With the rise and fall of many different consoles, and the constant stream of new games, it is very easy to see how someone could get swept up into gaming. Yet no matter how many new games come out, no matter how much new entertainment I find, I find myself constantly being distracted from these games by Pokemon. It was the other night, while walking home from work and watching Pokemon on my iPod as I walked that I thought that maybe, I might have a problem. Where then did this problem originate? Join me as I trace back the origins of my addiction, and try to find out just what about these games was so addicting.
I distinctly remember my first Pokemon game, and how it was that I came into possession of it. I had been given a yellow brick Game Boy, and was tired of the two games that I had for it. I decided to trade Final Fantasy Adventure to my friend for a game of his, mainly because the cartridge was red and little Rikki was very intrigued by a non-grey cartridge. The game, of course, was Pokemon Red. I was enthralled. Despite the simple graphics, the thought of raising and battling my own team of monsters was nothing short of a dream come true.
Pokemon games are always released in sets of two. The games are always nearly identical, with the only difference being which pokemon one can get in certain areas. The battles use a very simple turn-based system, with each Pokemon learning up to four moves. Each pokemon has up to two types, ranging from fire and water to ghost. Each type is weak or strong to another type, so there is even simple strategy involved in building your party. Some people stick with their starting pokemon and just level it to max, disregarding the rest of the party. I have always had the need to have a full party of evenly leveled pokemon, of various types to be ready for every situation. One can understand why I lost many, many hours to this game.
I can remember a few years later, all of the kids in my family threw together their allowance so we could get a Nintendo 64. Not the best decision financially, but hey, we were kids. Can we be blamed for poor taste? Even the joy of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time could not distract me long from Pokemon. By this time I had Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Red and Pokemon Yellow. The only difference between Yellow and the other two was instead of the traditional fire, plant or water starting types the player starts with Pikachu (capitalizing on the success of the television show). That was still enough to make me pick up the game.
To my utmost pleasure, there were two Pokemon titles released on the Nintendo 64 when we picked it up. The first, Pokemon Snap was a first person, rail shooter style game where the only objective is to take pictures of Pokemon. A simple, silly concept, yet I still found it enjoyable trying to capture all of the Pokemon in a new way. There were seven stages, each with hidden routes and things the player cannot access until Professor Oak gives you certain items. Even though it was just a photography game, it was quite enjoyable.
The second title that was out for the Nintendo 64 at the time was Pokemon Stadium. This game let the player battle with either teams of Pokemon they “rent” from the stadium, or transfer the player’s own from a special controller attachment that let a player plug in your Game Boy Pokemon titles. There are four cups the player must battle through, each at a differing level of difficulty. This game was different from the Game Boy titles in that there was no exploration and no leveling of the Pokemon. After you collect all of the cups, Mewtwo flies over the stadium and in a sort of final round the player’s goal becomes to defeat him. Upon victory, a much harder “Round 2” mode was unlocked. The controller attachment could also be used to play Pokemon Red or Pokemon Blue on the television. While it was fun seeing the Pokemon in 3D, with the lack of exploration and leveling this game did not hold my attention for very long.
A few short years later, Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver were released. Having not played a new Pokemon game in a while, I was very excited to pick up a new game. My Brother picked up Pokemon Silver and I picked up Gold. The formula was more of the same, Starting with either fire, grass, or water type Pokemon and battling through the gyms to collect badges. The few differences in this one were that the “rival” in this one is a thief who stole his starting Pokemon. Other differences include a real time system, where the cartridge keeps track of what time of day it is and which day of the month it is. Certain Pokemon can only be caught at night, and certain things will only happen on certain days. There was also added the ability to make the Pokemon hold items. There were berries that had special effects in battle, from healing the player’s Pokemon to enhancing different move types. I just want to add that being able to name the rival in this is one of the more hilarious options in the games. Even to this day my rivals are always named things no person would say in polite society. The main difference in these new titles was the addition of 100 new Pokemon to try and capture. While I enjoyed the thought of all new Pokemon to capture, the thought of “catching them all” was becoming more difficult to imagine.
After a few more years passed, I drifted away from Nintendo a bit. With the purchase of my very own Xbox, time was spent playing games like Baldur’s Gate or Jet Set Radio Future. My brother, however, bought a Gamecube. When I heard that a Pokemon game was coming to the Gamecube, I was hesitant at first. I figured it would just be a reiteration of Pokemon Stadium with slightly improved graphics. Needless to say, I was very surprised when I first tried Pokemon Colosseum. Finally, there was a 3D Pokemon game with storyline. Players start with two Pokemon, Espeon and Umbreon, and proceed to battle with different trainers and through different colosseums, completing missions and leveling their Pokemon. In Colosseum, battles happen in teams of two, instead of just one on one. the player can capture Pokemon, but there are no random encounters. Instead, the player “snags” the Pokemon from their trainers. Only certain Pokemon can be snagged, those who have “darkness in their heart”. The storyline was just interesting enough to keep me playing through it, even with the lack of random encounters.
From this point on, the sheer number of Pokemon put me off of buying any of the handhelds for a long while. I picked up Pokemon Ruby, but I did not play it nearly as much as I still play the previous installments in the series. With the release of Pokemon Heartgold, I felt the need to pick it up, and play it on a daily basis. It is everything I remember and love about Pokemon Gold with improved graphics and very small changes here and there. Even though I have not played any of the newer handheld titles, I still play the older ones almost every day. Even with new games holding my attention, I am always drawn back into the world of Pokemon. Can this be called an addiction? Or is it just that the games are really that good? Is anybody else out there still dusting off their old Game Boy games and playing through them? Which series are an addiction for everyone else?