Pokémon has been one of Nintendo’s most popular and beloved video game franchises. The iconic game series, with its mascot, the adorable electric mouse Pikachu, has always managed to stay relevant in pop culture. The RPG game series spawned shows, movies and books, and the Pokémon have been seen in some of the weirdest places, like on jets and trains and even as parade balloons. More recently, we’ve seen the game played in a massive crowdsourced effort known as TwitchPlaysPokemon (which I previously covered), and in an elaborate and epic April fool’s day prank by Google, anyone could catch Pokémon hanging out at famous locations around the world via the Google Maps app. Japan has even adopted Pikachu as their mascot for the FIFA World Cup!
With such popularity, and it being so well known to most everyone today, it’s kind of hard to imagine a time without Pokémon – but it all had to start somewhere. Let’s turn the clock back a bit, before there were 719 Pokémon to catch and before we explored Kalos; we’re heading back to Kanto.
Pokémon Red and Blue (originally Pokémon Red and Green in Japan) was first brought over to North America in 1998 for the Game Boy. You start off as an ambitious boy named Red, tasked with finding all 151 Pokémon, and becoming a Pokémon Champion. Travelling through colour-named towns, you face many different Pokémon, meet many new trainers, clash with the criminal organization Team Rocket, and face your rival, Blue.
The two companion games are the foundation of the series, which has been constantly tweaking the formula between generations to improve the gameplay for everyone. They’ve constantly added new Pokémon to the roster (while carrying over Pokémon from previous generations), they’ve added new features to battle with people and trade Pokémon with (which is now on a global scale), and they’ve upgraded the sprites and character designs to take advantage of the improved powers of the newer consoles. In spite of all this change, the feel of the game has always remained the same, so children discovering Pokémon now can still feel that same excitement beating the Elite Four, and that pang of anxiety watching that Pokéball rock back and forth when trying to catch a legendary, just the same as we did when we were children.
Despite being an all 8bit soundtrack, the music was an amazing and integral part of the game. Most of us can still sing the battle theme song off the top of our heads, feel on top of the world listening to the route theme, and still remember how creepy the Lavender Town theme was. The sounds in the game were quite memorable as well. The high pitched blip at every text box is no doubt etched into your memory. And if you randomly hear a cry from a Pokémon, you can recognize it without a second thought (unfortunately, you’re probably hearing a Zubat).
There were also some things that were not-so-great about playing this game when it first came out, like trying the million different ways your friends told you to catch Mew (which unfortunately was unobtainable unless you received it from someone else, from a tournament, event, a friend, or cheating). However, you could catch MissingNo, and if you were lucky, you didn’t end up ruining your game doing so. There were plenty of other myths and glitches possible to discover, but the only way to find out about them would be to wait for the newest gaming magazine to come out. The internet didn’t have the answer to everything the way it does now.
This game series holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers. We logged hundreds of hours trying to catch ‘em all, to get our Pokémon to level 100, and to explore every inch of Kanto. Nothing can beat discovering this game for the first time, not knowing what to expect, and in the end finding one of the most amazing games you’ve ever played.