Discover an all-time great as an adult: Leaf Green

[Featured Image Source: Thibault Miniou on ArtStation]

If you’ve read any of my articles in the past, you probably know that I didn’t seriously get into gaming until I was in college. I had a few consoles when I was younger, like a PS2, Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS, and Wii, but pretty much every game I played had to do with “girly” horses, Barbie or licensed Disney Channel spin-off games.

I had a great time with these games (which have merit on their own), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in retrospect to have missed out on some of the greatest of all time. The good news is that now I’m an adult with my time and money, and I’m lucky to have a game-centric job, which means I can go back and play any game that I want.

The obvious first choice was the Pokemon series, as much as Harry Potter, franchising was purely and simply banned in the fundamentalist Christian circles in which my family ran. I spent my whole life not understanding what all the hype was about these little pocket monsters, and finally, I decided it was time to change that.

The day begins

Fortunately, my closest friends are all Pokemon fanatics, so they were kind enough to help guide me on my journey. The decision on which game to start was unanimous: Leaf Green. So my best friend downloaded an emulator, and we went to meet Professor Oak.

I’m someone who can tend to walk through a game without paying attention to it sometimes, so he made it a point to stop me and tell me how important it was to pick my first starter, which is arguably one of the most important decisions you can make in a game. He clarified that it was the kind of decision that was irreversible – it’s the kind of thing you talked about with your friends at the school, and that others would classify the kind of person I was based on my entrance as a sign star.

After much deliberation, I opted for Bulbasaur and have never regretted the decision. He’s obviously the cutest starter (a very big factor for me), and Venusaur has stepped in a few times in the late game.

I think what I like most about the old Pokemon games is how simple, yet effective they are. After playing some of the newer games on my Switch, I understand how these are iterations of the classic formula, but I have to agree with fans who say modern games don’t compare to the originals.

As I was crossing Leaf Green, my friend encouraged me to watch it like I was a kid playing it on release day, and man… it really clicked for me. I know for the time it was one of the more advanced titles, but coming back to it now, the game design of the early series really holds up. It’s simple and streamlined in a way that I wish more modern games would replicate.

Feel like a kid again

While it feels good to play now, I can also see it as a product of its time – it takes time to pass and might feel a bit grumpy, but that’s because in 2004 you were sitting down with your Game Boy and played through it over the course of a summer. At least, that’s how my friend describes it through his rose-colored glasses. With enough imagination, it’s a feeling I try to channel when I sit down to play it myself.

Pokemon Leaf Green is the kind of game I wish I had when I was a kid. As are many licensed games that make money, pretty much everything I played as a kid was mechanically superficial – although my love for Hannah Montana and musical high school was enough to get me through.

Either way, playing classic games is no longer just something fun to do in my spare time, but something to help heal my inner child, corny as that sounds. Besides, it’s pretty awesome to understand why Pokemon is the GOAT now. I have a lot of games left in the series to play, which means I have a ton to look forward to – it’s a feeling I’ve long missed in games.