theuselessgod's Pokémon FireRed (Game Boy Advance) review

An excellent remake for both fans and newcomers alike.

Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen Versions

The Short

Pros

- Completely remakes the first Pokemon generation with added features

- Includes all features introduced in Generation II and III, such as abilities, breeding, held items, etc.

- Streamlined interface improves over both original and Ruby/Sapphire

- Can catch pokemon from all other generations after beating the game

- Included (when new) a wireless transmitter to trade/battle wirelessly on your GBA

- Improved music and graphics look and sound fantastic

- Tweaks in the story make Team Rocket more integrated into the overall plot

Cons

- Essentially the same game as Blue/Red, just refined

- Doesn't introduce any new pokemon

- No day/night cycle

- Unlike Yellow (which they didn't remake; boo!) you can't get every starter

- Doesn't change the formula at all, which can be good or bad depending on your opinion of the series

I ain't gonna stop.

Note: I will not be going over the basic mechanics of the Pokemon games in this review, as I have covered these mechanics extensively in my Pokemon Blue/Red review. Instead, all subsequent reviews will instead focus on the changes made to the formula in any particular iteration.

The Long

We've made it to 2004. It's been a while since that original pokemon game came out in the US in 1994 (1992 in Japan), a whole decade in fact. So what better way to celebrate than by remaking and re-releasing the original generation on GBA hardware? Dude, why not? After how much I was disappointed by Ruby/Sapphire, I was more than ready for a new Pokemon game. And guess what? Nostalgia be damned, I really liked Pokemon LeafGreen/FireRed.

Ah, Professor Oak. It's been a while.

It's hard to say why this game was made. Part of me wants to think its for the fans, who had been playing Pokemon for ten years and were clamoring to see their original love done modern. Part of me thinks it's to make a cash-grab by releasing another Pokemon game without having to do much additional work. And part of me thinks they are trying to ensnare a new generation of kids to play Pokemon, and figured the best way was to go back to the original magic and let it do its thing.

In truth, it's probably some combination of all three of these things. But hey, as long as I know I'm being pandered to, it's ok for me to like it, right? The Scott Pilgrim philosophy? Guys?

SQUIRTLE I MISSED YOU.

The concept behind FireRed/LeafGreen is simple: it's the original Blue/Red (and Green in Japan) games remade with improved graphics, all the new features that have been added to Pokemon, and some extra bonus content. Because of this, there isn't much I can say about it that hasn't already been said in other reviews. If you like Pokemon, this game is a dream come true. You get to pal around with old favorites like Pidgy, Ratatta, Pikachu, Caterpie, and all the rest of 'em as you still try to "Catch 'em All" with the original 150 pokemon. Yes, I'd like to do that very much, thanks.

It's running on the same Ruby/Sapphire engine, though the Pokemon themselves have a better art design

There are a few minor changes aside from backwards-implementing everything new into the original games' frameworks. Team Rocket, the original antagonists, have been given a slightly bigger role on the game's story. After you beat the game there's much more stuff to do, like travel to different islands and catch the legendary birds (which I guess you could do before), and the Elite Four will get "upgraded" with pokemon from newer generations after you do enough side missions. Double battles from Ruby/Sapphire are back, and as a whole it just feels...better. I mentioned the original game hasn't aged well (and it hasn't), but this goes a long way to fixing that. With the addition of all the new features, FireRed/LeafGreen plays more like a modern game (see the EXP bar in the screenshot? That's right.), but it also shows how well the formula had held up. Pokemon doesn't need gimmicks like a stupid fashion show or any crap like that. We just need to battle, catch, and level pokemon until we are the pokemon master. And breed. Lots of breeding.

That sounds really bad, in retrospect.

There are a few noticeable absences from FireRed/LeafGreen though, specifically the fact that the day/night cycle still hasn't made its return since Gold/Silver. What the crap, Nintendo? That was like...my favorite feature! How the crap will I ever get an Umbreon if I can't level up my Eevee at night ever since night doesn't exist here for some reason? Your whole GBA lineup sucked in terms of realism.

Yes, I'm again arguing for realism in a Pokemon game. Shut up.

So, if this game is pretty much just a remake of Blue/Red but set in the Ruby/Sapphire era of the game, why do I like it when I didn't like Ruby/Sapphire nearly as much? Well, first it's that nostalgia thing, which Nintendo knew full well and is why they made this. I have great memories of playing Pokemon on the GBC, murderin' dudes with my Bulbasaur (and later Squirtle, when I realized Bulbasaur sucks), and because of that I'm willing to overlook the stupid things Ruby/Sapphire did in lieu of playing my first Pokemon experience over again.

Second is because this game is better. A lot better. Graphics look better (battle backgrounds are greatly improved), the world itself is more vibrant and clean, sprites (which were stupid tiny in Ruby/Sapphire) are bigger and better, the pokemon themselves are cooler-looking and not stupid, the list goes on.

The music has also seen a boost up from the original tinny Game Boy sounds, though I'll admit the originals have a certain flavor that these remakes can't seem to quite recreate. They kind of go crazy on the "wah wah" horns for this remake for whatever reason, which sounds...weird. But hey, the original songs were all killer, so it's all good.

WELCOME TO A WORLD OF POCKET MONSTERS

As it stands, if you liked Red/Blue, you'll love this. If you've never played Pokemon before and only own a GBA and not a DS, this is probably your best jumping-off point available (rather than Ruby/Sapphire). It manages to capture that same adventurous magic that made the first game great, while updating it with modern game design to keep things fun.

It doesn't do much to add anything to the pre-existing Pokemon formula, but I still think it works. Since Ruby/Sapphire didn't really live up to the full potential of the changes it made, FireRed/LeafGreen stepped up and filled in just nicely. It would have been nice to see a few more upgrades or changes, but I guess we'll have to wait until entering the DS generation to see if Nintendo finally switches up the formula on us.

An excellent remake (though it was dwarfed completely and utterly by another remake on the DS, but we'll get to that) and a competent Pokemon game. Four out of five.

Except you jerks should have made ElectricYellow too.

I'm sorry, Pikachu. It was not to be.

More at nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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