In Japan in 1996, the phenomenon known as Pocket Monsters commenced in Japan with the release of Red and Green Versions of the game, with a special Blue Edition coming out shortly afterward, it and the Red version released in North America as Pokémon Red and Blue. A few years into the next millennium, Game Freak remade them as FireRed and LeafGreen Versions, with this review covering the former version, which proves an okay introduction to the series.
Centric to the games is the ability to capture and train Pokémon, with the player starting with one of three, and able to use Poké Balls to obtain wild ones, with a higher chance if the player has whittled down their health low enough, else it may break free of the ball. The player can have six in their party at once, with each Pokémon being of one or two types that determine which skills hurt it more or less. This serves the game well, but the player can’t see an enemy Pokémon’s type except in their Pokédex outside battle if they captured it before. Switching Pokémon in battle also wastes the player’s turn, with an irritating endgame requiring massive resources, and many fights sluggish if the player doesn’t exploit enemy weaknesses, but the battle system is definitely a draw.
Although players can save their game anywhere, and the menus aren’t too troublesome aside from some sluggishness when using items on Pokémon, the game’s control could have definitely been better, with sometimes poor direction on how to advance and making it through the game necessitating that the player speak with specific NPCs to get certain skills that aid in navigation such as one allowing them to traverse water. The game also initially denies players a dash function, with consequential and incredible sluggish movement, and the player needing to hold down a button all the time to speed up movement (which is fixed at slow in buildings), with no auto-dash feature. Overall, interaction definitely leaves plentiful room for improvement.
Easily the low point of the remake is the story, with the villains known as Team Rocket about as complex as Snidely Whiplash, a blank-slate protagonist, and the aforementioned terrible direction on how to advance the primary plotline. The translation, though, is actually serviceable, although there are some unnaturalities such as the odd expression “Smell ya!” Even so, the developers could have definitely given the narrative a once-over.
The music is actually okay aside from occasional infantile tracks, but the quality definitely suffers outside the many unique calls of Pokémon, the GameBoy Advance aurally unachieving during its existence.
The graphics are simplistic, with miniature character sprites, the Pokémon designs and to a lesser extent the environs being the visual high points, with palette swaps minimal.
Finally, depending upon the player’s skill, finishing the game can take anywhere from three to six days, with plenty lasting appeal in finding all Pokémon and significant post-game content.
Even so, aside from gameplay some may find addictive, a save-anywhere feature, and a serviceable localization, Pokémon FireRed doesn’t really excel in its other departments, including the poor pacing, the minimal plot, and lackluster aural and visual quality. Whether it’s a good diving board into the franchise is definitely a matter of question, and while it would bear many successors, they too would mimic some of this particular entry’s flaws, for whatever reason.
+Strategic battle system with plenty variety.
+Plenty lasting appeal.
The Bottom Line:
An okay remake.
Platform: GameBoy Advance
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Playing Time: 3-6 Days