All hyperbole and theme song references aside, Pokemon Blue was my introduction to handheld gaming and set me up for a lifetime of fun. It holds a very special place in my heart and I will always remember standing in my backyard, on the deck my dad had recently built (with the assistance of my uncles) while I powered on my very own copy of the game. I remember seeing the large, turtle-monster with the cannons sticking out of its back and thinking that was the coolest thing ever. I, of course, picked Bulbasaur as my starter Pokemon because a frog-plant monster seemed even cooler. Also, one of my friends said it got this move called solarbeam and, at the time, that was the most badass thing I could think of. Fire blast was pretty standard and hydro pump sounded kinda dull because my dad was a civil engineer and hydro pumps were things that just moved water around, so Bulbasaur was clearly the best option. Thus began my deep and abiding love for the grass type starter. The only Pokemon game since then where I’ve ever picked one of the other options has been Gen II (Silver/Gold/Crystal/HeartGold/SoulSilver) when I picked Cyndaquil because I was watching the anime at the time and Cyndaquil was my favorite of Ash’s Pokemon.
To get the first part of this nostalgia trip under way, I honestly miss the old days. Back before the internet made it possible to nail down the exact appearance percentage of all the Pokemon in every clump of grass, all you had was your friends. You found everyone with a version of the game, red or blue, and compared notes about where you found each Pokemon. Eventually, someone splurged for a walk-through and then everyone passed it around, trying to figure out where to find the best Pokemon. Then someone got a link cable and you all clamored to trade with each other until someone finally captured all 150 Pokemon, earning them the neighborhood crown until someone else revealed the secret to getting Mew. I was never the first to catch them all, for any version or generation of the game, and I’d never gotten a Mew in my life until Pokemon Go came out, but I was one of the best at figuring out where to get all the pokemon or remembering how to use the glitches so you could use Master Balls on Safari Zone Pokemon.
Back in Gen I, and even in Gen II, the games seemed so much simpler and more appealing. There was no meta to care about, no one even knew IVs or EVs existed, and everyone who tried a link battle with their friends inevitably lost to the other person’s team of level 100 Pokemon or their level 100 Mewtwo, specifically in the battles where we agreed no one would us Pokemon trained up using the Rare Candy glitch since they’d always pretend they’d leveled him up honestly and nothing beat a level 100 Mewtwo even with Same Type Attack Bonus boosted moves (Parasect was your best bet, but even that couldn’t hack it with a forty level difference). Back then, the games told a story and we got to watch the world and the people inside it change from one game to the next and even battle our previous player once we beat all of Silver or Gold.
Even setting aside the “crotchety old man” stuff, I miss the wild rumors that would circulate about the games. The wild speculation we all engaged in about Lavender Town and the ghost Pokemon you fought. The first Pokemon games coincided with my friends and I starting to get our first opportunities to access the internet and one of us inevitably came across some of the original “creepypasta” rumors about the first Pokemon game and we’d delightfully terrorize each other with stories about the old man in Lavender town killing all your Pokemon or the horrors of Missingno if you actually capture it. We all learned glitches we could use to duplicate Pokemon and convinced gullible people to do them since they had a tendency to delete all your save data instead.
The thing was, there was a community around the games and it lasted for years. Even as my friends and I get the new games, the feeling just isn’t the same. I’m still the best when it comes to knowing where to find Pokemon and I tend to have the highest Pokedex completion percentage, but the way the games are set up now makes competition pointless because you either cheat, trade your rare Pokemon away, or go to events to get limited legendary Pokemon that aren’t available through normal gameplay. Right now, there’s a “year of legendaries” event going on and my initial plans of taking advantage of it every month quickly fell apart as life intervened. Now I have no way to get those Pokemon unless I trade away something far rarer since everyone who has one knows they can ask for anything they want because it’s easier to restart and replay the entire game than get a specific event Pokemon. Sure, Mew was an event Pokemon and Celebi was as well, so it’s been going on since the beginning, but it’s so incredibly difficult to get them all now that it would take years to get all the event Pokemon and I don’t even want to know how much many in travel expenses.
I definitely enjoy the new games, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I enjoyed Pokemon as a whole more back when I didn’t know as much and when I had a little less information available to me. When things were simple and I played under the covers of my bed using the plug-in game light I told my parents was for car rides, Pokemon seemed like this amazing world that I would step into and explore. Now, because of the meta, because of Pokemon natures, and because of the ever pressing need to figure out where I need to go each month to get event Pokemon, it’s much less a world for me to explore and much more of a part-time job that doesn’t reimburse your travel expenses. I’ll still play each one as it comes out (though I might take a pass on the “Let’s Go” series coming out soon) because I still get hours and hours of entertainment out of it, not to mention assistance with my insomnia issues, but I miss the days when it felt more real to me.
To once again continue the theme of reflecting on old games, today’s post is about Pokemon! Listen to me wax nostalgic, play the part of a grumpy old main yelling about change, and consider the pitfalls of the more modern games.