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Developer:
Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: GBA
Release Date: September 07, 2004

by Tony Ames




The newest chapter of arguably the biggest name in gaming has arrived, bearing the names Fire Red and Leaf Green. And while the competition in the handheld RPG market is far stiffer now than when Pokémon first appeared, it looks as though its dominance will continue.


It is important to note that Fire Red and Leaf Green are in fact remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue, the first games of the series, and in many ways is made for fans of those games. Which hardly means new players will be lost, just that because of this comparisons between the two will be natural and come up frequently in this review.


Toward that end, I must say that the game took me by surprise visually. While the graphics still have the simplified, quasi-NES look that is the series’ signature, the detail and color of the Pokémon themselves are so vibrant I can’t help but be impressed.


The music of the game was also surprising, but only because it was so far improved over the music of Red and Blue. Mind, the music is still perfectly effective in its own right, but it must be said that I liked it a lot more than I might otherwise have because I recognized the themes. In other words, the game uses nostalgia rather heavily in the score, and I for one appreciated it.


At a certain level I also appreciated the minor changes to the plot. Plot has never been a focus of the series, and this remains the case in Fire Red and Leaf Green. What were changed were minute things that might not be noticeable if one is playing from memory. These are primarily the addition of a handful of townsfolk that make sure you know where to go next and how to get there. But of course, this just ensures the simplicity and flow of the plot, which is the same as always- you play a young boy or girl who’s set off to become a great Pokémon trainer. Really, that’s it. And while you do engage in other pursuits off and on during your quest, it never deflects the game from this focus.


But then, the draw of Pokémon has always been gameplay. The basic concept is simple- you arrange your team of up to six to engage in one-on-one duels with opposing teams or wild Pokémon. Each Pokémon belongs to one or two of 17 Types, with each Type being weak to some types of attacks and strong to others.


What is truly interesting is that as you learn what each Type is strong and weak and begin to recognize what Types particular Pokémon are, you start making many decisions (who you should send out in a particular situation, what attack should a particular Pokémon learn, what Types one needs to balance a team) without really thinking about them. The result is a remarkable balance between being complex enough to be interesting while simple enough to flow very quickly. A balance that leads to a singularly addictive experience.


Sometimes, in fact, the game flowed a little too quickly. The bulk of the quest, if one is somewhat familiar with the series, is around 15 hours long. Although the game offers numerous sidequests even after finishing the game, Fire Red and Leaf Green will never be long games.


Fortunately, like previous Pokémon games, Fire Red and Leaf Green have a bevy of multiplayer options. Aided by Nintendo’s new Wireless Adaptor (thankfully included in every copy of Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green), getting a group of friends together to trade team members or battle is easier than ever. This is fortunate, as the effort required to obtain every species of Pokémon is truly staggering. But even that feat can’t quite compare to the challenge of facing a human opponent. The computer controlled teams during the normal game do a fair job, but it just isn’t the same. Definitely corral friends into the store when purchasing the game. All in all, Fire Red and Leaf Green surprised me. Expecting a quick stroll down memory lane, I instead found myself renewing my long forgotten obsession with Pokémon. A must-buy for any past or present fans of Pokémon, and should definitely be considered by any RPG fan.


Final Grade: 87%




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