25 years, Pokemon has been around for 25 years (since 1996). It’s difficult to imagine that much time has already passed by. Whether through playing the games, seeing merchandise, or watched the show, Pokemon has found its way into the lives of countless people. With the 25th anniversary of one of the most successful franchises coming up, I felt that it was more than fair to share my own Pokemon journey with all of you. So grab your Pokeballs, choose your starter, and collect those badges, it’s time to go down memory lane with Pokemon.
When Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green (Japan only for Green) first came out, I was only about 6 months old. It wasn’t until I was maybe 7 years old, I’m positive it was before I turned 10, when I first was introduced to Pokemon. I’m not sure if it was the show or the game that I encountered first (probably the show), but either way, I was in for a journey that would last a lifetime.
While I watched the show on and off, the first season will always hold a special place in my heart, since I had a handful of the episodes on VHS tapes. I would watch each one on repeat so many times, I’ve lost count. I even owned two of the movies The First Movie and Pokemon 2000) and both have had their fair share of views. These VHS tapes were honestly all that I had when it came to watching the show, that, and whatever aired on tv. I didn’t have the internet at home for a while, so I had no idea that (if there were) there were websites where I could watch all of the episodes. At the same time, I was happy with the tapes that I had. As long as they were there, I could watch Pokemon as many times as I wanted.
When it came to the games themselves, I didn’t start playing until not too long after my older sister did. I still remember when she got her GameBoy Color and Blue Version and the times where I would try to watch her play. After a few months (or so), when I had enough allowance money saved up, I went to my nearby game store to purchase a red GameBoy Color and either Blue or Yellow Version. While felt strange later on to be playing what is known by fans as the “first-generation” Pokemon games, while everyone else was playing the “third-generation” games (Ruby Sapphire and Emerald), I still found plenty of enjoyment playing what I had. I remember playing through Yellow Version numerous times, before finishing the final journey. I never captured all 150 Pokemon, but I was content with the teams I had created. After my adventures in the Kanto Region, it was time to move on to the next chapter of my adventure to become a Pokemon Master: the Johto Region.
In the Johto Region (second-generation), I began with Gold Version and learned about the changes in this new world. With new Pokemon types introduced and bigger challenges heading my way, I gradually had to come up with new strategies in order. Even with these newly obtained strategies, there were still the blocks in the road that led to some frustrations. One of these blocks was the infamous gym leader Whitney and her Miltank of death. Before anyone tells me in the comments how this battle was easy, I never consulted the internet or any friends on how to beat Whitney. I didn’t know that was an option at the time, so all I did was train and battle her until I won. In other words, my strategy was to simply overpower her team with mine and boy was it satisfying when I finally beat her. After that, the rest of my Gold adventure went relatively steady. Sure, there were some areas that lead to some frustrations (i.e. Icy Path, Whirl Isles, and Dark Caves), but I remained persistent. Eventually, I made my way to the Pokemon League to face the Elite Four and the champion. I’ll admit, the first few attempts were a struggle, but I eventually made it and became the new champion. However, the adventure didn’t end there, there was more to explore. Soon after, I was able to revisit the Kanto region from the first game.
Revisiting Kanto is like coming back to the house you were raised in for a nice visit. Sure, there will be changes, but it still gives that refreshing feeling of nostalgia. While I remembered what the teams of the gym leaders consisted of, it didn’t mean that they would just give me their badges for free. The battles still offered a challenge (some more than others) and it was overall fun to see the trainers again (not to mention the music was amazing). Once I battled Kanto’s gym leaders, I went ahead and took on the League again. It wasn’t until I did this, that I went to the final area for my ultimate test: climb to the top of Mt Silver and challenge the greatest Pokemon Trainer. As I began my climb, it became extremely clear as to why I couldn’t even hope to enter this area until obtaining all 16 badges. If you’re even hoping to challenge this trainer, you have to prove your worth by making the climb, and doing that is no walk in the park. I had to leave the mountain numerous times in order to heal my Pokemon and keep them in tip-top shape. Eventually, I finally made it to the peak of Mt Silver. And who was this mysterious trainer that was waiting for me? Why, the protagonist of the first game: Red. This battle was hell for me, mainly because, other than battles against other real-life trainers, I almost never fought an in-game trainer with a full party (6 Pokemon) team. Looking back, I must’ve challenged Red at least three times before I defeated him. After that, he silently takes his defeat, disappears, and the end credits play. So I finished playing Gold Version and did everything that I could really do (other than catching every Pokemon). What did I do after that? Did I save up to buy a GameBoy Advance SP and one of the third-generation Pokemon games to begin my next journey? No. No, I didn’t. Instead, I went ahead and bought Crystal Version, which became my favorite second-generation Pokemon game (in the main franchise).
While Crystal Version was almost the exact same game, there were numerous differences. One of these differences became one of the biggest game-changers to the franchise itself: the option to choose between playing as a girl or a boy trainer. Today, it might not seem so revolutionary, but back then, having that option at the beginning of the game changed everything. Along with this new option, there were some other new additions to the main game, which soon became a fairly consistent part of the main series. One of these main features is a more extended storyline along with being able to catch both legendary Pokemon from the other two games from the same region. The other feature, that still blows my mind to this day, is the fact that the Pokemon have their own little animation. This little feature is what made Crystal Version one of my absolute favorite Pokemon Games. There was also one little feature, which has become a part of the future Pokemon game: the Battle Tower. The Battle Tower isn’t necessary to clear in order to beat the game, but it gives the player an optional extra challenge. I’ve only tried it a couple of times, but I’ve never cleared it, plus I never found any enjoyment in them. But, as they say: to each their own.
After my journey in Kanto and Johto, Pokemon found a special place in my life, as I continued via various pathways. It was a number of years before I returned to playing the main games, so I played some of the spin-off games. While I still haven’t beaten it to this day, I have many fond memories of playing Pokemon the Trading Card Game. This also lead to my sister and I purchasing many packs (and even a pre-assembled deck) and occasionally dueling each other, although I almost never won against her (thankfully she could never use her 200HP Wailord card). I even still have my Pokemon cards in a binder with numerous card-storing pages. Pokemon Pinball was also an enjoyable game for the GameBoy Color, even though neither my sister nor I got super far (as far as I can tell). Once I turned 13 or 15 (I forget the exact age), the Pokemon pathways lead to many new possibilities.
When I received my Nintendo DS Lite for my birthday (which I still cherish despite how beat-up it has become over the years), I was able to journey to not only the Sinnoh and Unova regions, but to the world of the Pokemon Rescue Team games. This was also the end of those days where I’d frantically search for batteries and the sore necks during car rides at night. Now you’re probably wondering, “Hey Tracy, how did you get sore necks from playing Pokemon during car rides?” Well, allow me to share a secret technique that my sister and I used. We call it the ancient technique of “tucking a flashlight under your chin.” Yep, that’s it, that’s the secret. But yeah, with the new hand-held gaming systems having lit-up screens, those days were long gone. We do occasionally look back at those days with fondness and some relief, but they were fun days.
Back to the topic of Sinnoh and Unova, I still enjoy exploring both regions. I will say this though, Platinum will always be one of my all-time favorite games in both the Pokemon franchise and as a game in general. I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s just something about it that makes it a perfect game. The way the story flows, the characters, and even the overall design of the new Pokemon make the game really stand out. Speaking of the game standing out, there’s one other important part of not only Platinum but of all of the fourth-generation Pokemon games: Cynthia. Long before fairy-types were even a thing, Cynthia was one of the most difficult and terrifying league champions to face (she still is). With her overpowering Garchomp as her ace Pokemon and Spirittomb as an obstacle near the beginning of the fight, she was the champion that no trainer could afford to hold back against. Speaking of which, I would have to give some credit to Alder (Black & White) and Iris (Black & White 2) for providing a challenge as well (in my opinion). Despite knowing the weaknesses of Iris’s Pokemon (most being dragon-type), the added mixture of different types keeps trainers on their toes. While I little memory of battling Alder, I would say that I had some struggles against him. I will also say that BW and BW2 were enjoyable games. The stories were engaging, the music was amazing, the environments were fun to explore, I enjoyed interacting with the new characters, and the designs of the new Pokemon were interesting (in my opinion).
Along with playing the mainstream Nintendo DS Pokemon games, I was also able to play some of the spin-off games. One series that I will forever enjoy are the Rescue Team games. The idea of playing as the Pokemon themselves, and the main character originally being a human, was such a mind-blowing moment in Pokemon history. I still remember playing the demo at Target numerous times and having so much fun with a game that I wouldn’t be able to play for at least another 7 years or so. I’ve played most of the titles and even though I haven’t played all of them to completion, I still have a blast playing each one.
The only other spin-offs that I have memories of playing, are the Pokemon Colosseum games and Pokemon Conquest. I feel like Conquest was one of the more forgotten spin-off games. It was a strategy game where the feudal lords of Japan had Pokemon of their own and in the end, you end up battling against Oda Nobunaga himself (who had a shiny Raquaza). I never finished playing the game, but I remember having a lot of fun playing it. Now the Pokemon Colosseum games, these were games that hold a special place in the hearts of numerous Pokemon fans. While Pokemon Stadium was one of the first to make the idea of 3D model Pokemon battles a reality, Colosseum took that idea to another level. Before the mainstream games for the 3DS, Colosseum were games that had a full story for players to enjoy. In both games, your character travels across the Orre region in order to save Shadow Pokemon (Pokemon whose hearts have been corrupted) from an evil organization. Whether it was with the help of another character or with the use of a special gadget, the main character could identify whether or not they were facing a shadow Pokemon. When I revisited both games, after playing the 3DS games, I still have an amazing time playing them. In all honesty, there are some character models that I wish would return to the mainstream games. Heck, it would be awesome to face the main characters from these games in battle, just to see what type of teams they would’ve put together. While I rarely used this feature, it was awesome that players could connect their GameBoy Advance and battle with their teams from the third-generation games in 3D models. I spent most of my time with the sequel title Pokemon Colosseum XD: Gale of Darkness, but I’m still planning on playing the first game all the way through.
Fast forward a handful of years later, I’m just starting my college adventure. All of a sudden, I hear news of two new Pokemon games for the 3DS: X and Y. This was when the dream from the Colosseum games finally became a reality. Although I had to wait a while, I was able to play Pokemon Y and I still remember fans losing their minds from the announcement. This was the first 3D Pokemon adventure on a handheld system. And with new Pokemon games come new features, and there were more than plenty of those. Thanks to wireless connections to the internet, players could trade and battle with anyone from across the globe. There was also a new feature where players could interact with their Pokemon in order to strengthen their friendship levels. This would come back in future games. Another big feature that would return in future games was the ability to customize your character. In each town or city, there would be shop where you could buy clothes for your character to wear. In one or two cities you could even change their haircut and eye color. The possibilities were nearly endless. However, there was one feature that changed everything: Mega Evolution. For those of you that don’t know, there are a handful of Pokemon that have another form that can only be unlocked in battle. This new form leads to new abilities, some of which can be terrifying to face. One other big change to the Pokemon universe was the introduction of fairy-types (which can still be terrifying). With this new type, players no longer felt any fear towards the dark/ghost-type Pokemon and dragon-types had another weakness to add to the list. Soon after X and Y, there was an announcement involving the remakes of Ruby and Sapphire for the 3DS (renamed Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire).
As someone who hadn’t played the third-generation Pokemon games (only watched walkthroughs), it was a fun way to enjoy the story and, to a certain degree, how the game was played. Sure, it wasn’t the most difficult game, but I still had a blast playing it. There were times where I would look up both the original and new soundtrack and compare the songs. Some of the songs were given a serious upgrade and sounded much better than the original version. There were even changes and improvements to the designs of locations and characters. What was even more amazing was the new “chapter” added after the game’s story is completed: The Delta Chapter. With this new chapter, we were introduced to a new character and story, which led to a new theory. This theory involved the idea of parallel universes, which almost led to the destruction of one of these universes (possibly the original third-generation games). But yeah, these new 3D Pokemon games were, and always will be, a big part of Pokemon history.
As the final Pokemon games for the 3DS, the Sun and Moon games were a somewhat refreshing addition to the series. Taking place in the Alolan region (basically Hawaii), trainers explore different islands and take on the different trials (as opposed to the traditional gyms) in order to prove their skills. These games were kept some of the same features from the previous 3DS titles, but also introduced something new: regions having different forms of certain Pokemon. These forms varied from interesting and enjoyable to the bizarre. For example, the Alolan Vulpix and Ninetails had majestic, wintery form (to symbolize their change from fire to ice-types), while Alolan Exeggutor has a long neck (making it look like a palm tree) with a tail and has become a grass/dragon-type. About a year after Sun and Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were announced. Honestly, I wish these games were part of a dlc (downloadable content) pack instead of a full game, since they’re basically the same game but with some changes and additions. I never even finished Ultra Sun because I felt like there was no point, which made me feel even more cheated from the amount I spent on the game. In other words, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Things did get better, however, after the Nintendo Switch came out.
Within two years after the release of the Switch, two new Pokemon games were released. The first being another remake of the first generation games: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee!. I chose Let’s Go Eevee! mainly because I love Eevee more as a Pokemon and I knew that I was going to catch a Pikachu later in the game anyways. So far, I’ve been having an enjoyable time playing it. The game is colorful and an overall delight. However, the only thing that I still have to get used to is the Pokemon Go style of catching Pokemon in order to make your Pokemon grow stronger. I understand that Pokemon Go is still a big thing and it does work with the Switch, it’s just not my thing when it’s part of a main title. It honestly makes training my team a huge hassle. Other than that, I haven’t had any personal issues with the game. After Let’s Go Eevee!, I pre-ordered and soon played Pokemon Shield. I still remember hearing fans complaining about the game and wondering why they weren’t enjoying it. To be honest, I personally didn’t find anything wrong with the game in terms of story, gameplay, or even graphics. Sure, later on I looked into some of the things (mainly graphics related) that were the source of the complaints and I could understand their reasons. Are Sword and Shield bad games? Not really. Sure, they’ll have flaws and aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be cast aside. From the sounds of it (since I haven’t finished the first expansion), the new dlc for the games have been pretty fun. After Sword and Shield, fans are waiting patiently for new Pokemon titles to be announced. One big titles that many are excited for, is New Pokemon Snap, which is a relaxing-looking game (the sequel to the original title for the Nintendo 64) where you take pictures of Pokemon in their natural habitats. Given how things are going today, I’ll most likely be unable to play this new title until a while after it comes out. As someone who never played the original game, I’m looking forward to playing it sometime in the future. After that, who knows what will come next. Many, including myself, are hoping for a remake of the fourth-generation games (specifically Platinum). If that does happen in the future, it would be interesting to see what the developers will do with 3D graphics, especially on the Switch.
After 25 years (maybe 15 for me), it’s amazing to look back and see how far this wonderful franchise has come. From the games, to shows and movies (even a live-action one), to a trading card game, to merchandise and even books, it seems like anything can be done with Pokemon. I can’t wait to see where things are going to go next. Since you’ve all spent time reading my personal journey of Pokemon, tell me: when did your Pokemon adventure begin? What are some of your favorite memories of Pokemon? Feel free to leave them in the comments, I really want to know how it all started. Until then, this is Tracy Preston/CuriousCat-13: signing off.