SwitchRPG vs. Pokémon Blue, Part 2
In SwitchRPG Versus, we task a staff member with playing through every major game in a popular RPG series, chronicling each adventure and ranking various game elements as they go. Today, Jeremy finishes detailing his first week playing Pokémon Blue.
In the first part of our series, I talked about my first few hours with Pokémon Blue, all covered in a single, multi-hour gaming session. It was a great way to revisit one of my favorite RPGs, and I ended that session on a wave of nostalgia and renewed appreciation for the generation that started it all. As the week continued, I took a more meandering pace, with short sessions tackling small milestones and encounters. I continue to be impressed with the level and game design- I know the first generation games can sometimes get a lot of flack for their lack of balance and random jank, but the more I play, the more convinced I am that, while there may be a few missteps in execution, the core design philosophy is absolutely top notch.
The Adventure Continues
Setting out from Pewter City, my team of two Pokémon – Spearow and my newly evolved Ivysaur – and I headed East for Mt. Moon. Along the way, we encountered our first densely packed barrage of other trainers along Route 3. During that time, I encountered a few new Pokémon, got my first exposure to the annoyance of Gen 1 sleep, learned about the wonders of wearing shorts, and – most importantly – heard the first hints about the nefarious Team Rocket. I’ve been impressed so far with how the game doles out its exposition, tucking nuggets of information away in short NPC dialogue, letting the chatter of the world give you hints about secret objectives and background on the overall storyline. It’s a trend that I remember continuing throughout the game.
As for Mt. Moon itself, I left Spearow mostly take the lead, letting Ivysaur avoid the endless stream of Zubats and their super-effective Bug Bites. Mt. Moon once again shows solid dungeon design, offering the decent challenge of keeping my small team of Pokémon healed as I progressed to the other side. Trainer battles were sparse enough to not get overwhelming, letting me have a good mix of both wild and trainer encounters on my journey. At the same time, I got the chance to hunt for a few new Pokémon to add to my Pokédex – though none to add to my party yet. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy the pace at which new creatures were introduced in these early titles. Modern Pokémon throw almost triple the mons at you at any given time, making collecting them all a bit more daunting, even with modern quality of life features, special Pokéballs, and the like to help you along. There’s just something satisfying about having a small, steady drip of new Pokémon with each new step in the journey.
Exiting Mt. Moon, I found myself in Cerulean City, where my Ivysaur smashed its way through the local gym with little effort. From there, I headed North for a third encounter with my rival at the famous Nugget Bridge. Here we find another nice 1-2 punch, which keeps the game feeling fresh and interesting. First, this rival encounter codifies the idea that this little snot can show up any time, any place throughout your adventure, so you better be prepared. This is also, to my memory, the last time the rival feels threatening until the endgame- I remember losing at least once as a kid at this stage of the game. Second, the entire Nugget Bridge encounter just feels so satisfying. Fighting your way through five trainers, back to back, each getting progressively harder as you go, and ending on a member of Team Rocket trying to recruit you to their cause? Sign me up. It’s a simple concept, well executed, and effective at keeping the game feeling fresh.
Beyond Nugget Bridge, I fought through the gauntlet of trainers on Route 24, saved Bill, and got my S.S. Anne Ticket – before heading South through the Underground Tunnel to Vermilion City. Here I decided to take pause and do a little team building before hopping on the S.S. Anne. Just outside Vermilion is Diglett’s Cave, which not only offers a solid location for grinding, but also leads to a small house where you can trade an Abra for a Mr. Mime. In past playthroughs, I’ve used just about every Psychic Pokémon in the books – Mewtwo, Alakazam, even Hypno – but never a Mr. Mime. At the same time, I’ve always been hesitant to use traded Pokémon, as they not only come with level restrictions – making the Pokémon not listen to you past a certain level unless you have the corresponding gym badge – but also because they come with a predetermined nickname.
But! In keeping with my commitment to try new Pokémon on this run, I marched back up to Route 24, caught an Abra using a hastily trained Butterfree, and did the deed. Now I’ll be taking a breather to train up my new Mr. Mime – Marcel – and see just how much enjoyment can be gotten out of a traded Pokémon. Tune in next week to see how my team fares!
- Steady, satisfying drip of new Pokémon
- Mt. Moon well-designed
- Nugget Bridge a satisfying little encounter that adds variety to the adventure
- Diglett Cave a nice bit of world building
- Gen I sleep mechanics are super annoying
- Traded Pokémon come with predetermined nicknames
Come back next week for the next part of SwitchRPG vs. Pokémon Blue!