90’s Kids and Pokémon
The upcoming release of Sun and Moon has almost all of my friends talking. We’ve picked (if not pre-ordered) which version we want, we’ve argued about which version looks better and why, and we’ve done a whole lot of reminiscing about Red and Blue. (With the occasional smatterings of ‘Remember Pokémon Go? here and there.)
Let’s not deny it, we might groan at some of the new Pokémon designs. I remember complaining for over five minutes when we first got a look at Vanilluxe, and the internet lost its collective mind when Exeggutor’s mega evolution was announced, but there’s something about Pokémon that we can’t get enough of. We rush to buy the games, we still watch the anime and occasionally we can’t resist the urge to pick up a booster pack or two of trading cards. There’s something about the franchise that 90’s kids just adore.
Nostalgia is an undeniable element of our attraction to the series. Those Saturday mornings spent eating sugar coated cereal and watching Ash’s latest clumsy attempt to catch a new Pokémon. We all remember shouting at the TV whenever he saw a Pidgey or a Rattata and had to break his Pokédex out to see what it was. We still shout at the TV now when he does it. (It’s been nearly 20 years, Ash- learn your Pokémon.)
The hours spent spent hiding under the covers with a game boy light long after our parents told us to go to bed. The countless arguments with pushy siblings over which trading card belonged to who. We’ve got good memories, and Pokémon was responsible for shaping a lot of them.
As adults we bicker with our partners about who the biggest PokéFan is, and about which game was the best. It’s not unusual to see people in their 20’s sporting Pokémon clothes and tattoos and we’re unashamed about our seemingly undying love for the world of Pokémon. We still even trawl the internet from time to time for theories from Red and Blue (Was it set in the aftermath of a war? Who is Red’s Dad? Why do so many parents seem cool with sending their children out into the wild to battle powerful monsters?) We name our pets after Pokemon, and Red still holds a special place in our hearts.
Gotta catch ’em all
For some people catching them all is a fun pastime, for others it’s therapeutic. Personally I’ve never felt the inclination to do it, (I’d rather be the very best like no-one ever was) but that hasn’t stopped me pouring hundreds and hundreds of hours into the games. There was something for everyone, whether you wanted to be up there with the elite trainers, to beat the bad guys or if you wanted to be an esteemed collector.
Pokémon grew up with us, and we grew up with it. We’ve been trainers, we’ve been rangers, we’ve even been Pokémon from time to time. We still play Pokémon Snap and let’s not forget about the time Pokémon Origins destroyed us with their Lavender town episode, despite the fact we first heard the story back in ’97.
We got to witness the evolution of game design with Pokémon. Each game added new features, the worlds slowly became more and more in-depth and believable and the battling became more satisfying and dramatic. Pokémon Red and Blue were perfect in the sense that they did exactly what they intended to do. But can you keep the interest of gamers without adding new mechanics to the formula? As good as Red and Blue were, can any game series remain unchanging and stay strong for almost 20 years?
Fixing something that’s not broken
Trying to find a balance between attracting new players and keeping your loyal fans content must be a pretty daunting task. The games need to appeal to more and more gamers, become more and more accessible and still hold that original spark that made it what it was when it was first released to continue to succeed. Pokémon has. We began to see new features way back in Pokémon Silver and Gold and we’ve seen more as the years have gone by.
- Silver and Gold added a real time internal clock, which affected when you could catch certain Pokémon.
- Pokémon could suddenly hold items like berries which could give a boost during battles.
- New PokeBalls were added and we got our hands on a PokeGear.
- Its lesser known sister game Pokémon Silver let us play as a girl for the first time.
In Ruby and Sapphire we got double battles and Pokémon contests, and from there the list goes on and on. Even trading and battling can be done via a wireless connection so we don’t need real life friends to be able to enjoy the game’s features. Perfect.
From roller skates to 3D cities we’ve had more and more to do and explore while each game essentially remains the same. Catch, collect, fight and trade your way to the top.
There are still a few things that fans would like to see change, though. With all the developments in the games over the years fast forward to 2016 and we can still only have one save file per game. If that could be fixed, I’m sure we’d all appreciate it. I won’t deny that I haven’t enjoyed the last couple of Pokémon installments quite as much as I liked the previous ones, but I’m not ready to stop playing, and with the success of Pokémon Go (despite how fleeting it may have been) I’m sure Sun and Moon may attract a whole new group of people who have never picked up a traditional Pokémon game before.
It seems like a special thing to be able to watch a franchise grow and evolve (get it?) as we do the same. We might be overly skeptical when information is released about a new game, but that’s because we hold it close to our hearts. With Sun and Moon being released in just over a month, the only remaining question seems to be which starter will you pick?