Game Boy / Pokémon

So You Wanna Be A Master? Part 1: Pokemon Blue

I was 9 years old when I felt the adrenaline-fueled rush of tearing away the cellophane from a Pokémon cartridge box. I’ve since experienced other joys and pleasures that eclipse it in intensity but there’s a special place in my heart for a new Pokémon game. Despite red being my favourite colour, I felt a kinship with the cobalt box of Pokémon Blue and the mascot adorning it. I heard from friends that it was called Blastoise and evolved from one of three starter Pokémon.

This was like nothing I had ever played before and I had no idea what type weaknesses/strengths were. Naturally, I picked the cutesy turtle named Squirtle knowing the awesome beast it would become. Of course, my rival always chose the better Pokémon, but that didn’t deter me from winning our first encounter (to this day, I think I’ve only ever lost to him twice in our first battle).

Pewter City was the venue for my inaugural gym battle with Brock. Getting past him was a breeze with my Squirtle as water beats rock (I’d learnt this with my new Pokémon magazine’s type chart). By this time, I also had a Pidgey as my second in command. I got through the Rock Tunnel relatively unscathed, picked up a Helix Fossil and found myself in new territory—Cerulean City.

A casual walk up the “Nugget Bridge” sent me hurtling into another battle with good ol’ Blue. His team was far superior and after a few attempts and loss of earnings, I came out on top. I battled my way past the trainers on the bridge and all the way across Route 25. But I was merely building myself up for the climax—or, perhaps, I was procrastinating. I wanted that second Kanto badge from Misty. The events that followed have stayed with me for the rest of my life.

My attention span in gaming isn’t nearly as expansive as it used to be. If I can’t beat a level after about three or four goes, I give up and leave it for another day. But I was a child and this was my first serious game. My parents went out at around noon and my mum reminded me to have lunch. The request fell on deaf ears; I had a job to do.

Damn you, Misty!

Misty only had two Pokémon, much like her gym predecessor Brock, but they were stronger. Much stronger. Being the rookie I was, I went into the match with just my Pidgey and now-evolved Wartortle. No type advantage here. I knocked her Staryu away with relative ease but I couldn’t get past her blasted Starmie. Level 21, possessing a Harden attack capable of increasing its defence, and the constant use of an external defence-upping item made sure I was never going to beat it in one go. Water against water was futile and I lost match after match. I got it down to 1HP at one stage but I couldn’t produce the killer edge.

I screamed in defeat, almost tempted to throw my Game Boy at the wall. It took me six whole hours to finally get past it, marking my greatest achievement ever. However, it came at a price. Six straight hours with no food, water or eye movement away from a 2.6-inch monochrome screen left me with an almighty headache and some stern words from my mother when she returned. I lost my privileges to extend my journey any further that weekend as I was banned from playing for the whole weekend. I learnt my lesson and made sure not to disobey my mum (for a while at least).

A week or two went by and I found myself in the Pokémon League fighting the Elite Four. Much like “Mistygate,” it took plenty of tries to get to the end but nothing quite as traumatic. The Elite Four was made up of the strongest four trainers in the game, specialising in ice and water, rock and fighting, ghost and poison, and finally, the toughest of the lot: dragon types. But their collective name was a misnomer.

When I finally got past all four, I had to fight the “new” champion—that bloody Blue, and he wasn’t playing around this time. His team possessed Pokémon I had never seen or heard of before and naturally, I wasn’t fully prepared. He had an answer to every Pokémon I threw at him until I reached the last one. My Blastoise versus his Venusaur. The beginning was the end. I had a killer move that I knew was super effective against it but I had used it all against the dragon master, Lance. I had some Ethers and Elixirs (misspelt in the game as Elixer), items used to replenish use of attacks, but I was running out fast.

Venusaur, in return, had its own master plan. My hands began to sweat as I peered over at the TV almost afraid to look (this was on at the time). Venusaur’s Solarbeam didn’t knock me out.

But Blastoise’s Ice Beam took care of things.

And suddenly, I was the champion. On Saturday 19th December 1998. It meant so much to me that I remembered the date.

Of course they weren’t actually beaten for good. I could go back and do it over and over again, but I had other things on my mind. I had to catch Mewtwo, the greatest Pokémon of them all.

Before I could do that, I had to navigate my way through the treacherous Cerulean Cave. Mazes, lakes, and boulders needed to be solved, ferried across, and moved before I could face the ultimate Pokémon. Mewtwo was the result of “years of horrific gene splicing and DNA engineering experiments,” according to its Pokédex entry. This was some serious stuff. But I was going to mess around with the genetic monstrosity. I had my Master Ball. I did try to catch it without using the Master Ball, but my feeble attempts were useless. Eventually, I gave in and that was that. I was 9 years old and I had caught the most legendary Pokémon there was (before I found out about Mew).

I kept fighting the Elite Four until I got bored and although I got Pokémon Yellow during Christmas 1999, I never fell out of love with Pokémon Blue. My Blastoise reigned supreme along with the rest of my team. Until 2000 when Game Freak released a new series with 100 brand-new Pokémon to catch…

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