August 10, 2012 Ah, the year 1998 AD. Google was founded, water was found beneath the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, and the Winter Olympics were held in Japan. Of course, these all pale in comparison to one singular and momentous event: the release of Pokémon Red and Blue on the Nintendo GameBoy in the west. Children (and adults) everywhere were introduced to this new Japanese phenomenon that would take the world by storm over the next couple of years. For many kids, it was also (perhaps unknowingly) their first experience with the RPG genre.
The settings of the games may have changed over the years, from Kanto to Hoenn to Unova, but little else has. Each game is about taking down the Elite 4, foiling some nefarious scheme, and catching as many Pokémon as possible. For many game series, such a lack of innovation would be detrimental to sales and review scores. Yes, the fantastical creatures are not as popular as years gone by (in the west, anyway), but there's something special about the series that has kept many of us coming back, even after more than a decade. After all these years, defeating gym leaders and encountering legendary Pokémon is still just as exciting as ever. Pokémon games simply personify fun, and hopefully that won't ever change. Conversely, if you never liked Pokémon, then chances are you still won't.
So step back in time with me (Back to the Future-style) as we journey to where Pokémon began. We'll look at the games generation by generation before taking a quick look at what future installments may hold. Just so those of you with a good eye are aware, I'll be relying on western dates and stats rather than Japanese ones. Finally, make sure to check out our Facebook page too, and let us know what your favourite Pokémon or Pokémon game is!
Red, Green, Blue, Yellow
#1 (Bulbasaur) - #151 (Mew)
Brock, Misty, Lt. Surge, Erika, Sabrina, Koga, Blaine, Giovanni
Elite 4 & Champion:
Lorelei, Bruno, Agatha, Lance, Blue/Gary
Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Mewtwo, Mew
Like many of you, my journey to become a Pokémon Master began sometime in 1998 with my GameBoy Pocket and Pokémon Blue. I was only eight at the time and, like most kids my age, obsessed with the fantastical creatures. I collected the cards (of course, none of us actually knew how to play the game properly), watched the anime, bought the toys and, most importantly, played the video games.
Generation I was where it all began: the original 151 Pokémon. From cute Bulbasaur to legendary Mew, these creatures captured the imagination of people of all ages around the globe, with notable electric mouse Pikachu taking the spotlight. Pokémon Red and Green were released in Japan for the GameBoy, while Red and Blue Versions hit shelves internationally. In all regions, Pokémon Yellow succeeded them within the next couple of years. Effectively the same game, Yellow modified the game to follow the anime series more closely by renaming your rival to Gary and the hero to Ash and providing only a Pikachu as a starting Pokémon.
Can you still remember taking your first steps out onto Route 1 and leaving Pallet Town behind? Honestly, I can't say that I do, but I do remember many aspects of my first Pokémon adventure: the triumph over Brock with my Charmander, sticking it to Lt. Surge after using HM01 Cut to break through to his gym, fighting what seemed like endless trainers on board the S.S. Anne, catching the three legendary birds, putting a stop to the villainous Team Rocket, catching Mewtwo and, finally, taking down good 'ole Gary/Blue to become the Elite 4 Champion.
Generation I set the scene for every Pokémon game to come. It introduced the six-Pokémon battle system, 151 wild Pokémon to catch and add to your team that could change and evolve, eight gyms and the Elite 4 to defeat, an in-depth Pokedex, legendary Pokémon to discover, 15 different types, 165 unique moves and even the now dreaded HMs (Hidden Machines) such as Fly, Surf or Flash that allowed you to access new locations. Interestingly, it was the only generation not to have a legendary Pokémon as its mascot. Rather, it sticks with Venasaur, Blastoise, Charizard and Pikachu.
Using the fantastic (read: clunky and old) GameBoy Connector Cable, you could even battle and trade with your friends to complete your Pokedex! Pokémon Yellow took things one step further with improved color graphics (gasp!) and allowed your starter Pokémon Pikachu to actually walk around beside you. At the time, it was truly epic.
Back in seventh grade, I absolutely fell in love with the rock-paper-scissors-shotgun-psychic-ghost-chlamydia strength/weakness system. I remember finding a chart somewhere that illustrated how each element reacted to another. I didn't map out my entire team, but I remember noticing how terrible rock was. By the end of the game, I discovered Articuno. Ice AND Flying? Yes, please. To this day, Articuno is my favorite Pokémon.
Unlike Andrew, I do remember my first steps onto Route 1 and the resulting spell cast upon me by Pokémon Red that swiftly enveloped my childhood like no hobby ever had. Me and my Charmander were all the world. Pokémon has always been a celebration of joy and life, and for that, I will always remember it, but no subsequent generation will ever quite seize me like the first.