Back in 1999 it was a pretty fresh concept to see two versions of the same game available to buy. Pokemon Blue had certain monsters which couldn’t be captured in Red, and vice versa. It allowed kids to trade like they once traded Pogs and football stickers, but with more tangled wires and less chipped slammers. It was such a success a third version of Pokemon appeared only eight months later, shaking up the status quo further, only this time there was a certain gust of confusion in the air. What did this mean? Did us poor schoolkids really need to upgrade our games for more more more? No no no.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was reliving past memories through Pokemon Blue, you can even read my little write-up here, so I’ll refrain from explaining what Pokemon is and why the oldest entries are still worth revisiting. With everyone going nuts over Pokemon Go this year, I don’t think anyone needs to know what a Pokeball does.
The full title for the third version is Pokemon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition, a real mouthful not even Pikachu itself wants to deal with, hence the angry expression of the mouse being present on the box. As one could guess, the yellow mouse/rat is the star of the show, and a cute sprite follows you in the game wherever you go. Unless you stuff it into Bill’s PC that is.
This Pikachu isn’t too different from a Pikachu that can be found with Red or Blue, except the fact that it refuses to evolve into a Raichu when a thunder stone is waved in its face. It takes the place of the original starter Mons, and you can check up on it by speaking to it like a real human being. It will love you if you feed it potions, it will hate you if you let it continuously pass out in battle. It doesn’t seem to change much though, so let it hate you if that’s what you really want.
Every other change is fairly minor in comparison. Sprites have been updated, colours have been lazily splashed onto the screen, trainers have had their monsters switched up, and a few tweaks here and there have been put in place to bring it an inch closer to the 90’s anime show. You still can’t catch them all, and now you have to trade between Red and Blue to catch them all! It’s a three-way which leads to confusion. And no doubt led to more tangled wires back in 2000 as Yellow owners attempted to obtain an Ekans from Red, then a Meowth from Blue. A Yellow player ends up with all three starter mon, but at what cost?
I remember when my friend upgraded from Red to Yellow. I was envious of the colour, bitter about having no loving Pika on my black and white stone age edition, and felt tears in my eyes when the anime Team Rocket appeared instead of generic grunts. Looking back, I was fooled into thinking the additions were so essential, but a lack of money burning a burning pocket-money kept me from seeing just how minimal it all was.
Sixteen years later the game can be purchased for under a tenner on the 3DS virtual console. It’s the version to own out of them all, but it’s still hard to overlook just how cynical a third version is. I’m not sure if later third versions of Pokemon (Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum) significantly improved over the initial two versions they were following, but I’m glad the Pokemon Company seem to be over it now. All it did was lead to jealous kids and mangled trading. Not even a Pikachu can fix that.