Pokémon is one of those gaming institutions that has been around for so long, it can incite nostalgia in almost anyone. It has a set formula, and it works. Aficionados may argue about which generation is best, and whether or not there should be remakes of the older games, but the same basic plot is followed every time. The protagonist goes on an adventure to become a Pokémon master, catching as many Pokémon as they can along the way, all the while trying to take down a criminal organisation with a master plan. So this story has been told, now five times over, with a sixth generation (Pokémon X and Pokémon Y) announced just seven months after the release of Pokémon Black/White 2.
You could be forgiven for thinking that after nearly 17 years of success, the Pokémon franchise might be running out of ideas, but sales speak for themselves. The most recent additions to the line-up sat in the top five in both the UK and US charts for several weeks. It is the second best-selling game franchise of all time, sitting just behind Super Mario, and has a TV series, manga series, several movies, trading cards, and countless spin off games. Even spin-offs, like Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Stadium, were bestsellers in their own right.
Generation one, Pokémon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow, introduced us to the first 151 Pokémon, including the series mascot, Pikachu. Even those who aren’t fans of the series will recognise some of the iconic characters, who made their debut in the first generation. Released in 1996 in Japan, Red/Green were instant hits, selling over 31 million copies to date, including their international counterparts, Red/Blue. I still remember opening up the Red version on my birthday, and picking Charmander as my starter from Professor Oak.
Opinions on the newer generations are split – some purists believe that there will only ever be 151 ‘real’ Pokémon. Others like to try out the newcomers in a generation before going back to old favourites. The introduction of Black/White may have forced some of these fundamentalists out of their comfort zone, revamping the franchise with an entirely new set of Pokémon, and making the older ones unavailable until after the main story is completed. It will be interesting to see if the newly introduced Pokémon will dominate the X/Y storyline in the same way.
Throughout my adventures as a Pokémon trainer, I have traversed caves, fought legendary dragons, and beaten the Elite Four many, many times. At 20 years old, I still find the decision of which starter to choose difficult. Granted, none of the Pokémon games are visually stunning, nor do they have intricate plots full of twists and turns. What they do have, however, is a perfect mix of old and new, a tried and tested formula, and of course, the challenge to ‘catch ‘em all’.