Game Corner [PokéMonth]: Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (Nintendo 3DS)

Upon the release of Pokémon: Blue Version and Pokémon: Red Version (Game Freak, 1996), a new craze swept through playgrounds across the world. An entire generation grew up either playing Pokémon, watching the anime, playing the trading card game, and watching the feature-length movies as clever marketing and a co-ordinated release and multimedia strategy saw Nintendo’s newest franchise become not just a successful videogame franchise but a massively lucrative and popular multimedia powerhouse that endures to this day. Accordingly, February 27th is now internationally recognised as “National Pokémon Day”, which I’m expanding to an entire month of Pokémon every Tuesday in February.

Released: 27 February 2016
Originally Released: 12 September 1998
Developer: Nintendo
Original Developer: Game Freak
Also Available For: Game Boy

The Background:
Although I’ve talked about Pokémon quite a bit in the past, a review of one of the classic titles is long overdue. Initially developed as Capsule Monsters, Pokémon was the brainchild of game designer Satoshi Tajiri, who spent his childhood collecting insects and sought to make a videogame around the same subject, one that emphasised exploration and collecting rather than needless violence. It was the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto who suggested producing two GameBoy cartridges to realise Tajiri’s dream of allowing players to trade and battle using the system’s Link Cables. Artist and long-time friend of Tajiri Ken Sugimori spearheaded the designs of the titular Pokémon alongside a handful of others (including Atsuko Nishida) than ten people who conceived the various designs for all 151 Pokémon, and the original Pocket Monsters: Red and Green proved an immediate hit in their native Japan and were soon followed by a third version, Pocket Monsters: Blue, which included upgraded sprites, alternative dialogue, and other gameplay tweaks. This was the version of the game that served as the basis for Pokémon: Blue and Red, which became an instant cultural phenomenon upon release in the West.

Just as Pokémon: Yellow was influenced by the anime, so too did it impact later Pokémon videogames.

For its international release, Pokémon was accompanied by an aggressive multimedia marketing strategy and ancillary merchandise; much of this revolved around franchise mascot Pikachu, who was at the forefront of the still-ongoing anime series, which served as the perfect accompaniment to the videogames. So popular was Pikachu, and the anime, that a fourth version of the game was produced to capitalise on both; Pokémon: Yellow Version not only featured all-new battle sprites and gameplay mechanics, but also contained characters, references, and alterations based on the anime. The game was made to coincide with the franchise’s first feature-length adventure, was the last Game Boy title released for the system outside of Japan, and became the fastest-selling handheld game of all time upon release. Because it was essentially the same highly praised videogame as before, Pokémon: Yellow Version was highly praised; while some questioned its release and viability considering all-new Pokémon games were set to be released, critics noted that the game offered just enough to keep fans and newcomers happy. Pokémon: Yellow Version was pretty influential; the gameplay mechanic of having a Pokémon following the player’s avatar around would return in later titles, the game received a manga adaptation, and it was eventually released on the 3DS Virtual Console with the ability to communicate with the then-current Pokémon titles.

The Plot:
The time has come for you and your childhood rival to receive your very own Pokémon from Professor Oak, However, you arrival too late and are lumbered with a disobedient Pikachu to accompany you as you challenge the eight Kanto Gym Leaders in a bid to become a Pokémon Master. Your journey is also fraught with danger as the vindictive Team Rocket seeks to steal Pokémon for their own nefarious ends, to say nothing of having genetically created the most powerful Pokémon of all!

Just like its predecessors, Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition is a top-down role-playing game (RPG) in which players are introduced to the wonderful world of Pokémon by the kindly, if forgetful, Professor Oak. After naming your avatar and your rival, you’re charged with heading out into the Kanto region, exploring fields, caves, and buildings in search of Pokémon, powerful native creatures that are used to trade, raise, and battle with other Pokémon Trainers. If you’ve played Pokémon: Red, Blue, or even Green before, you’ll be immediately familiar with the concept but, even though it lacks the influx of hand-holding and mandatory tutorials of the modern games, Pokémon: Yellow does a good job of introducing you to the context and mechanics of the game and then sending you on your way to figure things out for yourself or find clues by chatting to the many non-playable characters (NPCs) scattered throughout Kanto. Since it released on the Game Boy, Pokémon: Yellow has a very simply two-button control system and user interface; I say “simple” for this latter aspect as it’s both easy to navigate and incredibly restrictive. You can open your bag to view your inventory from the pause screen, and your items will be listed in the order you picked them up; you can shuffle them about using the ‘Select’ button but your inventory is limited, so you’ll need to deposit some items on your PC to make room. Your PC inventory is similarly arranged; everything’s in a list here and there’s no onscreen text to tell you what items do, so it can be a little tricky to navigate and figure things out at times. Gameplay is divided into two distinct modes: exploring towns and other areas, and battling Pokémon. In the former, you wander around on a four-way grid, chatting to NPCs with A, activating switches, and picking up items; if you enter grass, you’re very likely going to trigger an encounter with a wild Pokémon, who also spontaneously attack in caves and when traversing the sea. When this happens, the game switches to a battle screen in which you and your opponent take turns to inflict damage or status effects on each other, or use in-battle items to heal or relieve status effects or try and capture the Pokémon. You also have the option to run, however if the opposing Pokémon is at a higher level than yours or you’re in a Trainer battle this option is either limited or completely restricted.

A diverse team with wide Type coverage is key to besting your opposition and growing stronger.

Pokémon battles operate using a “Type” system that is, essentially, a version of Rock/Paper/Scissors; Water-Type Pokémon will be more effective against Fire-Type Pokémon, for example, while Grass-Types trump Water and are weak to Fire. There are fifteen different Types of Pokémon in the game and each has different capabilities against the other; Normal-Type Pokémon moves won’t have any effect against Ghost-Types and will barely touch Rock-Types, for example. It’s a pretty simple system to figure out and battle text will always tell you if moves are “Super effective” or “Not very effective” so you can figure out the best course of attack; location, Pokémon names, and their colouring and appearance can also clue you in on the best attack strategy, too. So, if you’re in a cave and encounter a Zubat, you’ll probably want to use an Electric- or Rock-Type attack to inflict maximum damage and if the opposing Pokémon is blue or encountered at sea, it’s mostly likely a Water-Type. Unlike in the previous games, you’re forced to start your journey with a Pikachu, one who refuses to stay in its PokéBall and who follows you around on the overworld. You can interact with Pikachu at any time and the game stresses treating it well so that it shows more affection towards you, though unlike in the modern games this has no real in-game benefits and you can just as easily deposit it in a PC and never use it. Having Pikachu is an issue in the early game as your first real challenge is Rock-Type Pokémon Gym Leader Brock, so you’ll need to explore the nearby towns and fields to catch a Fighting- or Grass-Type Pokémon to actually stand a chance against his Pokémon, but the game has a pretty consistent difficulty curve. Early wild Pokémon and Pokémon Trainers are all low-level Pokémon with limited moves, and you’re generally always at an advantage as your Pokémon usually always have higher stats. Pokémon battles will award you with experience points (EXP); earn enough, and your Pokémon will level-up, which will increase their Hit Points (HP), Attack, Defence, Speed, and Special stats and thus make them more powerful and more capable in battle. Unlike in later games, there’s no onscreen indication of your EXP progress unless you manually head into the menu screen, which can make levelling-up a bit of a chore.

Be mindful of the nearest Pokémon center as you’ll need them to heal from battles and status effects.

While you can get pretty far with just one or two powerful Pokémon, it’s recommended that you have a diverse team with decent Type coverage in their moves; many Pokémon can learn moves either from levelling-up or from Technical Machines (TMs) that are of a different Type, so you can have a Water-Type Pokémon bust out Ice- or Psychic-Type moves, which can make them more useful in battles, and you can both swap out your Pokémon to share the EXP gained from battles and earn hidden Effort Value (EV) points by consecutively battling certain Pokémon (so, for example, if you battle a bunch of Geodude in a row, you’ll gain an extra boost to your Defence when you level-up) and you can also find (or purchase, for an extortionate price) Vitamins that will boost individual stats. While it’s important to consider things like this in battle, and the moveset of your diverse team, it’s not always that necessary and is only as complicated as you make it; I usually settle for my starter Pokémon being about ten levels higher than my other Pokémon, then train up the rest in teams of two (usually Water/Fire, Electric/Psychic, and a wild card) to have a consistently strong team. If you walk in front of another Pokémon Trainer, they’ll initiate an inescapable battle with you; in a Trainer battle, you can’t run or catch the opposing Pokémon, and trainers have all the same options as you while not being limited by Power Points (PP). This means that they can swap out their Pokémon, heal or buff them, and they can attack without fear of running out of PP; each move has a different amount of PP, from five to thirty, which dictates how often you can use that move. When you run out of PP, you can’t use that attack anymore until you replenish it with an Elixir or restore your Pokémon at a Pokémon Center; if all your PP is drained, your only option is to “struggle”, which inflicts some serious recoil damage, so it’s wise to use your best moves sparingly. In battle, Pokémon will take damage; when their HP is drained, they’ll faint and need to be revived with a Revive or for free at a Pokémon Center but, if all of your Pokémon faint, you’ll “black out”, lose some money, and respawn at the last Pokémon Center you visited. You also need to be wary of status effects, however; some Pokémon attacks will cause you to flinch (essentially miss a turn) or become confused (which can cause your Pokémon to hurt themselves) and, in this version of the game, have a tendency to miss entirely or land “critical hits” for extra damage, but Pokémon can also be put to sleep, paralysed, poisoned, frozen, and burned, all of which will either drain your HP or leave you vulnerable to attack. You can undo these status effects using certain items, but even if you emerge victorious your Pokémon will still steadily lose health on the overworld if poisoned, so you’ll either need to keep your inventory well stocked or be mindful of the nearest Pokémon Center.

Level-up your Pokémon to evolve them, give them nicknames, or store them in Bill’s PC system.

Winning Trainer battles also nets you PokéDollars, which you can spent in PokéMarts and at vending machines on healing items and other useful gear to help you out in battle or in raising your Pokémon. Items and Pokémon are stored in PCs when you run out of room (you can only have six Pokémon at a time, so any additional Pokémon are automatically transferred to your PC, though you’ll need to heal them if you choose to use them) and the game allows you to manually save your progress at any time (though you only get one save file to use). I recommend saving frequently, and especially before Gym Leader battles or encounters with Legendary Pokémon as this allows you to reset the game on the off-chance that you’re defeated, thus sparing you from losing money. You’re given two primary goals in the game: Battle the eight Gym Leaders to earn their badges and challenge the Pokémon League and complete Professor Oak’s PokéDex, which you do by capturing every Pokémon in the game. When you encounter a Pokémon, its basic data is stored in this encyclopaedia so you can see where it appears on the overworld; you can then hunt it down and catch it and either try to capture its next form or “evolve” it by levelling-up, using special stones, or trading it. The majority of Pokémon will evolve into at least one extra form through levelling-up, which will add their new form’s data to the PokéDex and make them stronger; you can cancel evolution at any time by pressing B and this is sometimes recommended as Pokémon learn moves faster in their weaker forms and some moves can only be learned prior to evolution. Similarly, each Pokémon can only know four moves at a time; when it grows strong enough to learn a new move, you can choose to either replace an existing move or not learn the new one, but you’ll need to visit the Move Deleter to do this outside of levelling-up or to forget Hidden Machine (HM) moves. When you capture a Pokémon, you’re given the option of nicknaming it; again, this doesn’t really do anything beyond personalising them to your Trainer and your characters are limited, but it’s a nice touch for making your team unique.

Side quests, some basic puzzles, and some fun little mini games are on offer to spice things up.

Navigation in Pokémon: Yellow is pretty simple; you can get a town map early on (or view them in Pokémon Centers) that shows you the different towns, locations, and “Routes” you can travel, but your progress is constantly restricted by trees, bodies of water, dark caves, and patches of grass. You can climb ladders to reach different levels of caves, hop over ledges for shortcuts, and get past these obstacles with HMs but you’ll progressively earn more convenient ways to travel across the map. Pokémon like Abra can Teleport you back to the last Pokémon Center you visited, Escape Ropes will allow you to quickly exit any areas you’re in, you’ll acquire a bike that dramatically speeds up your movement speed, and you’ll eventually be able to fly and surf to quickly get around the overworld. Some areas will require some rudimentary puzzle solving, generally involving pressing switches (either hidden ones or by pushing boulders onto them) to open doors, teleporting using special pads, or spinning around in maze-like environments. You’ll also be given some fetch quests to complete that will open up new areas and gift you items, need to acquire keys and tickets to open doors or access locations, and be able to trade (or buy…) with NPCs to acquire new Pokémon. Trading can also be done in Pokémon Centers, which allows you to trade Pokémon with a friend (or battle them, if you like) to get Pokémon that aren’t in the game or evolve certain Pokémon, like Haunter/Gengar. Traded Pokémon level-up faster then regular Pokémon, though you can’t change their nicknames and they’ll always have the Trainer ID of their original Trainer. You also need to be mindful of levelling-up too quickly; if you’re Pokémon is too high a level, and you don’t have the appropriate Badge, they may disobey you by ignoring your commands or loafing around. In addition to the slot machines available to play in the Celadon City Game Corner and the Safari Zone in Fuchsia City (which gives you a time limit to catch rare Pokémonby baiting or angering them), Pokémon: Yellow also adds printer functionality for the Game Boy Printer and a cute little mini game that lets you net points by pulling of mad tricks with your surfing Pikachu!

Graphics and Sound:
Since it released on the original Game Boy, Pokémon: Yellow is pretty limited in terms of its graphics and visual presentation compared to later games in the series, but I think these early Pokémon games still did a really good job of making the most of their limited hardware. While most of the towns don’t really look that different, they vary in size and colour palette and all have a unique music track associated with them; some have larger buildings like the Celadon City Department Store, a science museum, and the haunted Pokémon Tower, while others are flanked by caves, bodies of water, or are literally islands in the middle of the ocean. Towns all contain a number of houses with NPCs to talk to, some of whom will give you hints, items, or side quests to progress further; Routes are sometimes blocked by trees or a sleeping Snorlax, and you’ll find fun elements to interact with, like a Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems (SNES) in your bedroom, Mr. Psychic, and Copycat. Routes are generally littered with Pokémon Trainers, grass, and items to find but some items are hidden from view; you can tap A to pick these up at random but an Itemfinder will help by emitting a beep whenever a hidden item is nearby, and HMs like Cut and Flash will make short work of trees, grass, and dark caves to help you progress.

Though essentially the same game, Pokémon: Yellow is bolstered by a new colour palette and new additions.

Sprites are all pretty adorable as well; while many NPCs all look the same, they have a lot of personality in the things they say and all have an appreciation or some kind of advice to give regarding Pokémon. Your avatar is clearly recognisable despite the limited graphics and colour palette, and you’ll always be able to spot your rival, Gym Leaders, and agents of team Rocket thanks to their unique sprites and accompanying themes. In Pokémon: Yellow, Pikachu is your constant companion, waddling around behind you on the overworld and spitting out a grainy, but ambitious, cry of “Pika!” when thrown into battle. Pikachu has unique entrance and exit animations in battle since it doesn’t use a PokéBall, but otherwise battles remain largely the same; limited animation frames are used to convey the impact of moves on Pokémon and the moves themselves are represented by the screen shaking, flashing lights, and partially animated sprite work that is largely reused over and over. You can actually turn battle animations off in the settings, which speeds the game up a bit, but takes away some of the fun in my opinion; still, the frame rate can struggle a bit at times both in and out of battle, and you’ll find the Pokémon cries are a little distorted because of the hardware. Pokémon: Yellow completely overhauls the in-battle sprites of the Pokémon and adds in numerous influences from the anime in the form of additional NPCs who gift you new Pokémon, Chansey’s being in Pokémon  Centers, and Jesse and James of Team Rocket fame, which helps add a little visual flair to the game but I really don’t care for many of the new battle sprite designs. Finally, all of the jaunty, memorable tunes are here to enjoy in all their chip-tune glory, and the game features a brand new intro video and theme tune as well.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you journey around Kanto, you’ll encounter a variety of wild Pokémon out in the field and in use by a number of different Pokémon Trainers. Wild Pokémon start off at a low level, usually between three and six, and stay at that level in each area; a level four Caterpie you encountered in Viridian Forest will stay level four when you return in the post-game, but wild Pokémon levels increase as you journey to new areas, meaning you’ll face progressively tougher opposition as you go on, which will help you to grow stronger on a rising curve. Your ability to weaken these Pokémon for capture or defeat them entirely is directly tied to your current level and the moves you know; if your Pokémon are under-levelled, you’ll face a tough time even with the Type advantage, but if you bring a Normal-Type into a cave or a Fire-Type to the sea then you may struggle even if you’re at a higher level. This is true of the Pokémon Trainers you encounter; while they start off pretty simple and use weak Pokémon like Rattata and Pidgey, they eventually use more formidable and evolved Pokémon and also have more on hand. They’ll also withdraw them, heal them, or buff them with items and, while the enemy A.I. can be janky and easily exploitable at times, Pokémon Trainers tend to use moves that have a Type advantage over your current Pokémon. Still, with the right training regime and a diverse team, you can easily overcome every opponent you face; simply take some time between Gym battles to level-up, maybe focus on developing certain stats, and bringing your team as close to the level cap as possible, utilising moves that are super effective and sharing EXP wherever you can, and you can easily trample over the opposition once you’ve gotten past the uphill battle at the start of the game.

As if Team Rocket wasn’t bad enough, your asshole rival constantly pops up to challenge you.

Your most persistent foes in the game are the nefarious Team Rocket; easily identifiable by their black attire and caps, this gang of Poké-nappers have taken over buildings and even entire towns in a bid to steal Pokémon for their own evil uses or to acquire technology like the Silph Scope and Master Ball. For the most part, Team Rocket grunts aren’t much different from other Pokémon Trainers you encounter and are actually fairly predictable as they stick to common Pokémon like Zubat and Ekans, but you’ll also have to battle the duo of Jesse and James a few times throughout the story as these buffoons have been added in as sub-boss battles in key areas of the game. Like their anime counterparts, Jesse and James use Koffing/Weezing, Ekans/Arbok, and Meowth in battle and even spout their famous catchphrase, though they’re basically just another grunt to fight past rather than being pivotal to the plot. Another recurring obstacle is your rival; this arrogant and rude little git will pop up at the worst times, challenging you to a battle to prove his superiority over you and changing up his team as the game progresses to show how he’s tried to amass the most powerful Pokémon team possible. Unlike in the previous games, your rival starts off with an Eevee, which he eventually evolves into either Flareon, Jolteon, or Vaporeon (in my case, it was Flareon), and your rival will be both the first Pokémon Trainer you battle and the last as he eventually manages to become the Pokémon League Champion in keeping with his annoying ability to always stay one step ahead of you. While your rival can be a tricky customer, a diverse and high-levelled team can easily fend him off; in my game, he ended up with a team of Sandslash, Alakazam, Exeggutor, Cloyster, Magneton, and Flareon so it’s simply a case of shuffling your team so that your Water-Type goes out first and then swapping out your Pokémon between each knock out so you can hit a super effective move or have a better chance to resisting his attacks. Probably his biggest advantage is speed, as he often has Pokémon that have higher Speed stats, his Type coverage, and his eventually use of Potions and buffs to keep his team going strong but you can overcome him at every turn if you just take the time to do some grinding.

Eight Gyms await you, some with puzzles to solve beforehand, but they’re easily bested with grinding.

In your quest to challenge the Elite Four, you’ll need to travel to at least eight different towns and battle the eight Kanto Gym Leaders. Each Gym Leader specialises in a specific Pokémon Type and is protected by a number of protégés, but some Gyms even include little puzzles that you have to solve. You’ll need to investigate the bins in Lieutenant Surge’s Gym to lower the electrical barrier protecting up, navigate an invisible maze in Koga’s Gym, take an optional quiz in Blane’s Gym, and travel along spinning pads in Giovanni’s Gym. Other times, Gyms will be closed, locked, or otherwise barred and you’ll need to go on a short (or long, in the case of the last Gym) side quest to gain access but, once inside, you can often choose to avoid fighting the minions if you don’t feel like it (but I don’t recommend this as you’ll miss out on some EXP and cash). Since each Gym specialises in a Pokémon Type, the game pushes you to have a diverse team on hand, but you can often find helpful Pokémon in the wild nearby that can counteract the Gym’s specialty. Things start off relatively easily; as long as you can grab a Mankey, you can easily take out Brock, and your Pikachu will absolutely trounce Misty, but things can get difficult when fighting Lt. Surge and his Raichu…unless you’ve been grinding or snagged a Diglett from the nearby cave. By the time you reach Koga, you should be powerful and varied enough to easily overcome every subsequent Gym, though he and Erika can cause issues by inflicting status effects with their Poison- and Grass-Type Pokémon. Blaine can also be tough because of his powerful Arcanine, but you can easily overpower him with a Water-Type if you’ve been training one for a while. Giovanni, the leader of team Rocket who you battle prior to tackling him in his Gym, is heralded as Kanto’s most powerful Gym Leader but, while he has some intimidating Pokémon on hand, his focus on Ground-Type moves means a Water- or Flying-Type can significantly neuter this threat (especially if you snagged Articuno earlier).

The Elite Four are a tough prospect, but bested with smart training, item use, and a diverse team.

Defeating the Gym Leaders nets you not just a big cash payout and their Gym badge, but also a TM that allows you to teach their favourite move to one of your team. You’ll need every one of these Gym Badges, and most of the HMs, to navigate through Victory Road, a cave full of high-level Pokémon (and a great place to level-up your team) that stands as your final challenge before the Elite Four, the most formidable Pokémon Trainers in all of Kanto but, before you can reach them. Thankfully, there’s a makeshift Pokémon Center and PokéMart right before the Elite Four, so you can heal up and buy some restorative items before tackling them, and you’ll probably need these as you have to face all four Trainers in a row, and the champion, without any healing breaks in between, so you’re left with your team and the items you have on you. Lorelei and Bruno don’t really pose much of a problem; focusing on Water- and Ice-Type and Fighting-Type Pokémon respectively, you’re in a great position to overwhelm them with your Pikachu, which should be about level sixty by this point, and an Ice- or Psychic-Type Pokémon like Kadabra or Poliwrath. Agatha is a bit of a hurdle, however; specialising in Ghost-Type Pokémon, her Gengar’s love to confuse you, put you to sleep, and drain your health with their moves, so again it’s helpful to have a strong Psychic-Type Pokémon on you. Lance is probably the most unique challenge in the whole game as he utilises Dragon-Type Pokémon, a Type that you really don’t encounter anywhere else in the game except in the safari Zone. Sporting powerful moves like Thunderbolt, Hyper Beam, Ice Beam, and Dragon Rage, his Dragonairs and Dragonite can be tough to get past unless you have Ice- or Dragon-Type Pokémon or moves of your own, which you definitely will if you snagged Articuno our taught Ice Beam to someone on your team. After you topple the,, and the champion, Professor Oak registers you and your team in the Hall of Champions and you can review this, and any subsequent victories, from your PC after the credits roll.

Four powerful, Legendary Pokémon await you in the game’s toughest areas.

Although you’re given a multitude of opportunities to catch the wild Pokémon encountered in the game, some are much rarer than others. In Mount Moon and the Fighting Dojo, you’ll be given the opportunity to pick from one of two Pokémon (with the former being fossilised and needing to be restored on Cinnabar Island), immediately meaning that you won’t be able to acquire the other without trading. You can win (or buy) Game Coins to purchase rare Pokémon in Celadon City, encounter unique Pokémon like Kangaskhan and Dratini in the Safari Zone, and, while you’ll battle an enraged Marowak, the only way to acquire one is to evolve a Cubone. Similarly, you’ll have just two chances to capture a Snorlax as the bulbous Pokémon block your path in two places, but you’ll only get one chance to catch the three Legendary birds, Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos. These powerful elemental birds are found in Seafoam Islands, Victory Road, and the Power Plant, respectively, and you absolutely need to save before battling them as they won’t appear again if you knock them out and save after. You’ll also need a hefty supply of PokéBalls, Pokémon moves that inflict paralysis, freezing, or sleep, and a whole lot of luck and patience as the game’s annoying tendency to have balls “miss” can make these battles needlessly frustrating. When trying to catch the bird son this play through, I continuously ran out of Ultra Balls or kept knocking the birds out, but then random managed to catch each within five throws of a weaker Great Ball, so go figure. After besting the Elite Four, Cerulean Cave will open up; this cavernous area is a great place to level-up and find some new items, but is also home to the most powerful Pokémon in the entire game, Mewtwo. This genetically-engineered, Psychic-Type Pokémon can deliver massive damage with Psychic and even heal itself with recover but, while it’s entirely possible to capture it using status effects and Ultra Balls, it’s much easier to simply toss the never-miss, one-throw capture Master Ball at it and add it to your team to wipe out all subsequent challenges.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the wide land of Kanto, you’ll find plenty of pick-ups strewn around, be gifted them from NPCs, or will be able to buy a variety of items from PokéMarts. These include healing items like Potions, Super Potions, and Hyper Potions, restorative items like Revive and Max Revive, and status-healing items like Awakening and Antidote. These are relatively commonplace, though are not widely available across the region; the PokéMart in Pewter City will forever sell the basic PokéBalls and Potions, while only the more expensive items are available in Celadon City and at Victory Road. Other items can also be acquired that can aid you in battle; PokéDolls can help you flee from battle, the likes of X-Defend will boost your stats for that battle, and you can snag a PokéFlute that lets you wake up sleeping Pokémon without having to constantly buy Awakenings. Vitamins and evolutionary stones are far harder to find on the overworld, but can be bought from Celadon City’s Department Store and are great for raising individual stats and quickly evolving Pokémon to their more powerful forms, and you can also fend of random encounters with repels, find Nuggets to sell for cash (and sell most items you find), a Coin Case to play slot machines, and key items like the Itemfinder and EXP All if you capture enough Pokémon to appease Professor Oak’s aide.

Buy, find, or acquire items to boost your abilities, progress the story, and learn new moves.

One of the most common items you’ll need are PokéBalls; these come in three purchasable types (regular PokéBalls, slightly better Great Balls, and even better Ultra Balls) and you’ll need a lot of them to complete your PokéDex, especially as they often miss when tossed at their target. The Master Ball is a one-of-a-kind, never-fail PokéBall that is best saved for Mewtwo, and you’ll also need to plan out exactly how you want to use your TMs as these can only be used once. Some can be bought for Game Coins, but mostly you get one use and that’s it; conversely, HMs can be used multiple times but you’ll need to visit the Move Deleter to unlearn them. As you level-up, your Pokémon will learn new moves, with their most powerful moves becoming available if you put the effort into raising them. Some are harder to evolve than others as they level-up slower or don’t learn decent moves for some time, others mainly learn moves that boost their speed, attack, or defence, which doesn’t help me as I prefer to fill my move slots with attacking moves. Some Pokémon also don’t evolve at all, which can lower the incentive on using them as you don’t see as much progression when using them.

Additional Features:
Of the 151 Pokémon available in this generation, 137 are available to catch or own in Pokémon: Yellow either by evolving or trading in-game. As you play, you can consult with Professor Oak on your progress and he’ll offer feedback and tips for where to catch new Pokémon, and you’ll need the three fishing rods and the HMs to find all the Pokémon available in the game. Even if you catch or evolve everything available, you’ll still need to trade with a copy of Pokémon: Red and/or Blue to complete the PokéDex; although you unfortunately still have no legitimate way to acquire the elusive Mew, you don’t need it to complete the PokéDex and will be gifted with high praise from Professor Oak and even a certificate from the game’s developers. While many of the areas you visit are mandatory, some are optional; you can explore caves to find new Pokémon and shortcuts, bring water to checkpoint guards to make travelling a lot easier, and tackle the Fighting Dojo to earn either Hitmonchan or Hitmonlee. Although there’s no way to battle any of the Pokémon Trainers or Gym Leaders again after you’ve beaten them, the aforementioned Seafoam Islands, Victory Road, and the Power Plant all include diverging paths that lead to one of the Legendary Birds, and you can challenge the Elite Four and the champion over and over again to level your team up to the maximum level and earn big cash to spend in the Game Corner and snag those rare Pokémon and items. You can revisit the Safari Zone as often as you can afford the entry fee and search about for the rare Pokémon found there, and pull off a few glitches to both allow these Pokémon to appear in the overworld and duplicate your items (though you risk corrupting your save file if you do this). Post-game content is primarily focused on completing the PokéDex and travelling to the Cerulean Cave to capture Mewtwo; otherwise, you’ll probably be spending most of your time grinding, capturing, or trading and battling with other players using the online functionality.

The Summary:
It’s been a long time since I played the first generation of Pokémon and it is a little jarring returning to a simpler time before many of the gameplay mechanics and quality of life improvements that were introduced in subsequent games. The core gameplay is still there, and it’s just as simple to get to grips with the mechanics once you get going, but there’s no denying that things are much slower and more aggravating in Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition. The lack on an in-battle EXP bar, the messy organisation of the PCs and inventory, and not being able to keep track of the Pokémon you’ve caught outside of viewing the PokéDex make things a bit tedious as you’re constantly going back and forth and scrolling between menus (you even need to manually activate HMs rather than the option simply appearing when you press A near objects). Battles are made incredibly frustrating due to the janky A.I. that sees critical hits, confused attacks, missed moves and missed PokéBalls dragging things down, and many of the new artwork for the Pokémon really is incredibly ugly. On the plus side, though, this remains a timeless gaming experience; everything you loved about the first generation of Pokémon is here, plus a little more thanks to the influences from the anime: while it’s annoying that you can’t evolve your Pikachu, it’s cute having it following you around and saying its name and playing the surfing mini game, and I loved seeing Jess and James pop up as opponents (I just wish they had played a bigger role in the narrative). Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition is certainly the definitive game of the first generation, allowing you to acquire all three of the Kanto starters and offering a variety of Pokémon previously exclusive to its predecessors and even including new layouts for some areas. While subsequent sequels quickly made these first games irrelevant by improving every aspect of the presentation and gameplay, there’s still a lovely hit of nostalgia to be found here and Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition remains as entertaining now, despite its flaws, as it was back in the day.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you enjoy Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition? How do you think it compares to the original games, and which of the first generation titles was your favourite? Did you enjoy having Pikachu as your partner or did you just leave it in a box? Which of the Gym Leaders did you struggle against? Did you nickname your Pokémon and who made it into your final team? Did you ever complete the PokéDex? Which of the Pokémon games, and titular monsters, is your favourite? How are you planning to celebrate National Pokémon Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on Pokémon, sign up to leave them below or drop your comments on my social media and be sure to check in next week for more Pokémon content!

9 thoughts on “Game Corner [PokéMonth]: Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition (Nintendo 3DS)

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