One editor talks about why he still finds Pokemon a great series as he’s grown into his mid-twenties, and why it’s okay to still play the franchise after all these years.
It’s almost hard to imagine my childhood without Pokemon. The series hit North America on September 28, 1998 in the form of the now beloved Pokemon Red and Blue. I still remember heading home from school that day, walking in through the front door alongside my little sister, and being greeted by my mom and dad. There, on the couch in my living room, was my little brother – still too young to go to school – and in his hands was a copy of Pokemon Blue Version. I immediately turned around and there, in my mother’s hands, was my very own copy of Pokemon Red Version.
I remember that moment so vividly for a number of reasons, but what I didn’t know at the time was just how invested I would become in this turn-based, monster-gathering series. Seven year-old Riley has since matured quite a bit in the years following his introduction to Pokemon, but one thing that has never changed is my willingness to play the latest installment in the franchise. In fact, I’ve picked up every core entry the series has seen to-date, and there are no plans to change that. Even as I settle into my newly acquired age of 25, I’ve come to accept the fact that I continue to enjoy the series and there’s no reason to stop playing.
I’ve heard it all during the countless hours I’ve logged in my build to become a Pokemon Master. People are quick to brand the property as a kid’s game that others aren’t suppose to enjoy once they cross the threshold into adulthood. Truthfully, I’ve always found this to be a rather stupid point of view. Pokemon has and always will appeal to a large demographic of gamers, and I know many people my age and older that continue to replay the older versions of the game – if only for nostalgia’s sake. Heck, it’s the exact same reason why the re-releases of the original games on 3DS were so highly anticipated.
There’s something comforting about the series now, and despite the changes or upgrades it receives it never loses its feeling of familiarity. Perhaps that’s what I enjoy most about it, as I’m intimately acquainted with the type of experience I’m going to receive. While striking that all too familiar chord, every new iteration manages to justify its existence with additional monsters and a brand new story arc to follow. That’s one of the most invigorating aspects of the games, as each new title defines itself by the characters it introduces, the region it takes place in, and the monsters that fill it. Of course, not all gamers approve of these changes.
Despite what fans that have since moved on from the series will say, the new games and accompanying Pokemon push the newer titles ahead of their predecessors. It’s true that the original 151 hold a spot in my heart, but that’s based solely on the fact that they were the first monsters I ever encountered in this universe. I’m sure that’s the case for many, but to dismiss any others because of some misguided sense of nostalgia would be a mistake. When I encounter those that are adamant about how a monster inspired by a garbage bag or an ice cream cone are lazy, I point to the likes of Voltorb. It’s essentially a Pokeball with menacing eyes, and its name is literally the words ‘volt’ and ‘orb’ sloppily glued together. The original Pokemon aren’t immune to scrutiny, which is something I’ve learned after becoming a critic within this industry.
Of course, not every new entry is perfect either, but the franchise has evolved (pun partially intended) accordingly. Going back to play through and review Pokemon Yellow, for instance, revealed to me just how far the games have come, with day and night cycles, breeding options, various types, new attacks, and more rounding out the series significantly in the time that has passed since I first booted Red Version up on my Game Boy. It’s an IP that has grown up alongside me, and (while it has changed) there’s no denying that it has always provided an experience that allowed me to continuously enjoy a familiar formula with a new and welcomed coat a paint.
Pokemon stopped being exclusively for kids in my mind a long time ago when I looked in the mirror and realized I’d grown up with it. Even if you joined in on the Pocket Monster phenomenon later in life, the fact is that The Pokemon Company and Game Freak keep churning out great games. In the end, those that actively try to belittle or frown upon people of any age that find joy in playing Pokemon (or any video game for that matter) probably need to find something better to do.
In the meantime, go out and play what you want. There’s no other way to be the best, like no one ever was.