Charizard, Nidoking, Gyarados, Parasect, Graveler, Jolteon. What a team. Or not. I have no idea. You see, in search of some nostalgia I took my good ol’ Gameboy Colour (I don’t care if it’s actually spelt without the ‘u’) on holiday with me last week and ended up sidelining my other games in favour of the original Pokémon Blue. Wario Land 3? No! Super Mario Land 2? No! Ronaldo V Football? Hell no! Get me a bicycle, some pokeballs and a map to Celadon City!
I haven’t played the game properly for perhaps a decade now, but I’ve idly toyed with it on numerous occasions since. Back in the day, me and my fellow 10-12 year-olds would stick around after school with our chunky Gameboys and a link cable, doing battle with one another and spreading the word about all the cheats you’d need to max out your Pokémon’s skills. This was serious competition; we had no time for niceties like playing the game properly. What was it now…? Go to Viridian, chat to some guy, fly to Cinnabar, swim in the ocean until a glitched encounter with a wild Pokémon, defeat it, then the sixth item in your inventory would be multiplied, which, if you were prepared, would be the level-up inducing Rare Candy. Do it enough times and you could be at level 100 in no time. I have never once completed the game without using that cheat. Give me a break, I was ten and didn’t know what patience was.
I think I won quite a lot in those multiplayer battles, though that could well be a case of the rose-tinted spectacles descending over my mind’s eye. What I can’t remember is my team. I know for certain that Zapdos was in it, and Articuno and Charizard are possibles, but beyond that I haven’t a clue. Shame, really, but a memory of that formidable team of six lingers on somewhere, because when I loaded up my game last week and was confronted with that team listed above, my first thought was ‘whaaat?’ Well, my first thought was actually ‘why did I call my character Obi Wan?’, but that’s not so relevant. With the exception of Charizard, that team was pretty alien to me. Moreover, I really had to backtrack and explore to work out which areas I had explored and where I was meant to be going next. With most other games that I’ve poured similar time into, I can slide back into them fairly easily, but seemingly not with Pokémon Blue.
I have an inkling why. The game bristles with varying stats you should keep an eye on, loads of differing items, plenty of combat moves and numerous strategies, but for all its complexity it feels, more than any other game I own, like a kid’s game. A lot of other games defined that part of my life – Jedi Power Battles (stop mocking me) and Exodus on the Acorn computer spring to mind – but although they now feel old, they don’t feel like an intrinsically childish game. Pokémon, however, revels in its own youthful innocence, from the bouncy 8-bit music to the cheesy antics of baddies Team Rocket. The main character is a ten year old, for crying out loud.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it now, or won’t touch it because of some snooty adult perspective. If I had a DS I’d be seriously tempted to go out and buy Pokémon Black or White. But Blue? It’s a childhood relic. Where I can really get into most old games and appreciate them anew, I got everything I needed out of Blue when I was ten. So that’s where the heart of the game will stay, because I won’t find it again. On a sunnier note, though, I can get pretty close: all I need to do is go to Youtube and put this on. This is my childhood happy place, and I love it.