Note: This story was originally published on Vooks 28/2/16 for the 20th anniversary of Pokemon, with some minor changes and additions for Stew Review
While the first two Pokemon games, Pokemon Red and Green came out in Japan on the 27th of February, 1996, my Pokemon journey started around 1998 with Pokemon Blue and a Game Boy Color. Sadly, I don’t remember the day I got them… I’ve asked both my parents, but even they can’t remember when I got them, so I can’t really get into the typical origin story of a Pokemon Trainer.
What I do remember, however, is the day I got my link cable! When I was a kid, those things were rare. Anyone with a link cable was the coolest kid around! Even my best friend at the time, who had Chinese relatives that gave him all the coolest foreign gadgets and toys, didn’t have one!
So one day, I went to my best friends place for a sleep over, with the intention to just play Game Boy games and watch movies. I was a pretty sensitive kid back then, and got super home sick at sleep overs all the time. It was embarrassing, bursting into tears just at the thought of not sleeping in my own bed! So I went to my backpack to grab the phone number to call home, and there it was, sitting in the top. A link cable! And a note from mum, “Have fun trading Pokemon!”. Holy crap! I forgot I was upset, I think I even screamed! I ran to my best friend, who gave me a mixed reaction of excitement and jealousy. That was the first sleepover I made it through without crying the whole night!
Fast forward a few years, and the hot topic were the upcoming Gold and Silver versions. I actually still remember the day my mum preordered Gold version for me, at the Tea Tree Plaza EB Games in Adelaide. I was so tired and out of it, I didn’t even realise that mum was doing that until after. Anyway, that was around August, and the games came out in October. We picked up the game on the way to a board games night for my parents and their friends. I was basically given the game to distract myself while they played cards! And man, I stayed up way too late playing for hours. It was nighttime, however, so I saw way too many Hoothoots for a lifetime…
A few months later, a fellow classmate found out I was also a Pokemaniac, and we hit it off while talking about the Alph Ruins. He came over to my house after school, and we spent hours trying to decipher all the words in the Unown Dex. Sadly, the words don’t form any sentences, despite our greatest efforts… He also introduced me to a Pokemon I had never heard of, Misdreavus. I just had no knowledge of it! It opened my eyes to just how big the world of Pokemon really is.
But I never knew that would be the end of my Pokemania, at least temporarily. I moved onto bigger things, under the false impression that Nintendo was for kids. I went from a SNES to an Xbox, where I felt I needed to go with my gaming, as I grew up. I went from Pokemon to Halo, Wario to Jet Set Radio Future. I had a GBA, but barely any games on it. I saw Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, and even asked my mum if I could get them, but she also felt I shouldn’t be playing childish things (if you’re reading this mum, don’t feel bad! I didn’t know I’d be a Nintendo nerd 10 years later either!). For now, Pokemon was just a part of my early childhood…
Fast forward a few years again, to about 10 years ago. I started a course at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in game design, specifically the art side of it. That’s where I met my new best friend- Will! Pokemon Diamond and Pearl were coming out that year, and Will was really excited to get his hands on them. That’s where I realised that liking Pokemon wasn’t really a childish thing. They’re fun games! And they’re still making more? Holy crap! One day before class, I headed into JB HiFi at Belconnen, and rebooted my Pokemon Trainer career with Pokemon Diamond, and was hooked all over again.
But since then? Pokemon is still a big part of my life, with the core RPGs playing a smaller role in my engagement with the franchise. Pokemon GO was released later in 2016, during a turbulent time in my life, contributing a lot to me leaving the house at all.
Pokemon Sun and Moon also came out, which didn’t have as big an impact on me as I’d hoped. Something just felt missing, and while I smashed out the main story in a handful of days still, I didn’t feel like going back to try complete my Pokedex. I even completely skipped Ultra Sun and Moon.
But Pokemon Let’s Go is a chance for me to revisit Kanto with fresh eyes, with a lot of the mechanics I enjoyed from Pokemon GO making it a bit easier to jump back into a core RPG. While I have high hopes to fall back in love with the franchise, I’m worried that as I got older, my tastes in games and mechanics have matured to a point where Pokemon doesn’t appeal to me anymore. So stay tuned for the end of this week for my thoughts!
Pokemon has just always been present in my life. I found fellow trainers, and then friends, in the places I didn’t expect. I could get sappy with the messages that Pokemon tries to teach, with training to be the best, to keep trying to find success. And in some way, I suppose that makes sense. But I feel that the most important part is the trading, the friendly rivalries, sharing our favourite Pokemon, or just sharing tips in the games- it all makes this worldwide community. We all love Pokemon, we all want to find our favourites, try to be one gym ahead of our friends, trade to complete a Pokedex, and just play the games together. And when we’ve been doing that for over 20 years, it’s going to end up meaning a hell of a lot more than just a video game.