With Nintendo’s monstrous franchise celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, it’s a good excuse to talk about some of the memories which the games, TV shows and even cards have given us - so I thought I’d kick things off.
First there’s the premise itself, supposedly based on the popular pastime of insect collecting, the challenge of finding all 150 (or 151) was tense at times, with a careful understanding of tactical play built into the game’s turn-based battles. This was more than just rock/paper/scissors, you quickly gain an attachment to each of your bizarre pokémon creatures, and that affects how you throw them into battle. I maintain that Dugtrio is the best, but everyone has different pokémon which really struck a chord with them (they just aren't as good as Dugtrio).
On top of that, there was the introduction to many tropes found in plenty of Japanese games, which we’ve seen become increasingly mainstream over the years. Exploring the monochrome (as it was at the time) world of the Kanto region introduced a mixture of feelings, from the unsettling, haunted Pokemon Tower, to the various colourful taunts of the gym leaders. Years later, there are still key moments from the (admittedly basic) story which stick in your mind, like trying to wake up Snorlax or taking on the Elite Four. Because of the way the series has evolved (or not evolved, no pun intended), the distinct original list of pokémon has become a cast of hundreds, which range from things close to actual, real-world animals to worrying creations from the minds of crazy people.
It didn't stop with the games of course, which with the announcement of Pokémon Sun and Moon later this year we’re up to 27 core titles alone, but there was also the card game, which hit popularity just as I was going to secondary school. Lunchtimes in Year 7 were spent battling my ‘holo’ Charizard and Blastoise against a plethora of foes, but I never became a Pokémon Master and caught them all. Tragic eh?
Even back then, merchandise was massive, with electronic pokédex’s (which someone kindly picked me up from America) which included all the details you could ever need to know about the 150. The film and TV show too had their part to play in making sure this was a series which not only kept me gripped for years - though my attachment to the games themselves may have wanted - but also continues to captivate children all over the world.
It wasn’t long before the characters started to show up elsewhere, particularly in several Super Smash Bros titles, in which they were often a force to be reckoned with. Mewtwo in particular was a bit of a badass, he won me many a battle.
Of course the iconic theme song (which, incidentally has been changed awkwardly for the most recent animated series) was enough to ensure the tales of Ash and Pikachu stayed stuck in my head for an eternity, but really it was the challenge of that first game which really carved out a place in my heart.
Looking to the future, the potential of Pokémon Go in particular is incredibly interesting. In a nutshell, the mobile game will introduce pokémon into the real world by using augmented reality. Not too much is known about how it will all work just yet - though the trailer looks very promising - but there will be a fetching key fob-type device which will play a part in it. It’s more than enough to convince me that the potential to recapture that excitement in a completely new way is more than just tugging on the tried and tested heartstrings of nostalgia. Then again, I’ll probably pick up the anniversary edition of Pokémon Red anyway…
So there you have it, a whistle-stop tour of all the reasons Pokémon is a franchise which is, and always will be, very important to me. What do you think about it though? Is it all the same? Has it never interested you? Or are you wearing a Pikachu onesie as we speak? Let us know in the Forums.