonsense.”
“The TM list is perfect! Reusable TMs and HMs? Get that shit out of here.”
“‘Balance’? Bah! I like my enemies like I like my Psychic-types—completely fucking broken.”
The point is, like all things, as technology improves and successors learn from the mistakes of the past, Pokémon gets mechanically and technologically better over time. If you can’t accept that, then you need to reevaluate why you choose to stay in the Pokémon fandom and make way for people who aren’t consumed by cynicism and contempt for anything new and improved. At the beginning of every game, the professor du jour tells the player that the Pokémon world is a beautiful and wondrous place to be, and to steadfastly be a Genwunner is to actively avoid the point the professors are making. They know the player character starts off as wide-eyed and in awe, and they—like Nintendo, GameFreak, the Pokémon Company, what have you—want the players to understand that…regardless of whether they started from Gen. I or are just now picking up the Gen. VI games.
If there’s one thing that transcends the games, the regions, and the seasons of the anime, it’s class.