For over twenty-three years, the Pokémon franchise has been a constant and welcomed presence in my life. This massively successful series started in 1996 in Japan, with the release of Pokémon Red & Pokémon Green for the Nintendo Game Boy by a company called Game Freak. Its huge financial success and popularity eventually found its way overseas, finally reaching Europe in 1999. It continued to dominate the lives of children and their parents’ wallets with an obscene amount of content and merchandise, such as toys, animation, trading cards, and video games. At twelve years old, it was impossible for me to avoid the craze that had captured the attention and imagination of kids throughout the world. Here, I will attempt to recount my own memories of the Pokémon series, and share highlights from my personal journey through a franchise that means so much to me.
My earliest memory of the series was during an IT lesson in 1999, where my classmates used the school’s computers to access the official Pokémon and Wizards of the Coast websites, to discover the latest information on the series and its trading card game. They were pretty much the only things my friends and classmates would talk about back then. I recall one kid from my year group named Kevin, who showed me his collection of trading cards inside a miniature folder. It was my first introduction to the game and he told me about the upcoming Pokémon: The First Movie, which was about to release across theatres in the United Kingdom (UK). He wrote down the film’s website URL for me so I could discover more information.
I spent most Saturdays watching the Pokémon anime on television, waking up early in the morning at around 7:30am to catch the broadcast live, or setting up the tape recorder downstairs so I could watch it later. I used the internet at school to keep up with the latest trends, but that was about as far as it went. Back then, my family didn’t have a lot of money and the idea of asking my parents to buy me Pokémon cards and video games was completely out of the question. While I was never ashamed of this fact, it did mean I wasn’t able to enjoy the series to the extent of other kids my age.
I think the very first Pokémon item I owned was a Gotta Catch Em’ All Pokémon poster featuring the first one hundred and fifty monsters. I remember my dad collected several tokens from his newspaper, and then we went into town to redeem them. I think the store was WHSmith, or possibly Woolworths. The poster used to be pinned on the wall above my bed. I tried hard to memorise all of them in order, but always struggled after around sixty. I remember going back to challenge myself repeatedly to recite them all in sequence, until one day, I actually managed it! The first merchandise I actually purchased myself were Pokémon stickers that were produced by Topps, and distributed by Merlin, which were far more affordable than the trading cards. I still have them completely unused because I never bought a sticker album to put them in!
It wouldn’t be until two years later, after the second generation of Pokémon video games released in the UK, when I finally got my hands upon my first ever mainline Pokémon game. On Friday, August 17th 2001, I went with my mum to my local Gamestation store to purchase a pre-owned copy of Pokémon Blue and a purple Game Boy Color. Due to us having very little money, I acknowledge and respect that my mum probably didn’t have very much to spend on herself that week, and I’m immensely grateful that she chose to spend it on me just so she could make me happy.
Playing Pokémon Blue after waiting so long to get a copy of my own was a satisfying experience. I loved playing it at every opportunity, whether that was in my room, on the sofa, outside with friends, or even inside my tent out in my back garden. I spent hours upon hours exploring the game! I even remember how my mum would try and take the Game Boy away to stop me from playing it so much and I would always discover where it was hidden. On one occasion, I found it in the top of her wardrobe and snuck into her room to retrieve it. I returned it back there once I was finished, all without her finding out. To my knowledge, she still doesn’t know to this day. Sorry mum!
Another fond memory of Blue was my very first Pokémon battle over Game Link Cable with a neighbour from down the street called David. He used a Mew with exceptionally high HP, which he almost certainly obtained via a cheat cartridge. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t beat him. I eventually went out and bought one for myself: an Xploder Cheat Cartridge by a company called Blaze.
As I tried to keep up-to-date online with the latest Pokémon news, my search brought me to internet forums, where I remember reading up on rumoured secret Pokémon supposedly found in Red & Blue known as ‘Pokégods’. These invented creatures were always made out to be super powerful and required buying a cheat cartridge or utilise convoluted methods to obtain them. These websites created fake screenshots in an attempt to legitimise their claims, and were usually only available once you had completed the game and the Pokédex.
Some of the popular ones I recall reading about at the time were Pikablu (a water type evolution of Raichu, which was eventually confirmed as Marill), Pikabud (a grass type evolution of Raichu), Dimonix (an evolution of Onix), Beepin (an evolution of Beedrill), Doomsay (a Pokémon that was likely based on Houndoom) and Mewthree (an evolution of Mewtwo). Pokégods even extended into the anime! Venustoise, a gag Pokémon from the episode ‘The Ghost of Maiden’s Peak’, where a Gastly intimidated Ash’s Squirtle and Bulbasaur by summoning their evolved forms: Blastoise and Venusaur, and then combined them together to make Venustoise!. Many of these made-up Pokémon were supposedly found in Bill’s Secret Garden, a place tucked away behind his home on Route 25. While there was a gap behind the house that looked like it could contain a garden of sorts, it was ultimately untrue.
One of the most famous rumours of all time was that a Mew could be discovered under the truck in Vermillion City next to the S.S Anne, something I absolutely believed and tested for myself. I used my cheat cartridge to teach a Pokémon the move Surf so I could access the specified area, and Strength so I could move the truck. As you may have guessed, it didn’t work. I have always found the Pokégods charming and creative, and they felt like a part of that generation for me. They’re something you would never see today in the age of social media, with many sources of information to debunk them.
I don’t have too many memories about my first play through of Blue. I do recall that my starter Pokémon was Charmander and I used my Master Ball to catch Moltres on Victory Road. I also made use of a popular glitch and caught a Missingno (Or ‘M) at some point. Unfortunately that corrupted my save file, messed up the Hall of Fame data, and caused the game to respond strangely.
Notably, Pokemon Blue was the start of my interest in video game music and included some of my favourite themes, such as Lavender Town, Viridian Forest, and the Road to Cerulean City: Leaving Mt. Moon. Those tracks have resonated with me for a long time. I have a lot of appreciation for Junichi Masuda’s compositions, and they were an inspiration for me in the years that followed…
2001 – 2003
Despite Blue being my first Pokémon game, my love for the series originates from Pokémon Crystal and the second generation of games. Back in 2001, I originally had my heart set on purchasing a copy of Pokémon Silver with my pocket money. I remember vividly going into a local ASDA supermarket and staring at the box on display in their video games section, mesmerised by how shiny it looked. I wanted the game so badly and spent weeks saving up all the money I could in the hope of buying it. I even bought a magazine from a newsagent called Pokémon Monster Guide, which had details on all the new Johto Pokémon. I remember reading it over and over in eager anticipation. One afternoon I met up with a local friend called Adam, who brought along his pink Game Boy Color and a copy of Pokémon Gold, which he let me play with for a little while. I was super excited and loved what I saw, but sadly I wasn’t able to get enough time with the game before he took it back home, leaving me even more determined than ever to own a copy of Silver.
When the time finally came to buy Pokémon Silver and I had saved up the thirty pounds necessary to buy it, I went into town with mum, visited a store called MVC (Music and Video Club) and approached the counter to buy a copy. To my horror, they had sold out! The guy who served me instead recommended a completely different version of the game that had just been released: Pokémon Crystal! I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I know that he convinced me that it was an improved version of the same game and that I should buy it instead. At the time I was unsure, because I had my heart set on owning a copy of Silver. Ultimately I trusted the advice and agreed to purchase the game (which had an equally shiny box), and travelled home with it in eager anticipation to play.
On the way back, mum decided it would be a great idea to visit my brother’s home first before heading back to our own, which was definitely not an idea that I agreed with, and I simply couldn’t wait to play it any longer. Thankfully, I had my Game Boy Color with me at the time, so when we got there I opened the game up, put it into the console, and switched it on for the first time. Until this point, I had only used my Game Boy Color to play Pokémon Blue, and while the system colourised the game a bit, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw on my screen.
Previously, I had only experienced a brief glimpse of my friend’s copy of Gold, and screenshots inside the Pokémon Monster Guide magazine. I didn’t fully appreciate the improvements in colour and animation until the moment I played Pokémon Crystal. Once the game powered up, I was met with a vibrant and impressive title sequence! New Pokémon, Pichu and Wooper, popped out of the tall grass! Several Unown were sending waves of energy across the screen! An animation of Suicune’s shadow raced quickly through the tall grass with catchy music complementing the scene. That image of Suicune bravely leaping towards the Unown was so impressive that every time I see it I am instantly transported back to sitting on the floor in my brother’s kitchen, mesmerised by that incredible introduction.
As the title sequence ended, Unown appeared on my screen spelling out the word “CRYSTAL,” and I remember quite vividly thinking: “This is going to be the best Pokémon game ever!” While my opinion may be clouded by the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, there’s still some truth to this as I continue to appreciate and write about the game all these years later. I guess it left a Crystal-clear first impression?
My time with Crystal was an absolute joy. I loved exploring the land of Johto and seeing the vast improvements over the first generation of games. Full colour, animated sprites, a more detailed world, and quite notably: a solid soundtrack. Once again I was wowed and inspired by the music of Pokémon Crystal. Go Ichinose, Morikazu Aoki, and Masuda-san created what continues to be my favourite Pokémon soundtrack. There were so many fantastic compositions and sounds from this game that I hold very dearly, including Route 38, Bicycle, and various battle themes such as Team Rocket, Rival, Champion, and my favourite of them all: the Gym Leader (Johto Version)!
Pokémon Crystal was the source of dozens of memories that I will never forget, for better or for worse. I remember Gym Leader Whitney’s stupid overpowered Miltank, riding up and down Goldenrod City to hatch eggs, tuning in to Buena’s Password on the radio and obtaining prizes at the Goldenrod Radio Tower, and my first ever shiny Pokémon encounter: a Wooper in Union Cave. At the time, my Pokémon used Strength on the shiny Wooper and unfortunately it fainted, leaving me sitting there in disbelief and feeling distraught that my first shiny encounter had ended in complete and utter failure. The best memory of all was the discovery of the Kanto region’s existence within the game. I crossed the water from New Bark Town, and once I reached the land on the other side, an NPC confirmed that I had taken my first steps into Kanto. I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading! Despite it being a watered-down version of what I experienced in Pokémon Blue, the addition of Kanto was hugely significant at the time.
About a year after first purchasing Crystal, I befriended someone from the street over called Mason who also had a copy of the game. We would play it together a few times per week: battling, trading and performing Mystery Gift trades in order to obtain items or decorations for our character’s rooms. One distinct memory I have is performing a Mystery Gift where I received a Nintendo 64 decoration for my room and he received a Tropic Plant. He was so upset by this, he stormed into his home and didn’t play for the rest of the day!
A Mystery Gift could also be performed between a Game Boy Color and a Pocket Pikachu Color, a peripheral device I was fortunate enough to own. When I saw it in the window a few months after purchasing Crystal, I noticed that it had an infrared port which connected to the Game Boy Color to trade items to other generation II games. It was one of the main reasons I picked it up, and it even had its original box! One of the exclusive items I was able to distribute was an Eon Mail, a piece of exclusive stationery for use in Gold, Silver, or Crystal. It was probably my favourite of all the mails in the game, and we made good use of it! We would sometimes trade Pokémon to one another overnight with a mail attached to the Pokémon, leaving messages to read later once we were at home. I remember that Eon Mail was used quite a lot!
We would also make good use of the Viridian City Battle House to face a CPU-controlled version of each other’s team and gain experience from battles to level up our own Pokémon. Trading, battling and using Mystery Gift to interact with Mason allowed me to explore Pokémon Crystal to its fullest potential. As a result, it helped me appreciate the game even more than I would have otherwise. Unfortunately, the battery in my copy of Pokémon Crystal has since died, and I am saddened to know that all of those mail messages, the Battle House data with Mason, and my Pokémon have been lost to time.
Similarly to Pokémon Blue, I don’t remember a huge amount about my original Crystal team or what I did during my first play through. I remember my starter was Cyndaquil, which I evolved to Typhlosion. I managed to level both it and a Jumpluff to level 100. I traded my original Charizard over from Pokémon Blue. I also had fun with a cheat device at one point (blame my local friend David), where I taught my Victreebel Sky Attack and destroyed Mason’s team. We also traded a Missingno from Pokémon Blue to Pokémon Crystal, and discovered it turned into a Remoraid! At this point, I think we had both decided that it wasn’t really fair to battle one another any more with overpowered and hacked teams.
Another cherished device I bought back then (on April 12th 2002), which no one else I knew seemed to have, was a Pokémon Mini. I always felt that this console was pretty cool due to its functionality and it being, at the time of writing, Nintendo’s smallest video game system ever made. Sadly, it was ultimately a commercial failure, with just a handful of games ever released for it. One of these games was a pack-in title called Pokémon Party mini, a collection of several mini-games and applications. One of the applications, Celebi’s Clock, had a stop-watch function that I would use to time my friends as we raced around the block. I can’t remember who used to win those races, but it was probably Mason. It’s such an obscure memory to have, yet a fun one that still stands out. Years later, I tried to obtain the rest of the Pokémon Mini’s English-released games. I found a sealed copy of Pokémon Pinball mini from a stall at a large video game event for a mere five pounds, and a copy of the rarest English title for the system: Pokémon Tetris mini from a seller based in Portugal. This completed my collection of games for the system in English.
Mason was a generous friend who occasionally gave me some of his spare Pokémon cards, usually from the Base and Jungle sets. I was really thankful and happy to receive them because it meant I finally owned some cards of my own. I believe one of the first he gave me was a holographic Nidoqueen from the Jungle set, and his spare holo Mewtwo from the Base set. I’m fairly sure he parted with a variety of common and uncommon cards too, but these stand out the most, and I still have them in my collection.
I was also using the internet at school more actively to search for all the latest Pokémon news, information, and cheats. Some of my favourite websites back then were Pokémon Elite 2000, Pokéschool, and most notably Serebii, which was, and continues to be, my go-to source of Pokémon information. I remember reading about two fake Pokémon games at the time called Diamond and Jade, which were actually romhacks of games called Keitai Denjuu Telefang (Power & Speed versions) for the Game Boy Color. At the time I believed they were official Pokémon games and was disappointed when I learned otherwise. I clearly did not learn from my Mew-under-the-truck betrayal. It would actually be a few more years before an official Pokémon Diamond would be made and released by Game Freak.
During this generation money was a little more accessible to me and I was able to buy a lot of awesome Pokémon merchandise, most of which I still own to this day. There were a number of items such as plush toys, a Battling Coin game, Tazos, and of course, many packets of trading cards. I started collecting the cards when the Fossil set was released and at the time I managed to collect 56 of the 62 cards in the set. I took a break from collecting cards for a while, but started again during the Neo Genesis, Discovery, Revelation and Destiny sets, before throwing in the towel entirely. During that time I was able to amass a fairly decent number of trading cards. My more memorable pulls were Gengar and Dragonite from the Fossil set and first edition Neo Genesis cards such as Ampharos and Slowking. Mason had also generously given me his Shining Magikarp from the Neo Revelation set, an incredibly rare card, and something that I am proud to still have as part of my collection.
I remember watching the Pokémon anime once again, specifically the Johto League Champions and Master Quest arc (series four and five). I’m not sure if I started watching it again because it was on television more, or if I was just very interested in the Johto story. Every episode would have the same premise: Ash and company would find a random trainer with a new Pokémon, cue Jessie and James running in to try and steal it with some elaborate machine, only to be blasting off again with a bolt of electricity from Pikachu. There was just something really nice about that era of the anime, and the aesthetic beauty of the art and animation. Seeing the world of your favourite games coming to life, and learning more about each character was quite nice. Other than watching the odd clip here and there in the years that followed, Master Quest was the final series of Pokémon I watched.
A fond and heartwarming memory involved my nephew and niece, hiding a ton of my Pokémon plush toys around the house. I challenged them to locate each one, usually with clues on where they might be able to find them so they could bring them back to me. While my niece didn’t take to the series, my nephew used to buy the cards and play the games a bit during the later generations of Diamond and Pearl. I hope my influence played a part in encouraging him!
Mason eventually moved away from Pokémon, after he told me that someone had stolen his Game Boy Color. Sadly, we drifted and went our separate ways. Shortly after, I got my own internet connection, allowing me to explore Pokémon websites and communities from home. I spent time online playing an unofficial Pokémon game called Pokémon Crater. I spent time in their IRC server, which is like a network of chatrooms, and met many of my online friends there. While I enjoyed the community, I made my own and eventually my own Pokémon fan website called Shining Misdreavus!
The community I created began as a chatroom, where a small and close-knit group of Pokémon fans would come to hang out. I made many great friends there such as Mr_J, Mlu, Hydros, Poochyena, Silver, Rainbow_Eevee, MegamanX, Kizera, and many more. Shortly after the creation of the chatroom, a website was made that had news, sections for art and fanfiction, and helpful game guides and walkthroughs. My friend Mlu even offered to host Shining Misdreavus, and we moved from a free service to paid hosting, which I will always be grateful for. Various layouts and content were created for the website by a number of people in the group, which helped to make it look more appealing for our readers. A forum was also set up, full of discussions on games, trading cards and anything else you could think of relating to Pokémon, helping to bring the community closer together.
One of those friends in our community was Hydros, someone who I kept in touch with for many years. He would often mail me gifts, letters, Christmas cards, or items I had agreed to buy from him, such as his Pocket Pikachu Color, a Game Boy Advance e-Reader, and various trading cards. Sadly, I was given the tragic news by his sister that Hydros passed away in 2018, and only heard about it about two and a half years after that. It was something I found very difficult at the time, processing the news and coming to accept the finality of it. It was the first time a friend of mine had passed away. We hadn’t spoken for a while, and I continue to have regrets over that. I’ve been keeping him in my thoughts ever since, and have been trying to honour his memory where possible. When I play Pokémon, he’s occasionally in my thoughts, especially when I see a Gyarados. This is because his online name came from a nickname he gave his first Gyarados.
An acquaintance I met online around this time was DJ Bouche, a musician who loved to talk about Pokémon and video games with me. They knew about my love of Pokémon music, specifically the Gym Leader (Johto Version) theme. Back then I had a Nokia 3330 phone, and they kindly created a ringtone of the theme and sent it to me. I was amazed by the technology, that a ringtone could be composed and sent from the other side of the world to a compatible phone in this way. While it probably didn’t take a huge amount of effort for someone as experienced as them, it meant so much to me and I was super thankful. It was my ringtone for a long time before I eventually got a new phone.
By this point, my online friendships thrived, but the same couldn’t be said for my local friendships. I had very few of them, and even less who enjoyed Pokémon. During school I was bullied quite severely, which made it difficult to form any meaningful friendships. The people I met online back then thanks to Pokémon were super valuable in helping to shape my later teen years when things weren’t so great. I am thankful for the many friendships and experiences it brought me. It came at a perfect time too, as generation III was right around the corner…
2003 – 2007
By the time Ruby & Sapphire were ready to release in the UK, many of my local friends and those who I knew growing up were drifting away from Pokémon but my love for the series continued to grow. At that time I didn’t own a Game Boy Advance (GBA), and while money wasn’t as tight as it used to be, I definitely couldn’t justify the price of the console. I was trying desperately to find a good deal so I could purchase the game at launch but with consoles selling for between seventy and ninety pounds at the time it was looking very unlikely.
One morning on July 4th 2003, exactly three weeks before the release of Ruby & Sapphire, I was out shopping with my mum and came across a small independent store with a GBA in the window. There wasn’t a price on it, but because there was also a Game Boy Color marked up at forty-five pounds I assumed it would cost significantly more than that. Despite this, I went in to the shop and asked the guy behind the counter if he could get it out of the window so I could inspect it. I noticed it had no battery cover, and had a few light scratches across the screen. I asked the employee if he had a price in mind for it.
The person behind the counter was taking care of the shop while his boss was out, and he was unsure about the price, so he pulled out a catalogue from under the desk to get a rough estimate on the value. I made the point that it didn’t have its battery cover, or its original box, and that it had some scratches on the screen, and asked him to factor those things into the price. I expected to hear a ballpark figure of around sixty pounds, or another figure way above what I could afford, but was shocked when he asked if fifteen pounds would be OK. I couldn’t quite believe my ears and in response I simply dove into my wallet, paid the money, and left quickly before he could change his mind. My mum couldn’t understand why I had the stupidest grin on my face for the rest of the day; it was because I could now afford my first Pokémon game at retail launch!
Three weeks later I went to my local Gamestation, obtained my copy of Pokémon Ruby, and absolutely loved it. Everything about the game felt so new and shiny compared to Crystal, and despite seeing all those screenshots on Serebii leading up to release, I was even more impressed once it was actually in my hands. I was finally experiencing the Hoenn region for myself. The one feature I was most looking forward to was creating my own secret base. My first base was inside a cave on Route 116, eventually I settled into a larger base inside a shrub just outside of Fortree City. Secret Bases were a ton of fun, and I enjoyed decorating them with all sorts of items I collected throughout the game.
During this generation Latios became my favourite Pokémon, and quite overwhelmingly so! I don’t clearly remember why; it was probably something as simple as being a really cool looking Pokémon, and how he was shaped like a jet plane and would move super fast, especially in the Pokémon Heroes movie. In various chatrooms and online forums I adopted the nickname of Latios, and it’s the Pokémon a lot of my friends would associate me with back then. He featured prominently across my community’s forum banners, avatars and forum signatures, and it was the main reason I chose Pokémon Ruby over Sapphire since it was the version that gave easiest access to Latios. When I finally encountered it in the game I already had a Master Ball and used it without hesitation. Some friends even drew Latios artwork for me, which I was super appreciative of. Latios continued to be my number one favourite for a few more generations until another came along to steal his crown…
During my research for this feature, I discovered that my original team consisted of a Groudon (Lv. 62), a Latios (Lv. 58), a Blaziken (Lv. 54), a Pelipper (Lv. 50), a Sharpedo (Lv. 44) and a Salamence (Lv. 50). However, the first entry in the Hall of Fame where this information would have been displayed has been overwritten, as the game only stores the first fifty entries. Because of this, I was only able to source the information from entries 3 and 4. Pokémon Ruby was also the game in which I captured my first full-odds shiny: a Zigzagoon! I evolved it, but aside from showing it off to people for bragging rights, it never really got much use.
The following year, on February 21st, 2004, Gamestation stores across the UK hosted an EON Ticket Event, which allowed the player to visit a special location in-game called Southern Island to catch a Latios (in Sapphire) or Latias (In Ruby). One of those events happened at my local store, allowing me to catch the counterpart to Latios. I never believed I would see an official Pokémon event anywhere nearby, as many of them seemed to happen in much larger cities miles from my hometown, so I was super excited by this news. I jumped at the opportunity to visit. The day was pretty great: I received the Latias and a goodie bag filled with various items like posters, mini figures and temporary tattoos. The best part of the event was meeting other Pokémon fans, one of which was Gavin, someone who became a good friend and one I am still in contact with.
I also used to play Ruby & Sapphire with my friend Adam, that same friend who originally let me play his copy of Pokémon Gold on his pink Game Boy Color. By complete coincidence, it turned out that Adam and Gavin were already friends, and the three of us continued to battle, trade Pokémon, and share our secret base creations together. Gavin would come over to play Pokémon Colosseum with me on my GameCube, and he even managed to obtain a copy of Pokémon Channel so we could both catch a Jirachi!
I remember winning a couple of online giveaway contests in 2003 and 2004. The first was some Pokémon cards from one of the websites I mentioned earlier called Pokéschool, which I won by making five posts on their new forum. I received a Winner Stamped Dark Venusaur promo card and a Holo Fire Energy Pokémon League promo.
The other contest I won was for being the one millionth visitor to a Pokémon fan website called HomeNHeart, which was also known as Pokémonaholic. The contest was called “One in a million”, and the prize was an electronic Pokédex. It took months to arrive as it was sent via surface shipping and I had almost given up hope of it ever being delivered. But eventually it did, and it was such a cool item that I never got the chance to own previously; I was super grateful for it. I still have these prizes, and sometimes I look back at them with some fond memories; I will always be thankful to the generosity of those online communities that provided them for their readers.
On October 1st 2004, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen arrived in the UK. The retailer GAME was selling both titles as a bundle at launch for fifty pounds, so Gavin and I went to the store to purchase them and split the cost between us. We both initially wanted FireRed, but after a discussion, Gavin agreed to buy LeafGreen instead. We took them into the local shopping centre to test the bundled wireless adapter so we could gauge the signal range between us. Gavin stood on one side of the centre, and went up to a different floor in the elevator, and we would check to see if we were still connected inside the multiplayer lobby: the Union Room. Obviously the range was abysmal, but wireless battling and trading in the first Pokémon remake was pretty fun and I had a great time with it. While I enjoyed the remake, all I really wanted at the time was an updated version of Gold and Silver, which was first fuelled by hearing remixes of some of Johto’s music in the post-game content: the Sevii Islands.
By 2006 I was getting older, and pretty much every person I knew who enjoyed Pokémon growing up around me had long since moved on from the series. I also began to drift further from the franchise; I had stopped watching the movies and the anime, and no longer had interest in collecting the trading cards or any merchandise. I started to have less time for the online community I had built up and wasn’t actively searching for the latest information on the series. I went to sixth form college and started to play different kinds of games on Nintendo such as Metroid and Super Smash Bros., and less of Pokémon. But shortly after college I found a copy of Pokémon Emerald in a local WHSmith store, and decided to treat myself as a reward for completing my studies. While I enjoyed revisiting Hoenn, it wasn’t quite the same, and I started to question if I was finally done with the franchise.
Towards the end of 2006 and into early 2007 I spent a few months trying to get the highest score I could in Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire in order to submit it to the Official Nintendo Magazine. I really enjoyed this spin-off title and was determined to get the best score I could. I spent hours trying to build up a large multiplier in order to increase my score. While I was able to reach a massive score of 20,261,568,631, it still wasn’t enough to top the leaderboard for the three months the event ran. Regretfully during one month in particular however, I didn’t submit my score in time for the magazine to go to print, and I would have been on top of the leaderboard for that issue of the magazine…
2007 – 2011
I purchased my copies of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl on April 26th 2007. It was a few days after the official American launch but still three months before they arrived in the UK, as I was fortunate enough to find American-imported copies from a local independent games store. Shortly after, I sold Pearl to someone I knew, deciding against owning both versions.
While Diamond was an enjoyable game, I had no internet at my new home and wasn’t able to make the most of its online connectivity at the time. I no longer lived in my hometown and, as I previously mentioned, most people I knew had abandoned the series so I couldn’t enjoy the game with anyone else that way either. When I eventually got an internet connection at home and played with friends online, the inability to experience the online multiplayer had already impacted on my opinion towards the game and contributed to my decreasing interest in the series.
According to my copy of Pokémon Diamond’s Hall of Fame, I beat the Elite Four for the first time on May 6th 2007. My team consisted of a Dialga (Lv. 49), an Empoleon (Lv. 46), a Mismagius (Lv. 54), an Infernape (Lv. 54), a Roselia (Lv. 41) and a Staraptor (Lv. 49). I know that I picked a Chimchar as my starter, so I can only assume the Empoleon was originally traded over from Pokémon Pearl before I sold it.
On May 22nd 2009, my order of Pokémon Platinum arrived from Amazon. This was the first time I had ordered a Pokémon game from the internet rather than going to a brick-and-mortar store in person to collect it. I felt a similar way about Platinum as I did about Emerald when that was released: with my interest continuing to decline, and regret for buying a game for the sake of it. To be honest, I believed my time with the mainline games was probably up, and that I’d only be looking back to the past games for entertainment, but something incredible was about to happen that changed this!
On Sunday, May 10th 2009, a Japanese Pokémon television show called Pokémon Sunday, revealed Pokémon HeartGold & Pokémon SoulSilver for the Nintendo DS. Rumours had been circulating a week prior that remakes of the second generation games were going to be revealed, and my excitement was building tremendously. Suddenly, after years of decline, my love for the series was reignited! I stayed up incredibly late to watch a broadcast of the stream as it went live in Japan, crossing my fingers that the rumours were true. I literally cried when I saw them formally unveiled, and I got my first glimpse of the new titles with a few seconds of footage that followed the announcement. I had been waiting for these remakes ever since FireRed, wishing that I could see my favourite generation brought up to date on modern hardware and now it was finally happening.
Around the same time, I had befriended someone I met online called Talcott, who I would chat with regularly about the upcoming games. For months up to and after the games’ UK launch, we would share our thoughts on the latest announcements and discuss our plans to build a team, including the nicknames we might give them. My hype-filled chats with Talcott are something I treasure, and while they did make the wait for these games more challenging, it was nice to vent my feelings with someone who had equal excitement.
I did have concerns that the games wouldn’t live up to my memories and wondered how many creative liberties could have been taken to update the game. I searched online to look over the Japanese release, while also trying to avoid looking too deeply, so I could retain some of the surprises and not have my experience spoiled. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried because the game looked and sounded fantastic. I was especially happy to hear that the music and, even moreso, my favourite tracks from the original games were faithfully arranged, and in some cases improved over the originals!
On March 26th 2010, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver finally released. I was unable to choose the Silver version in generation II originally, so SoulSilver was the obvious choice of the two. My copy arrived in the mail from the online store ShopTo and I immediately got down to playing it, updating Talcott on my progress as I played. Exploring Johto once again was exactly what I hoped it would be, with updated visuals and features improved from Crystal. The addition of the Pokéwalker, a peripheral device that functioned similar to the Pocket Pikachu Color I used as a kid, was a very welcome throwback. It had improvements over the Pocket Pikachu such as the ability to catch Pokémon, find items, and carry any Pokémon from HeartGold or SoulSilver within it.
Nine days later, on April 4th, I had beaten the Elite Four, with a team that consisted of a Jumpluff named PluffPluff (Lv. 42), a Togetic named Star (Lv. 44), an Espeon named Sunset (Lv. 44), a Typhlosion named Inferno (Lv. 44), an Onix called Rocky (Lv. 40), and an unnamed shiny Gyarados (Lv. 44). I believe this was the first time I ever gave nicknames to my Pokémon.
During my research for this feature, I found an old chat log between myself and Talcott where I was reminded of interactions between myself and the Pokémon that would follow behind me in the game. One memory I have in particular is when I was in the Sprout Tower, and my Cyndaquil would be concerned that the tower was swaying too much. Those little touches made me smile, and I felt a connection between myself and my partner Pokémon, something I had missed out on with Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow.
Before I knew it, I had explored both Johto and Kanto, collected sixteen gym badges, made my way up Mt. Silver, and defeated Red all over again. As the credits rolled, I reflected on the past few years, and how my interest in the series had fallen off almost entirely. All I had really wanted was to explore Johto again, and now that the remade games had been released, and so faithfully recreated to a standard I was highly satisfied with, I was finally ready to put the Pokémon series to rest. By the time I had reached the end of those credits I had decided that SoulSilver would likely be my final Pokémon game…
I was encouraged to try the fifth generation of Pokémon when I read that the Black and White games were effectively a reboot of the series. I liked the idea of the game containing a substantial amount of new Pokémon, seasonal changes, and new battle mechanics: Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. Graphically, the game was a step up from generation IV, and I was impressed with the three-dimensional towns and environments. I purchased the game on March 4th 2011, and swiftly completed it in just nine days, ending my adventure on March 13th. Overall I enjoyed the game, especially the twists in the story and the memorable characters.
The moments that stood out most to me, like most people I would imagine, are those towards the end of the game. The destruction of the Elite Four, which was something truly shocking and unprecedented in a Pokémon game for me, and the confrontation between the six sages with the Unova gym leaders coming in to save the day was truly epic. The most shocking scene for me, however, was the revelation of the true horror of Ghetsis and how N, his adoptive son, was manipulated for his own selfish reasons. The way Ghetsis spoke to N in those final scenes, calling him warped and defective: a freak without a human heart, was deplorable. When he was beaten, it was satisfying to expose him as the warped and defective one.
But at the time I didn’t appreciate the game enough, and despite the excellent storytelling I felt that it didn’t innovate as much as I had believed it would. It still focused on the tired formula I had grown bored with. Shortly after I beat the game it went on to my shelf never to be played again. Unfortunately, I am unable to share my final team as I no longer have my original game. All I remember is that I had a Serperior, and a Krookodile which were both very likely part of the team I used to defeat the Elite Four.
A year later on March 14th 2012, believing I would never return to the games, I traded in Pokémon White and Pokémon Platinum, complete with their boxes and manuals. In return I received fifteen pounds for White, and ten pounds for Platinum. This was a fair price at the time, but over the years the value of those two games soared, making re-purchasing them unfeasible. Even shortly after selling them I regretted what I had done, and even more so in the years to come when I would hear friends talk so fondly about Platinum and the improvements it had over Diamond and Pearl, and how Black and White had such a fantastic story. As I listened to these stories, I deeply regretted that I couldn’t go back to my original copies to give them a second chance.
Based on these conversations with friends, I realised just how much I had missed out on. Generation V was possibly one of the last great generations of Pokémon, and due to the increase in prices over time I felt like I’d missed my opportunity to experience it properly. Thankfully, my mistakes were corrected years later…
2013 – 2016
Imagine being thrown into a car against your will and forced to purchase Pokémon Y… Well OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I certainly had no interest in purchasing any more Pokémon games. That didn’t stop my friend David from wanting me to purchase Pokémon Y, the opposite copy of the game he wanted, so he could trade the version exclusive Pokémon and starters with me. After pretty much kidnapping me and bribing me by paying half the cost of the game, I reluctantly picked it up. We pulled up to his local Sainsbury’s supermarket and each got a copy of the games. As an added bonus, we swung by the local GAME store where we were given a Pokéball-shaped 3DS game holder, which was a pre-order bonus for something we never pre-ordered, but luckily the manager happened to be a mutual friend of his.
While I did complete the game and had enjoyed the Mega Evolutions and riding segments, Y was even less enjoyable than any previous games I had played. Some of my complaints were the lacklustre storyline, poor camera controls, and the feeling that the games were rushed and incomplete. After playing through the game again years later, I don’t hold the same strong feelings as I originally did, but can’t shake the belief that something changed with Pokémon from that point onwards. Perhaps in the years to come, my feelings will change again, and I will appreciate generation VI much more.
On November 28th 2014, I traded in my copy of Y for a special edition copy of Pokémon Omega Ruby with a steel tin on its launch day, which is one of the few times that I don’t actually regret trading in a game. Omega Ruby was a faithful yet enjoyable remake of Pokémon Ruby with new stories and lore. I loved the inclusion of Primal Groudon and Kyogre, plus the post-game content, the Delta episode featuring Zinnia and Rayquaza, and the exciting finale involving Deoxys! While I didn’t hold the same excitement for Omega Ruby as I did with the remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver, I still enjoyed it. I defeated the Elite Four on January 10th 2015 with a Groudon (Lv. 49), a shiny Metagross (Lv. 56), a Breloom (Lv. 47), a Greninja (Lv. 66), a Blaziken (Lv. 49), and a Swellow (Lv. 46).
One piece of music from the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire games that I found inspiring was the Primal Reversion theme, which plays when you engage with the legendary Pokémon Groudon or Kyogre, who return to their ancient forms as part of the story twist for these remakes. The theme combines the original composition with the new arrangement, mixing the old with the new: a primal reversion! I was so fascinated with this concept that it served as the inspiration for a fan-arranged Pokémon album I directed and produced called Harmony of a Champion, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first generation of games. It was a story-driven musical experience, with arrangements that told a story through music. We recreated themes from the original Game Boy soundtrack from scratch, and placed parts of it into the music to invoke a sense of nostalgia at key points.
Collaborating with musicians, artists and engineers to put albums like this together was a keen hobby of mine, and I can state with confidence that the music I heard in generations I and II of Pokémon were instrumental in this pastime. The album began production in January 2015, and eventually launched on December 25th 2017. The project was delayed beyond its original release of 2016, and while the project did coincide with a lot of personal issues I was facing at the time, I am very proud of it. This licensed album raised money for Child’s Play Charity, helping to provide toys and video games to children’s hospitals worldwide. I am thankful to the entire team for helping to make it happen. As much as I would have loved to do a follow-up album for Gold, Silver and Crystal, the stress the album put me under at the time meant this was out of the question.
In July 2016, the passion for Pokémon was thriving around the globe with the release of Pokémon GO for mobile devices. The augmented reality title, developed and published by Niantic, was a fun and refreshing game. Not only has it allowed me to experience Pokémon in a whole new way, but it provided several positive benefits to my life, such as improving my physical activity, socialising with locals, and improving my mental wellbeing. My journey in that game started on July 6th, and since then, whether it was joining in with raids in the local area, discovering and capturing rare Pokémon during community days, or enjoying the game with a friend for a couple of hours for a much-needed break, Pokémon GO has had a significant and positive impact on me.
On July 29th, just a few weeks after the game was released, I was able to meet up with my old school friend Shaun who I had not seen for roughly fifteen years. We planned to catch a few Pokémon together and catch up on life. The day was pretty great, but the best part was trying to locate a Ponyta which I still hadn’t managed to catch. We knew one had spawned locally, thanks to some third party software we were using at the time, but realised we wouldn’t be able to reach it before it despawned. Suddenly my friend Beki, who I was staying with at the time, came flying around the corner in her car screaming for us to get in. We raced up the road, trying desperately to get to the location of Ponyta. This resulted in us zooming past a police car and had me wondering if we were going to get arrested and thrown in a cell as a result of catching Pokémon. Thankfully, with no police in pursuit, we reached the Ponyta with seconds to spare and caught it, giving each other high-fives in celebration. It’s still one of the most surreal and intense moments I have ever had in GO, and one I am happy to have shared with old friends.
Another memory was when I discovered an Omastar in GO, something that wasn’t a very common spawn in my area at the time. I was super excited to catch it. It now resides with my friend Ryan, who is one of the friends I met online thanks to Pokémon GO, and is someone I consider to be a very close friend. On March 24th 2018, I successfully captured my first Mewtwo in an EX Raid battle. I made the journey to the EX Raid Gym especially for the occasion, despite it not being very local. I remember celebrating by getting on to my knees and cheering, with a few other people who were just as ecstatic to have obtained the legendary Pokémon.
Two years later on March 19th 2020, I made my first contribution to GO by submitting my first PokéStop nomination, which was accepted and added to the game. There was a great sense of pride knowing that I was responsible for creating a spot where many other players could benefit from my recommendation, by spinning the PokéStop and collecting items.
Pokémon GO was a great support mentally. When I felt low, I took a nice long walk and opened the game to capture some Pokémon. Before I knew it I was walking to new places I haven’t explored before, distracting myself from my problems, and later returning home feeling refreshed and satisfied. If it wasn’t for this game, I wouldn’t be nearly as active. I even found myself going out in storms, and on one occasion, a blizzard! While the hype around Pokémon GO has died down by comparison, it’s a very important game to me that continues to have a positive impact, which extends beyond a traditional video game.
2016 – 2019
I received Pokémon Sun as an early birthday and Christmas gift from my friend Steve on November 26th 2016, after I expressed some interest in picking it up for myself, thanks to Pokémon GO reigniting some love for the series once again. I had originally pre-ordered the game on Amazon with a steel book, but was unsure of whether I wanted to buy it or not, so I later cancelled it. Hearing that Sun and Moon were swapping out the traditional Gym Leader challenge for trials, and the removal of HM abilities from these new titles, I was intrigued and decided to give it a chance.
I have always been a huge fan of birds, and when I first set eyes on the Alolan grass-type starter Rowlet, my decision to choose it as my first Pokémon was immediately clear. When you select a starter in Sun and Moon, Hala, the Kahuna of Melemele Island, states that a Pokémon and trainer must choose each other before they can truly become partners. The cutscene that followed involved my character and Rowlet staring at each other, waiting in eager anticipation to see if, for the first time in Pokémon, my starter would also deem its new trainer worthy. Shortly after, my character lifts Rowlet gently into the air in a very wholesome scene. This wonderful round borb quickly became my favourite Pokémon, and was further solidified once I saw its fun and silly personality in the anime, especially the scene where it looks like Rowlet is having an existential crisis. I couldn’t bring myself to evolve my starter back then, so he will always remain a Rowlet in Sun.
I also loved the various Alolan forms that were introduced in Sun and Moon, namely Exeggutor and Marowak. I cannot forget the hilarious Alolan Exeggutor memes at the time, with its long neck extending out across multiple Twitter posts, or one image of it going into outer space! I was impressed by the design of Marowak’s regional form and its typing of Fire and Ghost was a neat pairing. I generally thought it looked awesome and it’s likely my favourite of all the Alolan forms.
Upon completing the game, my feelings on Pokémon began to shift positivity a little, feeling more content about the experience, despite years of dissatisfaction. I thought that becoming the first ever Champion of Alola was a great touch. Pokémon Sun was the most enjoyable game for me since HeartGold and SoulSilver, which is quite an achievement for a series that I felt had lost its spark. I completed the game on December 30th with an Alolan Raichu, a Toucannon, a Wishiwashi, a Snorlax, an Alakazam and my unevolved starter: Rowlet. While I have the information on what my team consisted of, I was disappointed to learn that Hall of Fame records didn’t exist any more, and I can’t remember specifically what my team’s levels were.
In late 2017 I commissioned an artist who was producing some artwork reminiscent of the art seen in generation I by Ken Sugimori. I requested four pieces featuring my friends with their favourite Pokémon, including references to some of their hobbies and interests in their design. I decided that I would also request one for myself, which featured my new favourite Pokémon Rowlet, with my character wearing a cape to represent my favourite type of Pokémon and trainer design: dragons! The cape was held together with a pin that had a Screw Attack design etched into it to represent my love of the Metroid franchise. By December 2017 I had received them all, and had them printed and placed in Pewter frames, a reference to the town in Pokémon Red and Blue. Overall I was very happy with how the designs turned out, and based on what my friends told me, they loved them too.
The series finally moved away from the 3DS and on to the Nintendo Switch with the release of Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee. On November 16th 2018, I was transported back to the world of Kanto with a fresh new approach, determined to catch all 151 Pokémon. As an avid fan of Pokémon GO, and a Switch owner, it was a no-brainer. I went all out and purchased the special edition version of Let’s Go Eevee with the Pokéball Plus, a device that could be used as a controller for the game and was compatible with Pokémon GO as a catching device.
While it was great to return to Kanto, I felt that the experience wasn’t as enjoyable as the original games or even as comparable to Pokémon FireRed. However, I did enjoy the catching mechanic, which I had been familiar with in Pokémon GO for a couple of years up until this point, and to see a brighter and more detailed version of Kanto. The soundtrack was particularly enjoyable, especially the Pokémon GO arrangements. It was disappointing to see that the Let’s Go games had limited scope in terms of features, making them a fairly contained experience that I probably won’t revisit.
In my opinion, these remakes of the original games were created with the intention of capitalising on the huge success of Pokémon GO, in an attempt to bring people over to the Switch in time for the next generation of games. I also believe that adding this game to Game Freak’s already tight release schedule, seeking higher revenue, is one reason later generations of Pokémon struggled to live up to the quality of previous titles. Let’s Go Eevee marks the first time I have ever completed a Pokédex in a Pokémon game, catching all 151 Pokémon, or 153 if you count Meltan and Melmetal, which I transferred to the game from Pokémon GO. I completed Let’s Go Eevee for the first time on November 21st 2018. My team consisted of Charizard, Pidgeot, Blastoise, Victreebel, Raichu and Articuno. While it was nice to revisit Kanto once more, I was eagerly anticipating the next generation…
2019 – 2022
Mainline Pokémon games have been influenced by a variety of locations around the world, and up until this point, had included four parts of Japan, New York and Hawai’i in the USA, and France. So I was thrilled to see a game based on the UK, my own country, for generation VIII. My initial first reaction to the announcement of the game wasn’t great, mostly due to the starter Pokémon designs, and the low quality visuals. Because of this I decided not to buy the game, but thanks to my hobby as a writer for video games, I had the opportunity to evaluate it prior to launch.
Pokémon Sword was provided to me as a review copy by Nintendo and I felt an immense responsibility to describe my experience as fairly as I could, drawing on my years of exposure to the series and writing something that would help fans make an informed purchase. Unfortunately, reviewing the game impacted my enjoyment, as I had to complete it quickly in order to get my opinion out there while the game was still relevant. As part of my review, I highlighted some of the odd decisions Game Freak had taken, such as locking volume controls behind the easy to miss Hi-tech Earbuds, and the introduction of TR’s (Technical Records) as single use devices, which I thought was a strange decision. I also highlighted the overall poor animations and graphics across the game, and felt that it probably needed more time for polish before it was released.
But I had praise for it too, specific locations of the game did look quite beautiful, Ballonlea and the Gravesite of the Slumbering Weald in particular. Sword took on a very different look and feel to the games I played as a teenager and it was amazing to see how far the series had come since the Game Boy days. I also enjoyed seeing how real-world towns, cities and landscapes across the UK influenced the design of locations in the game, many of which I have visited personally.
I found humour in the slang terms used in the game’s dialogue, and the addition of Pokémon themed on England. These include Stonjourner, which resembles the prehistoric monuments at Stonehenge, Sinistea, which is conveniently based around Britain’s love of tea, and I assume Corviknight was inspired by ravens found at the Tower of London. They were fun and welcomed additions that I enjoyed discovering as I played. Characters such as Opal and Bede provided some comic relief, and I thought Hop was a well-written rival with great characterisation and story, clearly someone who wanted to live up to the same standards as his champion brother, Leon. The character of Ball Guy was my favourite of them all, and I would make a point to visit every Pokémon Gym and locate him and receive one of his Pokéballs and watch him dance.
I have plenty of good memories of Max Raid Battles with some of my online friends, such as Axel, Komodo Zero and Quaddy. We tried our best to obtain as many legendary and shiny Pokémon as we could, and I loved this co-operative gameplay, which added to the longevity of the game. While the downloadable content for the games were underwhelming overall, Pokémon Sword was an above average experience and a step forward from Pokémon Sun. I first beat it on November 24th 2019, with a team that included Appletun (Apple Crumble), Sirfetch’d, Lanturn, Rillaboom (Donkey Konga), Gardevoir and Centiskortch. Appletun and Sirfetch’d in particular have become my two favourite Pokémon from this era.
This generation also marked the time I first tried my hand at competitive Pokémon battling. I appreciated the patience of my friend Axel, who tried hard to teach me the basic mechanics of Sword and Shield. I brought together a team made up of legacy Pokémon from my past, games such as Colosseum, Ruby and FireRed, along with creatures from Pokémon GO and Pokémon Sword, a team that reflected my journey through the series up until that point. It was an interesting experience, but not something I felt overly enthusiastic about.
The game is memorable to me for a deeply personal reason. Prior to the release of Sword and Shield, a close member of my family had a significant medical issue which created a large amount of stress. While we were awaiting the diagnosis, I was doing everything I could to take my mind off the situation, trying to find distractions to get me through this difficult time. I spent this period writing the review, which served as a good distraction.
I tried to find other ways to take my mind off things, and one was finally organising and tidying my living space, something I had been putting off for a while. One afternoon, as I started to clear out the bottom of my wardrobe, I came across a cardboard box and a folder filled with my old Pokémon cards from childhood. I spent a while looking through them, reminded once again how close I had come to completing the Fossil set, and decided that it was finally time to finish it.
As I previously mentioned, I was only ever able to obtain 56 of the 62 cards required to complete the set back in the day. The six remaining cards that had escaped me were the holographic Haunter, Hitmonlee, Magneton, Raichu and Zapdos cards, and a non-holographic rare Hypno. In less than two weeks, I had searched eBay for the best prices I could find, and on October 22nd 2019, I had obtained the final card needed to complete my first ever trading card set. I saw it as a monumental achievement, and I didn’t want to stop there. In the same month, I was able to finally complete both of my Pokémon Tazo collections too. I feel that the last quarter of 2019 was the point where my nostalgia and love for Pokémon began to take off again, likely due to this trip down memory lane. A month later on November 13th 2019, I searched online for local groups that I could possibly attend and try to make some new friends with common interests. I met someone who lived locally called Adam, who was a big Pokémon fan and as enthusiastic about collecting the trading cards as I was, and we quickly became good friends, trading with one another to help get ourselves closer to completing some of our Wizards of the Coast sets.
On January 13th 2020, I had the pleasure of meeting up with an online friend called Antoine, who was visiting from overseas. We spent a really nice afternoon together, and at some point, decided to browse a few shops. We went to my local CeX store, and found a copy of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky. When I made a comment that I had never played it before, he was surprised. He urged me to buy the game, explaining how much he personally enjoyed it, but I felt the price was a little too high. He then offered to buy it for me, which is when I knew he was serious about how important this game was to him. After some discussion, we agreed to pay half each, and I walked out with my first ever Mystery Dungeon title.
After playing through Explorers of Sky, I can see exactly why it’s such a beloved title. The story, characters, music and graphics were exceptional. There were moments where I cried, scenes where I shouted at my Nintendo DS, and memories that will stay with me forever. I can’t believe that I missed out on such a special game and series for so long. Explorers of Sky allowed me to see Pokémon in a whole new light, and opened my eyes to new possibilities for what Pokémon games could be beyond the mainline series. I have to thank my friends Antoine and Axel for following my progress through the main story, and helping me respect this masterpiece of a game.
Shortly after completing the main story, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX was announced for Nintendo Switch, a remake of the first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. On March 11th 2020, soon after completing Explorers of Sky, I had the pleasure of reviewing the game, now with a broader knowledge of the mechanics and features of the series. I praised Rescue Team DX for its vibrant art and fantastic music, and after doing some research, confirmed that it had been faithful to the original titles. It was a little easy, but still highly enjoyable. I think it’s a game I will revisit in the future and I hope that Nintendo will consider releasing more of them.
By March 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent more time at home, protecting myself and those around me from potential exposure. Pokémon was a good distraction through those difficult times. On May 28th I purchased the Snorlax trading card to fully complete the Jungle set, and on September 28th 2020, I continued to grow my Pokémon card collection by taking the opportunity to purchase a substantial number of them from a friend. These included cards from the Base set all the way to the Great Encounters set. Adding these cards to my personal collection vastly increased it, now owning almost triple the number I had as a kid. Many of the cards helped to fill gaps in early sets I had been trying to finish and, thanks to the purchase, I was almost able to complete the Base set minus the Revive trainer card, which I obtained the following year.
On May 8th 2020, after reading about the game on Twitter, I bought Pokémon Puzzle Challenge from the Nintendo 3DS eShop and poured hours into it. I spent two summers in 2021 and 2022 finally reading the first two arcs of the Pokémon Adventures manga, a total of fourteen volumes. I had purchased them years previous, and decided that while I had all the extra time, I would break the seals on them and finally read them all. The story was a great departure from the games, highlighting an alternative story that gave some cool background on some of the characters and locations from Kanto and Johto. I really enjoyed them but felt the finale wasn’t as grand as it probably should have been.
To close out generation VIII, I played three further Pokémon releases: New Pokémon Snap on April 30th 2021, Brilliant Diamond on November 19th 2021, and Legends: Arceus on January 28th 2022. The original Pokémon Snap was a game that I didn’t play a great deal of in the past. I only owned the Wii Virtual Console version, but I remember hearing many fans in the community campaigning for a sequel. When it was finally announced, I was super happy for those who had waited so long for a new game. In my review, I praised the vibrant and beautiful habitats and how the game was a chill and relaxing title to wind down with after a busy day. As someone with a keen interest in photography, I felt New Pokémon Snap could even inspire young people into taking up the hobby themselves. Like the original, it was a little repetitive, but I did praise The Pokémon Company for their willingness to revisit a classic series.
Despite my initial excitement to return to the Sinnoh Region in Brilliant Diamond, fourteen years since I last explored it in Platinum, I was left underwhelmed and disappointed by what I experienced. These remakes were just a bit too faithful to the original games, stripped back with very little of the original content we saw in Platinum, something I thought would have been expected, especially after all previous remakes included content from their third pillar games. BDSP initially launched with glitches, placeholder music, and no finalised title screen, which is simply unacceptable. While I tried to disregard the online backlash the game was receiving and go in with an open mind, I didn’t find the game to be a fulfilling experience. I hope that a future playthrough will help me appreciate the game a little more, along with all its post-release updates.
Legends Arceus on the other hand was a huge surprise, a refreshing and enjoyable game, and something that I felt was a turning point for the franchise. While I was disappointed with the unbalanced battle system and graphics, the improvements over the traditional formula, such as seeing Pokémon roaming free across the Hisui region, being able to swap and select moves without having to use TM’s or a Move Tutor, improvements on selecting items in menus, and a variety of excursions, side quests and challenges to complete, were all massively welcome. Arceus was the breath of fresh air that this tired series needed, and I literally couldn’t put it down! I even completed the Pokédex and was left wanting more by the time it was finally all over. It was a joy to play, and made up for the poor offerings from Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. I crossed my fingers that a similar approach would be taken in generation IX.
It was because of Legends Arceus that I decided to make 2022 the start of righting the wrongs I had made with Pokémon throughout the years, determined to repurchase the games I let slip away and revisit titles I hold dear. I repurchased Pokémon Y with the intention of giving the game a second chance, and when I heard my friend was interested in selling off the majority of her Pokémon game collection, I decided to buy them all. Included in this assortment of games were copies of Pokémon White and Pokémon Platinum, two games I highlighted earlier that I had regrets about selling. Another was Pokémon White 2, which made up for missing it the first time around. Ever since the release of Pokémon GO, the price of Pokémon titles had risen drastically, and the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t help the situation, with demand rising for these legacy titles. I’m thankful that my friend sold me the games at a fair and reasonable price, otherwise there’s no way I could have ever justified owning them again.
On August 17th 2022, I also managed to complete another trading card set, thanks to my local friend Adam, who obtained a holographic Dark Charizard card from the Team Rocket release. It marked my fourth completed set. If I could travel back in time and tell my younger self that he would one day complete the Base, Jungle, Fossil and Team Rocket sets, he would never have believed it.
On November 2nd 2022, I visited the Trafford Centre in Manchester to take part in the official Pokémon Art Through the Ages event, which ran between October 17th to November 13th 2022, and the only place in the world where this event took place (at the time of writing). The Trafford Centre is a large indoor shopping and leisure complex, and the third-largest retail space in the UK. The venue was transformed to include artwork of the original 151 Pokémon. Attendees could obtain an activity booklet, which contained a page to input a secret code once you had located ten hidden art pieces around the centre, and a checklist as you discovered each of the Pokémon. Once attendees had worked out the secret code, they could visit The Trafford Centre’s GAME store to receive a limited edition poster, and anyone who found all 151 Pokémon could receive a special certificate for their efforts. In the central area of the complex there were movies and anime episodes being played on a large screen, and special art classes for younger children between 6-11 years old were being hosted, which is something I would have loved to have taken part in at that age.
While the event was aimed at younger fans, I was particularly excited by the opportunity to visit with nearby friends, and my first major visit away from home since the pandemic began. I really needed this escape and the Art Through the Ages event was one extra reason to push myself to make it happen. I attended the event with my two friends, Rob and Lina, and the three of us took on the challenge. We successfully obtained both the poster and certificate! I know that it’s a day I am going to look back fondly on over the years to come.
With just a few weeks before the release of generation IX, I collaborated with two friends, Step and Josh, to create a cover of “Celestial”, the song by Ed Sheeran used in the credits of the upcoming games. The project involved Step creating a chiptune arrangement of the theme, with some Pokémon influences from generations I and II. The vocals were provided by yours truly, and Josh created some amazing artwork, which Step included in an animated video he put together. Overall, we all had fun working on this project, and I hope that I am lucky enough to work on more Pokémon projects in the future.
By the end of generation VIII, I was super enthusiastic for Pokémon again. I had been impressed by the direction Game Freak had taken for Legends Arceus, and expressed to my friends that all I wanted from the next big title was an open world Pokémon game in a modern setting, building on Legends Arceus, and refining things further. Little did I know what was coming down the pipeline…
2022 – Present
On November 18th 2022, the ninth generation of Pokémon was released. I received a copy of Pokémon Scarlet from Nintendo, which would be my final video game review. My personal copy of Violet arrived later in the day. My starter was Quaxly, who I always knew would be chosen from the very second I saw him in the game’s announcement trailer back in February that year. I had been counting down the days for these new games, something I hadn’t done for many years. Within the first three weeks of its release, I had put more than one hundred hours into Pokémon Scarlet, exploring the vast open world of Paldea, completing all three storylines, and learning about the secrets within Area Zero.
There were many cool new Pokémon introduced in this generation, with lots of simplistic designs that felt reminiscent of generations I and II. I especially liked Clodsire, an evolved form of Paldean Wooper, and brand-new Pokémon such as Squawkabilly and Toedscool. It was also great to see Pokémon from very early generations get evolutions, such as an evolved form of Primeape called Annihilape, and an evolved Girafarig called Farigiraf. I was disappointed by the evolution of Dunsparce, who got the boring and uninspired name Dudunsparce, and a design that was literally a larger version of its pre-evolution. It deserved better!
Ever since Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee, I have felt that we have been moving towards something much grander and more impressive for the series. In those games, Pokémon were seen roaming the overworld, and then in Sword & Shield, Game Freak was exploring the concept of large open expanses with the inclusion of Wild Areas. Legends Arceus followed this and built on that idea even further. An open world Pokémon game felt like the end goal. Online co-op play with friends and connecting to each other’s worlds was a fun experience. While it didn’t have all the features I wanted to see, such as battling trainers, gyms and completing the story as a group effort, I hold out hope that we will see it happen in the future.
I felt compelled to complete the Pokédex once again, along with all the story content the game had to offer. Despite the fun and all the praise I had for Scarlet, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed and let down by the poor performance, graphical issues and game-breaking bugs I encountered at every turn. This incredible game deserved so much better and could have been one of the best Pokémon games. Sadly it was let down, in my opinion, by a lack of time, budget and an insistence by The Pokémon Company on sticking to their marketing strategy. I don’t believe the game will ever receive the updates required to satisfy me completely, but I do hope to see the game receive some performance improvements and continue to flourish in the future.
I beat Pokémon Scarlet’s Elite Four on November 25th 2022 with a team that included Flamigo (Josh, Lv 64), Dragonite (Lv 60), Quaquaval (Lv 65), Appletun (Lv 68), Krookodile (Lv 64), and Squawkabilly (Lv 70). I fully completed the story a day later on November 26th, and received confirmation of completing the Paldean Pokédex on November 29th.
I want to take a moment to highlight some notable mentions that didn’t really fit anywhere else within this feature:
Throughout the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of Pokémon remixes and arrangements provided by talented folk across the internet that have inspired me to make some of my own. While there are far too many to list here, the ones that stand out to me most are PokéRemixStudio, someone who I first started listening to in 2008, and Luigigigas more recently in 2019. I also remember spending a lot of time on OCRemix and Newgrounds listening to all the great Pokémon creations from those communities.
From February 12th to March 1st 2014, the social experiment of Twitch Plays Pokémon was broadcast, where over one million people came together to play the same game of Pokémon Red, resulting in utter chaos. It was something that I was fascinated and completely obsessed with for its duration. Seeing all of those players interacting with the game, with many trying hard to complete it, and others deliberately trying to derail things over twelve exciting days, was absolutely spectacular, and I absorbed everything about it. It was a very special time and I have some fantastic memories of watching it and taking part. Praise Helix!
I had a wonderful visit to London on December 20th 2015 to attend one of the Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions concerts at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, performed by the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Footage would appear on-screen, accompanied by an orchestral performance. It featured music from six generations of Pokémon: from Red and Blue to the latest releases of that time, Pokémon X and Y. This couldn’t have been a more perfect event for me, given my love of orchestral music and the Pokémon series. I was proud to share this special evening with my friend David, who very thoughtfully purchased my ticket as a gift, since both my birthday and the Christmas holiday season were around those dates.
Even more notably, I was fortunate enough to attend the event backstage along with members of the UK gaming press to watch the rehearsal. One of those in attendance from the press was my friend Daan, someone I had first spoken to online years previously, but had met up with on various occasions. Also in attendance was Joe Merrick from Serebii.net, the owner of the same fan website I had visited ever since I was a child, which was a little surreal. The concert began with the title theme of Pokémon, with box art scrolling across the screen for each version of the games. What I found fascinating about this opening was the cheers that could be heard from the audience, starting with overwhelming applause and cheering from people in my age group, down to the excited screams of children as we reached X and Y. It was at that moment, that I realised just how far-reaching these games had become, and that the franchise was spanning generations. Every member of that audience was connected through one series that we all had in common, no matter their age or background. Pokémon was for everyone.
Some other highlights from the evening were the Team Rocket Hideout from Red and Blue, N’s castle from Black and White, a truly epic Gold and Silver arrangement featuring the Dragon’s Den, the battle with Red on Mt. Silver, and a fun encore that included the original Pokémon anime theme, where the audience sang along. I was amused by the confusion when the second verse came in, as many people didn’t seem to know the lyrics, and I’m pleased to confirm I was not one of them. I sang loudly and proudly, enjoying every second of it. Once the concert concluded, I was able to meet up with Jeron Moore who was the Producer of the show. I had met Jeron previously due to my work covering his productions, and he was kind enough to sign a poster for me.
I was able to reconvene with Daan to share our thoughts on the concert. On the way back to our hotels, I remember us breaking out into song with a rather awful rendition of the Pokémon theme. While I cringe at the video footage I captured of that moment, I remember our spirits were high and we were having a lot of fun! It’s sad to consider that the concert stopped touring the following year, and Chad Seiter’s fantastic arrangements were never made officially available for purchase. I want to say a big thank you to Chad for allowing me to relive those happy memories in the presence of other fans. Additionally, a thanks to Jeron, for inviting me to those rehearsals and for some wonderful memories I was fortunate enough to experience.
In August 2022, I relaunched my old Pokémon community, almost twenty years after I first created it, and decided to track down many of its original users that used to visit back in the day, inviting them to join the new forum. It was quite the nostalgia trip. Being able to reconnect with old forum friends and learn how far they have come in life was very special. While I don’t know what the future holds for Shining Misdreavus, I am glad I was able to bring people together again to talk about this amazing series, whether it be the good ol’ days, or to discuss the most recent titles.
Throughout 2022, I played the first eight generations of Pokémon again in the run-up to Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. It was a great experience, because it not only showed me just how far the games had come throughout the years, it gave me the opportunity to look at them again in a different light. I acknowledge how dated the original Yellow and Crystal Game Boy titles have become, but how amazingly well Emerald and Platinum have held up. I also have a lot more admiration for White and its fantastic story now. I even realised I don’t dislike Y as much as I thought I did, and was surprised by how much generations VII and VIII held your hand.
I have recognised that the way I judge a Pokémon title should not be based on how functional the games are compared to modern titles, but how those games made me feel at the time of release and the memories I have of them. For example, while I recognise that Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were objectively better games than Crystal, they can’t erase the cherished memories of my time with Crystal. Nostalgia is a powerful thing!
Over the years, I have been able to reach out to some notable people that worked on the original Pokémon Red and Blue titles. The first is Junichi Masuda, someone who I have expressed my admiration for across this feature. I felt so blessed to actually have the opportunity to thank one of the people responsible for the music of the original games. I am also very grateful to my friend Antoine for translating my messages back and forth to make this connection a reality. On a side note, back in December 2014 I indirectly received Junichi Masuda and Game Freak designer Shigeru Ohmori’s autographs, who had attended an EON Ticket distribution event in the UK for Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire the previous month. This was made possible thanks to a contact who collected them on my behalf. I was incredibly appreciative, and I will continue to treasure it.
The second person I was able to speak to directly was Nob Ogasawara, the localiser on a massive number of Pokémon titles, from the original Red and Blue, to Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky. In my exchanges with Nob, I was able to express my appreciation for his work, and being the one responsible for localising the game so English-speaking fans, such as myself, could enjoy them. He was thankful and appreciated my comments.
As of December 31st 2022, this is where my adventure concludes. From this point forward, I will continue to explore the Pokémon series through generation IX, and hopefully for many generations to come. In 2023, I plan to replay many other Pokémon titles such as revisiting FireRed, Omega Ruby, Brilliant Diamond and for the very first time, I will finally play Pokémon White 2, and see what I originally missed out on. I plan to collect more Pokémon trading card sets, with the hope of getting one step closer to completing the four Neo series that I was unable to finish during its original run, or as much of it as I can.
A piece of writing on this scale is something I have wanted to write for years. However, I severely underestimated just how many memories I wanted to highlight, and maybe it went a bit too far. If you were able to stick with it for this long, thank you so much! While researching this project, I spoke to friends, went back over old chat logs to seek clarification on specific facts, and even dug out old till receipts I had conveniently kept hold of in order to discover the dates I first played specific titles, and plot my Pokémon adventures as accurately as possible.
Pokémon has left a mark on me that I don’t think I will ever be able to shift, even if I wanted to. It has been a huge source of inspiration to me, most notably in producing and directing half a dozen musical projects between 2011 and 2021. It was thanks to Pokémon that I learned about responsibility in leading a community and the source of many meaningful friendships, especially those I met online during some challenging times.
I will continue to add further updates to this document retroactively and refine it even further with feedback and support from others. This will become a record of my time with Pokémon, in the hope that it may interest others who may wish to hear the story of a fan who has Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
To be Continued
I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Roy C, Mlu, Stephen Robe, Renan Greca, Benjamin Deadweight, KomodoZero and Leon Fletcher for their assistance and guidance in proofreading this document. Without their help I would have struggled to maintain a good standard of writing.
My deepest gratitude to the following online Pokémon communities I visited through childhood and to the present day: Cave of Dragonflies, Marills World, Mew’s Hangout, Pokechow, Pokémon Crater, Pokémon Elite 2000, Pokéschool, Seafoam Island, Serebii, Shining Misdreavus, The Pika Club, and many other websites and forums which were hangouts where I first started to form friendships online, and were a good distraction during difficult times.
I very much appreciate the following friends, acquaintances, team members and people who were happy to accommodate my passion for Pokémon throughout the years: Aaron K, Adam P, Adam W, Affie L, Akeem L, Alexandre H, Amanda V, Anthony A, Antoine F, Ash W, Axel H, Beki H, Blake M, Brandon C, Brian J, Carlos V, Carwyn S, Chaoskyros, Charlie B, CutestFlareon, Daan K, Danior S, David L, David P, DJ Bouche, Dominic W, Dragonfree, Farhad M, Gavin L, James B, James Y, Jaslyn W, Jeron M, Jesse S, Josh P, Joshua B, Julia S, Julie T, Kaya M, Ken S, Kevin P, Khalid A, Komodo Z, Leon F, Leslie S, Lina P, Lucent, Mason D, Matthew P, Michelle M, Mike S, Mlu, Nigel S, Paul M, Phil B, Radu P, Rae K, Raymond Y, Renan G, René A, Rich H, Rob G, Ro K, Robert P, Roy C, Ryan C, Samuel L, Sean F, Shaun H, SJEevee, Skarto A, Stephen R, Stephen T, Stephan W, Strince, Talcott B, Tony M, Torvusbolt, Trista M, Vanessa A, Vikki L, Vincent N, Yavuz Y, Zen, and to the many others I have yet to add to these acknowledgements, I will hold on to the happy memories you have given me, and cherish them.
My heartfelt gratitude to members of the Harmony of a Champion album: Alexandre C, Alex P, Allan H, Alma H, Angie A, Ben W, Bernardo L, Christopher H, Christopher W, Connor R, Dan F, Daniel JW, Doug P, François-Xavier B, Georg C, Gina Z, Heather W, Hugo C, Jared C, Jeff B, Jeremiah B, Jessica O, Jonny A, Josh A, Julia S, Kaitlyn R, Kristin N, Kuno C, Laura I, Lizzie J, Lore G, Marc-Antoine B, MaryKate HW, Matheus S, Michael H, Miki S, Omar R, Patti R, Rachel S, Roselie S, Ryan S, Sam S, Samuel L, Sarah B, Sharon D, Spencer B, Steampianist, Stephan W, Steve P, Tommy R, Viking J, Xiaohu A, and Zack P. Extra special thanks to the Folklore Guild and the L’Orchestre de Jeux, and everyone else who worked super hard on this very special licensed album to raise money for Child’s Play Charity.
I am forever grateful to The Pokémon Company (Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures) for creating Pokémon, and to its creator: Satoshi Tajiri. Throughout the years my love for the series has come and gone, but I will be eternally thankful for the memories you have given me.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the generosity and love of my mother, who provided me with my first Pokémon game and console, and for supporting my passion for the series as a child. Thank you for that wonderful gift which I continue to cherish.
Darren is a huge Nintendo fan from the days of the Gameboy Color and his copy of Pokémon Blue. Over time, he developed a passion for many Nintendo franchises, including Metroid. His favourite system is the Wii.
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