Throwback Thursday: When we finally had the chance to Catch ‘Em All
Looking back at the original Pokemon games and why their appeal still lasts today.
If a tree falls in the middle of a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise? What came first: the chicken or the egg? What is the sound of one person clapping? What Pokemon do you choose: Squirtle, Bulbasaur or Charmander? These are some of the most famous, and most challenging questions known to man. But why was the last one so difficult? What made your starter Pokemon so special? Well to explain that we have to examine why Pokemon Red and Blue were such successes.
The Mania of Pokemania
If you grew up in the 90’s then you probably spent all you pocket money on Pokemon cards, watched Ash battle his Pikachu every Saturday morning, and dedicated countless hours to training and collecting Pokemon on your Gameboy. You probably remember that one kid on the playground who had a Charizard card (that was me!), or chose your best friend based on their choice of Pokemon game (probably only looking for friends who have Red if you have Blue, or vice-versa).
Nintendo created a whole new world where cute, powerful and devoted critters fought for their master. The Anime series really shone a light on the relationship that can be built between a Pokemon and their trainer. This was a key element for picking which Pokemon to have in your party, and choosing your starter. These are the Pokemon that you will travel with, compete with, and consequently build your affection for. Just like in games such as Football Manager you create a bond with the virtual characters. Let’s be honest, we all wished the Pokemon we trained could come to life. And this is partially why Pokemon Red and Blue became must-haves.
Gotta catch ‘em all!
There were 151 Pokemon to catch…although some of them you can only attain through evolution: but of course some need to be traded first. You need to beat the Elite Four first to get Mewtwo. You can only catch certain Pokemon on certain versions of the game. You need an evolutionary stone to evolve Eevee, but have 3 choices and only 1 chance. Then you need a Moon Stone to evolve certain Pokemon, but there’s not enough for all of them! And let’s not even get into how complicated it was to own a Mew. Yup, catching all 151 Pokemon was as tough and unlikely as Ash winning the Pokemon League…so what’s the appeal?
Every Pokemon was different: each had its own charm. In order to build the ultimate party you needed worthwhile choices for your selection. That only came after searching every grassy area, surfing and fishing in every area with water, and clambering through every cave (watch out for the Zubats). The harder you searched, the rarer the Pokemon became.
Red and Blue thrived on personal choice – way before the likes of Life is Strange or The Walking Dead. Every player had their own selection of Pokemon that they had trained in their own individual way. Each game experience was unique. And it all began with the starter Pokemon you chose.
The lasting appeal of Pokemon Red and Blue
Pokemon just turned 20 (feel old yet?) and arguably it’s never been more successful. Pokemon Sun and Moon have just been announced, the Anime is still going strong, and a new collection of Pokemon are currently being created. However despite all this Nintendo just re-released the original games on the 3DS and 2DS. Surely players have come to expect more from their Pokemon games: better graphics, a wider variety of Pokemon, a deeper levelling system? Apparently people will never get tired of beating their rival (erm, what was his name again?) and becoming a Pokemon Master.
So why will Pokemon Red and Blue always be remembered? Well for all the reasons above, and one more: simplicity. Sure a lot of it sounds complex, but when it comes down to it there’s one simple story. You and your chosen starter battle together to become champions, and through the game you truly build a bond with that Pokemon. Nothing can be more simple than that…
Who was your starter Pokemon? Who was your favourite/least favourite Pokemon? What are your memories of the original Pokemon games? What name did you call your rival? Comment below and have your say!
Written by Stan Cohen
A proud Charmander picker.