You’re walking around in a shopping centre, buying various different groceries and trying to make sure that your bottom line doesn’t bottom out.
Money is tight, it’s incredibly important to manage stuff. Your hobby, gaming, is supplemented rather heavily by pre-owned games and games that are on sale, leaving you with little room to buy new games.
This extends sadly to your Nintendo Switch, meaning that you don’t own the massive exclusives you wish that you owned such as Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Super Mario 3D World + Bowsers Fury, and any Pokemon game.
Though you’re not really sad about that last one. You’ve not played and enjoyed a Pokemon game in years, and you’ve resigned yourself to the idea that the franchise simply isn’t for you anymore.
It’s not evolving to new heights, trying new things, it’s simply iterating on already established ideas and it’s boring you. But then… you see it.
A Pokemon game that purports to change it all, that seemingly actually changes up the regular Pokemon gameplay loop and that finally gives you the evolution you want.
You’re amazed it took so long, and it has you thinking back to how Pokemon used to be cool and different before settling into a state of complete and total monotony.
Table of Contents
A Long, Long Time Ago (1999)
I Wanna Be The Very Best
Like No One Ever Was
The Sopranos has started, with people watching without knowing the legacy it will leave. Eminem has released The Slim Shady LP, marking his pinnacle as an artist (It’s only downhill from here). Pokemon Red and Blue are released in Europe, birthing a franchise that will never die and an obsession to many people.
Pokemania is at a massive peak, creating one of the biggest franchises in the world, a franchise that to this day remains that. Pokemon Pinball releases and becomes one of the fastest-selling Game Boy games of all time.
It’s something that bled over into your standard news, with the BBC reporting on the anime (and dramatically mispronouncing Pikachu).
Speaking of the anime, that had started airing in Japan in April of 1997, before being dubbed and aired to English and international audiences in September of 1998.
By the time Pokemon Red and Blue released in Europe we were already on episode seventy of the anime over here (Make Room For Gloom!), meaning that Pokemania had time to set in, creating an inbuilt set of fans ready to absolutely devour any potential game release.
Enter Pokemon Red & Blue
And devour it they did. By 1998, Pokemon Red and Blue had sold ten million units in Japan alone (important to note that Japan got the title a lot earlier than we did). When the game released in the United States it became the fastest-selling Game Boy game of all time, selling four million units by the end of 1998.
In 1999 the game had grossed $64,362,515 in Europe, and it’s remembered as one of the most important video games of all time, in addition to one of the highest selling with over 31 million copies sold worldwide.
Looking at the game now, it might be curious as to why. It’s nothing particularly special from a modern perspective, but from the perspective of a game released in 1999? It’s one of the most impressive technical feats of all time.
Time To Crunch The Numbers
Think about Pokemon. Think about how many you can name of that first 151. Instantly you think of Charmander, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Pikachu.
That’s without even thinking hard about it. 151 Pokemon, all with unique and memorable designs. A full world to explore, a full story, a full questline. That first Pokemon game is a mere 1MB in size, and it’s only that big due to the dub.
The original versions of Pokemon Red and Blue were only 512KB. 512 KB!
In a modern era we’re shocked if a game is less than 50GB, but Pokemon Red and Blue were small enough to fit in your pocket.
But it wasn’t the size of the game that caused the series to bleed into the cultural ethos and become a landmark part of pop culture.
It was the Pokemon themselves. Your first encounter with Pokemon might have came with the anime, but it was seeing one of the many foster children one of your family members looked after playing the original Pokemon Red (long after the game originally released, too) that created a fascination, a life-long love and after a while, the feeling that you’d been spurned by a series you’d once loved every element of. Your first Pokemon game however wouldn’t come for a while yet…
The Jewels Of The Series (2008)
To Catch Them Is My Real Test
To Train Them Is My Cause
Pokemania has come and gone. Pokemon is still pretty popular, but it’s nowhere near as popular as it once was in the late 90s.
Pokemon Gold, Pokemon Crystal, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen, Pokemon Emerald. Everything named there is a game that was pretty critically acclaimed and sold well, but never hit that peak.
Then Pokemon Diamond And Pearl came along, rapidly becoming the best-selling Pokemon games in Japan, and to this date being the fourth most selling Pokemon title of all time. Yet these were two titles that passed you by, as you grew up into a world already obsessed with the Pocket Monsters.
The first Pokemon game you ever played came while you were eight, with the expanded release of Diamond And Pearl. This game was Pokemon Platinum, and you were obsessed with the game.
Pokemon Platinum launched in 2008 and represents an expanded version of Pokemon Diamond And Pearl. It’s not the first time Pokemon has had a third release, and it certainly won’t be the last. Pokemon Yellow, Pokemon Crystal, Pokemon Emerald.
All of these games had released as expansions of certain generations, but Pokemon Platinum is the one for the fourth generation.
Your starters? Piplup, Turtwig or Chimchar. Piplup is an absolutely adorable penguin and the cutest thing ever created, Chimchar is a flaming monkey and Turtwig is a grass turtle. All are incredible designs, but nothing can beat the penguin. Nothing will ever beat a penguin.
Pokemon Platinum is an interesting beast of a Pokemon game. It purports to be an expanded version of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, and from the outside it is.
It’s the same generation, the same Pokemon (mostly) and the same villains, yet the story is pretty tonally different from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. It’s darker, for one, and it’s a lot more mature than the stories in other Pokemon games.
Okay, I know that sounds ridiculous. What is a ‘mature’ Pokemon game? What I mean by that is that it’s a story that doesn’t feel like it holds back, but is still suitable for children to consume. It wasn’t until later years that I understood the full implications of the story, and that’s likely the same for many Pokemon fans.
Platinum remains my personal favourite Pokemon game, and a game that I hold close to my heart. It was also, quite sadly, the last Pokemon game that I cared about for a long, long time.
A Brief Overview Of Pokemon (Console) Games
- 1996: Pokemon Red And Blue release. The world detonates with thousands of children all buying a game at once.
- 1999: Pokemon Gold And Silver release, alternatively known as Mario and Lugia.
- 2002: Pokemon Ruby And Sapphire release, causing people to fight over which of the two legendary Pokemon are cooler (it’s obviously Kyogre)
- 2006: Pokemon Diamond And Pearl release. They’re not as good as the game that releases two years later…
- 2008: Pokemon peaks with Pokemon Platinum, an opinion that will get Pokemon fans throwing bricks through your window.
- 2010: Pokemon Black And White releases. Coincidentally, your dad also leaves to get milk.
- 2012: Pokemon Black And White 2 release. They’re mediocre, and Dad still isn’t back with the milk.
- 2013: Pokemon X and Y release, making Pokemon 3D and causing an influx of children who throw up just looking at a 3DS. The games feel like you’ve been punched in the eye.
- 2016: Pokemon Sun And Moon release. Nobody remembers these games and if they tell you they do, they’re lying to you.
- 2018: Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee release. Not only is Dad not back with the milk, but there’s now a national milk shortage.
- 2019: Pokemon Sword And Shield release, doing an incredible job of replicating the Sun and Moon effect of having no impact at all.
- 2022: Pokemon Legends: Arceus releases, an actual Pokemon evolution. Coincidentally, Dad comes home with the milk and a copy of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, a game you’re yet to boot up.
The New Generation (2010)
I Will Travel Across That Land
Searching Far And Wide
Pokemon Platinum was absolutely incredible, and you’re riding a high on Pokemon. Nothing can bring you down, it’d take a miracle to stop you from liking it. What you didn’t know was that a miracle was just around the corner, with Pokemon Black And White.
It’s worth noting that Pokemon Black and White are actually considered rather incredible Pokemon games by the fandom (mostly). I personally don’t like it, but I can very much see the appeal. Black and White introduced multiple new mechanics to the game, along with returning mechanics such as a functional day/night cycle.
The day/night cycle isn’t particularly impressive, but the fact the game integrates seasons is. That’s right, certain areas are only accessible during certain seasons, certain Pokemon only appear in certain seasons and certain Pokemon completely change their physical appearance based upon the season you’re in.
It’s pretty cool to see Pokemon try something like this, even if it’s not exactly going to set the world on fire or break the standard mould that Pokemon was stuck in at the time.
There’s even new battle mechanics!
There’s triple battles (which are exactly what you’d expect, a three on three battle that also has you controlling the position of your Pokemon to figure out exactly what moves you need to do, rather similar to a puzzle) and there’s rotation battles, which have three Pokemon on the field at once, similar to triple battles, but they’re in a circle that you can rotate at will in case you need to use any particular kind of Pokemon in any given situation.
An Instant Success
The game SOLD, too. Combined sales for this game are around sixteen million, with them being some of the best-selling games for the DS. It’s also the fastest title to ever sell five million copies on the Nintendo DS, which is a record that’s not to be scoffed at considering the incredible sales of the DS itself.
For me though, it simply didn’t do enough. By the time Pokemon Black And White released I wanted something that was a larger evolution in Pokemon, not just a retread of the old mechanics with a fresh coat of paint.
I played the first six or so hours of Pokemon Black and White without so much as a smile on my face, and I just couldn’t get engrossed into this new generation. Perhaps I’d been spoiled by Pokemon Platinum, or maybe it truly was a sign that I needed something new out of Pokemon.
And for a long time, this was it for you and Pokemon. The love was gone, the passion flamed out. It’d be a long, long time before you come back to Pokemon and give it another shot, so long that you’re a different person entirely when you do.
Sure, there’s a brief flirtation with Pokemon in 2018 with Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu, but you dropped out of that almost immediately. Your true return to Pokemon took twelve entire years, but what a return it was.
The Best Starter Pokemon Of Each Generation (Judging By The Very Professionally Recognised Metric Of How Cute They Are)
- Gen 1: Squirtle
- Gen 2: Cyndaquil
- Gen 3: Treecko
- Gen 4: Piplup
- Gen 5: Oshawott
- Gen 6: Fennekin
- Gen 7: Rowlet
- Gen 8: Scorbunny
- Gen 9: Fuecoco
A Brave New, Open World (2022)
Teach Pokemon To Understand
The Power That’s Inside
22 Years Old. You’re old in the world of Pokemon (most Pokemon trainers have died by that age, probably mauled by a rabid Charizard), you’re an adult in the real world, and you’re bored of Pokemon to an extent completely unable to be put into words.
You’ve heard of a new Pokemon game though, one that apparently changes the way that the series is played and creates something new, but it’s kinda passed you by… until now.
You look down at the shelves of the game store you’re currently wandering around in, and you see a game called Pokemon Legends: Arceus. You look at your bank account, and shrug. What’s one more try at getting back into Pokemon? This is it, though. If you don’t like it, that’s it for Pokemon in your eyes.
Okay, so first off a brief disclaimer: Pokemon Legends: Arceus does serve as a prequel to the Sinnoh era of Pokemon, my personal favourite era. I have a certain affinity for these particular Pokemon which has helped make the game skyrocket in my estimation, but that’s not why I think this game is incredible.
No, this game is an evolution. It’s the Pikachu to the Pichu that Pokemon has been stuck as for such a long time now, it’s the next generation.
What Pokemon Legends: Arceus does is look at what came before it with respect and reverence, but not with the idea that it HAS to stick to that style to please fans. Due to this, it can actually change things and try new ideas, and try new ideas it does.
Cutting The Strings
For starters, and for the first time in a mainline Pokemon game, you’re actually able to freely catch a Pokemon. That sounds weird, right? Hell, it sounds incorrect. It’s not though, and that’s the weirdest part.
In every other Pokemon game, you have to enter into a battle with a Pokemon to have the chance to throw a Pokeball at them. It’s not like you can just sneak up behind a Pokemon and catch them that way, you don’t have a choice other than to battle them.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus allows you to actually sneak up behind a Pokemon and catch them that way. You don’t have to enter into a battle with them to catch them, you can do it without even using a move.
Sure, it’s easier to start battling the Pokemon first, but it feels better to do it without any combat at all. Even a small change such as this feels like an incredibly refresh to the series, and that’s not even the most major change in the game.
Opening The Playing Field
No, the most major change in the game is how everything is structured. There’s several different biomes that you can explore, and you can kinda just run around them and catch Pokemon to your leisure. There is a main story path, but if you want to ignore that for a bit you can.
It kinda feels like Pokemon’s Breath Of The Wild, as cliched as that sounds. A huge world to explore, and the ability to do anything you want.
Do you want to ride on the back of a massive deer? Go for it! Do you want to swim on top of a fish? Why not?! Do you want to fly on a massive bird? Sounds dangerous, but I’m not gonna stop you!
There’s even actual changes to combat! You can be absolutely mauled by a wild Pokemon if you’re not careful (and indeed my first interaction with a wild Pokemon was to be sat on by it).
The Standard Formula, Evolved
There’s your standard Pokemon battles, which act like a Pokemon battle from every other game but with a freely movable camera (in the form of the player).
Then there’s Alpha Pokemon, massive vicious Pokemon that will likely absolutely body you but feel very satisfying to beat. Then there’s the biggest change in the gameplay, the boss battles.
Man, those boss battles. Instead of fighting legendaries in other Pokemon games, where it’s just a normal battle, Pokemon Legends: Arceus makes you dodge attacks from Pokemon to throw items at them to stun them.
You have to rinse and repeat this in order to engage in a regular turn-based battle that allows you to actually damage the Pokemon.
What this does is break up the potential monotony of just doing turn-based battle after turn-based battle after turn-based battle, a system that could get old rather quickly and is one of the biggest issues with having so many generations of Pokemon that doesn’t really evolve much at all.
I think a common misconception with people that want Pokemon to change is that we want everything to change at once. We don’t
We’re happy with something like Pokemon: Legends Arceus that changes little bits at a time, because eventually that’ll snowball into something bigger. The sales figures represent this too, with the game having sold 6.5 million worldwide within a week of release, more than Pokemon Sword and Shield did in that time.
A Gamble That Paid Off
As of the end of September, the title had sold 13.91 million copies. It’s clear that this is something that people want, and Pokemon has the ability to become as massive as it was during Pokemania if it continues on this path.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus really represents the biggest evolution to Pokemon ever. It’s new, it’s fresh, it feels different. It’s ugly as sin and in some places rather unpolished, yet it’s still so much fun to play. If future Pokemon games feel like this with more polish then Pokemon is in a very good place.
Pokemon is BACK, and you’ve never felt more hopeful for the future of the series. There’s the potential for them to screw it up (and judging by the reaction to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, it might be more likely than unlikely), but there’s also the potential for them to make something incredibly special.
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Ryan is a seasoned retro gaming features writer with bylines at Fanbyte, PCGamesN, Lost In Cult and more. When he’s not writing, you can find him playing retro video games.