My most recent relapse has seen me playing the remake of Pokemon Red: Pokemon FireRed. It's been a fantastic nostalgia trip to go back and re-experience the wonders that the original games brought. From picking Charmander as my starter and then struggling with the first two gym leaders, to finally defeating the Elite Four and then pounding Blue's face into the dirt, it has gotten me thinking about what makes those games so good.
So far the only things besides nostalgia I can think of is the sense of adventure the original games gave you. You were going out on a journey that you were in total control over. You get to see and interact with amazing creatures, then deal with conflicts all along the way. The other major pull to the game (and this is something I only realised when I started getting interested in truly complex games) is the freedom to build your team of Pokemon how you choose. If you want to have all of one type, you can. If you want to focus on one single Pokemon and have him become the strongest you possibly can get him to, you can. Or if you want to build a team of well balanced and complementary Pokemon, you can.
Pokemon was a good beginning into the world of choice based games, where the choice you make about how you are going to face something can majorly hurt or benefit you down the line. Back when I was first playing Pokemon Blue I actually used to play the game much the same way that the current world record speed run holder for Pokemon Blue does. I would pick Squirtle and just level him completely. No other Pokemon were caught except for HM 'Slaves' who would only be used to teach the HM moves. I didn't do it anywhere near as fast as him (1 hour 57minutes - really? What the heck dude?) but the idea was the same: get to the end ASAP! To everyone else that was playing at the time it was a terrible idea to do that, and they all spent hours on end training their Pokemon up.
The thought that a game released back in 1998 gave so much freedom of choice, when a fair chunk of games released today might as well be on rails shooters from the arcade boggles my mind. So to all the game devs out there, take a look at Pokemon and maybe learn a lesson from it. If a game that is fifteen years old can give me choices why can't yours?
As always, GAME ON!