The lights are on
"It's kind of like dog fighting": my friend didn't have the most eloquent way of explaining this new game called Pokémon that was just released for the Game Boy, but I was intrigued. In 1998 I was eleven years old and had never played an RPG before, I also hadn't really spent much time with any Nintendo game. I remember peering over my friend's shoulder as he explained this world where you can capture and train little monsters. The closest analogy I had at that time was Tomagotchi, but this combined ownership over some strange digital pet with a gigantic world and genuine challenge.
I went with Pokémon Blue because it is the only version where you can catch a Meowth in the wild, and the television show had taught me that Meowth is a must-have. I was immediately hooked. I chose Squirtle and set out on my path to become a Pokémon master or something. I spent an unhealthy amount of time with the game; not only because of the scope of the adventure, but the slow battle speeds can really eat away at the clock. I was always eager to give it another go in the Safari Zone or to cruise the same strip of sea over and over again in hopes of finding something other than an unwanted Tentacool. Facing the Elite Four at the end of the game was brutally difficult, and I'm happy to say that the final showdowns still make me sweat when playing and replaying other Pokémon games in the series.
The game itself was great, but what made Pokémon an infinite time sink were the discussions that surrounded this new universe at school. Pokémon swept through my school like a plague. You would walk down the hallways and have to step over kids battling Pokémon cards before tripping over a Game Boy multi-link cable. It was the first and only real cultural phenomenon that I was a part of. Who needs The Beatles when you have Weedles? I eventually got my hands on a strategy guide for the games and read it again and again as if it were a great work of fiction. I remember riding the long bus ride home and studying the 151 Pokémon like my life depended on it. I memorized all of them because it was fun, I will be able to tell you the difference between a Grimer and a Ditto when I'm 64 years old. Claiming your favorite Pokémon (Tangela and Golduck) and arguing with friends about their quality was an oddly formative experience.
The games had a sense of mystery surrounding them. Part of this could be that they were Japanese and there were always rumors about how far along the television show or new game releases were in Japan, but a lot of confusion and rumors came from the game itself. There was the infamous glitch that could corrupt your save when you took the steps to catch something called Missingno, and then there was the legendary Pokémon Mew that couldn't be caught in the regular game. Those two additions opened the door and set off a firestorm of rumors and exaggerated first-hand accounts across the playground about things that have been accomplished and mysterious new Pokémon that have been caught. I heard that you could evolve Charizard into something called "Charcolt" if you followed five simple steps, a friend of mine claimed to have caught variations of Pikachu that were called "Pikagreen" and "Pikablue." It was hard to draw the line between reality and rumor in a game as ambitious and new as Pokémon.
For the amount of time that I spent both playing the games and daydreaming about what type of gym leader I would be if I lived in the Pokémon world, I'd have to say that Pokémon has consumed more of my brain cells than any other title. I've lost a little enthusiasm along the way, but I know that I'm still going to get a nostalgic thrill when I choose my starter and set off on the adventure in this fall's Pokémon X and Y.
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You know i've always wanted to play the classic Pokemon games R/B but sadly i didn't get the chance 1) it was against my religion (although i did watch the anime when my parents weren't around) 2) i didn't get a gameboy til later... and then the gameboy advance appeared -_- 3) i didn't have many friends anyways to complete the game (Pokedex)... :/
But regardless i did manage to own Dragon warrior: Monsters That was my childhood and i love that game to death :) but... for some reason my game data use to get deleted a lot...
Oh my yes! Pokemon was such a huge craze, my entire 5th and 6th grade years were filled with Poke'crazyness! tons of cards, games and talk was almost in every facet of recess and going between classes. So many memories with this game. I remember wanting a Exeggutor and Starmie SOOOOOO badly after seeing them in the anime episodes :p
This. 110% this is the game I've sunk the most time into. I loved battling friends on the bus and during recess. Ahhh, the good ol' days.
Pokemon Red was also rampant in my elementary school too. I had so much Pokemon related items, the gold plated cards from BK, the ancient mew card (to which I thought was in Egyptian at the time) and about 200 hrs in the game itself, great memories.
Wonderful choice Hanson. I was pretty sure you would choose a Pokemon game with the amount you talk about it. I too put in more hours than I could remember with this series. But it's still not my most played game.
Lol Pokemon is probably the greatest time sink next to minecraft and WoW, I loved every second with Blue and spent even more time with Gold.
I started off with Emerald, and put around 180 hours into it. I've played quite a few games in the series since, but Emerald and FireRed are still my favorites.
"Who needs The Beatles when you have Weedles?" That's one of the greatest sentences I've ever read.
Just thinking about Pokemon Red opens a floodgate of nostalgia. Those were some good times.
Ben "Tender Hands" Hanson
This brings back memories. I poured hours of my life into Pokemon Red because of Charmander alone. Then I got Pokemon Yellow and saw that you get a Pikachu and it follows you around just like the television series with Ash Ketchum! One of the reasons why I love the Gold and Silver remake. I've played every single Pokemon games since then except the spin offs.
Ben 'Big Poop' Hanson
Great article Ben! It is hilarious how those little monsters become burned into your memory. When people used to say Pokemon names off the cuff, I used to pretend like I had no clue what they were talking about (Pokemon was polarizing in my school and I was certainly a more hardcore variant of a typical fan lol). Now I don't even try to hide it. Someone says Pikachu and I don't just get a visual image; I start thinking about abilities, move sets, thunder stones, and a thousand other things.
"who needs the beatles when you have weedles" lol......pokemon was my childhood, that about sums it up lol
I cannot agree enough, Pokemon was one of the things that really defined my childhood, I can remember playing my game in secret when I should have been in bed, seeing my first episode of the anime, raising my first Pokemon to level 100 and even encountering the mysterious Missingno. I also remember never being able to capture all 151. I don't remember how close I was, but I just know it never came to pass. So I am glad that, years later, I have been able to do so on the most recent games. It took probably over a decade to come to fruition, but I finally achieved that childhood-dream.
good old days!