Over the weekend, Pokemon Red and Blue turned 20 years old. That’s a whole lot of Pokemon over the years. Other than making me feel really old, it did get me thinking a bit about my journeys through the various regions in Pokemon’s world. From my very first Pokemon, to my more recent adventures, I thought I’d join in with the chorus celebrating Game Freak’s games.
My very first experience with the original games was actually through one of my cousins. He had Pokemon Red with him at a Memorial Day cookout – the year is lost to my memory though. I remember watching him make his way around the Safari Zone and thinking that it looked so cool. Flash forward to that Christmas – I wake up, head downstairs, and in the pile of presents that “Santa” brought was a Green Gameboy Pocket (which I still have, and works) and Pokemon Blue. I can’t tell you how much I played that game – I fell in love with the series right away. I, of course, picked the best starter ever – Bulbasaur – and he never left my party the whole game. I got him to level 100 (legit, without the Missingno trick – which I later abused), he was present in pretty much every Elite Four run I made and has always been my favorite Pokemon line. I went out and bought Pokemon Red so that I could trade my way to owning all 150 Pokemon. I can clearly remember battling my friends on the bus to Young Scholars in fifth grade – twenty minutes of Pokemon bliss. I never really watched the cartoon, but I loved the games – including the card game for a good handful of years. Twenty years later I still really love the games – I think they’re really amazing ways to introduce younger players to RPGs. They have a really surprising depth to the combat, going beyond the surface “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style that first time players see.
As the years have gone on, and as each subsequent generation has added in a tons of new Pokemon species, what hasn’t changed is the charm. Few games, and especially few big budget games, have the same level of charm that the Pokemon games do. It’s in the design of the different Pokemon, it’s the childlike wonder that each different region has (probably because the player character is a kid), and it’s in the simple, but well written dialogue. There’s a reason that every time a new set of games is announced that the collective gaming public goes crazy. For a huge portion of gaming’s community Pokemon has been a major part of our lives growing up. It was the game that got me interested in RPGs, and 100% completion in games. Now that Nintendo has re-released those first two games (and Yellow) for the 3DS Virtual Console a new generation of players can have that same experience we did, and us old folks can revisit Kanto all over again. Hell, I still have both of my cartridges for Blue and Red and I still am thinking of picking them up on the 3DS (mainly because the battery save on one of them has gone out).
There are still plenty of stories in the world of Pokemon to tell – I’m still waiting for Nintendo and Game Freak to bring them to the home console as traditional Pokemon RPGs, not as a spin off. As the community still finds more in-depth ways to dig into the combat, with IVs and EVs and Natures and all that, the competitive scene will keep getting deeper too. Nintendo has a track record with keeping franchises alive for a real long time – Mario is 30, Zelda just turned 30 this year, Metroid is coming up on that 30 year mark as is Mega Man (which I know is Capcom). With that in mind, I can’t wait to see Pokemon keep going on for years to come.