Pokémon Yellow, the Special Pikachu Edition, was the next addition to the Pokémon line-up after the Red and Blue versions became available. While Red and Blue differ only in the wild Pokémon they contain, Yellow has a number of significant new features, most of which were designed to make the game follow the plot of the TV series. Here are the main differences.
Pikachu Chooses You
While Red and Blue can pick Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle as their starting Pokémon, Yellow players always begin with Pikachu. If you had your heart set on that Squirtle, don't worry: Yellow is the only version in which you can catch the other three starters in the course of your quest.
The one downside is that Pikachu, as in the TV show, refuses to evolve, so he'll be a Pikachu forever (although they did change his mix of skills to make him more effective than Pikachu was in Red/Blue). If you still want a Raichu, you'll have to talk to a Red or Blue player about making a trade.
Your Constant Companion
As in the TV show, Pikachu refuses to get into his Poké Ball. He doesn't sit on Ash's head, choosing instead to always follow one step behind. As long as Pikachu is with you (you can get rid of him by leaving him in a box at any Pokémon Center), you can "talk" with him and see a different animation depending on his mood. Pikachu's mood changes throughout the game, depending on how you treat him.
There are a few events in the game where Pikachu's mood will be important. For example, you'll never get a Bulbasaur if you can't prove to its current owner that you've taken good care of your Pikachu, so treat it right! Fortunately, all of these events are early in the game, so if you choose to leave Pikachu in a box later in the game when he's much less useful, you won't be punished for it.
The bumbling fools from the TV show, Jessie & James, make plenty of surprise appearances in the Yellow version, and they've brought their trademark trio of Pokémon, Ekans, Koffing, and Meowth. Fortunately, they're not any more talented as trainers in the game than they are in the show, but they can still be somewhat dangerous: unlike normal trainers, who you can always see ahead of time and try to avoid, Jessie and James ambush you when least wanted and last expected. So as you near the end of dungeons always try to keep your Pokémon in fighting shape. You never know when an encounter with Jessie and James is around the corner.
Tricky Boss Battles
The Gym Leaders have changed their battle teams and strategies in this game. Like in the TV show, Lt. Surge uses only his Raichu, and Erika uses her Tangela, Weepinbell and Gloom in her Gym Battle. The last four Gym Leaders are armed with Pokémon at outrageously high Levels. The Gym Leaders and Elite Four members also taught their Pokémon new moves. The high levels the Gym Leaders raised their Pokémon to, and the new moves the Gym Leaders and Elite Four members taught their Pokémon can give them the upper-hand in battle.
A number of Pokémon have been subtly changed to enhance the game balance in Pokémon Yellow. Previously mediocre Pokémon like Mankey and Butterfree will now be key members of your party early in the game, and both have new techniques and gain skills quicker. Many of the changes fix apparent oversights in the previous version: Ever wonder why even though Charizard is part Flying, it couldn't learn Fly? In Yellow, it can. Scyther can finally learn a Flying attack (Wing Attack), Pinsir can finally pinch (well, Bind), and Pikachu's new early attacks make it a much better fighter. Vaporeon now learns a few new attacks, although it's still probably not as good as Jolteon and Flareon.
Game Boy Printer Compatibility
If you have a Game Boy Printer, you can print a ton of cool things. At various points in the game you can print out the contents of your boxes (allowing you to finally get things organized in there!), profiles of your favorite Pokémon, and even your Pokémon Diploma when you catch all 150! You can also print out your scores from Pikachu's Beach (see Surfing Pikachu below).
New Colosseum Modes
When playing against your friends, you can now select a second set of Colosseum battles, designed to ensure fair fights against your friends. The Petit Cup is especially interesting, eliminating virtually all of the evolved forms by banning Pokémon who are taller than 6'8" or weigh more than 44 lbs. This tournament format makes contenders out of Pikachu, Farfetch'd, Diglett, and other beloved Pokémon that didn't used to be viable for competitive play!
The Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow is able to learn the move "Surf" through various methods:
- By using Pikachu to win a certain Cup in Pokémon Stadium.
- By attending a Pokémon event or winning it in a competition (both no longer offer Surfing Pikachus).
- By using a GameShark/Game Genie code.
Regardless of the method, once your Pikachu knows Surf you can play a new minigame called Pikachu's Beach. See that page for more information on acquiring a Surfing Pikachu.
- Note: in the 3DS emulator of Pokémon Yellow, Pikachu's Beach can be played just as long as Pikachu is in your party.