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Patrick Hope: Gotta catch 'em all: Remembering 15 years of Pokémon

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Patrick Hope: Gotta catch 'em all: Remembering 15 years of Pokémon
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was.

There was a very important anniversary yesterday, specifically, a 15th anniversary. Now you're wondering what happened on Sept. 30, 1998, aren't you? A 15th anniversary is traditionally the crystal anniversary, but in addition to crystal, proper themes for this one would include black, white, diamond, pearl, platinum, ruby, sapphire, emerald, gold, silver, yellow, red and blue. Is your interest piqued? Well, it's the 15th anniversary of the American release of Pokémon.

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In 1998, there weren't many new games coming out for the Game Boy. The top game in the Nintendo Power Game Boy power rankings was the Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, which had released in 1993. In fact, the only upcoming Game Boy release that drew any attention was something called Pocket Monsters, which had reportedly taken Japan by storm. When Pocket Monsters was renamed Pokémon, received an entire tear-out supplement in Nintendo Power and was pushed as the next big thing, I -- and likely millions of other kids -- were sucked in and, on release day, headed out to Walmart, picked up Pokémon Red, and never looked back. Now, 15 years and more than 200 million sold games later, I can safely say that marketing strategy worked.

To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause.

The allure of Pokémon is in how deceptively simple it is. As you likely know, in the world of Pokémon, in a truly poor show of parenting, 10-year-olds are sent off into the world to catch and train creatures called Pokémon. You catch monsters and fight other trainers, all with the end goal of defeating a group named the Elite Four and becoming the Pokémon League Champion. Not exactly a scintillating story, but story has never been the series' strong point. It's all about the Pokémon. Whether it's 151 in Red/Blue or 649 by the time we got to Black and White, you'll want to catch as many Pokémon as possible to fill up the digital encyclopedia called the Pokédex and, of course, challenge your friends to battles. Again, it's a really simple concept that never fails to completely captivate you.

I will travel across the land, searching far and wide.

But catching and fighting is only part of the equation. Pokémon is about the journey. In every game, you're going to climb mountains, cross oceans -- especially in Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald; SO MUCH WATER -- and visit cities. There is always a sense of excitement of what location you'll get to next, maybe because it's a snowbound village that requires you to climb through a large mountain cave, or because it has a cool name like "The Lake of Rage." You'll cross the whole world and it'll be a bit sad when start pushing through the last storyline dungeon, which is always called Victory Road, because your quest to be Pokémon League Champion is almost over.

Each Pokémon to understand the power that's inside.

And on this epic journey of catching and battling, you'll have your trusty party in tow. And that is another great aspect of the series. You can fight with whatever you want. Want to assemble a balanced party that can handle anything that it faces? Well, that's the generally accepted way of doing things. But you can do anything you want. You can even actively choose to use laughably bad options like Luvdisc (with a name like that, you know it's bad) or the silly-looking beaver, Bidoof. You see that chubby pink egg in the picture? That's Blissey. I've used Blissey in every game in which she appears. Why? Because you don't mess with Blissey, that's why. And that's the freedom that Pokémon offers. It's not a hard game. You might as well win in style.

Back in 1998, Pokémon conquered the world. We just didn't realize it. It's got an anime that's got to be at its jillionth episode by now, a collectible card game, a comic and a slew of spinoff games.

I bought both a Nintendo DS and 3DS because I knew they'd have Pokémon games on them. Very few series inspire brand loyalty like that. And on Oct. 12, the next incarnation, Pokémon X and Y, will be released. And I'll get them on release day. And I'll get sucked in. Because that's how Pokémon rolls.

Gotta catch 'em all.

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