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Pokemon: Fire Red and Pokemon: Leaf Green

You guys know I love Nintendo. I grew up with the original NES and I've been addicted since then. However, some of you careful readers might be aware that I've been using the word "Nintendo" frequently in conjunction with the phrase "shovelware" as of late. It's sad but true, Pokemon: Fire Red and Pokemon: Leaf Green are just that, another not-so-stellar remake of a Nintendo classic, very much along the lines of Super Mario Advance 4: Mario Bros. 3.

Fire Red and Leaf Green are remakes of the original Pokemon Gameboy titles, Red and Green (the latter was renamed to Blue in the U.S.). Yes, these are the very same titles that started the Pokemon craze years ago. Obviously Nintendo has made some changes to the titles to update them for the Gameboy Advance, but certainly not enough to warrant creating (or for that matter, purchasing) new games.

The most obvious change are the visuals; the graphics are roughly on par with the native Gameboy Advance Pokemon titles, Ruby and Sapphire (which isn't saying terribly much; Ruby and Sapphire hardly take advantage of the Gameboy Advance's hardware). However, Fire and Leaf miss some of the little touches, like footsteps in the sand, that made Ruby and Sapphire better looking than their predecessors. The music is also improved and is on par with the other Gameboy Advance Pokemon titles.

The other major changes deal with connectivity; both games come with wireless adapters that allow one to easily trade Pokemon or battle with other players. It remains to be seen if Nintendo will utilize this peripheral with any other titles; no titles announced so far support it. Additionally, Fire and Leaf are reportedly able to connect to the Gamecube Pokemon game, Coliseum. Not having access to the Japanese version of the Gamecube title, I was unable to test this out, but it seems to be a pretty good aspect to the game for when Fire, Leaf, and Coliseum hit U.S. shores.

Other than that, the real story is about what's stayed the same. All of the original 100 odd Pokemon are in the games (it remains to be seen if the rarest Pokemon, like Mew or Mewtwo are accessible). The gameplay is the same as always; you start out as a Pokemon trainer who captures and battles little monsters on your way to fame and glory. Along the way you meet trainers to do battle with, people to help, and dozens of different Pokemon.

Unfortunately, the tried and true formula wears thin, especially in the light of Ruby and Sapphire's innovations; there isn't any two on two Pokemon battling, there's no night and day, and the Pokemon in Fire and Leaf use the same sound effects that they used in the original games. For anyone who's played the original Red, Blue, or Yellow Gameboy titles, Fire and Leaf is ground already well tread.

Fire and Leaf have sold surprisingly well in Japan; early in February, they were the highest selling games in the country and retailers have said that they have sold about 96% of their stock. However, for the U.S. fan, if one is choosing between Ruby and Sapphire, or Fire and Leaf, for gameplay and innovation I would recommend the former, even though I like the Pokemon in Fire and Leaf much more than in the later ones. While Fire and Leaf are not bad games, they are simply not as good as the earlier Gameboy Advance titles. Who wants to take a step backwards? Nintendo should have remade ("reimagined" is a term I've heard used) Red and Green along the lines of Metroid: Zero Mission, also reviewed in this issue. At their core, Fire and Leaf are the same games that started the Pokemon craze off.

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