Pokemon: Fire Red

Everyone's favorite Pokemon return, graphically enhanced.


The Lowdown

Pros: Enhanced graphics, support with Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, support with Pokemon Coliseum, free wireless adapter

Cons: Same old adventure, no new Pokemon, same old gameplay

Purchase at Play-Asia
By now what started as a simple video game has become a world wide phenomenon spawning numerous games, TV shows, and even a store dedicated to the brand. Yes, I'm talking about Pokemon. Love it or hate it, Nintendo's innovative collecting game is here to stay. The series begun with the original Pokemon game for Game Boy, distributed in green, red and blue colors in Japan (only blue and red were released in America). The latest Pokemon game isn't exactly new it pays homage to the game's roots. The latest versions of Pokemon, Fire Red and Leaf Green are remakes of the original Pokemon Red and Green varieties.

The story of the original Pokemon games involved a young Pokemon trainer and his dream to become a Pokemon Trainer. The story is similar to the original TV show with Ash. If you've seen the show you already know that Ash's rival is Professor Oak's son Gary and that he is accompanied by Misty and Brock. The difference is in Pokemon: Fire Red, the trainer can be male or female and be named whatever you please. If you've never played a Pokemon game before you may be in for a little bit of a surprise. The game is played like a hybrid RPG. You control a Pokemon Trainer who battles using tiny, cute monsters that can be captured. Each Pokemon has it's own amount of hit points, attributes and abilities, which makes each monster unique. After a victory against a random monster or another trainers Pokemon you will be rewarded experience that go towards increasing your Pokemon's level. If you get tired of having the same old Pokemon you can catch new Pokemon by weakening a wild Pokemon and catching it with a Poke Ball.

A lot of the fun from the Pokemon series is catching all of the different Pokemon. In this game alone there are over 90 Pokemon to be caught. Different ones can be obtained by going to special locations, trading with townsfolk and even by playing mini games. Battling Pokemon is almost like a massive game of rock, paper, and scissors. Each Pokemon has a certain element that is attributed to it. For instance, Charmander (the orange Pokemon that looks like a dinosaur) is a fire element Pokemon. He has fire attacks, which are strong against grass Pokemon and weak against water Pokemon. Charmander also suffers from higher damage from water and rock Pokemon. So if you're facing off against a water Pokemon like a Squritle you'd be better off using an electric Pokemon, like a Pikachu. The whole system may sound complex, but its actually simple to learn. Basically, having a diverse group of Pokemon is to your advantage. So you should try and catch as many Pokemon as you can.

If you've played any of the Pokemon games for the old black and white Game Boy, you'll already notice the difference in graphical detail. First of all the Pokemon are in color, instead of black and white. Even the enhanced color graphics that could be seen by a Game Boy Color are no match to the sprites in the Game Boy Advance version. All of the old Pokemon couldn't look any better. Each of the Pokemon look like small cartoon characters and have more animations that the previous games. The attack sequences look much better too. Pikachu's thundershock attack looks better than ever before in full color, and with more animation. While you're walking around town you're treated to a more detailed and colorful town than the original game. While this upgrade doesn't exactly push the limits of the Game Boy Advance, it's still nice to see. Nintendo managed to keep the style of the original Pokemon games and still incorporate a graphical upgrade.

You're probably wondering what Fire Red offers new to the Pokemon world. While it doesn't offer any new Pokemon to play with you can load your hard trained Pokemon from Ruby and Sapphire into the game. Just note that if you have a North American version of Ruby or Sapphire you can't transfer your data to the Japanese version of Fire Red or Leaf Green. Instead of getting a Pokedex at the beginning of the game you're given an enhanced Pokemon Navigator that contains more facts and information than the Pokedex. The game also supports the new wireless link so you don't have to carry a cable to trade or battle Pokemon. You can even upload your trained Pokemon's data to Pokemon Coliseum to battle them in the 3D Gamecube version of Pokemon stadium. Even though there isn't anything markedly new, if you're a fan of the series there is enough to do with your data from the game to warrant a purchase.

If you've never played a Pokemon game before this is the one to start with. To make the game even more user friendly there is a quick help system that can be accessed by pressing L or R. If you're a fan of the series you can not only relive the classic adventure, but you can use this game's data in conjunction with other Pokemon games.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 4

This game is entirely in Japanese. So if you can't read any you might have some trouble. However, if you have played through the original game there is a good chance you can play through the game.

US Bound?

Both Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green have a tentative Summer 2004 release date.

Overall

The Pokemon series never fails to impress gamers of all ages, if you like the games you're already planning to get this. Even if you aren't in to the Pokemon games this game makes a great starting point.