Friday, April 19, 2024
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Gotta catch ‘em all

How Pokémon shaped our worlds, from pixelated screens to global phenomenon

As we mark the 28th anniversary of Pokémon celebrated on February 27, it’s hard not to get swept up in nostalgia and marvel at how this franchise has evolved.

Reflecting on the journey from the monochromatic world of Pokémon Red on my Game Boy to the effervescent regions of Pokémon Scarlet on the Nintendo Switch, it’s clear that Pokémon has been much more than just a game to millions around the world.

It’s been a fundamental part of our childhoods, shaping our interests, friendships, and even our cultural milestones.

The author’s Nintendo 3DS, Game Boy Color, Pokémon game catridges, Nintendo Switch and Pokéball. PHOTO: NADZIRAH MALEK-WEBB

GAME BOY ERA

In the pixelated world of Pokémon Red, my adventure began, filled with the excitement of exploring tall grass and encountering unpredictable Pokémon.

It wasn’t just a game; it was a doorway into a universe where every child could become a hero, trainer, or friend to their captured creatures. With my trusty GameBoy Color, the simplicity of the console combined with the game’s intricate gameplay offered an immersive escape.

Pokémon Yellow’s release further knotted my journey with the anime, with Pikachu mirroring Ash Ketchum’s iconic path. This deepened my bond with Pikachu, evolving it from a mere Pokémon to a cherished companion on my digital odyssey. It was a magical experience that ignited a lifelong love for all things Pokémon.

Later on, the Pokémon universe expanded beyond the Game Boy into the realms of anime and comics (or ‘manga’), bringing the stories and characters to life in vibrant colour. The anime, with its memorable theme song Gotta catch ‘em all and dynamic battles, allowed fans many to experience Pokémon’s world in a new dimension. It wasn’t just about playing the game anymore; it was about being part of a global community that shared a love for these incredible creatures and their adventures.

A screenshot of the Pokémon Yellow with his Pikachu. PHOTO: NADZIRAH MALEK-WEBB

The comics added depth to the lore, exploring narratives and backstories that games and television episodes could only hint at. They were a gateway to a deeper understanding of the Pokémon universe, enriching the experience and igniting imaginations.

THE ICONIC MASCOT

Pikachu’s rise as the face of Pokémon was meteoric. Its electric charm and adorable demeanour captured hearts worldwide, becoming more than just a character in the game. Pikachu symbolised the joy and adventure Pokémon offered. It was a friend in the pixelated and later, animated world.

Pikachu’s presence in merchandise, television shows, and movies underscored its importance, making it a ubiquitous symbol of childhood joy and the Pokémon franchise’s success. Through the anime, Pikachu’s adventures alongside Ash Ketchum offered fans a companion whose loyalty and bravery inspired a generation. Today, adults who grew up with Pikachu continue to share this bond with their children, showcasing the timeless appeal of Pokémon’s most iconic figure.

Throughout the years, Pokémon games have undergone remarkable evolution. Transitioning from the simplistic visuals of the GameBoy era to the immersive 3D landscapes of the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch, each generation brings fresh regions, mechanics, and Pokémon. This evolution showcases Pokémon’s commitment to innovation while preserving beloved core elements.

The writer’s Pikachu-related collection. PHOTO: NADZIRAH MALEK-WEBB

With the launch of the Nintendo Switch, the journey to modern Pokémon gaming began with the Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! – opted many fans to even buy the ‘Pokeball’ which allowed its players to take their Pokémon wherever they go and with Pokémon Scarlet, we are reminded of how far we’ve come since Pokémon Red and Yellow.

The sense of adventure, the thrill of discovery, and the joy of companionship with our Pokémon have only deepened. The games have grown with us, reflecting changes in technology and storytelling, yet the essence of Pokémon remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, Pokémon GO took the world by storm in 2016, blending the franchise’s core concepts with augmented reality (AR) technology. It encouraged players to venture outdoors and explore their communities in search of Pokémon, fostering a sense of adventure and discovery. Pokémon GO’s success demonstrated Pokémon’s ability to innovate and remain relevant, even two decades after its inception.

And in 2021, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, another free-to-play, multiplayer online battle and arena-style Pokemon game hit the shores of the gaming community, the Pokemon Unite. While it wasn’t as popular as it predecessors, it was still able to bridge Pokemon enthusiasts around the world without the restrictions of console exclusivities and created a fast-paced gaming experiences.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus stands out for its innovative gameplay, blending traditional elements with open-world exploration, redefining expectations for the franchise. Similarly, Pokémon Gold & Silver expanded the Pokémon world, introducing a day-night cycle, new regions, and Pokémon breeding, enhancing depth and replayability.

Photos show screenshots of ‘Pokémon Scarlet’ version (above); and ‘Pokémon Legends Arceus’. PHOTOS: NADZIRAH MALEK-WEBB

Beyond games and television shows, Pokémon fostered a lifestyle and community, uniting people through shared experiences. Trading cards, tournaments, and conventions were spaces for friendships and memories.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) became a cultural phenomenon, with cards like Charizard shadowless holographic fetching thousands of dollars. The TCG created a community where friendships were forged through trades and battles, and the excitement of finding a rare card in a new pack remains unmatched.

Some of the writer’s Pokémon cards. PHOTO: NADZIRAH MALEK-WEBB

POKéMON LEGACY

Celebrating 28 years of Pokémon, it’s evident this franchise is more than mere games – it’s an avenue for adventure, discovery, and camaraderie. From the tangible thrill of TCG to the immersive realms of video games and the narratives of anime and comics, Pokémon has exceeded borders, becoming a cultural phenomenon.

Reflecting on the journey from Pokémon Red to Pokémon Scarlet, it’s clear the franchise has not only been a part of many lives but has enriched them, imparting lessons on friendship, resilience, and the thrill of exploration. Here’s to 28 years of Pokémon and to countless more adventures yet to come. Nadzirah Malek-Webb

 

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