As part of the 20th Anniversary of Pokemon, Nintendo has re-released the original games – Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Red, and Pokemon Yellow on the 3DS eShop. I’m a huge Pokemon fan, so I was pretty geeked out, but a little worried about how the game would play after all the quality-of-life improvements from subsequent generations. While I agonized over which version to purchase, I eventually succumbed to nostalgia and picked up Pokemon Blue, the version my middle schooler self played. I have to say, I’m surprised at how well the game has held up over the years.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The biggest concern I had when I picked up Blue was that I would really miss all of the quality of life improvements from the newer games and that it might make me really not want to play the game. But I was surprised to find that the little annoyances were no more annoying today than they were 20 years ago. Things like opening the menu to select the Pokemon to cut down a tree or move a boulder instead of just walking up and hitting the “A” button were still annoying, but it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game.
There are probably a hundred other little experiences that made me scowl in annoyance as I’ve been playing through (I’m at 4 badges currently), but none of them really made me feel like “Wow, I just can’t handle playing this game anymore.” I might not be in the majority, but the small quality of life things were just small, quality of life things. I didn’t need to sweat the small stuff because overall it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game.
Mechanics are King
This is also when I realized that the mechanics of the original game were so good that after 20 years of advances in game development, they are still satisfying. That’s probably also why the mechanics of the game haven’t fundamentally changed much over the years. Sure there’s more there now with new types of Pokemon, IVs, EV training and breeding that are now a huge part of the game. But that core, the foundation of the entire game is still what it was 20 years ago. I tried to think of another contemporary game that can claim the same thing, and I can’t. Pokemon hasn’t reinvented itself and changed drastically because it hasn’t needed to. It found what works and just kept adding to it without changing what made it such a great game.
Despite its age, Pokemon Blue holds up remarkably well
Despite the years and advances in game design, graphics, and general mechanics the original Pokemon Blue, Red and Yellow remain just as engaging and fun as they were to me 20 years ago. That really speaks volumes to how well the game was designed even then and the commitment of GameFreak to ‘don’t fix what ain’t broken.’ Sure, there are annoyances and quality of life aspects of the game, but somehow I appreciate those pieces more. In a time in gaming when just turning on the game awards with achievements, rainbows and butterflies it’s a breath of fresh air to have a game that doesn’t try to skinner box you every 3 minutes in the game.
Maybe it’s just the Cerulean-tinted glasses, but I’m really enjoying Pokemon Blue in no small part because of its faults, not in spite of them.