Pokemon is one of those franchises that became a cultural phenomenon for a few years. It came to North America at just the right time when anime was getting popular, RPGs were becoming extremely popular, and even trading card games (TCG) were catching on. Pokemon had everything needed to become a media empire.
I got caught up in the first generation of games and was briefly interested in the Pokemon anime and TCG. I remember borrowing Pokemon Blue from my friend and beating it. Then I got Yellow and played through that version of the game. Most of my friends had already beaten the game, and the novelty of it was gone for them.
When I started collecting video games, I bought Red and played through that version. It is odd how Pokemon created something that appealed to people’s need to collect things on many levels. Weirdly, it happened.
Looking back at the first generation of games, I still like Yellow the best. However, like many people outside of Japan, I didn’t play the original version. We got a version of Pokemon Blue that was a patch for Pokemon Red and Green.
Red and Green
The first versions of Pokemon Red and Green had several bugs, different items you could buy, and some dialogue changes. You can find versions of Pokemon Green on the internet. The one that I found is a bad fan translation.
There was also more adult content, and I used that term lightly. There was just alcohol and a few drunks in the game. This would typically be changed when bringing a game, movie, or manga to the US. I remember Dragon Ball being heavily altered for the North American market.
There were also minor changes to the music in some parts of the game, and the Pokemon storage system was different. The protagonists’ names were also different. Instead of Red or Blue, you could play as Green. I never saw these as different characters, but apparently, they are all different in Pokemon lore.
It is interesting to see what changed when Game Freak created Pokemon Blue. It was primarily minor changes to the gameplay as well as fixing bugs. I find it a little funny that we complain about updates for video games today when companies have been doing this for years. The biggest difference is that games didn’t typically get shipped broken at the same frequency in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.
The Japanese Pokemon Blue became the basis for the international release of Red and Blue. This did cause some confusion for me because I thought there would be a game for each of the starters. I have no idea why I thought that at the time, and it would be a few years before I found a version of Pokemon Green online.
Blue was the first version of the game that I played. I was very excited to play it, even if I missed out on playing the game with my friends. I didn’t get the game on release, and I waited until a friend beat their version so I could borrow it. They had moved on to the next game by then, but it was still something to discuss.
I think it was that summer that the TCG came out. We bought starter decks, played it for a few days, and then never returned to the game. It was similar to how Magic the Gathering and the Star Wars TCG came and went.
Yellow was the first version of the game that I owned. I had already beaten Blue, and I was still into the anime at the time. It was interesting to see the differences between the three versions released in North America.
I felt that Red had the best selection of Pokemon, Blue is the one I have the most memories of, and Yellow added things that improved the game. Yellow included some things from the anime, and I liked that you could have Pikachu following you around. I didn’t do this as often as I could, but you can talk to Pikachu to see what his opinion of your character is. It isn’t essential to the game, but I’m glad it is in the game.
These games came out near the end of the black-and-white Game Boy’s life span. These games helped to give it a shot in the arm and helped to bridge the gap between iterations of the Game Boy. They’re also the games that I remember the most.
It felt like an extension of being on the playground in elementary school. Kids would trade tips and tricks about the game. This was also the first time I saw people using the link cable for the Game Boy. It existed before this, but no one I knew had one.
My friends and I would go outside and play; we did get together with our Game Boys to play Tetris or Final Fantasy Legend II. It wasn’t just the games, though. I mentioned the TCG and the anime, but there was much more to it than that.
In the late 90s, Volkswagen brought back the Beetle. I didn’t care much about it, but Nintendo and Game Freak seemed to as they licensed Pikachu out to be made into a Yellow Volkswagen Beetle. It was the first and only time I remember caring about a car.
This was just one of the many things that Pokemon influenced. There were a ton of other fads from this period, but Pokemon had staying power. Furbies, Beanie Babies, and Tickle Me Elmo didn’t stick around as long as Pokemon did.
Other things tried to be Pokemon or that the media said would replace Pokemon. I remember playing several games back in the late 90s that felt like Pokemon. Jade Cocoon and Monster Rancher are the games that stand out to me.
Even when Pokemon started to slip in the early 2000s, it was still extremely popular. There were still movies, the anime was going strong, and the TCG was still releasing expansions. For a brief period, Pokemon could do no wrong.
The internet was still in its infancy at this time. However, it would play a part in connecting fans of Pokemon and other video games. Nowadays, you can find plenty of videos about Pokemon. While it isn’t as big as it once was, it is still an extremely popular franchise.
The first generation of Pokemon games was a big deal for me. It seemed like everyone I knew was playing it. I don’t remember there being the same hype for the second generation, but I was already moving on to other things by the time Gold, Silver, and Crystal came out.
I didn’t start getting back into Pokemon until the Game Boy Advance came out, and I was looking for something to play while I was in the Navy. I think I tried Sapphire and couldn’t get into it. I’ll end up trying it again at some point because I find these games to be a ton of fun.
Playing them on the newer games on the Switch has been great! Even if I didn’t like Violet and Scarlet, I can still return to Sword and Shield and enjoy myself. That is one of the fun things about this series. There is always a Pokemon for you and a new Pokemon game to discover or revisit and get lost in.