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Pokémon Turns 18

Today marks the eighteenth anniversary of the Japanese release of one, or two really, of the biggest games of all time, Pokémon Red and Green (Blue outside Japan).

Everyone has heard of Pokémon and that’s because it is the second biggest video game franchise in history, behind only Mario. Now with six generations worth of games, each introducing a new land and dozens of new Pokémon, the series continues to sell millions of copies on release. And to think that it all started today in 1996 when Nintendo, Game Freak and Creatures Inc. collaborated to bring a new IP to life thanks to great marketing, multiple outlets of exposure (game, show, and TCG) and of course an extremely innovative game.

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Pokémon is a RPG, but they are as many things that set it apart as they are things that are RPG standard. While you still gain experience points when you win battles and eventually level up, Pokémon added the idea of capturing your future party by weakening them. This added the ability to customize your party in ways that games like Final Fantasy could only dream of, but they also allowed deep customization of each Pokémon’s movesets so that one’s Squirtle could be much different than another’s. In addition, you had to learn moves like Cut and Surf that not only could be used in battle, but also during your adventure. If that wasn’t enough, the game had multiplayer, allowing you to test yourself with other players, as long as you had the Game Boy link cable. Despite being an 8-bit game in a world then evolving to 3D gaming, Pokémon totally shook the world on how to experience a video game.

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Pokémon has a big place in my heart, because Pokémon Red Version was one of my most influential games of all time. I remember buying mine shortly after becoming a fan of the show, which started because of a lucky flip of the channel to UPN and watching the episode “The School of Hard Knocks.” Yes, I did become a fan a little bit before it became a global phenomenon, and no I am not a hipster. The only reason I realized that it was a game was because of the commercials and Nintendo Power having a big feature article on the game.

Pokémon Red Version was the second RPG I ever played, the first being Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, so I was able to grasp the concepts pretty quickly. And thanks to the TV show, which not only got me into anime, also doubled as a virtual strategy guide. It was able to help me grasp some of the more advanced techniques as well as learn some strategy against some of the tougher trainers in the game. This game had me addicted and I easily dumped over 300 hours in the game, and I would do it again if I could… and I did when I got Pokémon Blue Version on Christmas.

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Ironically, Pokémon Red has headlined gaming culture recently thanks to the phenomenon known as “Twitch Plays Pokémon,” where thousands of Twitch.tv users can play Pokémon Red just by commenting button presses. Needless to say that it is utter chaos, but it is now a big spectacle and has even made a commutative narrative about it, though it is mainly revolved around the Helix Fossil and the Pokémon that comes from it, an Omanyte deified as Lord Helix. Deified because people would make the trainer select the fossil wherever he went, and thus believed Red was consulting it for life answers. As of this writing, the team has beaten all eight gyms in only fourteen days. Here’s them beating the final gym:



Happy birthday Pokémon, and may you bring more fun to the Nintendo 3DS, Wii U,and beyond.

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