During the late 90s and early 2000s, Pokémon was everywhere. There were trading cards, a tv show, movies and, of course, video games. The original Pokémon games were released in Japan in 1996 before making their way across to our shores in 1999. Originally, players could choose between Pokémon Red and Blue, with each game having their own collection of Pokémon to capture. The idea was that you would trade with a friend who had the opposite game in order to complete your Pokédex. It was a hit and soon children all across the country were talking about their favourite Pokémon, which starter they had chosen and looking for people to trade with. It reminded me a lot of the Premier League sticker books from the 90s. It wasn’t long after that Pokémon Red and Blue were joined by a third game, Pokémon Yellow. Yellow featured improved Pokémon sprites, Pikachu as a starter (who followed you around) and the option to pick up all three traditional starters on your way. It had a collection of Pokémon from Red and Blue but once again required you to trade with others to get all 150 Pokémon.
I was late to the Pokémon party. I didn’t have a handheld at the time so I had no real way of playing it. Still, I felt I had outgrown it at the time (silly me). My friend was big into it. He collected the trading cards (I still don’t know how it works) and watched the anime. He would talk about all the different moves he could do. It started to garner my interest and when Pokémon Stadium was announced for the Nintendo 64, I decided to give it a bash. Pokémon Stadium is a simple 1 on 1 battle game, where you select moves to attack your opponents. It’s slow moving but it captures the battle style of the handheld games well and it was great to see these Pokémon in 3D for the first time. It’s not a JRPG like the Game Boy games. Instead, you just compete against Gym leaders but don’t actually move from town to town. There are some great 4-player mini-games that are similar to Mario Party. We spent hours playing these, seeing who could be the “best there ever was”. There was one feature that Pokémon Stadium had that was a “game-changer”: The Transfer Pak. The Transfer Pak allowed you to import Pokémon from Red, Blue and Yellow to use in Stadium. It also acted as a storage box too but there was one feature I loved, the ability to play the handheld games on a TV. Insert any of the three games and you could play them using the N64 controller. As I didn’t have a Game Boy, this was perfect for me. While on vacation, I picked up Pokémon Yellow. I slotted it into the Transfer Pak and I was hooked instantly.
As a fan of JRPGs, I was a little saddened that I had missed out on these. I loved the exploration, finding new Pokémon and battling to gain them experience. I loved how they evolved and became stronger. I loved taking on the different gyms and earning badges. I was a big fan of the selection of Pokémon available and spent hours capturing the rarer ones, trading with friends and evolving my Pokémon. I actually came close to filling up the Pokédex. My friend even had a few Mews (I don’t know where he got them from). I would eventually learn about the Mew glitch and was delighted as the Mew I had traded for was stolen on me. With the Transfer Pak, I was also able to store my best Pokémon and restart the game. I spent so many weeks with Yellow. When Gold, Silver and eventually Crystal were released, I once again skipped over them. I still didn’t have a Game Boy and they wouldn’t work on Pokémon Stadium. Instead, I needed Pokémon Stadium 2 which I never bothered to pick up.
Some time in the early 2000s, I decided to buy a second-hand Game Boy Advance. I’d never owned a handheld console before but reading about some of the games made me dive in. I picked up Sonic Advance 3, Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls and, most importantly, Pokémon Ruby. Ruby blew my mind. It looked so good, had some excellent new Pokémon, as well as returning favourites, a fun map to explore (even if it was very water based) and some of my favourite legendary Pokémon to capture. I spent hours wading through its wonderful environments, training my super team to take on the Elite Four. At this time, I discovered a bit of an issue. None of my friends had bought either Sapphire or the later released Emerald. There were no Pokémon events in Ireland either, meaning the event Pokémon were out of my reach. This was when Action Replay came to the rescue (boo, hiss). It allowed me to obtain Pokémon that weren’t in the game (among other things) so I could continue my journey in peace. At this time, I also grabbed a copy of Pokémon Gold as I now had a handheld to play it on. Gold was so good and I was sad I had missed it the first time. Not only did it have its own region to explore, along with new Pokémon to capture, but it allowed you to return to Kanto and take on the gym leaders from the original trilogy (or most of them anyway). A few years later, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen would see a release on the Game Boy Advance. These were remakes of the original games and allowed you to finally capture Pokémon that weren’t in Ruby or Sapphire and couldn’t be traded from the Game Boy games. I picked up FireRed (I like the colour red) and was excited to revisit Kanto, as well as the new islands that were included. I did use the Action Replay again to obtain some of the event Pokémon. During this time, I also grabbed Pokémon Coliseum for the GameCube. I was excited to finally play a true Pokémon game on a home console. I was a little disappointed in it. It isn’t a bad game, its just disappointing its not a true Pokémon adventure similar to the handheld games. You can explore new towns but you don’t capture Pokémon in the traditional way. Also, the selection available isn’t the best.
With a new generation came a bunch of new games. Diamond, Pearl and eventually Platinum all made their way to the DS. These games looked better than the GBA ones (as you’d expect) and once again came with a host of new Pokémon to capture. All three are set in the Sinnoh region, a more mountainous area than previous games. Platinum would release with the same main plot as Diamond and Pearl but would feature more post game content, balancing changes and more Pokémon to capture. True to every generation, you still needed to trade with others in order to fill out the Pokédex. I enjoyed the Sinnoh trilogy, even if it felt over reliant on HMs. The new areas looked good and the day-night cycle’s return was a welcome addition. I was excited to see what the future would hold. With the release of Black and White, I snagged both, one for me and one for Sharon. Sharon had never played a Pokémon game but was excited to try one. We worked together, exploring the new region, giving each other hints and tips. It was also the first time in a long while I had someone to trade with. We would swap Pokémon to fill our Pokédex as well as helping to evolve some. It was fun playing through them together. We always made sure we played them together and never went ahead of each other.
When the 3DS launched, we grabbed X and Y. Again, we had the same philosophy as Black and White. We worked together, traded Pokémon and helped each other through the adventure. X and Y also brought with it a new Global Trading network. Here, we could finally trade with players around the world to obtain legendary event Pokémon. We could also access the events ourselves through the online features. I remember at the time there was a delay with the release of Pokémon Bank. We had tons of Pokémon from previous generations but we couldn’t transfer them to X and Y. It was eventually released in Japan and I spent hours scouring for Pokémon. When it launched in Europe a few months later, I spent hours transferring my legendary Pokémon across. To this day, X and Y are the only times we’ve managed to complete a Pokédex. After X and Y, we each purchased a copy of AlphaSapphire and OmegaRuby. These were 3DS remakes of the Game Boy Advance games, with some new features. While I loved Ruby, my interest in these began to fade and we only made it as far as the Mauville City Gym. We also never picked up Sun and Moon. When the Switch was released, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee were announced. These were remakes of the original games (again). My interest was reinvigorated as I could finally play the Pokémon game I wanted on the big screen. Sadly, Pikachu and Eevee had a different capture system so I ended up playing it in handheld mode a lot. I did enjoy using the Pokéball (and the Mew that came with it). I still haven’t picked up Sword or Shield but they are on my list.
The future looks interesting with regards to Pokémon. Both Diamond and Pearl are getting remakes that tries to stick to the originals’ designs. Pokémon Legends: Arceus looks interesting but I am still on the lookout for a massive console Pokémon adventure which I hope will eventually come. What are your favourite Pokémon games? Are there any you’d recommend? Who’s your go-to starter and your favourite across the series?