This past Saturday was the 20th Anniversary of Pokemon’s debut on the Gameboy with Pokemon Red and Blue. With this anniversary Nintendo rereleased the two original games along with Yellow on the Nintendo Shop for the 3DS. I originally owned Red and Blue so naturally on Saturday with the rerelease I picked up Yellow for the first time (mostly because I wanted Pikachu following me).
Like many of you I got into the game because of the anime and because of that I wanted a Pikachu from the start, and I was a little taken back when I couldn’t choose Pikachu as my first Pokemon. Our choices were Squirtal, Bulbasaur, and Charmander. I was like “what the damn hell?” But from the show I knew Brock was the first gym leader so I was smart and chose Squirtal since water is the strongest against rock type Pokemon (that’s called strategy kids). However, when I finally did capture a wild Pikachu I was super excited and naturally I trained him up so he’d be my ultimate Pokemon.
Since this game came out when I was in 8th grade I was already quite adept at JRPGs (Thank you Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy) but what’s nice about this game is that it’s a great introduction into the JRPG formula for those who aren’t familiar with the genre. It has your basics like leveling up your team, using items, and turn base combat. The only difference between this and a traditional JRPG is that instead of meeting people along the way to join your team you catch Pokemon to be apart of your team. Also this game introduced a new feature into JRPGs and that’s the ability to link up and trade Pokemon as well as battle with them with your friends.
I remember trading back and forth with my buddy Patrick as both of us were on a quest of collecting all the Pokemon, including Mew which we used his GameShark for. The game was really the first Gameboy to truly utilize the link cable. Other games had a multiplayer feature but this was the game that made you go out to Toys R Us and buy a link cable.
The Gameboy had always been popular but its popularity (along with handhelds in general) was waning, but then along comes this new game and it reinvigorates the handheld market, in fact Pokemon alone has allowed Nintendo to absolutely dominate this market and that has gone on now for 20 years. There have been knockoffs and pretenders who have gained popularity but none with the lasting power of Pokemon.
For a second though, lets look at what Pokemon accomplished. These days getting a new IP made is like pulling teeth. Companies invest a lot of money in making games and they want an instant hit, something that is hard for a new IP to do in this era of yearly sequels and licensed properties. If something isn’t already a name it doesn’t always get the green light.
Nintendo took a chance on Game Freak (now named the Pokemon Company) and funded the game and invested a ton of money into advertising, as well as developing an anime. Something like that almost never happens with a new IP. Not only that, but this game launched like a (team) rocket out of the gate, there was no slow start, it took Japan by storm and soon came to the west with the same results.
For me Pokemon was a blast, like kids these days I took it everywhere with me. School, haircuts, shopping with my mom, car trips, anywhere where I could sneak in at least minute or two of gaming I would take my Gameboy with me.
Of course I wasn’t just playing the game, I grabbed the toys (from retail stores and Burger King), went to see the movies, which came to the US while I was in high school and it may or may not have been sad and awkward for a group of sophomore guys going to see a cartoon in the theaters. The one thing I didn’t get into were the cards. Card games just weren’t my thing (still aren’t besides poker) but my son is in love with them, so much so, he’s even taught me how to play. I’m not sure if we’re playing right but he has fun (and wins all the time, I think he’s cheating).
Few games have become generational phenomenons (mostly Nintendo games really) but this one sure has, and it doesn’t matter if you’re an OG like me who believes there is still only 151 Pokemon or you’re a new comer to the series checking it out for the first time with one of the 3DS titles, this game is just a blast and if you haven’t tried it yet, I say grab the originals off of the Nintendo Shop for just 9.99.
So dear reader, what is your Pokemon story? Which generation of the series did you start? Who’s your favorite Pokemon? Let us know in the comments below.