“Gotta catch ‘em all!”: the Pokemon series celebrates its 20th anniversary


BY CORY McCORMICK
Staff Writer

“Gotta catch ’em all!” I remember the first time I ever heard that infamous catchphrase. The year was 1999, which was a few years after the first Pokemon games were released in Japan. I was six years old, and I was eating my usual breakfast: Eggo waffles. It was Saturday morning, so I was also watching cartoons. Suddenly this new cartoon that I had never seen before started playing. The narrator was describing a world very different from ours, a world filled with these animal-like creatures known as Pokemon, who could be captured and trained to battle!  The minute that the theme song started, and I heard that “gotta catch ‘em all” at the end, I was hooked.

This cute little guy is called Pikachu! He is easily the most popular Pokemon.
This cute little guy is called Pikachu! He is easily the most popular Pokemon.

In the following months, I witnessed the increasing popularity of Pokemon firsthand. All of the kids in school had Pokemon cards, and if they were really lucky, their parents also bought them a GameBoy so they could become their own Pokemon Master, like Ash Ketchum the main character from the cartoon. After months of watching other people play the games, battling each other and making their own Pokemon teams, I couldn’t take it anymore; I had to get a GameBoy.

Luckily for me, my birthday was right around the corner. When my mom asked me what I wanted I, of course, answered with “a GameBoy Color with Pokemon!” Sure enough, on the morning of my birthday, I opened up a brand new teal GameBoy Color, and my very first Pokemon game: Pokemon Gold.

No other game beforehand captured my interest quite like Pokemon. It perfectly emulated the feeling of going on your own adventure by giving you control of a nameless character with no personality with only one objective: catch all of the Pokemon you can. This allowed me to really immerse myself in the game. Every day I encountered new and different Pokemon to catch, and the feeling of finally acquiring a gym badge after a long battle with another trainer was one that couldn’t be matched. It was like I was going on my own Pokemon adventure from the TV show, and I loved it.

Fast forward 16 years to 2016, the 20th anniversary of the release of the first game and I still get that same feeling every time I start a new Pokemon game, that feeling of adventure and discovery. Apparently I’m not the only one, as the franchise has managed to sell over 200 million copies worldwide, and that’s only counting the video games! In total, the Pokemon franchise has grossed over $37.76 billion and is the second most successful video game franchise, right behind Nintendo’s Mario, which is really quite a feat. Pokemon even managed to snag a coveted Super Bowl commercial spot this year for the first time.

So what is it that has kept people interested in this series for so long? With this question in mind, I interviewed a few Pokemon lovers.

 

 So, what first got you into Pokemon?

Charessa Sistek showing off her poke-a-ball at a local convention.
Charessa Sistek showing off her poke-a-ball at a local convention.

Michael Sistek: “I got into Pokemon because my parents bought me a GameBoy Pocket with Pokemon Yellow. I never even knew what it was before that, but it captured me instantly.”

Charessa Sistek: “Michael is what got me into Pokemon, actually. I would sit and watch him play for hours.”

Deric Phan: “The cartoon, of course.”

What has kept you a Pokemon fan for so long?

Michael: “I just really love the gameplay and the design of the Pokemon, so I keep playing the games and probably always will.”

Charessa: “It’s been such an integral part of my life that I couldn’t imagine life without it. It’s like an old friend that’s stayed with me through the years.”

Deric: “A mix of nostalgia and probably hype for the new games. It’s always fun trying to figure out what new Pokemon are going to be introduced!”

Is there anything about the series in particular that you really love?

Deric Phan with a few of his Pokemon friends Pikachu and Jiggly Puff.
Deric Phan with a few of his Pokemon friends Pikachu and Jiggly Puff.

Michael: “The aesthetics of raising a team of Pokemon that’s unique to me. Also, the catering to my ‘completionist’ habits with more and more Pokemon and items to get.”

Charessa: “The designs of the Pokemon, especially the original 151. They’re creative and cute, and I love cute things! Plus, some are just so cool that it feels like a status symbol when you have them.”

Deric: “The games have a main character with no real personality, so it’s easy to fulfill the Pokemon fantasy it’s trying to sell.”

It’s clear that Pokemon has become a very large part of people’s lives in its 20 year lifespan, and for good reason. Pokemon allows gamers to feel like a kid again, and encourages people to connect with each other through trading and battling. Every new game feels like a brand new adventure, as the developers are constantly incorporating new Pokemon to catch in each game. One thing is for sure, as long as there’s Pokemon, I’m always going to want to catch them all!

Even though Pikachu is the crowd favorite, Charmander has always been my personal favorite.
Even though Pikachu is the crowd favorite, Charmander has always been my personal favorite.