Retro-gaming in the sun – playing Pokémon Yellow on holiday

My Dad had his 50th birthday this year and to celebrate we went on a family holiday to Italy, in a town in the hills of Sorrento. It was a fantastic holiday, possibly the best that I’ve ever had. But you guys don’t want to hear about my trip abroad.This isn’t a travel blog, after all. The reason that I mention the holiday is down to one of my pastimes whilst sunning it poolside. That pastime being Pokémon Yellow on my 16 year old Gameboy Colour.

Firstly, I’d best give you a bit of backstory. I know that people traditionally read a book on holiday, and I have nothing against those that enjoy a spot of reading whilst sunbathing, but that isn’t for me. I used to love reading, but after completing a degree in History and currently studying for my MA, reading has become more of a chore than a pastime. Granted, the books that I’ve been reading aren’t exactly riveting and I have been slowly reading a narrative on the life of King Richard III – which is pretty interesting. Still, I’ve completed more than my fair share of books over the past five years, so I opted for something a little different whilst sunning it in Italy.

I could have bought myself a new, shiny Nintendo 3DS, but what would be the fun in that? Plus, I had a craving for Pokémon and I don’t know any of the new ones. Give me Charmander, Nidoking, Sandshrew and Blastoise any day! So I booted up my classic Gameboy, with batteries from 2008 still in it that lasted the entire holiday, and got to playing.

Now, I hate flying. I’m not a good flyer by any means but, on that two and a half hour flight to and from Italy, the Gameboy was my saving grace. I plugged my headphones in and sat quite comfortably as Pikachu and I began our little adventure. As always, my first catch was a male Nidoran. Nidoran is my favourite Pokémon and its final evolution, Nidoking, is a total badass. After I’d secured myself a Nidoran, I quickly started grinding his and Pikachu’s level. Once Nidoran had evolved into Nidorino, I began looking for other Pokémon. This was the first time that I’d played Yellow, as I was always a fan of Blue and Red, then later Green, so I was a bit put off by not getting a choice of the original fire, water or leaf Pokémon from Professor Oak. Having Pikachu follow you around is a little off-putting at first, but once I’d gotten used to the fact that Pikachu was more than just a lost puppy, I was quite pleased. Second on my list of ‘must have Pokémon’ was Sandshrew. A little unconventional, I know, but I love that little sandy bugger. After that was Venonat, because why not. I didn’t have much of an internet connection on holiday, so I didn’t know that you can find the original three Pokémon by chatting to people around town. So far I’ve been given a Charmander and a Bulbasaur, both now Charmeleon and Ivysaur respectively, and I’m now searching for Squirtle. If I can have a Charizard, Venusaur, Blastoise, Nidoking and a Ryachu as some of my main Pokémon, I’ll be a happy (23 year old) boy.

Pokémon Yellow is very much the same as Red and Blue, I’ve not yet noticed any differences (other than the ability to be given the three main Pokémon for keeps). But it doesn’t have to be different for me to still enjoy it. I’ve played Pokémon Blue at least thirteen times, each time with different combinations of Pokémon, and I’ll still happily pick it up and start all over again. For me, the real thrill is finding the Pokémon and seeing what they eventually evolve into. That’s why, once I’ve finished Yellow, I’m going to pick up Gold or Silver for my Gameboy Colour. There are plenty of ‘new’ Pokémon in Gold and Silver, enough to keep me second guessing what these unknown Pokémon might evolve into. But there are also plenty of the classics in there too, to keep me happy.

I didn’t play a huge amount of the game whilst on holiday, at least once a day for maybe half an hour. I spent most of it exploring Sorrento with my lovely family and wonderful girlfriend, as well as swimming in the pool and eating as much food / drinking as much wine as I could get my hands on. But, in my few moments of downtime and relaxation, Pokémon Yellow was the perfect companion. It’s a timeless classic, with its simple and effective gameplay along with the brilliant characters that populate the game world. In fact, I loved it so much that I’m going to start playing on my Gameboy whilst commuting to work. Sad, I know, but who cares? There are plenty of weird people on the trains into London, so I definitely won’t be the most odd person on the carriage. There are a tonne of brilliant games on the handheld console which, with a bit of bargain hunting, you can still pick up for pretty cheap.

Playing Pokémon Yellow brought back some fantastic memories from way back when I was but a little kid. Pokémon Blue was one of the first games that I remember craving to play. For me, it was one of those games that I wanted to play at every moment of the day and I looked forward to playing it in my evenings after school, or after playing football at the park. Games have changed so much over the past ten years and the days of the simple game were pretty much over, until quite recently. Indie games are growing in popularity, which I’m thankful for, so hopefully we’ll be getting more simple but effective games over the coming years. Until then, I’m going to go back to grinding the level of my Charmeleon until he evolves into a Charizard and searching the world for those elusive rare Pokémon.