People say (or used to say) that Pokemon is for kids. You like Pikachu? Estimates indicate you’re probably five. Know all the Pokemon off by heart? Well, that’s simply unfathomable, and in no way similar at all to the banks of information others have in their minds regarding footballers or whatever.
Pokemon games are, of course, far less childish than the stigma would have you assume. It’s about strategy, and when you get into the metagame, it’s about natures, effort values, and individual values. When you pick your Bulbasaur, for example, in Pokemon Fire Red or Leaf Green (for the first generation lacked many of these in-depth features), you’re not just choosing Bulbsaur. Your Bulbasaur may be naughty, and proud of its power; it may be jolly and somewhat of a clown; perhaps it is simply docile, and takes plenty of siestas. These three different Bulbasaurs excel in attack, speed, and nothing much other than HP, respectively.
But enough about the metagame. When I first played Pokemon, I was most excited about Pokemon Ruby’s sparkly cartridge. It looked different to most other cartridges! That was cool. I was also highly confused as to why I wasn’t playing as Ash, and after playing a little with Torchic I immediately went on to focus on Zigzagoon, or as I called him, “Spikydog”. Spikydog the, uh, raccoon Pokemon was a loyal companion and a loving friend, though I’ve no recollection of how far through the game he carried me. I recall being stuck on one of the gym battles, and never playing the game again.
I didn’t come across Pokemon again until a few years later in life when I acquired Pokemon Leaf Green. I must have been about 13, and had watched a Let’s Play on the game before trying it for myself, so I was a little less directionless this time around. It’s also worth noting that Leaf Green is just a tad more linear in its geography. To this day, I’ve still not been able to get into Ruby and Sapphire (or their remakes) as I have been most other Pokemon games. But still, after beating the Elite Four in Leaf Green, I did little more with my Pokemon life. No scouting for legendaries, no catching ’em all. I’d beaten the game already. So what?
A year or two later I played Pokemon Diamond, and I think that this was the Pokemon game that really got me into the series. I was engrossed in the story, I’d named my Dialga Rassilon like every other Doctor Who fan, and what’s more, I’d resolved to complete my Pokedex, though this only entailed seeing them all now. Nevertheless, it still took me a while, and after all that work, the disappointing endgame and excruciatingly slow battle animations eventually drew me away from the game. It still holds a special place in my heart, though.
Pokemon Soul Silver was my favourite. It still might be, though it’s been ages since I’ve played it. The reason I’ve not played it in so long is due to the amount of legendaries I caught and the impressive collection I built up during my playtime. I chose Totodile for my starter, and he crunched his way through several gym leaders in quick succession. I caught every legendary available in that game except for Rayquaza (due to my lack of a Hoenn-born Kyogre) and one of the roaming dogs. I still have plans to transfer them all forwards to my current save, except…
The fifth generation Pokemon games are by far my least favourite in the franchise. I know people like them, but Pokemon Black is just not the game for me. The general aesthetic of Unova and the UI felt too much like it was trying to be futuristic, and Team Plasma just… bored me. I’ve tried time and time again to beat the game so that I can move my 4th generation Pokemon forwards, but the closest I’ve got is the fifth gym and I just can’t bring myself to continue. I maintain hope that one day I’ll begin enjoying it so I can move my Pokemon forwards (for Soul Silver also holds my Leaf Green Pokemon), but that day is yet to come.
By the time I’d gotten round to Pokemon X and Y, my interest in Pokemon had waned. Black had demotivated me and I didn’t own a 3DS for a long time. But as I grew, I’d met more and more people who had a larger interest for Pokemon than I ever did. Eventually, towards the end of either 2013 or 2014 (I don’t remember which), I caved and bought a 3DSXL with Pokemon X. And honestly, it’s tied for my favourite non-remake alongside Pokemon Diamond. It feels like the most Pokemon game since the 4th generation, with the general aesthetic and all that jazz. It may seem like an odd compliment but I love the UI. It’s so colourful and bubbly and just, Pokemon. Another thing to thank Pokemon X for is creating official 3D renders of all Pokemon and allowing you to go full on Nintendogs with them, tickling them and feeding them treats and watching your fierce legendaries gurgle with happiness.
I must confess, though… my Pokemon X character is still shivering outside of the entrance of the eighth gym. I have an atrocious attention span, and if I’m not surrounded by other people playing Pokemon, I’m unlikely to play it myself, despite my enjoyment for the game. Similar, my character in Alpha Sapphire is yet to challenge his 7th gym leader, though I’m no great lover of the Hoenn region. I have many event Pokemon in these 2 games and have dabbled with breeding, growing my collection through Wonder Trade. But I am still yet to finish them.
I can’t wait for Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow to be released on virtual console. For the first time, I am going to attempt to catch all 151 Pokemon, with the help of some friends with alternate versions. Nintendo certainly didn’t miss a trick by implementing WiFi trading. I just can’t help but wonder if the Mew glitch will still be available…