The video game saga Pokemon celebrates this Saturday, February 27, its twenty-fifth anniversary. Twenty-five years of stories, adventures, and experiences; not just through consoles. Entertainment and culture have given a privileged space to the name of this license during the last five years, a macerated paper based on polishing the formula with each of the generations of deliveries that make up this phenomenon. From the editions Red Y Green originals from the popular Game Boy handheld console to Nintendo’s latest hit, Nintendo Switch, with Sword Y Shield, this idea originally conceived by the Japanese Satoshi Tajiri has become the highest-earning media franchise from the history of entertainment; more than 92,000 million dollars invoiced.
There are a number of elements that have remained intact over the course of these twenty-five years, however, and it is the philosophy behind each of the video games that make up the main series. Eight generations of creatures, eight canonical regions, in a total of five different console cycles. At the same time, several generations of young people who have grown up alongside Pokemon; that have begun their journey with the saga through one of the deliveries that make up each pair of iterations. And that business model, based on the dilemma between choosing one or the other cartridge, is also part of that philosophy.
Because the keys to the success of Pokemon, with which without them it would be impossible to conceive the video game industry, are the collection, the exchange and the communication. When its creator, Satoshi Tajiri, went to school in the modest city of Machida, in Tokyo prefecture, this young man with a passion for catching insects grew up in the seventies surrounded by nature with the illusion of getting hold of all of them. His residence, located in an eminently rural environment, was the trigger for an exacerbated passion to document this collection of critters in notebooks in an encyclopedic way. All this led to the distribution of magazines in his school, in the desire that others would feel that feeling of “getting hold of everyone.” But the fanzines they fell short. Tajiri was fascinated by arcade machines; so much so that he disassembled his Famicom console to learn about its operation and learn, after all, how that emerging world of video game development worked.
Together with his good friend Ken Sugimori, who would later become an artistic designer for practically the entire saga to this day, they created a magazine called Game freak in 1982, the true genesis in vignettes of what would later become the Pocket monsters, the Pokemon, in the company Game Freak. From a fiction-magazine to a videogame development studio, a succession of commissions, failures and the odd success led to a titanic job sponsored by Shigeru Miyamoto – father of Super Mario, Donkey kong or The legend of zelda-, which convinced the Nintendo bosses that this idea had potential, and that they would spawn a couple of names for the story: Pokémon Red Y Green.
That February 27, 1996 was not just any day, it was the day the Game Boy (originally released in 1989) found a second commercial life. The console had little to say on the market until Pokemon set its standards. Unlike other JRPGs, where we assumed the role of a defined character with a structured story, the idea of Game Freak was to create an avatar, yourself, in the task of capturing all the creatures of a region that we had to travel from up and down. Professor Oak gives us at the beginning of the expertise an advanced electronic device capable of recording the information of each of these 151 initial creatures (now there are about 900 different species), the Pokédex; only that for this we needed the support of a first companion, our first Pokemon.
Water, fire or plant. A decisive decision for millions of young people born in the nineties. Another way of referring to Squirtle, Charmander or Bulbasaur. All three with their own unique evolutions, genetics and characteristics; with their weaknesses and resistances between elemental types, thus giving a strategic factor in these frenzied one-on-one turn-based battles. With each fight, more experience; the more experience, the more new movements; the more movements, the more strategy; the more strategy, the greater the challenge and therefore the fun.
The coach’s path has remained intact over the generations; thanks, in part, to the work of direction of Junichi Masuda, composer and director of the saga since the edition Crystal (Game Boy Color, 2001) until 2013 with few exceptions such as Let’s Go Pikachu / Eevee (Nintendo Switch, 2018), when he delegated that responsibility to Shigeru Ohmori, while he would remain in production and composition tasks.
The paper of Pokemon in entertainment history
It is possible that today, in the middle of 2021, it will be difficult to return to these original video games, quite unbalanced in that mathematical calculation of their parameters, although they are still very enjoyable if we understand them in context. They were initially inconceivable feats for a console as little capable as Game Boy; in fact, at first they were a commercial stumbling block. It wasn’t until word of mouth and urban legends – like that of the famous legendary Mew – began to crowd schoolyards that the snowball effect hit. As each experience is unique, as each player chooses their companions in the adventure, the emerging narrative emerged with each game. And that language, that way of expressing himself, crossed borders.
The arrival of Pokemon to the West was unprecedented. Sales estimates were completely disjointed, but why this phenomenon? Magazines, t-shirts, television series, card games, stuffed animals, comics, dolls. The pokémania it was a fact. The motto “gotta catch ’em all“to get hold of everyone, engraved in the minds of millions of followers. The key resided in the ability to unite without understanding age, gender, culture or way of thinking. Those keys mentioned above – collection, exchange and communication – went hand in hand and they made the world a barrier-free environment.
By connecting one console to another through the famous Cable-Link we could exchange creatures with our friends, including those that were not in our edition; hence the incentive to buy both cartridges, for their exclusive components. They arrived in Spain first Red Y Blue (based on version Blue Japanese, which was an improved and corrected reissue of Red Y Green) in November 1999; then it was Yellow, with elements inherited from the animated series that swept through the children’s time slot on Spanish television. Everything else is history.
That story could not have been written without the original works, without the maximum challenge of reaching the best version of ourselves accompanied by those fantastic monsters. It is important to highlight another of the elements of that trident, communication. Pokemon He made us roam our towns and cities to find rivals to face after having trained our creatures. The experience, one detached from the Internet, more analog and tangible, made us understand that the adventure did not end when we glimpsed the credit titles, but that the end was only part of the road, and that this road is truly what we owed the most. Enjoy the trip. The achievement of success in the so-called High Command, after having achieved the eight gym medals that made us valid for the final challenge, posed an even greater challenge, which is none other than challenging others who have also won their respective championships. consoles. A democratization of success where you learn from each defeat and where you work on the importance of respect for your neighbor; the values of friendship with the coach —which influence the behavior of the creatures— and the ephemerality of the result. There is always a second chance at Pokemon.
The original Game Boy video games now celebrating twenty-five years laid the foundation for a superlative influence not just on their own series, but on digital entertainment in general. Evolve your pocket monsters and evolve yourself, as a player, shaking hands with a saga that has been reinvented on numerous occasions so that now, five decades later, you continue to find reasons to choose between water, plant or fire. That you fasten the laces and discover that hundred of new creatures, objects, movements and mechanics incorporated in the regions of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh and others, because the end of each path is the beginning of a new one. Unrepeatable, unique, singular.
Pokemon It has connected people, either through the traditional method or thanks to the power of the Internet connection. It has generated communities, tournaments, myths; It has given rise to books, essays, informative programs and theories of thought on the power of the individual will to achieve dreams always accompanied, never alone. Pokemon They are also values, conviction for a way of understanding things and transmitting a shared passion. That legacy may not be understood in twenty or thirty years. Everything has its place and every phenomenon has an end, a context. It is important to record the importance of that legacy, either orally or in writing. Because the role of Pokemon in history must prevail as an element that came to mobilize half the world, especially with the arrival of Pokemon go in 2016 for mobile devices. Those future generations may not find the appeal that many others did see during these twenty-five years, but it will be recorded how important it was and how much it served so that the video game is now accepted as an artistic element with its own idiosyncrasy. The language Pokemon it is rich, it is full and it is universal. He is there, available to be discovered, ready to invite us once more to get hold of all of us.
Pokémon Red, Green and Blue – Game Boy, 1996
Pokémon Yellow – Game Boy, 1998
Pokémon Gold and Silver – Game Boy, 1999
Pokémon Crystal – Game Boy Color, 2001
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire – Game Boy Advance, 2002
Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen – Game Boy Advance, 2004
Emerald Pokémon – Game Boy Advance, 2005
Pearl and Diamond Pokémon – Nintendo DS, 2006
Platinum Pokémon – Nintendo DS, 2008
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver – Nintendo DS, 2009
Pokemon Black and White – Nintendo DS, 2010
Pokemon Black and White 2 2— Nintendo DS, 2012
Pokémon X and Y– Nintendo 3DS, 2013
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire– Nintendo 3DS, 2014
Pokemon sun and moon– Nintendo 3DS, 2016
Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon Pokémon– Nintendo 3DS, 2017
Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! – Nintendo Switch, 2018
Pokémon Sword and Shield – Nintendo Switch, 2019