I was born in 1988, while some may say I was an 80’s baby, I more appropriately call myself a 90’s kid, as not only did I grow up in the 90’s I have a pretty strong memory of what was big, what wasn’t big and what absolutely was a massive deal. Unlike someone of my slightly older peers who I work with my tastes are a bit more refined than Thunder cats, He-Man and Transformers, My tastes are that of Jackie Chan Adventures, Yu-Gi-Oh and uhhhhhh Pete and Pete??????? Okay so maybe my tastes in TV shows and culture for a 90’s kid weren’t as vast and wide as I may have assumed but I still gotta say, while my Saturday morning Cartoon lineup was lacking, the after-school block was always amazing. Mostly consisting of coming home and watching TV whatever was on like Sailor moon, Dragon Ball Z or even some finer tastes in Anime like Trigun or god forbid the good stuff like Outlaw Star. Okay, cool I watched a lot of TV, like a lot of TV, an almost unhealthy amount of it. But honestly, what else was I gonna do? Go outside and play sports? Go for a walk? Obviously not.
I was always interested in anime, but I wasn’t always able to get into anime I was always interested in it but it always seemed inaccessible. But then something happened in the gaming space that I always appreciate. It adopted it, and suddenly more and more games were being made around, based on or inspired by anime. One of the first games I ever bought that really reinforced this idea was none of than Dragon Quest III for Gameboy Color. Looking back I fully understand why this game’s artwork makes me absolutely want to play the game (Even though admittedly I was absolute trash at the game). This is part and parcel due to the work of non-other than Akira Toriyama, who even all these years later has created worlds and characters that bring me back to the days of sitting in front of the TV and watching DBZ feeling like I stumbled upon some hidden gem, some secret no one else had thought of. Boy, what a time to be alive.
But that game as great as it was, was nothing compared to the game that made me what I am today, and the more I have considered it the more it is clear that it really changed my view and mindset towards games and my tastes. Turns out all it took was a birthday, sitting in an office waiting for my mom, and about a decade of playing for me to finally realize how important it really was.
Holy God, Pokemon Red, and Blue actually changed my life in ways that I would need so many pages and so many hours of Podcast talking to even get close to explaining it. Honestly, if there was ever a great showing of Nintendo and Gamefreak in the sheer genius of marketing. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone but SERIOUSLY? Do none of you remember how cracked the American commercials were for these games? I seriously would love to meet the men and women and came up with these. Sure watching Pokemon walk across the Link Cable in trade is certainly on the nose, but can any of us deny how absolutely absurd it is that there is one dedicated to an insane bus driver gathering Pokemon into his bus so that he can then compact the bus in a junkyard??? Man, Somehow writing that down like this makes me realize just how absolutely insane Nintendo is and can be (In a good way this time, usually it’s in the worst possible way)
Why did Pokemon impact me so much you ask? I think that’s a question was so many answers but only a few of them I can actually put into words. There is something about the way the first games were built, something about catching Pokemon, beating Gym Leaders, finding legendary Pokemon in seemingly out-of-the-way places where the game didn’t force you to go that modern-day Pokemon has absolutely lost. Which is such an odd thing for the franchise to just throw away. I mean think about it for a second, Zapdos, Moltress, and Articuno was entirely optional content. You could easily just keep playing the game and miss them entirely. Mewtwo for god sake was hidden in a cave that many players Id imagine never even bothered to go back to because “Hey game is over, time to move on and catch the rest of them (If they even tried). Things were hidden in plain sight and it was up to YOU the player to go out of your way to find them. It was truly a refreshing time, nowadays you can’t play a Pokemon game without it telling you where everything is because god forbid the player misses something. Sure it’s nice to know you are getting your money’s worth but I can’t be alone in thinking that maybe something vital has been missing from the games?
Putting aside that aspect of the game, something about Red and Blue feels quaint and homely compared to its later additions and 3d counterparts, perhaps it is the Pixel Purist coming out in full force but can I just say that Pixels are such a better idea compared to 3d models? Yes, I am fully aware that in practice having to redraw pixel art and such is a tedious process (Especially if you are gonna animate it) but by and large the games seemingly lost something with the jump to 3D. Trust me, I know the Sprites in Gen 1 were a special breed of ugly, but I promise you they were identifiable and memorable. They had something about them that stuck in your head (Fetus Mew, please….never cross my mind again).
Believe me when I say, while I may have hated Gen 5’s games with a passion Id happily take the Sprites back with open arms and never look back. The jump to 3D for most franchises has its growing pains, but we are sitting at Gen 9 and it feels like we have hit that weird puberty phase where the kid is 13 years old years, 6’5, face full of pimples, and has a pocket protector.
With me saying all of this, I would like to end on a note that I feel is especially important. I realize this is going to be a very unpopular opinion among the “Elite” Players, and most severe critics of the franchise this last decade but Id ask that you at least hear me out with this one true blue insight I could offer. Something that will likely blow your minds so far out of your skulls that Doom Guy would find the feat impressive, if not a bit tasteless.
IT’S A KID’S GAME.
Shocker, I am sure, is an absolute fucking mind-blowing Twist. But I am sad to say that it is in fact true. The games, were, have, and will always be made for….kids. The funny part is this post was supposed to be about nostalgia but I realized that it was, in fact, the thing that made this problem, to begin with. Pokemon was never a “hard” game. Like ever, Do you know why you thought the games were ever hard? Because you were a goddamn kid and video games were a new concept for you, Pokemon was a new concept. When I first played Pokemon Red, I grinded my Charmander to Charzard because I couldn’t beat Brock. Not sure how or why that happened, but it did. Was Brock, ever a hard Gym? No, absolutely not. I was a kid, I was stupid, and more importantly, I didn’t read. These games, the games we hold so near and dear to our hearts, the games that we bond over, share memories of, and post to social media about, weren’t made in a bubble. Pokemon was created for kids. And we are (and I hate to say it) not the people the games are catering to. Can we enjoy them? Sure, grown men enjoy My Little Pony, I still love Power Rangers. There is nothing wrong with enjoying something that’s not made for you. Just know and remember, that when new games are created, you may not be the first, second, or even third group of people considered in its creation.
It’s hard to swallow, but Pokemon will continue with or without us.