If you were a kid growing up, chances are you owned a Game Boy or a Nintendo DS. Walking around the schoolyard, people would be trading cards, that they would forget about, but suddenly have a burning passion for them when they are in their 20s-30s. Waking up early Saturday mornings to watch the cartoon/anime associated with this franchise. Pokemon has become one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time and it’s easy to see why. The merchandise, DVDs, VHS Tapes (if anyone still remembers those), movies, and of course the video games are what have created a dedicated fan base, whose love for the series has been unwavering for decades. I want to talk about this video game franchise, not just because it has always been in my gaming life, but because this series deserves praise and attention for it’s contributions to video games and the industry. Without further adieu, let’s dive into the world of Pocket Monsters.
Pokemon Red and Green originally released in 1996 in Japan with later Pokemon Red and Blue being released internationally in 1998/99. The series is a culmination of various game genres, including action role playing, fighting, digital pet, and puzzle, where players catch and train Pokemon, monsters found throughout the various lands in the franchise. Each Pokemon has it’s own unique typing and abilities that cause players to strategize the building of their team for the trainers and challenges ahead. The purpose of the game is to collect all the known Pokemon, which started of at 151, but now reaches over 800, and battle Gym Leaders in towns. After collecting all the gym badges, the player can then challenge the Elite Four and the Champion, all of whom are considered to be the best in all the land, in order to become the new Champion. On top of regular Pokemon, there are legendary Pokemon that can be found during game or in post game events. Each game even follows its own unique plot involving evil organizations, rivalries with a different trainer each game, and interactions involving the various NPCs and Pokemon you meet along your journey. All of the games in the franchise have allowed players to trade and battle Pokemon with their friends and around the world, creating a vital communication to fans everywhere. The series has been able to adapt over the years by taking advantage of each system it’s released for and further push the boundaries of what the series is capable of. There have been over 35 games released, not including spin offs from the main series, and thousands of cards, various seasons of the anime, and countless numbers of merchandise released since the initial release. The popular Pokemon GO released in 2016 has been downloaded over 1 billion times, and only seemed to grow the popularity of the franchise.
The first games that I played were Gold and Silver, released in 2000 for North America and Australia, but I took the time to go back and play the original titles before moving on to the rest of the series. I will say that Pokemon is definitely one of those games that you really can become attached to your virtual creatures. Very similar to Tamagotchis, players begin to have that sense of having pets that you raised over time, but you don’t consider them to be like pets, rather they are your comrades and friends. The overall whimsical feel that each game gives the player allows them to take on that hero role and helps you escape from reality for a bit. I’m not saying you should stay in a fantasy for the rest of your life, but having that opportunity to escape reality does wonders on your mentality and can boost your creativity as well. Everyone wanted to be like Ash Ketchum, the main protagonist of the anime, and leave your home at 10 years old and battle monster threes or more times your size and complete strangers for money, who wouldn’t? This franchise has been able to touch the lives of so many people, that those who have played the old games play the newer titles with their own children. It is truly a series that has a lasting impact on not just gamers, but the industry as a whole. It really helped show the potential of handheld gaming consoles to developers and companies, while Pokemon GO really flipped the industry on it’s head as mobile games started to show considerable weight to many other budding or already established studios. The series still has much potential and it’s always exciting to see what innovations, Pokemon, and games are coming in the future.
I highly recommend anyone go out and play a main series title, you won’t regret it. Finding yourself becoming friends with your Pokemon as you explore the different regions will feel fulfilling and give you a different take on what video games are supposed to be.