Back in school, you came across trends which consumed everyone for a certain amount of time. You had to get the product to be rid of that feeling that you were missing out on something. Back in the nineties, I remember the following:
- Street Sharks
- Alien Babies
- Moving images cards
Like any trend, I remember Pokèmon appearing out of nowhere. Over one week, suddenly everyone had the cards, the games, and talked of the tv show. I even remember one who had a fake card with a water-type Pikachu and being convinced it was genuine.
Towards the end of the 90’s, Pokèmon was the last trend for me. It appeared so quickly and vanished so quickly for me. I still have the cards up in the loft, along with the games.
When a popular game came out, the way it would usually go, is to be released in Japan first, and then wait for around six months for the translated ‘PAL’ version to be released here, while reading about it in your favourite magazine in the ‘Import’ or ‘Preview’ section. Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VIII and Parasite Eve I remember being constantly in these sections, along with Pokèmon, or ‘Pocket Monsters’ as it was named in Japan. Below are two screenshots I remember seeing constantly when Gold and Silver were only just announced.
But then there were some games that went from Japan, to USA, to the UK. This was mainly because the amount of translations to be released in many parts of the European Union was time consuming, and because of the United Kingdom being a part of this, we had to wait a significant amount of time before we received a copy.
Nowadays, its a worldwide release, where there’s usually next to no wait for your favourite game to be released where you are, regardless of where it originated from. With Pokèmon Red and Blue in Japan, they were released back in 1996, and it took a full two years before it saw a release in the USA and Europe.
Even back in Japan, Pokèmon ‘Green’ was in place of Blue, and was replaced mainly because of advertising, localisation reasons. Blue seemed more welcoming to us rather than green, a reason thats justifiable only to the advertising team at Nintendo.
Pokèmon Red was the first game I played, then Yellow, then Gold. It only lasted a couple of years to me, and in an instant when I finished Gold, the appeal went away, but the craze of the franchise around 1999 was incredible. It’s still active in some form today, and the ‘Twitch Plays Pokèmon’ of this year only reminded people of the games more-so.
You start the game as a kid, who you can freely name. Once you are greeted by ‘Professor Oak’, you can choose one of three Pokèmon as your ‘starter’.
Bulbasaur was the grass-type, Charmander was the fire-type, and Squirtle was the water-type.
You come across your nemesis for the game, where you can rename him anything you want. I named him Bort. Then, you’re taken to the first of many Pokèmon battles, where you can choose an attack, an item, switch to another Pokèmon, or run away.
You’re then taken on a fun, linear adventure, where you can buy goods, collect Pokèmon, earn your ‘badges’ from the Gym leaders, and even catch some ‘legendary’ Pokèmon across your travels.
There isn’t a story as such, as the aim is to just, collect Pokèmon, and see how far you get with the Gym Leaders, and see if the legendary Pokèmon do turn up in your travels. It’s that ‘what if?’ that makes it appealing to keep coming back to, and that’s essentially what the story is. You keep going and going until there’s no one else to battle.
You collect badges from each Gym Leader, and sometimes you earn abilities for your Pokèmon to help you along your travels. You could give them the ability to fly, or even surf to reach areas you couldn’t before. It gave that extra replayability and made you curious to think what else was around the map you may have missed before.
There are some events where you have to defeat ‘Team Rocket’, or confront rumours about ‘Legendary Pokèmon’. There are usually three of them in every generation of pokèmon games, with three birds in Red and Blue. By doing a specific method, you can obtain one of them, and if you want to catch all three, your only option is to trade one from a friend.
The other is ‘Mewtwo’, a character who has appeared in other games such as Super Smash Bros. and even the first Pokèmon movie.
For an RPG such as this, a useful method of saving was going to be what kept the player coming back for more, and the fact that you can save practically anywhere you wish at anytime is a great help. If this ran on a password system similar to the first Crash Bandicoot, I doubt it would have been the success it came to be.
There are some friends who still play the latest entry on their 3DS, and try to encourage me to buy one, but I always say no. Only because the format just doesn’t seem to have changed hugely since Red apart from the graphics, and its mind-boggling to me that there hasn’t been an online RPG.
In the first generation of Pokèmon games, there were 150 of them to collect in total. All different types, some rare, some that were an ‘evolution’ of ones you’d previously owned.
If you trained them up well, they would ‘evolve’ into their next form, usually two more forms and they would then reach their peak.
It was incredibly addicting, having to catch as many as you could. If you knew someone who had ‘Pokèmon Blue’, you could face off against this person, or even trade any Pokèmon that you have yet to collect from them.
The music is memorable in itself. Alongside the theme of the TV show that usually aired on SM:TV on Saturday mornings, you could hear the familiar battle theme or main title theme in the playground or at a friends house.
Pokèmon Red was the first I owned, and then a few months later, Pokèmon Yellow was released, mainly for the popularity of Pikachu, with the main difference being it better compatible towards the recently-released Game Boy Color, and having Pikachu as your first starter Pokèmon, while he follows you around wherever you go.
Even at the tail end of the nineties, rumours of games with hidden characters and levels were still prevalent, and Pokèmon was no different. A ‘151st’ character called ‘Mew’ was abound, and many methods were spoken of to catch it. It’s appearance in the first movie of Pokèmon did little to subside this, and eventually, a few methods were discovered. It’s mainly explained here of how to catch Mew, and even today, the ‘MissingNO’ glitch is one I’m familiar with of catching Mew.
- MissingNO glitch
- An official event
- Gameshark code
Barring Final Fantasy, Pokèmon was an addictive RPG which always kept your attention. Even if the trend never came to be in another world, it still stands up as a good game, its why we’re now onto the seventh iteration for the 3DS.
Coming back to the game was strange, being that its the only game I’ve written about since this feature started, that I haven’t come back to play through again in recent years. It’s only the second time since 1999 that I played it again for this feature, and to me, it hasn’t aged particularly well. The genre hasn’t interested me for years, and I got bored very easily at times when you have to walk back and forth between cities and gym leaders. But the core of the game is still fun, and catching Pokèmon is definitely addicting. Once you know what one is capable of, you want to grind that particular character, just to have their evolved form.
Finding the cartridge up in the loft with the other games while I was writing last month’s feature for the Game Boy, the save was still active, and I had beaten the last character, ‘Blue’, after fighting the Elite Four, and that in itself was surreal to revisit after fourteen years since that last save point.
But fast forward to 2014, and a remake of the third generation, Ruby and Sapphire are about to be released for the Nintendo 3DS, while the latest entries, X & Y, only released a year ago, are still going strong, and rumours of a ‘ghost lady’ in this generation are rampant as to who she is. So it’s great to see myths of what something in a game means in an age of DLC and in-app purchases.
Fourteen years on, Pokèmon is a unique trend which will be around for a long while, but people are still holding out for their World of Warcraft style Pokèmon game to meet and fight with other trainers, something that I’m sure will happen to be released on the Wii U eventually. Barring that, I can see it eventually moving to tablets and smartphone devices because of the power the brand has.
But in the meantime, veteran and new players can still come together and treat their Pokèmon like Tamagotchi’s of past and fight alongside them in their favourite entry.