Pokémon Red Version was the very first Pokémon game and it was released for the original black and white Game Boy in 1996.
Like all subsequent Pokémon games it came as a pair of releases, so that players could have Pokémon exclusive to their version of the game and so that trading was required between versions – if you wanted to catch every single available Pokémon. Some might view that as cynical, but it wasn’t really intended to make people buy both versions, just to encourage link-up play and trading between them. It does however mean that you can’t catch all the available Pokémon if you only have one version of the game, and have no way of trading with someone else who has the other version.
In Japan, Pokémon Red (originally titled Pocket Monsters: Red) was accompanied by Pokémon Green (Pocket Monsters: Green), but in North America and Europe Pokémon Red was accompanied by Pokémon Blue, which is basically a remake of Green.
Pokémon Red/Green/Blue established many of the conventions of the Pokémon series, including the turn-based combat; the many types of Pokémon and their abilities; the musical themes; the graphical style, and the characters, plot and storyline.
You play a young boy who is given a Pokémon for protection by Professor Oak and who must explore the region of Kanto, catching more Pokémon as he goes and logging them into a database called a Pokédex.
Walking through grassy areas will trigger random battles with wild Pokémon which can be caught by throwing Pokéballs at them. Occasionally you’ll meet other Pokémon trainers on your travels and these will challenge you to Pokémon battles if they see you. You do earn significant experience, and money, from trainer battles, but you cannot capture Pokémon from other trainers (if you try to they will simply block your ball, wasting it, so it’s not even worth trying).
In Pokémon Red you can capture a Pikachu very early in the game, which has been changed in the later remakes (so that you acquire him much later). My guess is that this was done because Pikachu is so popular and that moving him to later in the game is seen as a ‘reward’ for your efforts.
The biggest issue I have with Pokémon Red is not being able to view Pokémon inside the boxes in the storage system if you have the full quota of six Pokémon in your possession (you must first deposit at least one to be able to view the contents of the boxes). Plus: the box that contains Pokémon can get full, meaning that you’re no longer able to catch any more until you manually go and change it, which means that you can miss catching rare Pokémon on occasion (which happened to me). This is a real pain in the butt and was obviously remedied in later games, but it does indicate that the game has a few usability problems. Also: when learning a new move, and having to delete an existing move to make room for it, it is not possible to examine the details of the new move to compare it with what you already have. Again: this was remedied in later Pokémon games, but in this first one it does mean that you’re left guessing as to whether a new move is worth keeping – unless you already know all the moves and what they do.
In spite of these problems, Pokémon Red and Blue versions are still charming, absorbing, and fun RPGs with a unique flavour to them, and are still worth playing to this day.
A colourised remake of Red and Blue – called Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition – was released for the Game Boy Color in 1998, and further enhanced remakes were released for the Game Boy Advance – as FireRed and LeafGreen – in 2004.