Catching ‘em All #2 - My History With Pokémon

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    I figured it would be good to detail my history with the core Pokémon games over the past twenty years before we really get stuck into the nitty gritty of each Pokémon title I am playing. I’ve tried my best to give accurate dates but sadly somethings are hazy and lost to the depths of time. I’m nearly 30. I’m an old man now and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be :P

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    I started playing ​Pokémon when I was 10/11 years old with the US release of ​Pokémon Red and Blue. My silver tongued brother had convinced our parents to buy us imported copies of the game (Red for him, Blue for me) from America as Christmas presents. This meant that I was playing and loving ​Pokémon for almost a full year before my friends in the UK. These were the bad old days where if you were a gamer in the EU you had to get used to waiting a long time for games. You know how occasionally you see people kicking up a fuss when the UK release date for a game is 2-3 days after the US one? Try waiting up to a whole calendar year like we did back in the 90s-Mid 2000s! It was chaos!

    Playing ​Pokémon before it became a thing in the UK did a few things. The first was that my brother and I did a lot of Trading and Link Battling between the just two of us. My relationship with my brother these days is distant at best (we live at opposite ends of the country and he is really bad at picking up the phone!) but one thing we can always talk about is Pokémon. That stems from this period of time when it felt like we were the only two people in the world playing it. The relative isolation also meant that I was freed from the misinformation cycle of the playground. For example pressing Down+B when catching Pokémon only became a thing for me in Gold and Silver. It also meant that I was on my own solving the problems the game presents to the player. My first playthrough of the game was done through sheer determination. Figuring things out as I went along or talking them through with my brother when I was really stuck. It was like a really crude Brandon Plays Pokémon but with a 10 year old who had no idea what he was doing!

    It also meant I was some sort of man from the future for a time. Constantly whispering to my friends, "It's coming, ​Pokémon is coming out and it will blow your mind." I was an ambassador for the game of sorts. I would tell anyone who would listen why it was the best thing ever made. I would lend people my copy of ​Pokémon Blue so they could sample its delights. It was passed through the hands of so many people that the cartridge became warn, the artwork sticker fell off and it looked like it had been through Mt. Moon several times with the amount of it marks had on it. But I was happy. The damage to the cart meant people got to play and most importantly, enjoy it. On the day of the UK release I proudly traded in a couple of games and bought myself a shiny new copy of Pokémon Blue retiring my original copy to my desk draw in my bedroom.

    Most importantly though because I was so young it also meant I exploited everything I could in the game. If you tell a 10 year old they can cheat at a video game and get huge rewards for doing so, they are going to cheat the shit out of it. When my brother found out about the Missingno glitch via the internet that was it. I was catching Safari Zone ​Pokémon on the beach and cloning items in my sixth slot as a default part of my playthroughs. Then on holiday in America one year my brother bought a GameShark. That opened up a whole new world of breaking the game and shaping it to my will by tapping in number sequences that made up the instructional code for the device. I was a god in Pokémon's two colour GameBoy world and I couldn’t be stopped.

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    There was a slight shift in how I played the games when I got ​Pokémon Yellow, again a US import copy. I pushed myself to play it without the use of the GameShark and had a lot of fun because of it. I believe it was my first conscious effort to play a game on its terms rather than mine. Something that is not really an issue these days due to cheats (in the classical sense) mainly being a things of the past. But Pokémon Yellow did something to me because of that self imposed relationship I had with it. I looked more closely at what I was doing in the game and what it was trying (and when it comes to Gen I, failing!) to tell me. My deep love for the game come from the process of simply playing through it, training up and messing around with different team combinations. It also meant that as soon as I beat the Elite Four I would wipe the save data and start fresh. I have lost count of the number of times I have played through ​Pokémon Yellow it has been that many.

    I’ll go into more detail on Pokémon Yellow in another post but for now just know that it is a very important game to me.

    Then Pokémon Gold and Silver released in Japan and changed everything.


    Pokémon Gold and Silver came out in Japan November 1999 almost a full year before the US October 2000 release. Me and my Brother couldn't wait that long for the US version so we could import it. We had to play it now. So we turned to more...grey ways of acquiring the game.

    My first partial playthrough of ​Pokémon Silver was an unintentional episodic game. I was relying on sporadically updated fan translated ROMs to get my fix. These would be very mixed in terms of quality and were super glitchy. Random gibberish would fill the screen and ​Pokémon names would make no sense. They would also name things based on direct translation or fan wish fulfilment. Remember Marill being Pikablu? You get the idea!

    My save data would constantly corrupt with each update and additions to the ROMs I used. Which oddly gave me an early life lesson in always having a save data back up if you can. There would also be times when a new version of ROM would be released and the game felt completely different. Systems like apricorns being made into Pokéballs would suddenly make sense. My rival would magically have his trademark dickish personality. It was weird but worth it. I eventually stopped playing translated ROMs before reaching the end game. I had got my fill as it were and I was ready to wait for that fabled US release so I could playthrough the game properly.

    Trust me when I say I played the crap out of ​Pokémon Silver when I finally got it.

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    Being a Pokémon Obsessive I picked up a GameBoy Advance in 2001 for two reasons: 1) POKÉMON! 2) The other games looked like they would be fun to play while I waited for the next ​Pokémon game to come out in 2003. Despite this Gen III was a mixed bag for me.

    I got Ruby and really enjoyed it. I loved the new ​Pokémon and bad guys being tailored to which version of the game you had. The region of Hoenn had its charms too but overall the game didn't feel as expansive as Gen II had. Like many a rabid fan I was expecting not only to travel through the lands of Gen III but also retread the ground I covered in Gens I and II. I still played it to completion several times, along with Emerald and FireRed as soon as I got my hands on them.

    Gen III was the birth point for what Pokémon is today. The stats system, the information first way of explaining things, team management, Box management, the overall flow of the game and more. All come from Gen III. So in terms of importance to the franchise Gen III is up there with Gen I but like I said. Something just feels off about it to me compared to Gens I & II. I still have to play the remakes of Gen III so I am hoping that in those I will find what I was missing the first five or so times I played through it.

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    In 2005 got a DS for two reasons: 1) POKÉMON! 2) The other games looked like they would be fun to play while I waited for the next ​Pokémon game. When I finally got my hands on Gen IV in 2007 it quickly became one of my favourite sets of Pokémon games.

    There is something about Diamond and Pearl that I find...transcendent. Sinnoh is a beautiful region and the games use of the dual screen nature of the DS is simple but very effective. The story even in the base games is fun and feels like it has high stakes. It builds on what was changed in Gen III and also, crucially was the first Pokémon Gen to have online modes (in the West at least). I had a lot of fun trading and battling with people around the world because my usual Pokémon playing friends had started to move onto other things, or had simply grown out of playing Pokémon. (LIKE THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN!)

    Gen IV also has HeartGold and SoulSIlver which are among the most complete and perfectly designed ​Pokémon games you can get. They refine the systems in Diamond and Pearl while also adding to them. The PokéWalker which is in my opinion, the best accessory for a video game ever made is unique to HeartGold and SoulSIlver. It is a gaming device that perfectly condenses the ​Pokémon experience and tying it to real world walking has kept me relatively fit over the following years! From it you can see how the logical conclusion would be something like Pokémon GO almost a decade later.

    2009 - 2012
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    We then enter what I call the Dark Age.

    After I had my fill with Diamond, Pearl and Platinum I put down my DS and didn’t really touch it again. Black and White sprung onto the scene in 2011 but they never quite clicked with me. I remember buying a DSi XL just to play Black but giving up and trading it all in after 12 or so hours of playtime. I don't know what it was exactly that pushed me away from Gen V. Part of me thinks it was just an age thing. I was 24 when Black and White came out. I was knee deep in trying to get a degree about making games, I was planning on getting married in the next year or so and I was experimenting with making my own games when I could. I had other concerns at the time. So Black, White and their directly numbered sequels (what the heck is up with that?!) past me by.

    Looking back on it, it feels odd that I just sort of walked away from all things Pokémon for a few years. Maybe I was burnt out after a decade of near enough constantly playing a Pokémon game of some form. Part of me feels like this was necessary though. I needed a break to learn what I really liked about the games.

    Skipping Gen V is something I am planning to correct with this grand undertaking.
    It is going to take a while to get there but I cannot help thinking I have missed an important part of the evolution of the franchise. So Black/White and Black 2/White 2 will be played at some point!

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    Thinking I was done with ​Pokémon I didn't buy a 3DS when they first came out. The 3D gimmick wasn’t for me and the games for the first couple of years of the console’s life were mostly lacking. The announcement of ​Pokémon X and Y changed that though. The reveal trailer grabbed me and shook some sense back into me. Game Freak had taken the thing I loved as a child and were finally giving me what I wanted. A 3D world with 3D models for the trainers and ​Pokémon! Also the region of Kalos is based on France, specifically Paris, the place I got engaged to my wife! It is a perfect storm of aesthetic design with art and gameplay. I made a deal with my brother and gave him some cash for his banged up launch 3DS so I could play X while he bought an XL to play Y.

    People complain X and Y rely too much on people's nostalgia for the original games but for me they were a welcoming home party and all my favourite ​Pokémon had been invited. To put this into context my playthrough time for ​Pokémon X was at the 90 hour mark when I reached the Elite Four earlier this year to beat the game. Most people claim to be able to do it in less than 30 hours. So yeah, ​Pokémon X has a special place in my heart. It is just that good of a game for me.

    I also have Omega Ruby ready and waiting to be played but I'm holding off for now because it felt right to play through the VC version of ​Pokémon Yellow and then SoulSilver again before tackling the new version of the Gen III games.

    Between and alongside the mainline games I have enjoyed over the years I have played a lot of the spin-off and tie-in titles. The Stadium series is my favourite and I am saddened that Game Freak and Nintendo have not made new ones for Gen VI. I have also spent a considerable amount of time and money on the ​Pokémon Trading Card Game over the years. The GameBoy game for the Trading Card Game is even one of my favourite games for the system! ​Pokémon has been a franchise I have grown up with, something I have seen change and grow along with me. It is a weird experience but one I am eternally grateful of having.

    Which is why I think it is time to do the one thing I have never done in any ​Pokémon game I have played, Catch 'em All. A mission that was given to me when I was 10 years old has been left uncompleted for 20 years.

    Next Time: Current Progress & Pokémon Yellow Analysis

  • I'll be kinda quick with my history of Pokemon. Started with Red and Blue back when the games came out. Dropped off after that like many others. Several years ago, I pick up the remakes, FireRed, and I just had to get back in the series after that. Went straight to Pokemon Black, and I loved it! I then proceeded to play the gen 3 games on GBA, then I got HeartGold, and later that year, Platinum. By then Pokemon Black and White 2 were almost coming out, played and loved them, which solidified my love of gen 5 as a whole. X and Y come and go, I love them, but they kinda disappoint me upon replaying them a few times, and ORAS come out and they redeem gen 6 for me. Now, Pokemon is my second favorite series, and Sun and Moon have me so excited, especially since it's feeling reminiscent of gen 5 in terms of an emphasis on story, and is the second gen on a current system. Which will no doubt effect its development, as X and Y's issues seem to come from being the first 3D Pokemon games.

    I'll be curious to see what you think of Gen 5 when you give it another shot. My situation was the opposite, where the 5th gen made me really love the series again, as I mentioned. They are my favorite Pokemon games now, and my favorite set of Pokemon. I really hope the games click for you on your second try, the gen 5 games seemed to have become more beloved with time. I used to see a lot of hate for the gen, but now people really appreciate what the games set out to do.

  • @Hero-of-Lime I am really looking forward to trying Gen V again but it might have to wait until after I'm done with Sun and Moon but we will see! After I'm done with my current playthrough of SoulSilver I'll be jumping into Omega Ruby. If I finish that and have a good chunk of time left before Sun and Moon's release I'll get started on Black.