Just one word can bring back waves of nostalgia or at least, familiarity, to many youths today. To most, it is “just a game”. To some, it is much, more. This game series is arguably the most popular and widely known one throughout the world. Most have played at least one version of it, and those who don’t, surely you’ve heard of Pocket Monsters?
Pokemon first came out 20 years ago today, as “Pokemon Green” and “Pokemon Red”, the Japanese versions. When they first came out, this game was the first type of its kind. Revolutionary. You could traverse the farthest oceans, lands and caves to catch 151 different kinds of creatures, and train them. To many, Pokemon became our pets, our companions, and our friends. The mysterious and magical aspect of exploring an undiscovered land was compounded by the lack of technology: back in the days of childhood, when we first got our hands on a Gameboy Colour; the internet was still new. There was little information to questions such as “Where to catch Mewtwo?” or “How do I beat Gary?”. It was a time of finding out new things on our own, a feeling we scarcely experience today.
And we did all of that with our Pokemon. As an 8 year old child, it was the first time I got the feeling of being able to reap the rewards from hours and hours of effort. I remember holding the Game Boy anxiously beside my sister, taking on the Elite Four. That experience that we share, finally beating Gary (Smell ya later gramps!) is something that even today, we can laugh about. A single experience so oddly universal and relatable, in bits and pixels of a game.
Perhaps the success of Pokemon lies in the storyline. Every version in the main series (save Yellow) starts off as the protagonist receiving his or her first Pokemon, being able to choose between 3 starters of the Fire, Water or Grass type. In the game, there are 8 “gyms” which you will have to fight in increasing difficulty. Eventually, you are able to challenge the Elite Four – the supposed pinnacle of the Pokemon World. Along the way, there will always be a misguided organisation like Team Rocket or Team Magma abusing Pokemon for their own uses. Of course, being the hero of the game, you will stop them. It is quite literally a zero-to-hero story that we all find fascinating, and sometimes even wishing that we could become that hero. Playing Pokemon serves as a reminder to all that we can be anything we want to be, as long as we put in the time and effort to do so. Of course, we can’t do anything without our friends.
Despite the static theme of storylines, every new version has a very different plot, characters and features, differentiating themselves from other versions. In newer versions, there are many added features such as the Trainer House in Gen II, the Battle Frontier in Gen III, and Triple Battles in Gen V. End-game content kept expanding with every new version. Eventually, when the ability to battle other trainers online was introduced, Pokemon breeding kept players busy even after the completion of the main storyline, to perfect the nature and qualities of their favourite Pokemon.
Today, after 20 years, Pokemon has vastly expanded. There are now over 700 different species, 6 different generations, remakes of our favourite old games (Heart Gold/Fire Red/Omega Ruby), and Pokemon Go coming out soon too. The Pokemon scene is more lively than ever. With Pokemon gaming charity events raising over $1 million, the most diverse competitive battling scene we’ve seen to date and new speedrunners breaking old world records, the spirit of Pokemon definitely lives on stronger. Pokemon Sun and Moon was also just announced, and there has been talk of a brand new generation.
For me, I still play bits of Red, Gold and Emerald using an emulator. Pokemon too still lives in me today.
Happy 20th birthday Pokemon!!! (27 Feb)
(Haha my Gen 1 team)
Adam Ahmad Samdin, 15A14