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The Story Behind ‘Pokémon Yellow’

by Will Stroad

Pokémon Yellow came out some time after Red and Blue, but just before Gold and Silver. With the coming Pokémon anniversary, Nintendo has announced they will be re-releasing Yellow along with the others. Which one is right for you? Since Pokémon Yellow is almost identical in many ways to Red and Blue, some people have asked what the point of it was. Various suggestions have been made, from filling in the gap until the release of Gold and Silver to plugging the TV show, which has a strong influence on Pokémon Yellow, something that has not been seen very much in a Pokémon game since then. The similarities by far outweigh the differences, but the changes present are unique. While some of these changes have never been repeated, others have been improved and used in present games.

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Much like the show, the main difference of Yellow is that the player gets their own Pikachu that will follow them around. Not only will it walk behind you, but it can display limited emotions and will never evolve. This emotion, or “friendship system,” was later improved and adapted for later generation games as well. The player’s Pikachu, which is matched by trainer IDs, is the only one that will behave like this. It has its own unique cry and appearance as well. Since there are no other Pikachu in Yellow, players would have to trade for another, but it would act like a normal Pikachu.

There are other influences pulled directly from the show. Various Team Rocket grunts have been replaced by Jessie and James in what can be called an early version of the team battle. Gym leaders and their Pokémon were changed to represent the show better, along with certain sprites. Misty no longer wears a bikini, but an outfit closer to the show. Even other characters, like Nurse Joy, were included, and the location of certain Pokémon was changed to represent the order in the show.

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There are other differences not pulled directly from the show however. The most notable is the starter Pokémon, which is Pikachu by default in Yellow. This also effects the rival, who, instead of choosing the opposite type, will get an Eevee. Whether the player can defeat the rival when challenged to a fight will determine what Eevee’s final form will be, with Jolteon being the most common. The graphics were improved slightly, and sprites for Pokémon and some trainers were updated. While the map and most locations stayed virtually the same minor things were redesigned, such as doors and signs. The original starter Pokémon are also available, spread out across the first half of the game so that it is possible for players to catch all three in events.

Gameplay for Pokémon Yellow is nearly identical to Red and Blue, except that the player has to have Pikachu at all times. Unless you are some kind of monster and want to upset Pikachu by stuffing him away, of course. This does create more of a challenge at times, especially when fighting Brock, since there aren’t any Pokémon available that are good against rock types that early in the game. Yellow is identical to the others; the player just needs to adapt to having a Pikachu on hand all the time. Some fans consider it annoying, or just another challenge, while it doesn’t make a difference to others, as long as they have a strong electric type.

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One entirely unique feature to Yellow was the introduction of the Pikachu Surf mini game. However, many people never played this because the requirements were expensive or not possible. Since Pikachu can’t learn surf, players needed to win a surfing Pikachu through special events. The only other method was by completing a certain task in Pokémon Stadium on the N64, which required a N64, both games, and a Gameboy hook up for the N64. A final interesting fact is that Pokémon Yellow may not be the game’s official name. For whatever reason, official merchandise and material on the game refer to it under multiple names, like Pokémon Special Pikachu Edition or even Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition. Since just saying Yellow was far easier, fans just started referring to it as Pokémon Yellow.

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With Nintendo bringing back the original Pokémon games, which one will you choose? Yellow is definitely the most unique of the bunch, and features mechanics that haven’t been used in a Pokémon game since. There is little doubt it was most likely intended as a way to fill the gap between generations and plug the show. At the same time it introduces enough new and interesting things to keep fan attention, and Pikachu will follow you. Of course, it is hard to pass up on the very first two, Red and Blue. Or you could be like some of my friends who are crazy and get all of them… in Japanese and English.

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