I can’t believe that it’s been twenty years since Pokémon was released. I still remember the Christmas that Mum and Dad bought Pokémon Blue for me, and spending almost all that day playing it, and I only got through to Cerulean City and the second Gym in the game. The only time I put it down was when I was told to and eat Christmas dinner.
I was a kid back then and we all heard the rumours on how to get a Mew, tried and failed, and we all learned about ‘cloning’ Pokémon. Three years later I got Pokémon Gold as a birthday present, and played it even more than I did Blue. I loved the time and day mechanics; my parents caught me more than once playing late at night to catch a Hoothoot, and entering the Bug Catching competition three times a week to catch all of the ones only attainable during the event.
I even unearthed my old Gameboy (I’d been given a Gameboy Pocket in the space between), and transferred only one Pokémon over; Orion, my Starmie. Turns out she was female, since gender was something that was now a thing outside of the Nidorans.
Fast-forward to 2009 and I pre-ordered HeartGold for delivery on release day. That was the last Pokémon title I ever played for more than a few hours, and even that was down to nostalgia, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I loved the graphical upgrade and the ‘new but familiar’ feel had me right at home.
But outside of Generations I and II and their respective remakes, I never truly enjoyed them. It felt cynical; more Pokémon to catch, a few extra features and and that was it. You don’t get to explore the previous continents now, and some of the titles even excluded all the Pokémon before it. It turns out that Gen II, what most older fans consider to be the best, was meant to be the last, as stated by Tsunekazu Ishihara during an episode of Iwata Asks.
It’s been twenty years and finally we’re giving the kids that got into Pokémon after the Gameboy Advance was replaced by the Gameboy Micro (my favourite Nintendo handheld) and Nintendo DS the chance to play the classics. They have the chance to learn how Earthquake was overpowered and how Ice was the only chance against Dragon Pokémon. I’ll no doubt be buying a New 3DS when I can, purely to play these titles again. Julia has my DS Lite and I sold my old 3DS when I thought I was moving to the states (thanks, region-locking), so I have a good excuse for a new handheld.
Am I glad that Pokémon is still around? Of course! I think every child should have the chance to play these games and invest their time in a world that encourages them to plan ahead, think on their feet when things change, and can even encourage research from other sources (like Serebii or Bulbapedia) to get an edge on their next opponent. I just wish it wasn’t as derivative as it is. Catch them all? Good luck!