This year will see the release of the next generation of Pokémon games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. Along with starting the sixth generation this year, Pokémon will also be turning seventeen years old. Pokémon is a series that I have followed religiously since it was first announced that the greedy Japanese would allow it to come to America. This week, I will be taking a look back at the main series of Pokémon and how its evolution (pun intended) has shaped the series into what it is today.
My first game in the series was Pokémon Red, a game that devoured close to two hundred hours of my young life. Granted, that was when I was ten years old, an age that allowed me copious amounts of video game time. This first generation of Pokémon brought a number of things that would be copied for years to come, foremost being the collection aspect. Collecting trinkets in the RPG genre was nothing new, but Pokémon took it to the next level. Not only did you aim to “Catch ‘Em All” but it was vital to progress through the game. Many gym leaders could prove extremely tough if your Pokémon team had a type disadvantage to that gym’s type. The huge initial explosion of popularity in Pokémon led to many other games trying to capture the same magic. Some games, like Robopon, did not attempt to hide that they borrowed liberally from Pokémon, but none of the clones came close to matching Pokémon‘s popularity.
Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver aimed to take all that made Red and Blue great and expand upon it. A pair of new types, Pokémon breeding, and one hundred more monsters were just some of the features that the second generation brought the series. Gold and Silver also featured significantly longer adventures than their predecessors as they allowed players to travel back to the Kanto region as a second part to the adventure. Due to Gold and Silver being able to trade with Red and Blue, trainers could take their favorite team along for the new journey.
Ruby and Sapphire marked the movement of the series to a new console, the Game Boy Advance. This move to the Game Boy Advance meant that Pokémon masters would not be able to carry over their beloved monsters from earlier generations to the new generation, something that aggravated many. This problem was eventually remedied with remakes of the original games in the forms of Fire Red and Leaf Green. Another negative thing that the third generation brought was version-exclusive legendary Pokémon. While each version in the series had always had exclusive Pokémon, this would be the first time that a player had to trade to obtain a legendary Pokémon. The downside is that the rarity of the legendary Pokémon often meant that many players could not have both exclusive legendary Pokémon on one cartridge, unless that person had an easily persuaded younger brother (like me). Besides these negative aspects, the third generation deepened the mechanics of battles by introducing abilities and reworking the IV system that was found in the earlier games.
The move to the DS brought the series better graphics, many more features, and, of course, more Pokémon. With the Pokémon count just under five hundred, many wondered just how the hell would it be possible to catch all the beasts when the only trading option was friends that lived nearby. The answer to this was the Global Trade Station, which allowed players all over the world to trade with one another. Along with allowing players to trade across the world, the fourth generation also brought Wi-Fi battling to the Pokémon universe. As great as this sounded, it was hamstrung because of Friend Codes. Despite this hurdle, the competitive battling scene was quite thankful for the ability to test their teams against trainers across the world.
With Black and White, GameFreak attempted to give players the same thrill they got the first time they popped in Red or Blue into their Game Boy. Set in a region far away from the earlier generations, the fifth generation is notable because each Pokémon encountered is brand new. Pokémon trainers that had long tired of being assaulted by Geodudes and Zubats in caves would momentarily be relieved when they realized that Roggenrola and Woobat had replaced them. New Pokémon aside, Black and White brought a ton of more features and changes to go along with a huge update to the graphics. Pokémon battles in the past featured largely static sprites, however the fifth generation brought new life to battles with much more animated Pokémon and moves.
While I have forced myself to abstain from most Pokémon X and Pokémon Y news, I am quite pleased with how the new battle animations are looking. It seems GameFreak is further building upon the graphical improvements brought last generation. Apart from that, I do hope that the sixth generation brings another wealth of features the same way Black and White did. The true beauty of the Pokémon series is that despite being around for nearly two decades, it still retains the magic that made the first games so special. Even a metric ton of spin-off games does not take away from the shine that the main series has. The future appears strong for Pokémon, and come this October, I will dive into yet another Pokémon adventure, will you?