Monday, February 27, 2017

My Life as a Pokemon Trainer: Generation 1

Welcome to the world of Pokemon! Today Pokemon turns 21 and we're celebrating #PokemonDay with this celebration of the first generation and my memories regarding it.

Since 1996 Pokemon has touched the lives of Video Games and people all over the world. Battling, trading and catching pocket monsters over a Gameboy Link Cable? It was an insane idea but it worked and was a worldwide success. They didn’t call it PokeMania for a reason and I’ve been an avid Pokemon fan since they touched down in the USA back in 1998. To this very day I and many people all over the world have been a Pokemon fan and who knows if I would still be on the same path today if it wasn't for Pokemon. For those who don't know Pokemon is a strategy turn based RPG Video Game where you trade & capture these mysterious powerful creatures called Pokemon in order to become a Pokemon Master. So let’s take a trip through time, back to 1996, the year Pokemon was released.

Pokemon began as an idea and concept by a man named Satoshi Tajiri back around 1989/1990 when the Nintendo Gameboy was first released and Gamefreak, Tajiri’s company was just breaking into the Video Game development business from their previous Video Game Magazine business. Thinking back to his childhood of collecting insects Tajiri wanted a way for players to connect and trade miniature creatures amongst themselves and the Gameboy’s link cable was perfect for his vision of giving children that same thrill he had as a child. Tajiri brought in Ken Sugimori, who was an artist that worked with Tajiri on their Magazine and would design the trainers and Pokemon. Along with Junichi Matsuda, music and sound effect composer they began work on what would become the first versions of Pokemon, Pokemon Red and Green, at the time named Capsule Monsters. Green you say? Yes the original Pokemon versions were indeed Red and Green instead of the Red and Blue, though if you live in Japan or are already aware you’ll know that the Red and Blue released overseas are actually newer versions of the original Japanese releases, fixing bugs that plagued the original games. (Japan actually received a Pokemon Blue version which was actually the basis for the Red and Blue versions shipped overseas.)

Anyway Pokemon Red and Green took 6 years of development and surprisingly was turned turn by Nintendo multiple times. It wasn’t until the project caught the eye of Shigeru Miyamoto did Nintendo finally greenlight the project. Pokemon Red and Green finally released on February 27th, 1996 and while having modest sales over the upcoming months Pokemon started to become the worldwide classic as it is today. Following the release of the games came a trading card game on October 20th, 1996 (Which would become almost as popular as the Video Games), multiple manga series, and an anime starring Satoshi and his trusty Pikachu (Who would go on to become the mascot and Face of the Franchise.) premiering on April 1st, 1997. Pokemon was a smash hit in Japan and Nintendo & Gamefreak decided that 1998 was the year, the year to unleash Pokemon on the world.

This is where my story begins; Pokemon Red and Blue hit the seas here in America, along with the English dubbed Anime (Satoshi being renamed Ash Ketchum.) in September of 1998 and PokeMania bloomed into full effect. Pokemon was absolutely everywhere with all sorts of merchandise and had completely hooked me in. My memory of that time isn't perfect, I was only 2 going on 3 years of age at the time but my first encounter with Pokemon would be the anime TV series.

Photo Provided by Bulbapedia

Starring Ash Ketchum, a 10 year old boy, he receives his first Pokemon from Professor Oak and sets off on his Pokemon Journey through the region of Kanto to become a Pokemon Master, battling his way up to the Pokemon League. It's the same setting as Pokemon Red and Blue but there's a twist... Ash is actually late to his meeting and all three starter Pokemon the Professor was giving to new trainers. 

These three Pokemon were Charmander, The fire Lizard Pokemon.

Photo Provided by Bulbapedia

Bulbasaur the Seed Pokemon

Photo Provided by Bulbapedia

And Squirtle the Tiny Turtle Pokemon.

Photo Provided by Bulbapedia

So what was Ash to do when all three Pokemon were already picked by other new trainers? (One of them being Ash's cocky rival Gary.) Well Professor Oak wasn't exactly out of Pokemon, he had one last creature at his disposal, an untrained Pikachu, the Electric Mouse Pokemon. Ash immediately took to Pikachu but the little yellow mouse didn't like ash AT ALL in the beginning, which is shocking compared to how close those two are now. Ash & Pikachu set off on their Pokemon training journey, meeting new friends (And pretty awesome characters to boot.) to travel with like Misty & Brock, defeating the 8 Gym Leaders of the Kanto region and of course taking on the evil (Well, they try at least) Team Rocket trio. Jessie, James and Meowth are the icing on the cake of this show, adding hilarious comedic moments and apparently some really deep character development. (Mostly on James's part.) This show was and still is amazing and kickstarted my love of Pokemon. It was the big star of Saturday morning cartoons on Kids WB, sadly Saturday cartoons don't really exist much anymore but hey Pokemon itself is still running with Ash heading off to Alola.

As well as Saturdays on Kids WB I actually had, well still have (Just can’t play them atm due to not having a VCR) the entire Indigo League season on VHS tapes. Because of my constant watching of this show, almost religiously, I think my parents also ended up becoming Pokemon fans.

Oh yeah! This show also introduced the coolest opening song ever (Sorry Digimon and Power Rangers you come in at a close second for me) and an even more awesome PokeRap sung at the end of every Episode, basically rapping the names of every single Pokemon. (The original 151st Pokemon anyway.) I actually had the entire rap memorized but I sadly cannot rap it off by memory any longer.

Pokemon the anime and the series in general became so popular it received its own animated movie, releasing in North America in theatres on November 10th, 1999. 

© 1999 - Warner Brothers

Ash, Misty, Brock and of course Pikachu receive an invitation to battle the “World’s Greatest Pokemon Trainer “on New Island. The oceans stretching out to New Island though suddenly become violent, full of raging waves and piercing winds. Of course Ash & Co along with many other Trainers won’t turn down the challenge and head out towards New Island against the wishes of Officer Jenny. (Not sure WHICH Officer Jenny though, there are quite a few  of them throughout the Pokemon World, same with Nurse Joy who also plays a part in this movie.) 

© 1999 - Warner Brothers

On New Island they encounter Mewtwo, a manmade clone of Mew, (The Elusive 151st Pokemon, completely hidden to the public.) claimed to be the strongest Pokemon alive. Mewtwo holds a strong vendetta against the humans and Pokemon who follow them, creating his own clones of our Heroes’ Pokemon to eliminate them. 

© 1999 - Warner Brothers

Along with Pikachu’s Vacation which came bundled with this movie on the VHS I owned and the awesome soundtrack I watched this movie more times than I can count as a kid. This movie earned over 160 Million at the US box office which was pretty incredible for an animated movie at the time. Pokemon movies no longer premiere at theatres here in America (They stopped after Pokemon Heroes, the 5th movie.) Pokemon still releases a new movie every year featuring new Legendaries and a new story.

So yeah the anime really was the beginning of Pokemon for me and yes while most kids probably got into Pokemon through the games, aka Red & Blue, I was hooked by the Television show and my first main series video game would actually be Pokemon Gold & Silver back during the Christmas Holidays of 2000. Though this wouldn't be my first Video Game encounter with Pokemon, no I experienced Pokemon for the first time through a different medium...

It's no hidden fact that I absolutely love the Nintendo 64, I talk about it enough on the blog anyway. While my first main series Pokemon games would be Gold & Silver and I wouldn't experience a main series generation 1 game until later on with Pokemon Yellow (We'll get into that later.) Before I experienced Pokemon battling for the first time I played a slightly different Pokemon game... Pokemon Snap. 

Now my memory is rough around the edges when it comes to my life as a 2-3 year old but I actually remember Pokemon Snap "possibly" being my first Video Game encounter with Pokemon. You play as Todd Snap (Who I was familiar with thanks to the Anime.) as you traverse on an on rail like gameplay through different environments to take photos of Pokemon. At the end of each run Professor Oak evaluates your photos and gives you a score. The goal of this game is to take a photo of all 63 Pokemon that run wild in the game. Sadly the game doesn’t feature all 151 but it does feature the 151st Pokemon Mew! Yes Mew was such an elusive Pokemon, only being available in the games through certain events, or certain glitches. So many crazy theories were spread about Mew, nobody quite knew where to find Mew, or what Mew truly was. Remember those theories about Mew being under that truck near the S.S. Anne? Good times… Maybe one day Mew really will be hiding under a truck. Mew is definitely one of my all time favorite Pokemon thanks to Pokemon Snap and the First Movie.

Anyway the N64 also holds my first experiences with Pokemon battling, Pokemon Stadium. 

Releasing on February 29th, 2000 in America Pokemon Stadium brought Pokemon from a 2D 8 bit color screen to the big screen in full colors and with 3D models. Pokemon was completely fleshed out in 3D with each having their own unique animations. You could also transfer your Pokemon from your Red, Blue and Yellow games to use them in 3D. 

This game is completely and utterly awesome. Aside from using your own Pokemon this game also offered rental Pokemon. Yes you can rent use 149 Pokemon (Minus Mewtwo and Mew, though you can unlock Mew later.) each with their own unique moveset. Pokemon Stadium has lots of modes to choose from, the Gym Leader Tower, where you fight your way through the Gyms and Elite Four similar to the games. There’s the main stadium with different tournaments such as Poke Cup, Prime Cup and so forth. Players can also play against each other in Free Battle. Whether Multiplayer or against a CPU. Free Battle allows you to set your own rules, or no rules at all. Pokemon Stadium also has the GameBoy Tower, which allows you to play your Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow games on the big screen. Finally Pokemon Stadium also has the Kids Club. Oh boy the Kids Club is probably a huge memory maker for me. This mode has Minigames featuring a wide amount of Pokemon friends, 9 minigames in all. These Minigames hold countless fun for friends & family but I also found joy in kicking the butts off the CPUs. I can’t really choose a favorite Minigame but I can safely say I absolutely suck at Snore War and Thundering Dynamo.

Something super cool about this game is once you complete all the stadiums and Gym Leaders… One final foe appears to fight you. It’s none other then Mewtwo himself. Oh boy Mewtwo is tough and I can remember struggling against him time and time again. My parents actually played this game quite a bit as well and had actually beaten him (My mum was actually a better trainer then myself, go figure.) but younger me thought it would be REALLY FUNNY to delete the save data, yeah, thanks younger me. It took me up until last year to finally beat all the stadiums and Gym Leaders to unlock Mewtwo again. I finally beat Mewtwo though, and I’ve unlocked Round 2, which is basically all the same battles, just harder with slightly different Pokemon.

I want to talk more about this game but there’s two more parts of my Generation 1 memories that we need to discuss.

First off there’s the TCG. Awesome Pokemon art printed onto hand sized cards? An awesome Trading Card Game? Sign me up! The TCG quickly became my lifetime collection when the Team Rocket series released on April 24th, 2000. I received these cards on my 4th birthday and inside these packs I got cards that are timeless favorites in my collection that just kept on growing since getting these first set of cards.

While I’ve not played the Trading Card Game much over the years I’ve really enjoyed collecting these cards.

We’ll we’ve come to the end of the journey, but wait, I think I forgot something… While I experienced this game after Gold & Silver I actually did experience a Generation 1 main series game… Pokemon Yellow.

Oh Pokemon Yellow you beautiful creation. I never experienced Pokemon Red and Blue as a kid, okay I’ve still not experienced them to this day in the exception for Pokemon Leaf Green, the Game Boy Advance remake of Red and Blue but Pokemon Yellow might possibly be better then either version to me.

Taking place in the same region of Kanto you start your journey in Pallet Town, like in R&B but instead of taking you back to his lab (After heading into the Grass when you’re told not to without a Pokemon, but hey we’re rebellious.) and allowing you to choose a starter Pokemon, Professor Oak encounters a wild Pikachu. (Accompanied by Ikue Otani’s Pikachu voice instead of the usual cry from R&B.) After the Professor swiftly catches the Pikachu he takes you back to his lab where you meet up with your Rival. (Who I always named Gary from the anime.) Professor Oak asks you to take possession of the sole Pokemon on his desk as your starter Pokemon but not before your eager, cocky Rival knocks you aside and grabs the Pokemon first. So basically you get stuck with the only Pokemon Oak has left, the Pikachu he caught before. This game is very similar to the anime and lots of events and characters from the show carry over to this game, in addition to the original Red & Blue storyline. One aspect that carries over is the fact your Pikachu does not like to be in his Pokeball, at all. Meaning you get to have Pikachu following you around during your Kanto Journeys, as well as the ability to speak to it to see how it feels towards you. This basically made little me as giddy as a school girl and made this game far superior to Red & Blue, I was a huge Pikachu fan back then, okay I still am a huge Pikachu fan and I’ll be kidding myself if I didn’t say Pikachu was my favorite Generation 1 Pokemon. You also receive all three of the starter Pokemon from the original two games, isn’t that awesome? Have to admit though; it was years before I ever beat the Pokemon League on these games, whoops. Guess I wasn’t such a great trainer in the beginning. Also ever since this game all my Pikachus have been named Sparkey (Notice the added “e”. Yeah I know it’s not the proper spelling but I still spell it that way when naming my Pikachus for nostalgic reasons, go talk to younger me for an explanation.) Pokemon Yellow is an absolutely awesome game, despite the over powered Psychic types and certain broken mechanics fixed by Stadium and later generations this game will always have a place in my heart and still has replayability to this day. Actually I'm tempted to start up a new playthrough of it.

Aside from the games, TCG and Anime I had quite a truck load of merchandise such as figures, toys, a Thinkchip Pokemon Stadium... Okay I still have all these things but I couldn't get any photos due to them being in boxes at the moment.

All this together made up my Pokemon beginnings and I would continue to be a fan throughout the years and continuing on to this very day. Generation 1 was only the first stepping stone in my Pokemon journey and over the upcoming months I’ll be putting together more parts talking about my memories from those games such as Gold & Silver, Ruby & Sapphire and so forth. Pokemon has touched my life and has been there for me all my life; I don’t quite know what life would be without it. It didn’t just touch my life it touched the lives of my family and I have a brother and sister who have grown up with me loving Pokemon. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything in the world. So today on Pokemon Day I say thank you Game Freak, for making my life just a little bit more awesome.

That’s a wrap folks!

To Be Continued... As the Journey Continues.

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