Pokémon Fire Red & Leaf Green - Review  

Elemental Tactics, Plus Kitties
by Michael Beckett

Very Easy
30+ hrs


Rating definitions 

    While a decent remake of the original Pokemon games, Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green doesn't really do much that is going to change the minds of those who dislike the franchise. For longtime fans of Pokemon, this game offers the chance to aquire some of the previously unavailable Pokemon, but not much else. The game contains the same basic structure in moves, tactics and visuals as it's predicessors and does next to nothing when it comes to innovation.

    Combat in Pokemon FR/LG is fundamentally unchanged since the last GBA Pokemon game, Ruby and Sapphire. The player is tasked with putting together a team of six critters, each with their own stats, a maximum of four moves and an elemental type which determines weaknesses and resistances to other types. Combat proceeds in a one-on-one turn based fashion as it always has, althought the two-on-two battles from Pokemon R/S and Colosseum are carried over. The strategy involved in coming up with a team is an engaging piece of tactical workmanship, but it's not anything we haven't seen before. I would put to Nintendo that it may be time for an overhaul of the system - Pokemon is becoming somewhat repetitive.

    The story of Pokemon always seems to be the same. A young boy or girl leaves home to seek his or her fortune and glory amongst the great Pokemon trainers of the day. The story is fine, given that the audience it is aimed at is younger than average, but would a bit of a twist hurt? FR/LG follows the story of the original Pokemon trainer, Ash, and his rival, Gary. Of course, the player is given the option of renaming them so that there is no preset name to the hero and his rival, and indeed, even the genders thereof are optional. The story is remarkably consistant given the options available, but it lacks the depth and originality to make it really worth paying attention to.

A large number of new trainers await you. A large number of new trainers await you.

    One of the best aspects of any Pokemon game is the sheer longevity of the title. The plot of Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green can be blown through in less than thirty hours, but the game doesn't end there. After beating the Elite Four, the player is given a whole other section of the Pokemon world to explore - the Sevii Islands. Composed of seven individual islands, the Sevii Islands subquest wraps up a few of the loose threads of the main plot while opening up some new and interesting questions, and more importantly, new trainers to battle. This subquest adds a great deal to playablity, and in general makes it a much better game.

    The biggest deal for longtime fans of the series, though, is going to be the new Move Tutors which can teach the critters moves that were contained in TMs in the original game. There's a catch, of course - Move Tutors work only once. But between that and a significantly more powerful Elite Four after completing the Sevii Islands, FR/LG offers some interesting new challenges for veterans.

    Control has recieved a considerable update from Ruby and Sapphire, and is a good deal more consistant now than it was. Menus are more responsive, and although the text has shrunk a bit, it is actually easier to read due to a greater level of detail and contrast in the graphics. The individual Pokemon's status screen in particular has recieved a considerable overhaul, although the transition was less kind here. The status screens look a bit cluttered now, and are less informative than they were. Visuals in general are mostly unchanged from R/S, which isn't necissarily a bad thing; the graphics of Ruby and Sapphire were by no means bad. They were, as FR/LG is now, a bit lacking in detail, but the cartoon style of the game still comes through very well. The only thing that really bothered me about the visual style was the design of the Pokemon present in this version of the game - compared to those present in Ruby and Sapphire, the Pokemon design seemed somewhat lackluster, somewhat less imaginative.

Old Gym Leaders recieve new outfits! Old Gym Leaders recieve new outfits!

    As with previous incarnations of the series, Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green presents very little in the way of a direct challenge. Progressing through the main plot is largely a matter of selecting the correct type Pokemon to effectively hit your opponent's weakness. The computer AI is slightly better than previously - the computer will, at higher levels, use items on ailing Pokemon and on occassion even switch out Pokemon to better hit one of your weaknesses. In general, though, this game is not at all difficult and most opposing Pokemon can be defeated through a simple superiority of levels.

    The sound in Pokemon games has never been of much note, and FR/LG is no difference. The music, while certainly better than in the original Red and Blue, is poor quality both in composition and sound quality. The sound effects aren't much better, ranging from blips and beeps to the tinny, mechanical cries of Pokemon. While I understand the technological limitations of the GBA, Nintendo is certainly capable of better than this.

    In the end, Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green preserves what was fun about the series to begin with, but doesn't really do anything new or unusual. This game will probably not resonate amongst the general gaming population for the same reason the others didn't - simplistic plot, often bizarre creature design and an emphasis on collection over strategy - but for fans of the series, particularly those who missed the original Pokemon Red and Blue, it's certainly worth a look.

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