Pokemon Leaf Green and Fire Red GBA Review
Once again, there is no visible push to the appearance of the game; like Ruby and Sapphire, everything is more colourful and detailed than before, and yet a far cry from visual treats such as Golden Sun. The move effects are starting to look a little tired now for the large part.
If you’ve played either Red or Blue, then you have played 95% of this game already. Seriously. Everything from Pokemon locations to the dialogue of the carious NPCs you meet on your journey are carbon copies of the 90s hit GB games. Luckily, the addition of a complex of islands known as One Island, Two Island and Three Island respectively, offer the only real new experience to this game in the form of new pokemon locations and a short scenario to solve. As well as this, there are some slight tweaks; the berry system from the newer titles has now been implemented, although there’s far less emphasis on it than in Ruby and Sapphire, and new moves and types have been carried across. Is this enough to convince you to play what’s essentially a very old game again? You decide.
The aim of the game is, as always, to become the best pokemon trainer in the world while collecting various fuzzy charges on your way. Your character (male or female this time) starts their adventure in Pallet Town, a sleepy and uneventful village; yet, over the course of the game, you will visit far-flung destinations in a variety of places, from woodlands to the ocean. Every town is well-populated with NPCs to converse with, shops to investigate and houses to nose around, not to mention key locations like the Pokemon Museum and PokeLabs. All of this gels together to make an involving RPG experience that pans out completely differently for each individual depending on which pokemon they choose to raise and how.
Pokemon may be made to battle against wild pokemon, or other trainer’s beasts; when a pokemon’s health is depleted, it “faints” and loses the battle. In the case of wild pokemon, throwing a patented Pokeball when their health is low may capture it, adding it to your intrepid bunch of heroes. Battles may be encountered both by “making eye contact with”, or talking to, various NPCs, or by connecting your gameboy to a friends and battling their team; alternatively, various dungeons in the game and areas with long grass or waterways will incur random battles. Repeated battling will level up your pokemon; this raises their stats, and also gives them a chance to learn new moves and possibly evolve to a new, more powerful form. Your pokemon can only learn four moves, however, so thinking ahead is important when it comes to selecting what attacks you will allow them to keep; having four moves that hit for masses of damage but can only be used five times won’t stand you in good stead in longer battles.
There are several factors that can influence battle outcome; naturally, attack and defence are concerns, but more important is the type of your pokemon. Water types will be extremely effective against fire, but will suffer greatly against plant types; Electric pokemon will devastate any flying beasts, but have absolutely no effect against rock. All of this must be considered when attempting successful battle, and so having a well-rounded team of individuals is crucial. As well as this, you (or your rivals) can use various items in battle, such as healing tonics and stat boosters; similarly, you can equip your pokemon with various berries that they will automatically use in battle should the need arise.
The key element of Pokemon is, as always, trading and working to catch every little critter that can be found, and this is no exception; while the story mode of Fire Red and Leaf Green are the same, there is a handful of pokemon that are exclusive to each title. This means that, as well as having to work for hours to find all the pokemon in your game, you will also have to get together with a friend (or buy both titles yourself) in order to trade and get everything. The evolution of some pokemon also relies on them being traded, making this an essential technique for any keen PokeFan.
These instalments of the series seem to have been tailored to encourage a new wave of younger players; there is an unskippable tutorial at the start of the game, and hitting the shoulder buttons at any point brings up a customised help screen depending on what you’re actually doing at the time. This is pretty handy for newbies to the games, and seems set to secure the next generation of pokemon fanatics; yet for veterans of the series the fact that these cannot be avoided is a bit of a pain, and could have been averted with the simple inclusion of the following question before gameplay commences – “Have you played a Pokemon game before?”
Occasionally bland but cheery enough tunes accompany this title; while it’s no symphony, most of the melodies won’t have you clutching your ears in agony (though some are extremely repetitive and a relief to leave behind). Sadly, the pokemon voice samples are unchanged; while this shows some nice continuity to some people, we all know that pokemon don’t say “raraaywa!” Never mind.
The other pokemon games are touted as having the longest game-time of any GBA game, and this is no exception; with over 150 pokemon to collect for these titles alone, plus numerous side quests and mini-games, it’s not unusual for gamers to clock up well in excess of 100 hours per game. Factor in the multiplayer element, which includes wireless battles and a chat room, and its easy to see how much time can be lavished on these titles (particularly if you attend any pokemon events). If you’re after value for money then buy this title with no further ado; you WILL waste a ludicrous number of hours on it.
While the Pokemon formula is undoubtedly enjoyable and addictive – and technically, this is no exception – the fact that this is really just a slightly prettier remake means that I can’t really justify giving this the same score as Ruby and Sapphire; it feels a bit greedy and half-hearted. Don’t get me wrong; if you haven’t played Red or Blue in the past and/or are new to the games, then this is the title for you; if you have, then this could really be the point that turns you off the titles. Pokemon fanatics will no doubt snap this up to complete their collections, but be warned; there is very little here that you haven’t seen before.