In the event that you are around 20 years old and a good pokemon fan than you already heard that you are too old to play such games but probably you never care any of them. Pokemon is now 20 years old and many generations grew up with them in all around the world and the company still launches new games. As you may remember we have posted a news about two new pokemon games that will be released in this summer. This news is a brief of the pokemon history which is very popular from the first day the game of it launched.
I’ve been playing Pokémon games since I was 13, and I’ve felt just a little too old for the games pretty much the entire time. Having an eight-year-old brother slavishly devoted to the games, and the anime, and the trading cards, told Young Andrew all he needed to know about the age of kids who were into Pokémon. Even once he (er, me) finally gave in to his curiosity and began playing Pokémon Blue (via the No$gmb emulator on the computer), he only played it with headphones in and the door to his bedroom closed. That experience set the tone for the next decade-plus of Pokémon playing: done in secret, kept to myself, a source of shame.
I’ve never watched the anime. I don’t collect the cards. I don’t play the weird offshoot games like Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Rumble, or Hey You, Pikachu! or whatever. My possession of Pokémon merchandise is limited to a handful of figurines I picked up when I went to Japan in 2010. But every time a new game in the main RPG series has come out, I’ve been there. The games have been with me through childhood into adolescence and adulthood, and while they’ve changed (and I’ve changed) the things I enjoy about them haven’t.
The first generation: In the beginning, there was Pokémon Yellow
I already mentioned that my very first Pokémon experience was actually thanks to an almost certainly illegal emulation of Pokémon Blue. The Game Boy emulators of the day provided a pretty cruddy experience on my computer’s 133MHz Pentium, and all of my pocket monsters were trapped on the computer, unable to battle or be traded with people playing the actual game on actual Game Boys. I needed a real copy of the game, but I had no money or means of conveyance. My aforementioned shame issues meant asking for a copy for my birthday or Christmas was right out.
Salvation came in the form of a fellow eighth grader with a slightly beat up-looking copy of Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition (a version of Pokémon Blue/Red that had been changed to more closely follow the events of the anime). He wanted $10, a manageable amount even for a kid without an allowance. I informed him, perhaps too emphatically, that I was buying the game for my little brother. Money changed hands, and soon I was smuggling the game home to play where no one could see it happening.
The first-generation Pokémon games were rudimentary RPGs even for the time, and the balance of the game was pretty fundamentally broken. But it scratched an itch that most RPGs I played up to that point had never scratched. The Dragon Quests and Final Fantasies of the world had some non-linear components, but character progression was always in a pre-determined straight line. Every person who played the game got characters that leveled up in the same way and equipped the same weapons and armor. The version of Kain in your copy of Final Fantasy 2 (or IV, I guess, for purists) had an optimal set of equipment and a pre-determined set of skills that they all learned at pre-determined levels. Character customization was implemented in later versions of those games via job systems and Espers and the like, but not to nearly the extent that Pokémon promised with its 151 monsters and 165 moves.
On top of Pokémon’s creature variety, I enjoyed the rock-paper-scissors battle system that serves as the bedrock of the games. In those days, Pokémon could be one or two of 15 different types, each with its own corresponding resistances and weaknesses. Mastering the game’s system meant not just balancing your own team of six Pokémon and their moves to counteract any given Pokémon you might run into, but also memorizing the types of every other Pokémon in the game and remembering how those types interacted with each other. A rock-type pokémon is neither weak to nor strong against electric-type moves, but a dual rock/ground-type pokémon is completely unfazed by electric moves thanks to the ground type’s immunity to them. Especially when battling human players, countering every opponent you went up against required no small amount of strategizing and prediction.
These first games were miles from perfect. The graphics were pretty bad even by the standards of the original Game Boy (seriously, a game that looks like this stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation-era games of its time). By the standards of what would come later, the battle system was simplistic and repetitive.
Most damningly, the game’s balance was fundamentally broken by the psychic type in particular. Psychic Pokémon were only weak to bug types, but most bug-type Pokémon had pretty mediocre stats, and the type didn’t have access to the strong attacking moves that more common types received. The second generation of games wouldn’t fix all of these problems, but they brought in many features that remain with the games to this day.
The second generation: Pokémon Gold and the height of my Pokéfever
Time just moves more slowly when you’re a kid. These days whole months seem to fly by in the blink of an eye, but the less-than-a-year that passed between my buying Pokémon Yellow and me getting Pokémon Gold around my 15th birthday felt like an eternity (if memory serves, I bought it myself rather than asking for it directly, a byproduct of my all-consuming Poké-shame).
As with the first generation of games, my first experience with Pokémon Gold and Silver was in a Game Boy emulator, this time in the form of a barely translated ROM that I couldn’t read well enough to play very far. It said something about my obsession with the games at that point in my life that I was willing to play the game in that form for as long as I did. It did nothing but whet my appetite for the real English translation that was still months away.
To this day I think Gold and Silver are my favorite entries in the series because it’s difficult to think of anything they did wrong. As Game Boy Color games, the graphics were good enough that the Pokémon on the box resembled the Pokémon in the actual game. One hundred new Pokémon (which, unlike later entries, were mostly up to the high design standards set by the first game) were thrown into the mix, bringing the total up to 251 and introducing even more variety. Your old Pokémon could be traded into the new games, preserving your hours of effort. Once you beat all of the new gyms and cleared the game, updated versions of the gyms and towns from the first game were made available as post-game content. It nailed that blend of “new stuff” and “fan service” that makes a good sequel really entertaining and memorable. It was the Super Mario Bros. 3 of Pokémon games.
The most notable enhancement to the second generation of games was its rebalancing of the battle system. The tweaks didn’t fix it completely, but they went a long way toward ameliorating the obvious deficiencies of the first game. To prevent psychic types from dominating the game, dark- and steel-type Pokémon were introduced, stronger bug type moves were introduced, and the psychic type was also made weak to the existing ghost type. Dark Pokémon were immune to psychic moves and offensively strong against psychic, while steel Pokémon were resistant to psychic attacks (and a whole bunch of others besides). These were the last new Pokémon types introduced for over a decade, and the next three generations of games would build on the foundation shored up by Gold and Silver.
The third generation: Pokémon Sapphire and a taste of independence
I had just turned 16 when the third generation of Pokémon games came out on the Game Boy Advance in Japan during November 2002. At that point my Pokémon fever had broken enough that I wasn’t desperately trying to play some less than half translated version of it on the (now Pentium II-based) hand-me-down PC in my bedroom. While I still bought the new game soon after it hit the US in March of 2003, my fervor had dwindled to mere enthusiasm.
By this time, birthday money ceased to be my main source of income, and I no longer had to resort to knife-in-the-dark subterfuge to get my Pokémon on. In part because of a traffic ticket (failure to yield, my only ticket to date) and in part because I wanted to have spending money for more than two weeks out of the year, I took a job at one of our small Ohio town’s three fine McDonald’s restaurants. I earned $5.15 an hour, and my first paycheck was about $180. I used it to pay my parents back for the ticket and to buy a PSone, a memory card, a new copy of Dragon Warrior VII, and a used copy of Mega Man X4.
Anyway, thanks to my minimum-wage cash register job and a succession of crappy cars, I was able to drive to the Gamestop in the mall and pick up a copy of Pokémon Sapphire for myself. I was vaguely embarrassed about having to ask an adult human being to give it to me, but I was relieved that it wasn’t a friend, family member, or co-worker that I had to reveal my Poké-addiction to.
Otherwise, my all-consuming shame was alive and well. I played the game alone in my room or in my car at work during breaks. You’d think I was doing hard drugs, not playing a video game where electric dogs and fire ponies kick each other.
While still solid games overall, Ruby and Sapphire exhibited early signs of the troubles that would start to turn more casual players away from the franchise. The graphics, while upgraded from NES-ish quality to SNES-ish quality, were still limited to mostly static sprites in battle scenes. The battle system, while made deeper by the introduction of passive abilities assigned to each Pokémon, otherwise followed Gold and Silver’s template to the letter.
This generation was the point where the monster designs began to go downhill. Not all of the Pokémon from the first two generations were perfect (this one’s a… tree? With eggs? Here is one that is just a pine cone that evolves into some kind of spiky ball. Also here’s one that began life as a racist stereotype. And what is this thing?), but starting in the third generation, more of the monsters started sprouting weird nonsensical spikes and other odd ornamentation. This change was probably driven in part by the more detailed graphics that the Game Boy Advance could render, but it made some of the monsters less iconic and endearing. I would take Blastoise or Charizard over this guy any day, thanks.
The third generation Pokémon games were notable for being the only ones in series history to break compatibility with the preceding games. There was literally no way to transfer your hard-earned monsters from the Gold and Silver games (and, by extension, the first generation games) to Ruby or Sapphire.
It’s May of 2007, the summer between my junior and senior years of college, and I’m not having a great time. It would be three months before my four-year-long long-distance relationship with my high school girlfriend would finally dissolve, but I think I knew it was coming.
I picked up a summer job at school that would be much, much better than the job I had done for the last two summers (third-shift janitorial duty in a factory that made tortilla chips, Cracker Jack, and vile TGI Friday’s cheese puffs. My career path goes all over the place). While it would lead directly to my first full-time IT job, which would lead directly to the one I have right now, at the time I was settling in for a sort of lonely summer, shuffling around the mostly empty campus like a schlubby ghost.
The one thing I had in abundance that summer was time, and I spent almost all of that time playing the copy of Pokémon Diamond I grabbed at a GameStop just before the job started. The game had come out in April of that year, but I missed it, whether because of schoolwork, the shame of playing Pokémon in front of my roommates, or some mixture of the two.
With tons of time and a few things I wanted to distract myself from, Pokémon Diamond was the first game where I dipped my toes in the sort of insane underlying mechanics of the games. Basically, each Pokémon has a set of pre-determined statistics that dictate what the monster will be good at—some might have a naturally high speed stat, for example, but a low defense stat. While you can’t make a Pokémon with abysmally low attack power into a powerhouse, the trainer has a surprising amount of influence on the statistical spread between monsters of the same species.
This begins with natures, a Ruby and Sapphire-era introduction. Every Pokémon you encounter has one of 25 natures, most of which boost one stat while lowering the other. The first trick to training a perfect Pokémon is in picking a nature that boosts a stat important to that Pokémon, while lowering one that it doesn’t really need. If you’re trying to raise a quick physical attacker who won’t be using any “special” attacks, for example, you might try to get a nature that lowers the special attack stat while boosting either attack or speed.
Going a level deeper than that requires the free time and obsessive-compulsiveness that only a summer worker with no girlfriend can muster. As soon as you start training a Pokémon, it starts to earn hidden points called EVs, or “effort values.” Defeating Pokémon with high attack stats generally earns you attack EVs, for example, while defeating fast Pokémon will get you speed EVs.
Each Pokémon can earn up to 510 of these points, and it can earn a maximum of 255 points in any one stat. In a fully trained level 100 Pokémon, every four EV points earned equals an additional point in the relevant stat. A level 100 Pokémon with 255 speed EVs would have 63 more points in its speed stat than the same Pokémon with no speed EVs.
Further complicating this already strange system is the fact that the games rarely mention it at all beyond vague platitudes that Pokémon raised by trainers were stronger than ones in the wild. Items exist to raise (and lower) the EVs of particular Pokémon, but at no point can you actually check the exact numbers for these stats-behind-the-stats. And yet, mastery of this system is necessary to succeed, especially in the upper levels of competitive play. I didn’t (and don’t) actually play Pokémon competitively, but that was no excuse not to obsess over the system I discovered.
Deep-diving into stat-grubbing is my most vivid memory from the Diamond and Pearl generation, but the biggest actually new addition to the fourth generation was this thing called “the Internet.” The fourth-generation games used the DS’ wireless capabilities to let you battle and trade with friends who weren’t in the same room (or with Pokéfans the world over, for the people without friends). The total number of Pokémon had ballooned to a whopping 493, and, especially if you were starting from scratch, it would take a very, very long time to get all of them yourself. These days it can be difficult to use the service to find what you want—lots of players are either asking for or offering up hacked versions of hard-to-find Pokémon instead of doing anything useful—but it was a minor revelation at the time.
The fifth generation: Pokémon Black and falling off the wagon
I graduated from college. I got a job. I started seeing someone else, and we moved in together. Full financial independence made me what most would consider an “adult,” and yet I continued to catch ‘em all in my free time as the mood took me (the DS-era remakes of Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver were especially addictive).
And yet, while Pokémon Black was a day-one purchase for me when it came out in March of 2011, it very nearly lost me. It’s not that I disliked the game, exactly, but it didn’t seize my imagination either. Maybe it was the battle system, which aside from fully animated sprites looked pretty much as it had since the Game Boy Advance games. Maybe it was the way the game handled old Pokémon—you couldn’t capture any of the previous 493 monsters until you had cleared the main quest, which you had to do with some of the least inspired Pokémon the series had seen to date (though to be fair there are still a few hits among the misses).
Maybe I hadn’t left enough space between my last bout of Pokémon fever and the new one (I’m usually hooked for two or three months after a new game comes out, after which my interest slowly tapers off until the next game comes). Maybe at 25 years old, those feelings of shame and maybe-I’m-too-old-for-this were finally winning. I don’t know. But rather than logging the 100-plus hours I put in with pretty much every single Pokémon game I ever played, I lost interest before I even beat the main game. Pokémon and I took a break, and for the first time I wasn’t sure if I would be coming back.
…and then I came back. I didn’t notice Pokémon Black 2 when it came out in late 2012, but I picked it up in January almost out of habit. Each preceding Pokémon generation began with two main games (Diamond and Pearl, Ruby and Sapphire, Gold and Silver, Red and Blue) that were then followed up by a third, mostly the same fusion game (Platinum, Emerald, Crystal, Yellow) that attempted to keep the franchise’s plate spinning until the next proper sequels could come out. Black 2 and White 2 were similar—they introduced no new Pokémon and took place on the same world map but with new gyms, a bit less of the series’ signature fetch-questing and grinding, and access to older Pokémon from the start.
The lesson to take from the fifth generation is that the series still worked and that simply piling new monsters on top of the old template would probably keep most fans coming back. However, that wasn’t enough to sustain excitement on its own anymore (I speak mostly anecdotally here, but it’s worth noting that lifetime sales for Black and White fell just over two million units short of the heights reached by the preceding Diamond and Pearl, despite the larger Nintendo DS install base at release).
The sixth generation: Pokémon X and coming to terms with my secret shame
This catches us up to the present day. The latest round of Pokémon games is here, and after spending some 40 hours with the game over the last two weeks, I have a pretty good idea of what still works and what still needs work. The full 3D world and Pokémon models may seem like a mere visual upgrade, but they make battles more engaging to watch than they’ve ever been. This gives each Pokémon some character that just isn’t present in older games’ static (or lightly animated) sprites.
The bedrock of the series, the explore-battle-capture mechanics that caught my attention in the first place, remain intact and as engaging as ever. The games do an excellent job of mixing up the series’ 718 Pokémon so that you rarely run into the same monsters in different locations. The sound has gotten a substantial upgrade—the music finally sounds better than it did on the Game Boy Advance, and for the first time in the franchise’s history, the Pokémon from early games aren’t making the same 8-bit noises they’ve been making since they were on the Game Boy.
There are still elements that could use some serious work though. The plot is utterly familiar and disposable: young person chooses one of three Pokémon and is asked by a professor to leave his or her single mother at home alone to go on a Pokémon quest; young person defeats eight gym leaders and spars with a friendly rival on the way to becoming the Pokémon League Champion. Along the way you have to deal with a team of calamitous intent who would be more threatening if they weren’t so goofy and incompetent (or if their motivations were maybe a little clearer).
The NPC conversations are also utterly boring: vague platitudes about how amazing Pokémon are, and can you imagine a world without Pokémon, and Pokémon are so cute aren’t they? Just once, I’d like to run into a character in Pokémon who was a banker or someone, just so I could talk with someone about something that wasn’t Pokémon. You have to talk to these NPCs because one in four of them will give you an item for free, not because they have anything good to say.
Given a lack of hindsight, I’m not sure how I’ll remember the X and Y generation in a few years. They were the first Pokémon games I wrote about for money. They came out in that year-and-a-half between when I got engaged and when I’ll get married and just after we moved closer to New York City—living in a more densely populated environment may present more opportunities to use the games’ StreetPass-ish passive communication features if I choose to.
Those are all pretty good memories to attach to these particular games, but this time around I’m trying to deal with a problem I’ve had since the day I first picked up a Pokémon game: accepting the fact that I like Pokémon games and that it’s OK. It’s something I enjoy that isn’t hurting anyone, so feeling bad about it is a waste of time. Writing about how I enjoy these games in full view of the Internet and my co-workers is a big part of letting go of that shame.
It’s kind of my job to pass judgment on things, and it’s already in my nature to see the bad in things before I see the good, so I’m trying harder to be more appreciative of the things I like too much to hate (a list that includes Breaking Bad, most SNES games, seasons two to nine of The Simpsons, and Pokémon). That means less secretly hating myself for playing Pokémon quietly in fits and starts and more of just playing Pokémon and enjoying myself.
I guess I’ll let you know how that goes the next time we get new Pokémon games. In the meantime, I’ve got some stuff to catch.