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October 18, 2013

Pokémon FireRed (Part 1)

If epic was a Pokémon Type,
Tyrantrum would be half that type.
Well, that's official, Pokémon X and Y have come out since almost a week and... I didn't play them. I don't have a Nintendo 3DS, and truth be told, I'd prefer buying a game from the fifth generation at the moment. I've always been late to the new generations. I've always been a fan of the first Géneration of Pokémon! Though, not to the point of being a “Genwunner” (disgusting term referring to those Poké-lunatics who refuse all generations past the first one, unable to accept the new generations – or beyond the third Gen, depending on the defintion – and who will voice their anger at anyone who mentions the other generations, completely disregarding the fact that everyone has the right to have an opinion). Of course not. If I was a genwunner, I wouldn't have been all excited when seeing the Generation 6 fossils for the first time. Tyrantrum is EPIC. I'm kinda angry that it's such a tiny Generation, with only 68 Pokémon. It's like Game Freak completely forgot the aspect of discovering new Pokémon in favor of more collecting (apparently, the routes are crowded with different kinds of Pokémon from all the Gens), and Mega Evolutions.

However, the first generation is the one I'm most familiar with. Maybe it's a sense of nostalgia. Maybe it's because that was back when Pokémon wasn't that freaking complex, with evolutions and forms and very special abilities and fifty Legendaries and... Whatever. No, it's really nostalgia, except that I always had that small link dragging me to the newer Generations, such as that Pokémon/Digimon magazine I used to have that showed the Second Generation Pokémon and their Japanese names...

I never bought Pokémon FireRed. It was a gift given to me by my friend Laura, who I like to nag by calling the Poké-Addict (it has a positive connotatio, be assured). She knows more about Pokémon than all my other real life friends put together. From the most mundane to the most incredible to the most bizarre to the most useless details. She's like my city's Jwittz. I received FireRed as a Christmas gift back when I was, what, in ninth grade? It was, what, seven years ago? I completed the Pokédex this year for the first time?

Anyway, I'm dedicating this three-part review to Laura. You heard right. My first three-part review. So, let's see if Pokémon FireRed deserves its reputation, or if I'm wasting my time writing a 6,000+-word review of it.

First of all, a little background history. It's gonna be over soon, don't worry. So, Pokémon started in America with Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Each game contained an all new kind of collecting mechanic, mixing RPG elements with taking care of your own critters, with the added challenge of “gotta catch them all”. Pokémon also had this mechanic through which you'd need to trade with other gamers with a Pokémon game of the same Generation in order to collect all the animals. It was one of the most creative concepts ever. And nowadays, it still is. The franchise gained a new Generation within the games Gold, Silver and Crystal, and then a third one with Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, increased the amount of Pokémon to 386.

Among the new ideas brought forth with the third Gen came the remakes: Pokémon games that center around a previous Generation until Story Mode is technically finished, but the game post-Story Mode gives access to the other new Pokémon, as well as the ability to trade with the other games of this new Gen. Thus were born Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, which had all the Pokémon, locations and plot of the first generation, but the updated gameplay and appearance of the newer generations. So, how do we start this game? In Pallet Town, of course!

You begin in the blandest city of Kanto. All that is interesting there is Professor Oak's lab. And maybe the only other house in that city. Anyway, it's your time to embark on your adventure, so you head into the wild... only to be stopped by Oak, yelling that it's dangerous out there without Pokémon to protect you. Mister Non-Symmetrical-Hair brings you back to his lab, where he presents you with three Pokéballs, each holding a Starter. In storms Blue, Oak's nephew, who is also coming to get his starter. Oak has little memory of his name (senility already? Sheesh...), so you get to name him. Go ahead, have fun. Name him Jerkass, Douche, Dick or any word that is ten letters or less that your perverted imagination can come up with. For the needs of the review, I'll keep it to Blue. Of course, he's a tactical guy, so he picks his Starter only once you chose yours. Of course, he picked the one with a type advantage against yours. And of course, he starts right away by dueling you. He should be easy to defeat, it's the first Pokémon battle in the whole game! Once you kick his butt for the first time, he leaves.

Oak has a little favor to ask you, though. You must head to Viridian City's shop and bring back a parcel that belongs to him. That mission is simple enough, and once it's done, he hands you five Pokéballs and a magnificent tool: The Pokédex. For some reason, it can only get all the information on a Pokémon after that Pokémon was caught, yet if this info appears in the machine it's because somebody had to write it in there in the first place... right? Never mind, it was the science-fiction fan in me speaking for that sentence...

So, you go back to Viridian, catching Pokémon in the wild. Once there, you can go to the left, which will lead to a fight against Blue, or you can skip that fight and head north instead. A grumpy old guy is blocking the road. Once that man is off the road, he shows you how to catch Pokémon. In case you didn't know. He also hands you a Teachy TV, which will have very little use if you know the freaking game series already.

Anyway, you progress in this great big world, into Viridian Forest. Lots of bug catchers in here! Lots of bugs, too! And if you're lucky, you might also catch a Pikachu! (Actually, I recommend it.) You come out of Viridian Forest and find yourself close to Pewter City, home of a very pretty museum...and the first Gym. Anybody remembers Brock from the Pokémon anime? You're fighting him in there. He's an expert in Rock Pokémon. Grass and Water are two types strong against Rock. Unless you picked Charmander, you shouldn't have too many problems with the fights in there. If you picked Charmander... Hope that his level is high enough to defeat his LV12 Onix. ...Does Brock ever open his eyes???

Once you defeat Brock, he hands you the Boulder badge. One won, seven to go! As you head right to continue your journey, you receive a gift from your mother: Running shoes! You can run with these shoes! I imagine them red with a white Velcro strap. Anyway, you go right, battling other Trainers, and then up, until you reach a cavern. Hey, there's a Pokémon Center here? How convenient. You enter Mount Moon. In there, it starts off fairly easy. Some nagging Zubat, some strong Geodude... As you make your way through this cave, however, you start seeing things that aren't quite right. After a while, there's a lot of black-clad folks, mostly on the lower floors. And they are angry when you pass by.

I hate those terrorists!

Wait, who are those people? Rocket Grunts? I never thought a rocket could grunt. Ah, it's an underling in a criminal organization named Team Rocket? ...Ah, I remember those three. Jessie, James and Meowth. Some of the funniest anime villains of all time. ...Wait, they're not in this game? Aw, bummer. Instead, we get lots and lots of Rocket Grunts with lame Pokémon. But they're beaten rather easily. Near the end of the maze, a number of Rocket Grunts are harassing a scientist. You defeat the Grunts, but then the scientist tells you that he found fossils, and that there's a place in Kanto to bring those Pokémon back to life. But you'll get one only if you beat him. Deal! Once he gets his behind handed to him, you leave with one of two fossils. And a separate one as well! Nice!

You leave Mount Moon to find yourself near Cerulean City. You soon reach the city, which is really beautiful. You can head towards the Gym or head up to go meet Bill, the Poké-add... er, I meant Poké-Maniac. Let's go with that option first. As you head there, you meet with Blue, who challenges you to a duel! Oh, he has many good Pokémon this time. Though, this Raticate feels weird in such a good team... Once he's defeated, you can go to the Nugget Bridge. You fight five opponents, and the fifth one will give you a Nugget, an item that gives muchos Poké-dollars when you sell it. However, the fifth Trainer reveals  himself to be a Rocket Grunt! ...Er, WHAT? Anyway, when you beat him he still hands you the prize. And to the right you go to meet Bill!

After many Trainers, you reach Bill's house, only to find a Jigglypuff in there! When you speak to it, it's revealed to be Bill, who transformed himself into a Pokémon accidentally. You follow his instructions and revert him to human, and then he invites you to look at the info he got on some Pokémon. Wow, thanks! You head back to Cerulean. Time to enter the Gym. Oh, a Water Gym! Misty is the boss in here. ...You see now why I wanted you to catch a Pikachu? By the way, Misty is a SADIST. Her Pokémon are at horribly high levels, very hard to defeat, and trust me you'll have to try to fight her a couple times before you can win. Screw you, Starmie! I don't care that you're a starfish, screw you anyway!

Once this very, very difficult fight is over and the Cascade Badge is yours, you can move on. The way to Saffron is blocked, so you need to use the underground tunnel. You wind up in Vermillion. The Gym is blocked by a tree, though, so you need a Pokémon that knows Cut. But who can give you this wonderful move? Well, this is your lucky day, as the Captain of that cruise ship has it, and the S.S. Anne is waiting at the docks. And Bill gave you a ticket so that you can enter it! Nice!

You battle your way through the cruise ship until you reach the captain's room, but another surprise is approaching: Another battle against your rival! Oh, darn. Wow, his Raticate is stronger than before. He still comes out NOT victorious, so you head to the Cap's cabin and get the Cut HM. Yay, you can finally go and challenge Lieutenant Surge!

Surge's Gym is the MOST. ANNOYING. ONE. Of the whole franchise. The puzzle is less a puzzle and more a test of your luck and/or determination. If you played any First Gen Pokémon games, and if I mention “buttons” and “trash cans”, you KNOW what I'm talking about. Anyway, you beat Lt. Surge quite easily, for good reason. Think about it: The guy has set up his gym in a city next door to the Diglett tunnel, in which you have 100% chance to encounter Ground-type Pokémon. For a lieutenant, that's some very bad strategic planning.

Once you get Surge's badge, you can head to the fourth Gym... Where the Hell is it? ...Well, the only way to get there is by going back to Cerulean, cutting the tree to the right of the city, revealing another passage, and reaching a rocky tunnel. Yeah, it's the only way to go to Lavender, as a Snorlax blocks the bridge over the water, which would be the quickest way to reach Lavender Town. However, the Rock Tunnel isn't too bad a place. Besides, later in the game you can come back near the Rock Tunnel's entrance and reach the Power Plant, which houses the famous Legendary Pokémon Zapdos. Except he's Level 50 at the moment, out of your league. (Get it? Pokémon league?)

What happened to the gracious
purple of the old generations?
After a long time spent in the cave, which is strangely populated for a very dark place, you finally come out in Lavender Town, the resting place of Pokémon. This city also includes the Pokémon Tower, in which Trainers grieve their dead allies. However, the place is also filled with ghosts of all kinds (Two out of the only three there were in Gen 1; okay, that's kind of less impressive now that I mentioned that). You cannot fight those ghosts as long as they remain hidden behind a fake appearance. But you have to save Mr. Fuji up there! Damn!

To see the ghosts in the Pokémon Tower, you need an item called the Silph Scope. Or else the ghosts will look like living fog (in those remakes anyway; in the original, their fake appearance is that of black ghosts with white voids on the eyes and mouth). So, where must you go to get the Silph Scope? Simple. You must head to Celadon City, on the opposite end of Saffron – which is STILL blocked! - and find wherever it is. Better head there now.

When you hit Celadon, the best idea is to visit the Gym right away, which is home to Gym Leader Erika and many pretty girls. Yep, only women. This of course attracted the resident pervert. The problem in this Gym is not a puzzle or any wit-demanding challenge. Instead, you just have a lot of Trainers to fight; I'd even say some fights before getting to Erika are inevitable. However, Erika is not TOO difficult to beat. So long as you know Grass' type weaknesses, you should do just fine. Alright!

Once Erika's Gym Leader badge is yours, you can finally go hunt for that mysterious tool that is the Silph Scope. As you look around town, you catch word that there's something hidden under the infamous Celadon Casino. I wonder, maybe if you enter this place, defeat the Grunt near a suspicious-looking switch, and pull it down, you'll find the entrance... Bingo!

This Monday, the review continues. Rocket gets stormed by a ten years old kid, the quest for the four remaining Badges continues, and lots of things happen. Tune in Monday!