Nothing is really perfect – even our favorite video games aren’t without faults. There’s always going to be an issue or an aspect of a game that doesn’t particularly hold up. Even games as acclaimed as Ocarina of Time have problems.
This is especially true when games become older and older. A game could be amazing at launch, though may lose relevance as time marches on. While Final Fantasy VII was groundbreaking for its time, gamers are now used to the better graphics and quality of life gameplay that more recent games have achieved.
Pokémon Red and Blue are just as guilty of being faultier the older it gets. Older players may have accepted those games as they were, warts and all, because they were the only quality games like that at the time. It didn’t matter if the games were painfully repetitive, kids in those days would gobble them up, as it was all they had.
Arguably, Red and Blue were able to succeed due to the fact that they had charm, but charm could only get you so far. There are a lot of things wrong with the original Red and Blue games, in fact, we counted 21. Does that make these games terrible? Of course not; as we've mentioned before, nothing is flawless. Someone somewhere said that love is blind, and that's certainly an explanation for how we feel about the faults in games. Nonetheless, they are still present and we should all take a moment to recognize them.
This is actually an issue that all the Pokémon games suffer from, and we all kind of accepted it at this point. It doesn’t really make it right that we've all accepted having only one save file as the norm, but here we are. The original Red and Blue could barely fit all original 151 Pokémon, and it is a miracle that those games can save all that information at all. So while it makes sense for those games to have only one save file, it is still an issue that the franchise is still dealing with.
Personally, I put a lot of love and effort into each of my Pokémon playthroughs. I don’t want to delete my original save file to make room for a new game – I want to keep the file I have.
All Pokémon are a specific type. For example, Squirtle is a Water-type Pokémon and can use water-based moves. A lot of Pokémon have a second type, like Charizard being a Fire and Flying-type.
Red and Blue oddly added a second type to various Pokémon that didn’t really make sense. For instance, did you know that Geodude and its evolution line are all rock and ground types? I have no idea why, but it just makes them super weak to water. Most of the grass types have also suffered from odd additional typing. Nearly every Grass-type in the game are also part poison. This includes Bulbasaur and its evolution line. It really doesn’t make sense.
You walk into the grass. A flash of light hits you, the iconic music starts playing, and you are thrust into a random Pokémon battle. Those are in everyone’s first few minutes of gameplay. Want to know what will be your last few minutes of gameplay will be? The exact same thing. The games are super repetitive. There is a serious lack of variation in how to play the game. You’re always fighting Pokémon, and most of it is unavoidable. It doesn’t help that Red and Blue are also terribly slow, making the whole process of battling Pokémon very tedious and boring.
Grinding, the act of leveling up your playable characters through battle, has always been a part of RPGs since the dawn of time. Red and Blue aren’t the first games to invent grinding, however, they did make grinding very painful.
In order to level up your Pokémon, you'll need to defeat other Pokémon, which will give you experience points. The issue Red and Blue has with experience points is that your Pokémon doesn’t really gain a lot of experience points from fights. It becomes increasingly difficult to gain EXP the higher your level since you will continuously need more points. Grinding has always been a hassle for players, but Red and Blue really tests player’s endurance.
If you have played some of the more modern Pokémon games, you may not realize how overpowered Psychic-types were in the original games.
In Red and Blue, Psychic Pokémon had very few weaknesses. They were only weak against Bug-types, and good luck getting any good Bug-type Pokémon in Gen I. Worse yet, there were hardly any Bug-type moves for Pokémon to use in Gen I! Add in Psychic-type Pokémon’s high stats, and you have yourself the most powerful type in the game. There is a reason why Mewtwo, the strongest Pokémon in both games, is a Psychic-type.
Lavender Town is probably one of the most memorable things about the original Red and Blue. With its haunting music and surprisingly serious nature, Lavender Town is also home of Ghost-type Pokémon.
All Pokémon fans know the original ghost trio of Ghastly, Haunter, and Gengar. However, did you know that those three were the only trio of Ghost-types in the original games? Apparently, the developers of Red and Blue couldn’t bother to come up with more Ghost-types and simply left it at three. While it made ghost Pokémon appear more exotic, it didn’t really make sense for there to be only three ghost Pokémon in all of Kanto.
If ghost Pokémon got squat in the original games, then the Dragon-types got extra squat. To be fair, Dragon-types are meant to be one of the most powerful kinds of Pokémon. Having Dragon-types as rare relates to the mythicalness of dragons in real life.
That doesn’t excuse the fact that the there is only one dragon move in the entire game; Dragon Rage, a move that deals exactly forty points of damage every time it is used. It’s a terrible move, and it doesn’t make sense for it to be the only one.
Brock is the first Gym Leader you come across in the games, and he is notorious for being very difficult. He is a Rock-type Gym Leader, and rock-types are known for their strong defense. They are also strong against most of the Pokémon you can capture at that point. In fact, the only way you can beat Brock’s rock Pokémon is if you choose Bulbasaur or Squirtle as your starter Pokémon. You also need to level them up to a certain point for them to learn a grass or water move. If you choose Charmander then good luck, because you are probably won’t be able to have any Pokémon that are good enough against Brock’s team.
Red and Blue had to fit in a lot of data in their cartridges. Not only did they have to fit in 151 unique Pokémon, but they also had to fit in an overworld for players to traverse in. This is not including the different animations and sprites that needed to be incorporated in the games.
As you could imagine, Red and Blue really pushed the Game Boy cartridge to its limit. To fit all that, certain sacrifices needed to be made. Inventory in the original Pokémon games was well-known for how limited it was. If you wanted to free more space, you'd need to permanently remove things from your bag to make room. You're also forced to keep key items, which tend to take up even more space.
Pokémon Red and Blue are old-school Game Boy games, meaning they were originally released without color. It was just white on top of more white. Not only did this aesthetic make the games look bland, but it also made the menu system very difficult to navigate. All of the text was in the same font, so it was hard to tell anything apart. The bag wasn’t separated by any pockets; so everything you owned was on one screen. Key items would be lost within the bag, and there were hardly any shortcuts to gauge where everything was.
There were many myths surrounding Mew, and how to capture it. One of the most prevalent theories was that Mew could be found underneath a truck. Of course, all of these rumors turned out to be false, and there was actually no real way to lure Mew in the game. Mew was added in very last minute by a developer, and which was mostly done as a joke. There was enough extra data to include one more Pokémon, so the developer chose to include Mew without telling many people about it.
For a while, there was no legitimate way to acquire Mew in the actual games, until Nintendo added a special event where they would trade Mew to participating players. Of course, unless you have Game Shark or a time machine, you can no longer get Mew.
The original Pokémon games were riddled with glitches. Gamers would constantly find ways to break the game. You can get into areas that are supposed to be impossible to enter, swim on land, or walk on sea water. The games were prone to crashing, and there were a lot of bugs.
The most infamous bug in the game is 'MissingNo'. MissingNo is a glitch that appears to be a fightable Pokémon if a player is able to break the game, coming across it in a random battle. There are several forms of MissingNo; one famous appearance of MissingNo looks like a tower of distorted pixels.
Personally, I have no issues with any of the original 151 Pokémon. I’ve known them all my life; they may not all be objectively great, however, they are perfect to me. I wouldn’t change any of them.
With that said, speaking purely objectively, not all 151 of the OG Pokémon have amazing designs. While most point to Grimer and Muk as being lame designs, I have always felt that Voltorb and Electrode have the laziest designs. Not only that, but the original 151 had the simplest designs in the entire franchise. Compared to the more wacky aesthetics that future games will bring, the OG come across incredibly tame.
As mentioned before, the original Game Boy games didn't have color. It was all just gray and white. This makes all those old Game Boy games bland and boring looking, ironically including Pokémon Red and Blue. It is hard to be excited about a game when everything looks the same. This is especially upsetting in the original Pokémon games, due to the fact that the Pokémon are meant to be colorful and energetic. When later Game Boys started displaying color, Red and Blue was finally able to show its true colors. Unfortunately, each one only had one color. Red was all in red, while Blue was all in blue. How fitting…
Don’t get me wrong, the music in Pokémon Red and Blue is iconic and awesome. We all remember the noises that were made when we enter a Pokémon battle, and who can forget about Lavender Town’s infamously dreary music.
This doesn’t excuse the games' pretty terrible sound design. Even though the music is genuinely great, they are muffled by the Game Boy’s outdated audio and speakers. The music can also get very repetitive since it's constantly looping throughout the games. There’s definitely a sense nostalgia listening to the music the way it was back then, however, if you hadn't heard it during its first release, then the noises from the games will sound like complete garbage.
I’ve brought up the lack of Dragon and Bug-type moves, and yet, these are only the beginning of Red and Blue’s limited move-pool. Whereas more current Pokémon games have tons of different moves to learn, Red and Blue had relatively very little to work with. There were hardly any Bug moves to actually harm opponents, so good luck fighting against Psychic-types with just Pin Missile and Leach Life. The lack of variety really made the games a lot less balanced, and it added unnecessary difficulty.
We all know Mewtwo and the other Legendaries are extremely hard to catch, however, we should expect them to be difficult to capture. They are Legendaries, so players shouldn’t be too surprised to find out that they are extremely difficult to get.
Despite that, no one should have expected Chansey to be as hard to catch as it was. And why should we? Chansey is cutesy Pokémon that helps nurse Joy in the Pokémon Center. But underneath Chansey’s smile is a Pokémon that is so hard to fight against due to its high health points and annoying moves. On one hand, it’s cool to have an extra challenge, though Chansey is really more annoying than rewarding.
In order to progress further in the games, you need to defeat Gym Leaders and gain Hidden Machines. Hidden Machines, or HMs, teach your Pokémon special moves that help you get through particular hurdles in the overworld. For example, the Surf HM allows you to swim on water.
HMs have always been pains in the Pokémon games. Once a Pokémon learns a Hidden Machine move, they can’t unlearn it. They are also Key Items, meaning you can never throw them away to make room in your bag. Most of these HMs tend to be awful moves. Only Surf and Fly are worth teaching your Pokémon. I’m glad Pokémon Sun and Moon got rid of HMs completely.
Each town has their own Gym, excluding Pallet Town and Lavender Town. You would assume that the Gyms would be evenly spaced out, however, that is not the case at all. Not all the towns are spread out the same. Certain towns are very far away from one and another, while others are almost literally right next door.
Red and Blue originally starts off with each town being pretty distant from one and another. As you get closer to the end, though, you suddenly start passing through Gyms in quick succession. It makes the games very oddly paced, and the overall story feel uneven.
You only fight against other Pokémon when you're either facing against another trainer, or if you come across a wild Pokémon. Generally, you can avoid wild Pokémon encounters if you try not to cut through the tall grass.
However, this rule does not apply to caves. In caves, the whole area is made up of tall grass. Everywhere you walk, there’s a good chance that you’ll enter into a wild Pokémon battle. The most common Pokémon in caves are Zubats. You’ll fight against so many Zubats throughout your playthrough that your ears will start to ache from the Zubats' screeches. It makes going through caves very painful, especially long caves like Mt. Moon.
We may mock Pokémon Red and Blue due to how outdated it is now, but the impact of these games should never be understated. They literally changed the world of video games, and continue to exist as a reputable brand to this day.
With that said, these games became immediately obsolete once Gold and Silver were released. Gold and Silver has many improvements over the original, mainly because they are faster and have actual color variance. Future games would continue to perfect the Pokémon formula, making Red and Blue almost unplayable at this point. Good thing remakes like Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee exist to make it easier for fans to re-experience the originals in a new light.