My Rival's Name Is Dick
Let's get this out of the way right now: it is 2014. I am reviewing Pokemon Blue for the Gameboy Color. I had difficulty getting ahold of my copy of the game because Pokemon Blue is old enough to have a driver's license and, in seven months, will be old enough to legally buy cigarettes. Pokemon Red and Blue were released in North America in September of 1996. They're old enough to give consent, dammit.
But not old enough that I don't remember how to get past most of the difficulties I dealt with on my first play-through of the game. For instance, I found Professor Oak by immediately attempting to leave Pallet Town, as opposed to wandering through all four houses of the village and wondering what I was supposed to do. Rather than catching Pokemon and spending hours leveling all of them up, I currently have five Pokemon at level 10 and a level 40 Venusaur; fire Pokemon can't even touch that boss. Also, another huge advantage is that I'm not playing through this game at 7. 23 year olds are infinitely better at Pokemon Blue than 7 year olds.
As previously referenced, I started the game with Bulbasaur, for no other reason than that he's Pokemon #001. I've spent the entirety of the game leveling him up, ignoring the artificial level cap placed on Pokemon by way of the Gym Badges. I've been sitting on a supposed level 30 cap now for half of my play through the game, and yet at level 40 Venusaur has given me no difficulty, save for failing to get me through Rock Tunnel on one single walkthrough (although that was probably more of a result of me playing through the dungeon drunk and refusing to use any move other than Tackle, despite the fact that every single Pokemon in the Tunnel was weak towards Venusaur's various grass-type moves, and half his level).
I'm playing through the game on a modified Gameboy Color, and the colors are frighteningly more monotone than I remembered. Everything has a blue tint, which reminds me that everything in Pokemon Red had a red tint, and everything in Pokemon Yellow had a yellow tint - although I could overlook that flaw in the game because having Pikachu follow you around the entire game was bad ass. A quick jump over to the game's Bulbapedia page reminds me that these were just Gameboy games, not Gameboy color games, so if one is going to go back to the games expecting to be impressed by the graphics, don't. Thankfully, I got the Gameboy from a friend and computer engineer, who modified the speakers on the device to play crystal clear music at high levels. When I'm listening to the game rather than a podcast on my iPod (shameless promotional reference to the Giant Bombcast here), it's with modern audio quality, as opposed to what I can only imagine was just plain crap coming out of 1996 Gameboy speakers.
Gameplay is identical to modern Pokemon games. Sure, there have been some graphical improvements in recent versions of the game, and the visuals of the Pokemon themselves have improved (even if the Pokemon themselves haven't), but I'd be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 kids playing current Pokemon games would have no problem picking up a copy of Pokemon Blue and playing it without difficulty. Considering that my typical playing time of the game occurs while drunk or on the toilet, it's been great just picking up the game after 18 years and picking up on the game's features and challenges has been akin to getting back on a bike. It's been effortless.
If you played through any of the early Pokemon games and you've been thinking about revisiting them, by all means, dust off the ole' Gameboy, grab a link cable, and pull up a chair. Pokemon Blue holds up extremely well. And, in seven months, it will even be able to buy us cigarettes.