Like most 30 somethings, we are pumped about the chance to play the original Pokémon generation when it relaunches on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console later this month on Feb. 27.
This release is more than just a simple re-release like most Virtual Console games though. Nintendo has gone back and retooled the emulation, allowing the Nintendo 3DS' online connection to replace the old Link Cables, making the original trading and battling easier than ever!
Just as importantly, it gives fans the ability to wax nostalgic on the original release without having to lug around the original cartridge or an ancient original Game Boy. No more AA or AAA batteries will be needed to collect the original 151!
Since we are talking nostalgia here, let's take a few minutes to remember what it was like to first pick up the franchise all those years ago. Pokémon celebrates its 20th anniversary in Japan this year, but Sept. 28, 1998, making this coming up on 18 years.
Where were you when Pokémon launched, and what version did you buy?
1998… I was, like, 12 at the time. I bought Red first. Well, "bought," right? I'm fairly certain this was a game I got for either Christmas or my birthday. My folks really only picked up games for one of those special days, never just on a whim.
I picked Red because I liked the cover. I didn't watch the Pokémon show at all… in fact, I never got into that. To this day, I don't think I've seen more than a handful of episodes. I've also really never played much of the trading card game. I'm a strict video game version fan.
Anyways, Red. It was the cover. Just look at this thing.
I was totally into Pokémon long before the games came out. I remember Nintendo Power published six special mini-issues tucked into the back of a string of magazines, and I was hooked immediately. I loved the art, loved the idea of training monsters, memorized where to catch every Pokémon before the games even launched, and marked the date on my calendar.
My mother was supportive of my Pokémon addiction too, and we even got the Zubat and Vulpix beanbag toys at KFC before the games launched, the only time I've ever sought to eat KFC in my life. I watched the cartoon, but eventually fell more in love with the Pokémon Adventures manga that more closely follows the games.
I was the only kid in my school who bought the Blue version, meaning I had plenty of trading options. No link-cable, though. I think Sandshrew was the one that pushed me over the edge. Little did I know how useless he was.
Who was your first starter, Joey?
You know, I picked up Red because I thought the dragon on the outside looked awesome. I don't know what it was about the game when I first fired it up, though.
Oak offered all three. I'd done some reading in Nintendo Power, and I knew that if I wanted the dragon on the front I should pick Charmander. I picked Squirtle.
He looked cooler to me at the time. It's funny, I think I'll be going Bulbasaur when the new one comes out. Why? I haven't the slightest idea.
I'm always sort of scattershot with these games. And, man, I never pick nicknames unless I'm going to trade the Pokémon to a friend and want them to use "Butt Toucher" forever.
Which one did you choose?
I was all about Bulbasaur, and to date, he's still my favorite Pokémon. Little did I know he's kind of an "easy mode" option being strong against the first two gym leaders. I picked him while chowing down on a Checker Burger in my mother's car. How do I remember this stuff?
The problem with Bulbasaur though is that Venusaur is my least favorite of the three starters' final evolution. All his charm is lost, and Venusaur is just an ugly giant pig. He's useful in that the original Pokémon generation lacks any other lights out Grass Pokémon, but just.. why does he have to be so ugly?
Blastoise is my favorite of the starters' final evolutions, so I think I'll be going Squirtle this time. Too bad the game is already overloaded with powerful Water types.
Any other favorites from back in the day?
Yeah, I actually have a few favorites. I'm in the camp that thinks the original 151 is still the best. Some great Pokémon have shown up since, of course, but that first set was just so fantastic.
I loved fighting Pokémon, and Machop was my jam. I also dug the designs for Cubone, Snorlax, Gyarados, all of Abra's forms, Psyduck…
You know, and maybe you'll think I'm absolutely nuts when I say this, there's just something that feels really "right" about the original Pokémon. Like, the ones that were designed well. There are some absurd throwaways in the pile, like Cloyster or whatever his name was. But those core Pokémon, like the ones I just rattled off, they feel like classics to me. They feel like pure originals, almost like the original six in hockey or something.
Is that weird?
Not at all, and I'll roast marshmallows with you at that camp. The original 151, or 152 if we include Missingno, sports the most consistently excellent Pokémon of any generation. I can't think of a single dud in the entire bunch, in terms of design at least.
As you say, later generations would spawn some cool ones like Lucario, but no roster since has felt so complete.
When I was a kid, I loved Pikachu. I remember a Raichu ending up in my first final team alongside Venusaur. Geodude was also the absolute coolest back in the day. I liked Gengar because ghosts are awesome, and I had a strange fascination with Hypno, probably because he was the black horse of the psychic line-up, one that nobody ever used.
Snorlax was a favorite of mine of course, and I always liked Poliwhirl and Poliwrath. There's just too many to choose from here. I mean, I have a whole new appreciation for Ninetails now that I know about the Japanese legends behind it.
Of course, this was back before we knew anything about how to progress properly in the game. One last question, did you ever catch 'em all? Did you trade with yourself or friends, and did you accidentally miss the legendaries your first time through?
So, three last questions? I'll hit them in order and flip them back on you.
No, I never caught them all. I never even tried. I'd catch pretty much everything I ran into until about, like, 50 or 60 Pokémon, but then I'd give up and only focus on the cool ones.
Trade with myself? Negative. Trade with others? Ah, yep. I had the link cable and all that, and I traded often. There were certain Pokémon that would only evolve after trading, like Geodude… I think. Well, Graveler. Geodude would evolve into Graveler, and then you'd need to trade Graveler in order to get a Golem. Why do I remember that?
The Legendaries? Please, I caught them. Please, Ron. Please.
Answer the same questions, my friend, and then we ride off into the sunset!
I did not catch the Legendaries until my second playthrough, not knowing what an Articuno was when I first ran into it and accidentally killing it. Maybe Nintendo Power and my gossiping friends hadn't caught up to that point in the game just yet.
On my third playthrough, I did catch all 151, and I did trade with myself. I got Red on the same Christmas morning that I got a Game Boy Color and link-cable, and the first thing I did was upload a Squirtle and Charmander from my Blue game. I became a Red convert that way.
That is still the most complete Pokémon save file I've ever had with some seriously high level starters alongside my Raichu and Mewtwo. I think I capped out around the mid 90s in that one before jumping to Yellow to start all over again. Surfing Pikachu, man!
Pokémon Red and Blue are set to rise again on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console on February 27. We can't wait to get back into these games. They're undeniable classics, and playing them once more on a proper portable will be awesome.
Are you looking forward to returning to Kanto?
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