By now it really is near impossible that you haven’t at least heard of Pokémon GO. It’s been all over any type of media so you must have been off the grid in a big way to have missed it. But as a lot of people may know Pokémon itself isn’t new. It’s been around for 20 years. And during that time it’s always been popular. So why did it take Pokémon GO for me to finally catch on to the phenomenon that is Pokémon?
When Pokémon first became popular I basically missed it. I didn’t have a Gameboy and I was just too old to catch the TV show. I was aware of it but nothing more than that. When I did get a Gameboy Advance I even played one of the games; Pokémon Ruby. But at the time it seemed like an average RPG game and I still didn’t really get what the “fuss” was about.
Then Pokémon GO came around. A simplified version of the Pokémon games. Its main hook being that you need to go out into the real world and, as always, “catch’em all”. If nothing else Pokémon GO managed to unlock that “Gotta catch’em all” mentality within me. Something that my earlier encounters with the Pokémon universe hadn’t been able to do. I had finally caught the Pokémon bug.
Seemingly this was part of Nintendo’s master plan as at this time they were offering the original gameboy games on the 3DS’ Virtual Console at a discount. Curious to learn more about Pokémon I picked up Pokémon Yellow (aka the Pikachu edition). These original games were especially interesting for me as Pokémon GO contains the same Pokémon as these games, the first 151 Pokémon aka Generation I. But I also wanted to experience the latest incarnation of Pokémon so I also picked up Pokémon X from the eShop (mainly because getting it on cartridge is hard and expensive!).
Because GO and Yellow shared the same set of Pokémon playing Yellow was very recognisable. During all of this I also watched some of the episodes of the Pokémon TV show on Netflix. Putting that into the mix really started to clarify to me why Pokémon became so popular. The original TV shows (Indigo League) closely follows the progress you make in Pokémon Yellow. You can select “Ash” to be the name of your trainer, you get Pikachu as your starter Pokémon, you start of in Pallet town and you face off against Team Rocket. I can imagine that watching the show while playing the game really complemented each other. It also explains why the Pokémon series and movies are still being made!
What struck me most about Pokémon Yellow is how much of the original formula was already present in the first games (Pokemon games always come out in pairs). The original games seem to revolve about the various restrictions the game imposes on you. You can only carry 6 Pokémon with you, each Pokémon can only use 4 moves, you have limited space in your bag to carry items. On top of that you also have boxes of limited sizes in which you can store your Pokémon. While some of these restrictions probably came from the restricted hardware on which the original games were released the most important one’s seem intentional as they are still present in the latest versions. These are the number of Pokémon you can actively carry with you and the moves they can use at the same time. Fortunately, other restrictions have been dropped like limited uses of TM’s and having to manually switch between the box you want to store your Pokémon in. The latest games also have made using items a lot easier then the menu heavy setup that used in the Gameboy games.
Even though Pokémon Yellow is obviously a very old game it holds up surprisingly well. If you want a more ‘modern’ experience though you can also try the GBA remakes (Leaf Green & Fire Red, if you can find them). As I mentioned the core Pokémon experience comes from these games. While filling your Pokedex (catching them all) is one goal in the game it also features a story mode that has you becoming the Indigo Pokémon League champion. Achieving this goal will get you to the game’s credits screen. These two goals complement each other nicely and keep you engaged while exploring the Kanto region.
While almost all of Pokémon GO’s gameplay elements come from the original games it puts its own twist on them. First of all catching Pokémon is made a whole lot simpler in GO. In the Pokémon games catching Pokémon is done by battling with them. You wear them down through battle and preferably incapacitate them. Once they’re weakened you can attempt throwing a Poke-Ball at them. Pokémon GO’s different types of Poke-Ball are the same as the one’s found in the original game (except for the master ball). But the later games introduce a whole range of balls with varying uses. GO’s throwing mechanic with its curveballs is unique to GO.
I completed Pokémon Yellow and even caught two of the legendary bird Pokémon that form the avatars for the three Pokémon GO teams. But with that I’m not exactly close to completing my Pokedex (I have 80 out of the available 151). The Pokémon games are sold in pairs. While each game contains the same experience they differ in what specific Pokémon that can be found. Getting a full Pokedex from a single game is therefore difficult. The idea is that you can trade Pokémon with other players to complete your Pokedex. This trading feature is still missing from Pokémon GO but has been confirmed as a future addition.
Even though I still enjoyed Pokémon Yellow it is definitely a very old game and because of that it can be hard to play. Things like using your bicycle (which you need often) is a pain. And let’s not forget that when one of your Pokémon boxes is full you need to manually switch it or otherwise you can’t store anymore Pokémon you catch. The fact that the game doesn’t tell you when a box is full before you need to send it another Pokémon doesn’t really help either. So if you don’t care for the nostalgic appeal you should try Pokémon X or Y.
Being one of the latest Pokémon games X/Y offer a greatly streamlined experience from the originals. You can easily access frequent items, no more manual box switching and using moves on the map is no longer a pain either. Plus the game also has all the additions that have come to the games over the years. One of those additions, eggs, are actually the only feature from the games after the original to be part of Pokémon GO. Pokémon X is a far more enjoyable game to play. Not only because of the streamlined interface and more pleasing graphics. Due to the vast number of Pokémon in the game venturing into the tall grass is a lot more appealing. Simply because the chance of seeing a new Pokémon is a lot higher, thus lowering the chance of continuously running into the same Pokémon over and over, which I welcomed very much. The additions the games have made over the years include the aforementioned eggs, berries, items for your Pokémon to hold, battling multiple Pokémon and probably a lot I haven’t encountered yet. If you’re looking for the most enjoyable Pokémon experience, the 3DS games are the way to go.
If, like me, Pokémon GO has you looking for more Pokémon action you have a lot of options. If you only own a 3DS you can experience the latest generation in Pokémon X/Y, go old-skool with the VC editions of Red/Blue/Yellow or play the remakes of Ruby/Sapphire. What’s interesting about all of these 3DS games is that they are (or will be) compatible with Pokémon Bank, a (paid) service that will allow you to transfer Pokémon from one game to the upcoming Pokémon Sun/Moon games. I was happy to learn that all of my efforts with Pokémon Yellow would be beneficial for when I start playing those games when they come out. If you also own a GBA or DS you can get a bunch of the other Pokémon games as well, but be warned they can be very hard to find and will not come cheap.
Pokémon GO gave me the Pokémon bug 20 years after the original games came out. So much so even that I went out and completed one of the original games from the nineties. To me it showed me how much there is behind Pokémon. It also shows how much room there is for Pokémon GO to grow, something it probably will need to do to keep players interested. But if Pokémon GO grows old rest assured that there is a whole world of Pokémon already out there with new titles coming later this year. I, for one, can’t wait.
Enjoy the rest of the beautiful art here: