My love affair with Pokémon started when I was nine. Pokémon was released and most of us had no real idea what we were getting into. Red and Blue? 150 creatures to raise and collect in little balls? It was kind of a new concept.
I was enthralled with the red cartridge, my favorite color, and the dragon gracing the cover. It was even released on my birthday, February 27th. Forget Blastoise…I wanted a Charizard. My parents bought me the game and I thumbed through the instruction manual until it fell apart. I was ready to be a Pokémon master.
Every capture brought a thrill, every victory brought excitement, and every defeat brought tears. I still remember where I was when I defeated the Elite Four for the first time. It was a huge ego boost for a child that had become attached to their Pokémon team. Did I ever catch all 151? Well, not exactly…it seemed most of my friends liked the Red cartridge just as much as I did.
I also tried the Missingno cheat, which completely wreaked my game for life. I still have my cartridge, which has an authentic Mew from a Nintendo Pokémon convention I attended in 1999 (as I said, hardcore nerd), but on occasion, the Lavender Town music will randomly play, the graphics will distort, and that will be enough of memory lane meanderings for me.
When Yellow came out, most of us tried it. My friends and I watched the Pokémon anime religiously, so to have Pikachu as a starter just like Ash Ketchum, not to mention a Pikachu that didn’t like to be in its Pokeball, was an awesome experience. Unfortunately, since the game was just an enhanced version of Red and Blue, it didn’t keep my interest for too long…been there, done that.
My next Pokémon experience was with Silver. I was overwhelmed…a new world that wasn’t Kanto? Legendaries that RAN and were exceedingly hard to catch? It was difficult to grasp…I thought Pokémon stopped at 151, not 251. But I grew to accept the new starters and loved the colorful design of Ho-Oh, the legendary Phoenix.
Emerald came next, which was even more difficult to wrap my head around. How many lands and Pokémon can there be and are the professors really that slow at discovery? DUAL-TYPES? The different variations on Team Rocket were becoming tiring, but I still enjoyed the designs of the legendaries. Kyogre, Groudon, and Rayquaza reminded me of Tron while still retaining the appeal of nature.
And then things began to get weird. I bought Pearl and soon after Black. I lump these two together because this is where I feel the franchise changed and where my heart changed with it. However, Pearl brought amazing innovation with it, especially the Global Trading System (GTS). It was so cool to get Pokémon from all over the world, my favorite being German Lickitungs (or as they call them, “Shlurp”). With trading, breeding Pokémon became easier, as it was such a chore before in trying to find Pokémon of the opposite gender in order to breed for moves.
With that being said, design was a big problem for me. I’m not referring necessarily to geography, but more to the Pokémon themselves. Pokémon were no longer organic in design. They were…dare I say…drifting into Digimon territory. While I applaud Nintendo for trying a different designs based on technology (especially for the legendaries), for many of us, it felt a bit foreign. This was the same issue I had with Black. While I beat Pearl, I never even felt the need to get to the Elite 4 in Black…it just felt too different overall and I felt no real connection to my Pokémon team. And with the sequels to White and Black being released in Japan in June, my interest isn’t even piqued.
I don’t want to sound nitpicky, but many of us from the first or so generation of Pokémon are used to monsters based on basic Earth elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire) with a few fun elements mixed in (Electricity, Psychic, Fighting, Ghost, etc). Now, with double elemental types being consistently thrown into the mix and Steel being a basic trump card, things have become too complicated and disjointed. There no longer is the balance that once was. I mean really…what WERE Zekrom and Reshiram?
So with that being said, Pokémon, it isn’t me, it’s you…there’s no longer harmony in our relationship and I just can’t understand you anymore, no matter how I try.