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25 years later, here are 25 things we love about Pokemon

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Twenty-five years. That’s a heck of a number, and one that few video games are capable of seeing. And yet here we are, as Pokemon stares at that momentous pairing of numbers. More than two decades since it launched, Pokemon is a property that is responsible for so much joy in the lives of people. It has been heartwarming and challenging, a home to fans, and an origin point for a new species of gaming addicts.

More than just a game, Pokemon is a media empire which has expanded beyond the humble Gameboy cart that the original game was coded onto. How do you even sum its impact up? By taking a quick look at what has made Nintendo’s pocket monster series so popular over the ages. Here’s 25 things that we love about Pokemon.

The original game being a benchmark in design

Pokemon Blue

It may look primitive by today’s standards, but there’s no discounting the impact that Pokemon Red and Blue had it when it the market in 1996. An RPG the likes of which had never been seen before, Pokemon was responsible for battery company experiencing their best year ever as gamers couldn’t get enough of the gotta catch ‘em all mania that was gripping the world at the time.

The amount of content stuffed into that tiny cartridge was downright silly at the time, and Nintendo’s genius decision to double sales on the game by making certain Pokemon exclusive to each version was a game-changer. Of course you didn’t have to buy the same game twice, as you could trade Pokemon with friends if you were prepared to get wired.

But two and a half decades later, Pokemon’s debut is one of those landmark moments in video games. A single idea brought to life by nothing but passion and skill, Satoshi Tajiri’s love of colelcting insects was translated into a franchise that has been enjoyed for years and will continue to be a mainstay in the video game space until the universe runs out of time.

Trading your first Pokemon

Pokemon trading

There’s something about receiving your first Pokemon from someone else that’s just incredibly special. Maybe you traded a Haunter over from Pokemon Red so that you could get a Gengar in the process, or maybe you’ve tried your hand at wonder trading in the more recent games through the use of a Wi-Fi connection. But there’s a layer of trust there with that first exchange. The love and care you poured into your pocket monster, that you’re entrusting to another trainer.

Maybe trading has lost some of its value in the current age of easy Internet connections, but for those of us who jumped through flaming hoops to get that one pokemon? It was magical. And here’s the kicker: The Umbreon I got in a trade from the Pokemon Gold and Silder days, is still with me on Pokemon Sword and Shield. I’ll never let go of that dude, who’s a collection of memories in the pixelated flesh.

Team Rocket

Pokemon team rocket

They’re inept, constantly failing, and always a step behind but dammit I love the comic foils of the Pokemon animated series. Jessie, James, and Meowth (That’s right!) are mascots for perseverance, an endless stream of creative thievery who never give up and arrive in every episode with style. You just know that when Team Rocket appears, it’s time for trouble and make it double.

The patron saints of never giving up, they’ve danced on the edge of defeat and fallen over countless times, but they’ll always be back, ready to blast off for another day.

Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire advancing the series on new hardware

Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire

Out of all the Pokemon games, Ruby and Sapphire’s third generation of pocket monster action is still my favourite. While Gold and Silver expanded on the idea of Pokemon, Ruby and Sapphire pushed the envelope on what the series was truly capable of. New evolutions, a massive new menagerie of creatures to capture, a glorious region to explore, and a number of interesting mechanics lying off the beaten path made the debut of Pokemon on the Gameboy Advance feel…well, advanced!

Pokemon Black and White asking the hard questions

Pokemon Black and White

Even though PETA usually harps on about the game every few years so it can grab some attention from the press, Pokemon Black and White was the first entry in the series to ask if the current status quo between humanity and pokemon was actually healthy. Capturing creatures, keeping them locked in balls, and then sending them into battle wasn’t exactly how nature was supposed to function, and you couldn’t help but feel a tad bit guilty for your role in animal trafficking.

It’s theme which has seldom been touched on yet, but it did give that generation of Pokemon games an edge that made it stand out from the pack at the time.

This delightful song about Furret

Thanks Brad, for getting this catchy number embedded in my head. It can walk!

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go

Let’s be real, Pokemon GO was a game-changer for mobile gaming. All manner of stories exist of the madness that this game produced as people ran around trying to catch legendary critters in their neighborhood, but the key takeaway here is that late Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata’s dream of a healthier community of gamers came true. People got outside, explored the world, and made connections. It was a golden age, one of peace and wonder. And then 2020 happened. But still, Pokemon GO deserves high fives for what it accomplished and still gets right to this day!

Pokemon’s wholesome cartoon series

Pokemon cartoon

So you want to be a master? You want to be better than anyone else who came before you? Well then chances were high that you tuned into the Pokemon animated series. Japan could barely keep up with Pokemon mania, and the debut of Ash Ketchum on his journey to be number one gobbled up countless afternoons. Still going strong to this day, the Pokemon animated series even saw Ash win his first Pokemon League championship at long bloody last.

Pokemon ‘Bridged

On the very very far end of the spectrum, there’s Pokemon ‘Bridged. While the YouTube series hasn’t been active for years, it’s still home to a collection of fan-dubbed episodes that takes the original animation into very dark places. It’s still hilarious though, and its production quality got ridiculously brilliant with each new episode released. And also incredibly madder along the way. Still, you can’t not laugh at some god-tier editing, hilarious voice-acting, and Brock’s ability to breed anything. Anything.

Those nightmare fuel Pokedex entries

Pokedex creepy

Pokemon look cute, right? Not exactly, as the Pokedex entries over the years have revealed that these creatures are nightmarish gateway drugs into realms of terror. Especially Ghost-type Pokemon, who seem to be comprised of entities that kidnap and murder children.

Definitely not crying during the finale of the first Pokemon movie

Pokemon movie

I really wish my ocular organs would stop leaking like this whenever I watch that scene from the Pokemon movie.

Spending way too much time memorising pokemon type advantages and disadvantages

Pokemon types

I’d finally done it. I l knew enough about Pokemon to make my parents even more disappointed than usual. I knew that Fighting-Types could clobber Dark-types, Fire-type pokemon could set the Grass-type world on fire, and that poison was no match for psychic energy. And then Nintendo introduced a 17th class-type and I had to hit the books all over again. Thanks for nothing, you jerks.

Simba Tazos

Pokemon Tazos

If anyone here has a metal Pikachu Tazo that isn’t covered in their saliva or smoked beef dust, I’ll trade you my Charizard for it.

Bidoof

Pokemon Bidoof

Every Pokemon journey starts with some grinding against trash mobs near your hometown, but I’ll be damned if I don’t have a soft spot for Bidoof. This boils down to two reasons: It has a hopelessly adorable design within its vacuous face, and two, it’s not Rattata. Those damn rodents can get stuffed.

Making an inaccessible genre friendly and inviting

Pokemon genre

On the surface, Pokemon is essentially a JRPG with hyper-quick battles. There’s a charm to how the game shows you the ropes, something which it does far better than any of its contemporaries. It eases you in, teaches you with a warm guiding hand, and leaves you to your own devices when it knows that you’re ready to forge your own path.

Other JRPGs suffer from being inaccessible to newcomers, but you could give Pokemon to your grandma and within a day she’d phone you and tell you how she just earned a new gym badge. That’s magical stuff, and the reason why Pokemon is so successful because it never stops creating a fertile ground for new players to experience its unique charm.

Dragon-type Pokemon

Pokemon Dragon

No one type of Pokemon is perfect, but Dragon-type pocket monsters come pretty darn close! They’ve always been my favourites in Pokemon games, primarily due to the hard work that goes into raising them. While you can reach an evolutionary peak early on with many of the wildlife you capture, dragons require effort to raise up properly.

They’re always well worth it though, as they’re capable of becoming the trump card in your deck when they reach their final form. They also have some of the coolest designs in all of Pokemon, easily at home as a whimsical titan or an intimidating juggernaut of dragonic power. Whenever a new Pokemon game comes out, they’re the pokemon I hunt for the most, and finally catching one sets me on a whole new adventure to raise it.

The bragging rights that came with a full pokedex

Pokedex

Pokemon games have been about more than just battling your way to the top of the local league. If you really want to show off, a full Pokedex will net you instant internet points. That’s a massive job though, and one that requires plenty of work over dozens of hours to get right as you train and trade to the top. It’s purely for bragging rights, but it’s a feat that few people can say that they’ve accomplished in their gaming journey.

Post Malone celebrating Pokemon with an amazing cover of a Hootie and the Blowfish song

I didn’t think I’d wake up to an excellent cover of Hootie and the Blowfish’s Only Wanna Be With You by Post Malone for Pokemon, but here we I am, pleasantly surprised!

That satisfying pokeball click after a successful and challenging Pokemon capture process

Pokeball

Picture the scene: You’ve gone toe to toe with a Pokemon, weakened it, poisoned it, and paralysed it. Somehow it still resists the urge to stay inside a pokeball, but eventually you land a ball that wears it out completely. You watch it struggle inside, the ball jiggling about. One jiggle. It stays shut. Two jiggles. The pokeball remains tight. Three jiggles. Click. Now that’s just a satisfying sound to hear after a tough fight.

Pokemon raps

Notorious BIG wishes he could spit lyrics this hot.

Encountering your first Legendary pokemon

Legendary Pokemon

Maybe it was Mewtwo skulking about a cave, maybe it was Yveltal deep inside the domain of an underground lab, but there’s something fantastic about facing off against a legendary Pokemon. After all, you bought the game based solely on which monster you thought was the coolest based on the box art design, so getting a chance to capture it is the moment you’ve been building up to! It’s a traditional part of the Pokemon experience, and may it never change.

Shorts

Pokemon shorts

They’re really comfy and easy to wear, don’t you know?

Beating Gary Oak at the Pokemon League

Pokemon Blue rival

Yeah I know his name is Blue, but I started playing Pokemon after the anime series hit, so your main rival in Pokemon Blue/Red/Yellow will always be Gary Oak to me. And let’s be real, this dude was an absolute dick of the highest order. If he wasn’t being a jerk to Ash because reasons in the anime (He’d reform though!), in the games he was a master of guerilla warfare.

Who was waiting for you outside of Mt. Moon as you barely survived that gauntlet? Mother-lovin’ Gary. Who ambushed you outside of Cerulean City? Gary. Who decided to be a killjoy on your way to the Indigo Plateau? FREAKIN’. GARY. GARY! After beating him several times, Gary would eventually wait for you at the summit of the Pokemon League, ready to do battle one final time.

Was there a lesson to be learned here? Absolutely, but putting the prat in his place was the sweetest of revenge. And knowing that you could rock up whenever you wanted to and do it all over again, was the cherry on top of this vengeance sundae.

Junichi Masuda’s soundtracks

Pokemon games don’t just look great, they also have a sound that has always been…perfect. That’s thanks to composer Junichi Masuda, who created the modern sound of the franchise through the original games and has had an audio hand in shaping them all the way up to the most recent entries. Masuda’s scores just nail the tone and beat of Pokemon, never feel out of place, and always leave you tapping a hole into your floor.

That’s a sign of not only quality, but consistency that has created an audio legacy for the ages.

Introducing a friend to Pokemon

Pokemon friends

Every Pokemon journey is unique. There’s a reason why players only have one save-game file, and that’s to really hammer home how important your odyssey has been. Fans have spent hundreds of hours over the years on each game, but the real joy has been in sharing that experience with a friend. Introducing them to Pokemon, offering them advice, and trading with them along the way so that they can experience everything that the franchise has to offer.

There’s a thrill in seeing your friends get hooked, a gleam in your eye when you start nerding out with them, and swapping strategies. Video games are meant to be social experiences, and few franchises have managed to forge bonds better than Pokemon has over the years.

Last Updated: February 26, 2021

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