Pokémon FireRed/LeafGreen

In 1996 in Japan, Nintendo began the multi-billion-dollar franchise Pokémon, with the first versions, Red and Blue, seeing foreign release over the next three years. In 2004, Nintendo released enhanced remakes of the games on the Gameboy Advance, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, with these remakes keeping the franchise's addictive experience in spite of some flaws.

The goal of the game is simple: catch all Pokémon, while dealing with the sinister Team Rocket, a criminal organization that abuses Pokémon. The story, as would be the case with future installments of the series, isn't much of a reason to play the game, with the conflict between the protagonist and his rival, not to mention Team Rocket, downplayed throughout the game, which is far more about its gameplay than its plot.

Luckily, the gameplay of FireRed and LeafGreen is reasonably solid, with random encounters occurring in patches of tall grass and in caves. The player has a party of up to six Pokémon, one of which the player chooses to appear when the battle starts to fight one-on-one against an enemy Pokémon. The player can choose to use one of four of the Pokémon's abilities, switch with another of their Pokémon, use an item, or escape.

Pokémon, alongside their abilities, come in different types, with certain skills dealing more damage to certain types and less damage to other types, which provides a degree of strategy throughout the game. When encountering wild Pokémon, the player can choose to use different kinds of Pokéballs to try to capture them, with better success if the opponent Pokémon is sleeping and/or has low HP. Defeating enemy Pokémon nets experience for all living Pokémon that helped defeat it.

The player will also encounter trainers on the routes and in the dungeons between towns, with the rare two-on-two Pokémon battle sometimes occurring. Here, the player must defeat all of the trainer's Pokémon in order to win; if the player wins, they receive money alongside the experience gained from the battle, but if the trainer wins, the player pays the trainer and returns to the nearest healing facility. Overall, the battle system is reasonably enjoyable, with only a few flaws such as some nasty spikes in difficulty in the beginning and towards the end, and that switching Pokémon wastes the player's turn.

The controls are okay, what especially with an easy menu system and the always-convenient ability to save the game anywhere, although scrolling the lists in the menus takes some time, and the game sometimes doesn't do a good job telling players how to advance. Still, interaction could have easily been far worse.

The soundtrack suffers largely due to the Gameboy Advance's poor aural quality, although the tracks themselves are okay, and the graphics are somewhat simplistic, what with small character sprites and poor battle scenery. Even so, the game could have looked and sounded worse.

Finally, a straightforward playthrough takes somewhere from twenty to forty hours, although capturing every Pokémon and performing every sidequest can naturally take longer. Overall, the FireRed and LeafGreen versions of Pokémon are reasonably solid, what in particular with the addictive Pokémon gameplay, although they could have been much better, what with somewhat subpar aural and graphical presentation, flaws that would plague future installments. Despite these flaws, the gameplay largely redeems both versions of the game, and are worth playing by old and new fans alike.

The Good:
+Addictive gameplay.
+You can save anywhere.

The Bad:
-Some nasty difficulty spikes.
-Sub-par music and graphics.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 4/10
Music/Sound: 5/10
Graphics: 5/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 6.5/10

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