Pokémon Through The Ages – Retrospective Chapter 1
One boy, 8 badges, 151 pokemon and one epic quest. This was pokemon, the original pokemon, a game that hasn’t just spawned a long running video game franchise, but has become a household name and a pop-culture icon. So enjoy a look back at the years we’ve spent catchin’ ‘em all, which I hope gets poke-fans everywhere hit with multiple amounts of nostalgia.
What are pokemans?
If you were still a child when these games out, then you probably heard this phrase a lot, a bit too much in my case. Pokemon started off in the mind of Satoshi Tajiri, who got the idea from his love of insect collecting, the name Pokemon coming from the Japanese words: Poketto Monsut, which basically means Pocket Monster… Poke-Mon… get it..?
The First Generation
In the beginning there was what we like to call the first generation of pokemon, which was only comprised of the original 151 Pokemon from the first set of games. Most of us will be familiar with all this, most likely through Pokemon Red, Blue or Yellow. However, to a lot of Japanese people, these pokemon would have become known through the original games; Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green. Pokefans out there may have played the roms or, if you’re like me, own the actual cartridges.
Pokemon Green and Pokemon Red
The originals were officially released on February 27, 1996, after a 6 year development cycle (the longest of any pokemon game thus far) and was met with a lot of praise and sales.
The main difference between Red/Green and the subsequent third release of Blue (which is the package we later received) was that the pokemon pretty much looked like crap, a lot of the sprites were given a much needed redo and ended up like the ones we saw in the Pokemon R/B/Y we know and love today. Another small difference was that the Lavender town theme had to be redone as it was too creepy and, as Nintendo found out through complaints, too stressing on the ear.
Pokemon Red and Blue
The game anyone who had a Gameboy in the 90′s will remember, the game that was the introduction into gaming for a lot of people, like myself. Pokemon Red and Blue were released in September 30 1998, with us Europeans having to wait over a year more for the release. On release Pokemon was big, like a whole new world phenomena, every kid had to have one of the games and if you had both versions then you were the talk of the playground. Needless to say Pokemon fever was everywhere, mainly due to it’s connectivity, longevity and the fact that it was accessible to anyone, but still had deep mechanics for the time.
The game, as we all know, consisted of a young child completing a pokedex and becoming the champion. The end. But what made it so great was it’s mechanics, a game that allowed the player to customise their own team, give them names, moves, whatever. This obviously translated well into the social aspects of the game, where kids (and adults) could bring their games to school (or the office) and pit their virtual pets against each other, each player’s honour in the hanging.
To this day, Pokemon Red and Blue stand as some of the biggest selling games of all time, also being the reason the Gameboy was such a mega hit back in the day.
The ‘middle’ game, Yellow combined Red and Blue, added some stuff and tried to follow the anime. The key difference was that you (Ash) were only given a Pikachu, whereas Gary was only allowed an Eevee. As a child, having Pokemon Yellow was like being a god, you had access to all three starters and Pikachu, as well as being able to reenact the anime, which was amazing for the time.
Surprisingly, all three games actually hold up well today, even when you get over the nostalgia. At their core they are still enjoyable RPGs, with lots of exploring and customisation. If you can find a way to play it, such as an emulator or, with a bit of expense, the actual cartridge, then the games are a great little time waster for bus journeys etc.
The second generation
To a lot of people, this will strike a massive nostalgia chord with people. I’m going to be biased, Pokemon Gold and Silver are the best Pokemon games ever released, holding up extremely well today… well for pokefans anyway. When Pokemon G/S were released fans went berserk, children and their parents were tearing down game stores looking for the brand new instalment. Of course the games were great, offering a significant upgrade to it’s predecessors; 100 new pokemon, new story, new mechanics and of course the chance to re-explore Kanto. This was where my interest in Pokemon piqued, with my cartridge clocking in at a hefty 500+ hours of gameplay before I sadly lost my save data.
The game was set out very similar to the last games, with your 8-bit avatar being beset the task of collecting, yet again, the data on all the critters in the region. But this time you are set the rival of a badass, yet conceited thief, who takes the opposing starter pokemon and then shows up at all the worst times throughout your adventure, expecting a battle… oh and Team Rocket show up again as well, woo.
The main thing that set this game as the (debatable) pinnacle of the series, was its massive overhaul of pretty much everything first gen had done, adding more to the game than any of the games to come after it. Big things like: being able to press select to quick select items, the bag system being completely redesigned, to small things like: icons depicting if you’ve caught a wild pokemon or not, to pressing A on something that needs to be surfed on, etc.
The spin offs
Pokemon, with its fanbase of indoctrinated children, ended up having a multitude of spin off games even in it’s infancy. The main few were released to the likes of the N64, but there have been some rather interesting ones that not many people have actually heard of.
Pokemon Stadium 1 & 2
Both games were meant as a kind of full screen comrade to their handheld counterparts, basically ending up as a pokemon battle simulator with full 3D graphics. The games received mediocre reviews, which is a shame since both games can actually be a lot of fun in small doses. Both games had a gym leader tower of sorts to fight up and plenty of challenge cups to battle through, as well as some awesome mini-games. The main thing that made the games so great was the way people could put their intensively raised pokemon to the test, facing a brand new challenge or friends if they didn’t have a link cable, all with fully animated moves, which was a lot cooler back then than I just put it.
The games did, however, require an N64 Transfer Pak, which wasn’t so easy to come by back in the day. No other games really used the Pak and it ended up just being a pokemon thing, there was a great little add on that allowed you to link up Pokemon Yellow and Pokemon Stadium to get a surfing Pikachu.
One of the weirder pokemon games, a voyeuristic simulator which brought you closer to the Pokemon than ever, taking point ranked photos for Prof. Oak. Pokemon Snap was a blast and still a great game to play to this day, it has tons of secrets and rather addicting gameplay, definitely worth a go if you have the cartridge or the VC… Just wish we could get a sequel on the 3DS.
Hey, you Pikachu!
One of the more stupid ideas on the list, the game really only consisted of you shouting at pikachu through a low grade microphone, enthralling. Pikachu only really understood around 200 words, with moves like Thunder and Thunderbolt being performed if shouted. As an easter egg though, by shouting Playstation at Pikachu down the mic, Pikachu will let out an angry thunderbolt. Nice touch. Thankfully it never really got any sort of sequel or praise and just died meagerly in the US and Japan where it saw a commercial release.
Pokemon Trading Card Game
With the Pokemon games came the Pokemon TCG (See below), with that came the Pokemon TCG Game. The game is actually still a hell of a lot of fun and a great way to learn the basic rules of the card game if you so wish to. The game is set out very similar to the main game, 10 year old boy galavanting around the world trying to be the best there ever was, but this time with a card game. There was also a sequel only released in Japan, which featured the Gen 2 cards as well, but sadly us westerners only ever got the first game, which hopefully Nintendo will rectify in the coming years.
Pokemon Puzzle League/Challenge
A tetris type game for the N64 and GBC. The game wasn’t bad, but nothing special either and just came off as an attempt to use the popular license to sell a game. Oddly, it was the only Pokemon game to be released in the west and not Japan and the first Pokemon game to feature second generation Pokemon.
Utilising the Gameboy rumble pack cartridge, which wasn’t very ergonomically designed, the game was basically pinball but with some Pokemon catching gimmicks added on. It’s a fun little game and earned itself a sequel on the GBA, if you have the time then it’s worth putting some time into.
There have been plenty of Pokemon bootlegs over the years, as the game was very popular, pirate copies were going to be a given. For the first two gens, there were two main bootleg copies; Pokemon Jade/Diamond and Pokemon Gold for the NES.
Pokemon Gold NES
Not much is actually known about this little oddity, but there are plenty of ROMs circulating the internet. The game might, or might not, be a pirate. It’s not a great bootleg, actually it’s downright terrible, with everything feeling completely off and music that is pretty much suicide inducing. If you have the time, go grab the download and see how much more you appreciate the actual GB game.
These games are just bootleg rip offs of a game called: Keitai Denjuu Telefang and has hardly any similarity to the game it’s trying to emulate. The game is a bit odd and requires you to ‘phone’ your monsters to come battle for you, a bit of a weird premise and a bad idea to bootleg.
The other stuff
Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows the theme tune to the Pokemon anime, it was literally a cult phenomena. Doing what most cartoons did, that is being made to sell something, the Pokemon anime was pretty good for what it intended to do. It featured a loveable Ash Ketchum and his loyal Pikachu walking around with a womanising guy who had no eyes and a girl who just nagged her way through the series. The first series still remains the best, but even then it’s still a mediocre anime with formulaic episodes and a moral fibre, similar to the 80′s cartoons it was trying to emulate.
The Pokemon Trading Card Game
If you don’t remember these, you didn’t have a childhood or you’re 40 years old, everyone had Pokemon cards regardless of their affection towards the games. Even today people are still playing the card game professionally or casually, busting out £4 a booster back in a bid to try get some of the rarest cards around. Back in the early days, this rare card was Charizard, a holofoil card that children were revered for obtaining.
With any popular TV show comes multiple licensed goods, everything from kitchen utensils to lamp shades had to have the official Pokemon name on it. Obviously, things like toys and costumes were a given, the best things being the little figures you got in pokeballs (I should know, I still have a load of them).
That’s the end of part 1 of this retrospective. Stay tuned for the next chapter here on HardReset, which will look at the 3rd generation games and the spin offs of that era. In the meantime, enjoy some useless poketrivia.
Ash and Gary are called Satoshi and Shigeru in Japan, named after the lead designer Satoshi Tajiri and Nintendo mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto.
When the ROM was investigated, each pokemon was found to have a certain number corresponding to the order in which they were created, Rhydon was number 1.
If you look at the sprites for Kangaskhan’s baby, you can see it actually looks like a Cubone, suggesting there was originally going to be some sort of evolution between the two.
Pokemon like Ho-Oh and Marill were originally meant to be in the first gen of Pokemon, joining a supposed 190 pokemon, however the designers saw it best to leave these pokemon for the second gen, which is why Ho-Oh was present in the pilot episode.
A battle with Prof. Oak can be triggered in Pokemon Red and Blue via glitches, his team consist of some lvl 70 Pokemon such as Gyarados and Arcanine. Sadly the battle was not fully implemented into the game, but there are ways to activate it.