Pokémon – Then and Now
Released in Japan way back in 1996, Pokémon has now been in our hands for almost 20 years strong. That’s 2 whole decades, 6 unique generations, and a grand total of 718 Pokémon in all. Poor Ash Ketchum got more than he bargained for when he vowed to “catch ‘em all” so many years ago. Pokémon has become one of the most popular franchises in the whole of the gaming industry, selling over 190 million copies, spreading worldwide, and engrossing multiple generations of consumers. It has truly become a king of gaming, and rules the handheld console with an iron thumb – I would know, I bought a 3DS just to play X and Y. In 20 years the game has come a very long way from its 8-bit glory, and I think its time for a look back at our childhood adoration.
Pokémon Red and Blue were the very first installments of the game, the ones that would start a trend that would enthrall generations to come. If you remember it, darn, you’re old now! Don’t worry, I am too! It was 8-bit, on your classic GameBoy, and introduced the concept of Pokémon to the world. The original idea of Pokémon came from the designer’s wish to incorporate trading into a video game, in a way that had never been done before. Pokémon brought players together, having to trade in order to evolve certain Pokémon, such as Golem and Gengar, and to obtain Pokémon that were exclusive to Red or Blue.
Trading, at the time, was done with an enormous cord wire that had to remain attached to both concerned GameBoys, It took a while, and often glitched (or at least my second-hand one did!) but that did not matter. Trading Pokémon was the new big thing. Everyone brought their GameBoys into school, desperate to trade with anyone willing. Over twenty years, trading has greatly improved. In X and Y and on the Nintendo 3DS, it is all done online, and you can freely trade with anyone in the world. It’s quick, easy, but you do end up with many terrible Pokémon that people trade away for fun. But, once in a while, you could find someone who trades out their specially breeded level 1’s, and have a Charmander on your hands that already knows fantastic attack moves.
Breeding is also something that has come a long way. In X and Y, it is a highly significant training method should your dream be to be the very best, like no one ever was. In Red and Blue, it did not exist, and the Daycare centre was little more than a place to have your Pokémon trained up a bit while you move on ahead. But, in Gold and Silver, the second instalment, they began to invest in the idea of breeding. In this, they created a system in which the Daycare centre would allow certain Pokémon to breed, and produce duplicates that generally inherit moves from their parents. By X and Y, breeding has become ever more intricate, and now incorporates not only moves, but stats, abilities and natures – all which can make the difference when in battle.
As far as the story goes, let’s admit it, it hasn’t changed much over the years. There’s the gym system you must defeat in order to enter the Elite Four, and there is always some sort of “Team” whether it be Rocket, Flare or Aqua, up to no good, all the while your rival is on your tail, generally being a bother. You travel through the linear map, gaining victory over each gym (hopefully!) and your opponent Team kick in now and there to stir up trouble that you, for some reason, must stop. I mean you’re only 10, why is it your problem again? That aside, the story basis is much the same as it has been throughout the whole of Pokémon, with only minor tweaks and little changes that keep it from being entirely the same. But hey, why fix what isn’t broken, right?
Battle has changed in certain aspects. In the beginning, it was always one v one, your beloved Squirtle vs Gary’s Bulbasaur, or your Pigeot vs Giovanni’s Persian. But, later in the years on, Sapphire and Ruby introduced double battles, in which it became 2 v 2, a great aspect that not only helped training, having 2 Pokémon gain the exp from a battle, but it also allowed move combos, combining your Pokémon’s attacks to destroy your enemy in no time at all. Drowsee’s hypnosis, and Gengar’s dream eater – victory! And in X and Y, there are all sorts of forms of new battle, there’s double, triple, multi, and rotation, for all your battling needs. Not only that, but a new fear known as hordes have been introduced – where its multiple wild Pokémon vs one of you! Panic!
Graphics of course are one of the most obvious changes in the Pokémon game. If you look back at Red and Blue, in its 8-bit beauty, and then glance to X and Y, not only 3D but also visually beautiful, the game has come a long way. Now I’m one of those people that most hate – I like good graphics, I really do. I can’t even think about going back to Red after experiencing X and Y, it would be like exchanging an iPhone for a Nokia 3310. But, there are many who wouldn’t trade their digital Pikachu for any kind of HD Version – and why would you? He was the classic, the first. And has anyone else noticed that Pikachu, with the improving graphics, is gradually getting skinnier and slender? It’s strange.
Items galore! There are now so many items available in the Pokémon universe, that all the yen in the world would not be able to purchase them, even if you did win the Elite Four over and over again. There are just so many now! Back in Red, the Pokemart offered mostly your average Pokeballs, potions and health aids, and every now and then, a quick claw or a TM. But, over the years, it would seem all the marts have been stocking up! I’ve been playing X and Y since Christmas, yet it was only the other day that I discovered a whole new range of shopping items I had never seen before, like Assault Vests, Power Braces, Ability Capsules – all sorts! No matter how long you play, there’s always more to find.
Of course, there’s one important thing we haven’t discussed yet – the amount of Pokémon! First gen started with 150 Pokémon, a whole range of creatures for you to explore, yet also small enough that “catching them all” did in fact seem plausible. Gold and Silver added yet another 100 to the list, Ruby and Sapphire featured 135 more, and already, the total is up to a whopping 386 Pokémon in all. Already the dream of a full Pokedex seems slim, and lessens with each generation to come. By X and Y, there are now 718. By the great Helix Fossil that is a lot! And it will only keep growing. But that said, there are supposedly 8.7 Billion species on earth, so why not let Pokémon grow as large?
With the new range of Pokémon, there are of course, many new types. With fewer types, it is very difficult to find an equal balance between them all, as seen in Blue and Red, the gen with the least amount of types, in which the Psychic type was extremely powerful and had few weaknesses. There came along Steel, Dark, and newly released, Fairy Type, at last creating a second strength against the previously powerful Dragon type. Finally. I could never defeat that darn Dragonite. With 18 types in all, Pokémon have created an intricate system of opponents, one that, to the best of their ability, is reasonably fair.
In 20 years, Pokémon has earned its fill, inspiring a card game, an anime, multiple clothing lines and cult loves; engrossing crossed generations of both parents and their children, and of course, earning a killing in the market. It has been a great many years, and Pokémon is one game that I’m sure will remain imprinted upon our childhoods, or indeed, our adulthood, for numerous years to come. So crack out the GameBoy, or your 3DS, and get playing once again!