Feels: Happy Birthday To The Game Of Our Childhood
My first memory of playing video games was breaking out Pokemon Red on my older brother’s Game Boy Color around 2003. I still recall peering over his shoulder as his Charizard went out into battle.
Feb. 27 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Pokemon franchise’s first release in Japan, and after 20 years I’m still fan-girling.
In 1996, the first generation of Pokemon was released for the Game Boy in Japan. It sold millions of copies, skyrocketing the popularity of Nintendo’s portable video game console, Game Boy. Two years later in 1998, Pokemon Red Version and Pokemon Blue version were released in the United States.
While Pokemon has expanded into six generations of catchable creatures, nothing compares to the iconic release of Pokemon Red and Blue when fans were first expected to make a difficult decision prior to buying. Like most of the Pokemon games, the two versions offer different collections of Pokemon. You also had to pick your favorite color, which for indecisive children like myself, was a huge task.
For those unfamiliar with Pokemon game play, the concept is for the player to collect all 151 Pokemon and become the ultimate Pokemon master. Hence Pokemon’s catchy slogan, “Gotta’ catch em’ all.” The ingenius name of the protagonist of the Pokemon television series is also Ash Ketchum (Catch Em’) to emphasize the point.
As a result of the two versions, players had to use the Game Boy Link Cable accessory in order to exchange collected Pokemon with friends and complete their collections. So in a way, Pokemon’s release marked one of the first times where gamers were forced to socialize.
Pretty sneaky, Nintendo.
The two versions also generated a long-standing dispute over which game is better. In honor of the feud, Pokemon Red and Blue fans will be brought together in a limited-time event hosted by Splatoon to vote on their favorite game. Splatoon’s Splatfest will run from Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. PT until Feb. 20 at 10 p.m. PT, and players will be matched by region.
Nintendo also plans to release the original Pokemon Game Boy games (Red, Blue and Yellow) for the Nintendo 3DS virtual console on Feb. 27. In the meantime, all I have to do is generate a couple hundred dollars to buy a 3DS. Otherwise, my ancient Game Boy can suffice.
In honor of this anniversary, I realize now that Pokemon truly was the video game of our generation. It was the cute, little Pikachu running through pop culture. It served as the middle ground between quarrelling siblings on long road trips, as I remember my brother, sisters and I reluctantly huddled around a 2.5” square screen to my parents’ amusement. Pokemon was so much more than a video game; it was clothes, toys, wall posters, television, and hours of entertainment.
Pokemon was and always will be my childhood. Happy birthday, Pokemon.