SwitchRPG vs. Pokémon Blue, Part 3
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 another week playing Pokémon Blue.
We ended last week grinding up my newly traded Mr. Mime, Marcel. He proved to be a valuable party member this week, as we worked together to tackle a big batch of dungeons as this iteration of Pokémon really started to pick up speed. This is probably my favorite segment of the game, as the adventure really opens up in terms of exploration, action, and story. Beyond some branching routes and backtracking, I also picked up my first batch of HM’s this week, including Cut, Flash, and Fly. Having not dealt with HM’s in the last few generations, this week served as a reminder of why this concept is both cool and frustrating at the same time. I love the immersion the HMs bring, as your Pokémon begin to help you outside of battle, but I also am now committed to having at least 1 HM move on each of my core Pokémon. (I could never bring myself to using an HM slave.) All told, this was my favorite week with the game so far, as the game’s complexity (though not necessarily its challenge) definitely ramped up.
The Adventure Continues
Once Marcel was sufficiently trained, we dove into the gauntlet of trainers on the SS Anne, a ship currently at port in Vermilion City. The boat is billed as being filled with exotic Pokémon, including some that wouldn’t be available until much later in the game. I always loved this design choice, which crops up several times throughout the game. Having trainer battles show you upcoming Pokémon or evolutions always felt like such a natural and engaging way to keep players interested in “catching them all.” It was at the SS Anne, too, that I found my next battle against my rival, who for the first time in the game felt really underpowered. If memory serves, this trend continues up until the final battle. With my rival out of the way, the captain of the ship healed of seasickness, and the HM Cut in hand, I marched over to Vermilion Gym, solved the switch puzzle in record time, and took down Lt. Surge with Ivysaur.
From here, I took the “logical” path to Route 11, which I knew going in would be blocked by a Snorlax on the far end. I wanted to see again how the game handled the road block and instructed you to backtrack to Cerulean, and discovered the answer with the little binoculars atop the way station at the end of the route. It points out the Rock Tunnel to the player, giving them the hint they need to find their way. I know it seems small, but little touches like this – the way information is doled out to the player, the way the worldbuilding comes through small pieces of dialogue – serve to remind me why I love retro games and how creative developers could be with the economics of their design. My own over-analysis aside, I looped my way back to the Rock Tunnel – a nice little dungeon with lots of dead ends, perfectly fitting the concept – and came to Lavender Town.
In-game dialogue at this point clearly wants me to explore Pokémon Tower, but without a special item to identify the ghosts who occupy it, I’m forced to head west to Celadon City via another underground passage. There, I swiftly took down Erica with my old pal Fearow, picked up an Eevee, and chose Vaporeon for my Eeveelution. I love the mohawk, and really the only reason I’ve seldom used the water stone at this stage is because I typically use Squirtle as my starter. Vaporeon, by the way, is quickly becoming the favorite Pokémon on my team, as he completely steamrolled Rocket HQ using a combination of Water Gun, Bubblebeam, and Ice Beam. My little roleplayer’s heart loves the idea of Team Rocket now being terrified of that little kid and his Vaporeon, and I’ll be sure to put Vaporeon back at the front of my party when I head to Sylph Co.
Rounding out my back-to-back-to-back-to-back dungeon experience, I headed up Lavender Tower at last, finding hordes of one of my favorite Gen I Pokémon (and therefore NOT a party member this time around), Gastly. As a kid, I loved the idea of ghost-type, and it still kills me a bit that they were so underserved this generation. In my opinion, the designs for Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar remain one of the best progressions in the series, as this haunting figure slowly emerges from the nether-realm, revealing more and more of its body as it gains in strength. Helping the imagery of the ghost-types, of course, is the dialogue of the channelers throughout the tower, which I didn’t at all remember being as creepy as it is today. Having a woman possessed with a malevolent spirit say “Give… me… blood…” certainly sounds scarier to an adult than it does to a prepubescent kid.
With the week wrapping up, I’d say Pokémon Tower was the weakest of the dungeons I’ve faced so far. The concept is interesting, but the lack of Pokémon variety – and the fact that most trainers only have one or two Ghastly apiece – give the entire scenario very little variety throughout. However, being the weakest in such a fun stretch of gameplay is nothing to scoff at, and Lavender Town comes with some of the most effective music on the entire Gen I soundtrack – so really, what’s not to love?
- Game pace really picks up this week
- Well designed and varied dungeons
- Good use of available tools for world building
- Team Rocket coming into focus as villains
- HMs offer a good big of immersion
- Lavender Town music
- Pokémon Tower somewhat underwhelming
- HMs can also be tedious
Come back next week for the next part of SwitchRPG vs. Pokémon Blue, where we make the biggest choice of all – Saffron or Fuschia?