Lightning has struck twice. Twenty years after the first Pokémon phenomenon, Pokémon mania has invaded the world again. In fact, Pokémon Go has literally put Pokémon into the real world… well sort of. The augmented reality technology utilized by the app is a game changing idea. Piggybacking off of Google Maps, it superimposes the Pokémon world (complete with Pokémon, Pokéstops, and Pokégyms) on top of the real world. Accordingly, the app allows you to see this world and Pokémon that pop up and can be caught. I absolutely love the game. It fits perfectly into my daily routine. I look for and catch Pokémon on my commute to and from work. It also gives me another fun thing to do on my 8 mile runs through Brooklyn. It complements things that I am already doing instead of requiring me to allocate a lot of my personal time just to play it. For the users who generally did not go outside much before the game was released, it is a great way to encourage young people to be more active. For me, it has provided extra motivation to exercise even though it has been extremely humid and hot in New York recently. One of the best attributes of the game is that players of varying dedication can enjoy it. If you want to level your trainer and Pokémon to battle competitively at the Pokégyms, you can play regularly and perfect all the various techniques to maximize your experience points. If you just want to catch Pokémon casually to satisfy your inner child, you can just log on when you want and hurl Pokéballs. Of course, it is an exciting game for the current generation of children who will fall into both buckets. In my opinion, the enduring legacy of Pokémon Go will be its ushering of the augmented reality function. I truly believe it, along with virtual reality (e.g. Occulus Rift), will be the enhanced way of playing video games in the future. When we look back years from now, Pokémon Go will be the Atari of this era: a primitive version of the technology which will be dramatically upgraded in the future.
Well before Pokémon Go, the Pokémon anime series [Indigo League] and the video games, Pokémon Red and Blue versions for Game Boy, were both unleashed upon North America in the fall of 1998. The mania that quickly ensued is a vivid memory from my childhood. In terms of cartoons/ anime, the only series I enjoyed more during my childhood are Spider-Man: The Animated Series, X-Men: The Animated Series, and Dragon Ball Z. When Pokémon was released, I would wake up early in the morning to watch an episode or set the VCR recorder to tape it so I could watch it after school. At the end of each episode, there was a rap that names 30 Pokémon. Over the course of five consecutive episodes, all 150 1st generation Pokémon were named. I could not get enough. The series follows the adventures of 10 year old, Ash Ketchum, as he embarks on a journey to become a Pokémon master and the “very best like no one ever was”. The age of the protagonist is perfect for its target audience. In the pilot episode, Pokémon – I Choose You, Ash can get a beginner’s Pokémon trainer license at age 10 and choose one of the three starter Pokémon [Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander] from local Pokémon expert, Professor Oak. During the night before he is allowed to visit Professor Oak’s lab to choose, he is so excited that he cannot contain his excitement and sleep. He watches a Pokémon battle on television before his mom scolds him for not going to sleep. Unfortunately, he breaks his alarm clock in his sleep and oversleeps. When he gets to Professor Oak’s laboratory, Oak’s grandson Gary has already selected his Pokémon and leaving. He arrogantly mocks Ash for being late. Moreover, he brags that he selected the best Pokémon but will not tell Ash since he would have known if he were on time. Eventually, we find out he chose Squirtle in a later episode. Gary is Ash’s rival and a secondary antagonist. He is generally referenced off screen. He seems to always be one step ahead of Ash. Whenever Ash teleconferences Professor Oak about his accomplishments, Oak always has a story about one of Gary’s feats that one ups Ash.
When Ash gets inside Professor Oak’s laboratory, he is disheartened to find out that all three starters have been chosen by other trainers. Accordingly, he is desperate to get any Pokémon. Oak offers the “defective” Pikachu. As we know, he is the cute star of the series who steals the hearts of fans. The Pokémon is rebellious and electrocutes Ash and Oak as soon as he is let out of his Pokéball. Once it is out, it also refuses to go back into its ball which is atypical of most Pokémon. For Ash’s journey, Oak also provides him a Pokédex, which identifies Ash as a trainer as well as Pokémon that appear in his journey, and Pokéballs to catch additional Pokémon. Naturally, Ash and Pikachu’s journey is off to a rough start. Pikachu does not to listen to Ash. When Ash attempts to catch a Pidgey, Pikachu refuses to help attack it to weaken it for capture and laughs as Ash fails. Eventually, Ash accidentally throws a rock at a Spearow which attacks them. When Pikachu fights it off, the Spearow calls for its flock which critically injures Pikachu. In response, Ash stands up to the Spearows to protect Pikachu. Inspired by his selflessness, Pikachu uses his immense electrical attack to defeat the Spearows. It is the key moment defining the bond and friendship of Ash and his Pikachu that transcends the series. During the mad scramble against the Spearows, Ash also grabs a bike from a girl Misty. The bike is destroyed when Pikachu unleashes his electricity to save them. Since Ash cannot pay for the bike, Misty decides to follow him on his journey until he can. Obviously, their relationship is contentious due to the nature of how they met. She is a bit of a know-it-all and he is kind of an idiot savant. At times, she insults him for his incompetence. Other times, she tries to be helpful and give him advice. In either situation, Ash is stubborn and wants to prove he can do it on his own without any help. Of course, they eventually become friends although they often argue. It is a love-hate relationship.
The other member of Ash’s entourage is Brock. In order for Ash to fight in leagues, he needs to win a certain member of Gym Badges. The first Gym Leader he faces is Brock of the Pewter City Gym. Since the gym awards the Boulder Badge, Brock features a lineup of rock Pokémon that includes Geodude and Onix. Since Pikachu’s electric attacks are ineffective against rock types, it is intimidated and defeated by the gigantic Onix. Naturally, Ash is crushed by the loss but is determined to come back and win. With the help of a mysterious man named Flint, he supercharges Pikachu at a power plant. At the same time, he also learns that Brock’s father abandoned his family to become a Pokémon trainer so Brock is burdened with the responsibility of taking care of all his younger siblings. He cooks, cleans, and even sows clothes. In the rematch, Ash’s powered up Pikachu’s electric attack overpowers Brock’s Geodude. Accordingly, Brock sends out his Onix again. Pikachu is still intimidated by Onix and cannot hurt it. The tide is changed when Pikachu’s electric attack sets off the sprinklers. Rock Pokémon are weak against water. Consequently, Onix is significantly weakened by the incident and is ripe for Pikachu to defeat. However, Brock is the hero that his siblings look up to and beg Ash not to instruct Pikachu to knock out Onix. Of course, Ash calls off the attack and recalls Pikachu. As Ash is leaving the city, Brock catches up with him and awards him the Boulder Patch anyway. In addition, Flint reveals that he is Brock’s father and ready to return and take care of his children. It releases Brock of the responsibilities and allows him to pursue his goal of being the best Pokémon breeder ever. As a result, he joins Team Ash for the adventure. Contrary to the responsible young man he is portrayed as in his first episode, he becomes a bit of a clown the rest of the series. He usually becomes immediately infatuated with any pretty girl he sees and has hearts in his eyes.
The main antagonists in the series are Jessie and James of Team Rocket and their talking Meowth. Like Pikachu, Meowth is never in a Pokéball. Their goal is to steal rare and powerful Pokémon for the leader of Team Rocket, whose identity is left as a mystery at the beginning of the series. Jesse has a snakelike Pokémon, Ekans, while James has a spherical one filled with poisonous gas, Koffing. In their first confrontation with Ash, they are wowed by the power of Pikachu’s electric attack that hits them. As a result, they become obsessed with trying to steal Ash’s Pikachu. While Jesse and James serve as villains, they are in the story more for comic relief. Their entrance dance and motto number is completely ridiculous but funny. They alternate lines as they declare “Prepare for trouble, And Make it double! To protect the world from devastation, to unite all people within our nation, to denounce the evil of truth and love, to extend our reach to the stars of above. Jessie! James! Team Rocket blast off at the speed of light! Surrender now or prepare to fight!” Meowth finishes the entrance by saying “Meowth, That’s right!” Jessie and James are generally depicted as inept and incompetent throughout the series. Their schemes are often disasters. As a recurring joke, they are often electrocuted by Pikachu as insult to injury after they are defeated. The most memorable plot they were apart of was Team Rocket’s use of the luxury cruise ship, the S.S. Anne, to lure in Pokémon trainers so they can steal their Pokémon. Eventually, Ash uncovers the scheme and leads a counterattack against Team Rocket. In the ensuing battle, the ship takes on water and eventually sinks. Ash and his friends, Jesse and James, and Meowth are stranded out at sea together for a bit before they end up on an island with giant Pokémon, which is actually a theme park. Again, Jessie, James, and Meowth are comic relief. Their mysterious leader of Team Rocket is the real big bad.
The main episodes are the ones when Ash battles for the Gym Badges. Sometimes, he earns them by winning. Other times, he is given them for heroic deeds similar to how Brock gave him the Boulder Badge. The Gym Leaders are in different cities and generally deploy a certain type of Pokémon. Below are a list of the cities, name of the Gym badges, Gym Leaders, and the Pokémon type they are known for deploying in battle:
|City||Gym Badge||Gym Leader||Pokémon Type|
|Cerulean City||Cascade||Lily, Daisy, Violet||Water|
|Vermillion City||Thunder||Lt. Surge||Electricity|
A few of the gyms are more memorable than the rest. In Cerulean City, sisters Lily, Daisy, and Violet have converted their gym to an aquatic show similar to SeaWorld. They offer to just give the Cascade Badge to Ash without a Pokémon battle. However, Misty is actually their fourth sister. Accordingly, she is also a Gym Leader. Ash and Misty battle but are interrupted by a scheme from Team Rocket to steal all the water Pokémon from the gym. In the end, Ash gets the badge after he stops Team Rocket and saves the Pokémon. Another memorable gym is Vermillion City. When Ash faces off with its Gym Leader Lt. Surge, his Pikachu is significantly outclassed by the evolved version of Pikachu, Raichu. Afterwards, Ash is faced with a decision whether to use a Thunder Stone to evolve his Pikachu. If he chooses to, it will change Pikachu forever and it cannot be reversed. Eventually, he allows Pikachu to choose. True to its nature, it opts to maintain its individuality and whacks the stone away. Of course, Pikachu finds a way to defeat Raichu in the rematch: by utilizing its speed. For a show for children that is mostly for fun, it is a refreshingly strong message that kids should be proud of who they are and not change just to sell out for a specific situation if they are uncomfortable with it.
Without a doubt, Sabrina is the most creepy and scary Gym Leader of the bunch. Like her Pokémon, she has psychic abilities. She has two extreme personalities that split into two individuals: a playful, cheery little girl and an apathetic, sadistic dark figure. When she defeats Ash in a match, she shrinks him, Misty, and Brock and imprisons them in a small dollhouse. Later, she turns Misty and Brock into dolls, which is the same fate she inflicted on her own mother. Even as an adult looking back at Sabrina retrospectively, I get the chills. As we know, psychic Pokémon are vulnerable to ghost Pokémon. It launches a side quest to Lavender Town. Ironically, the ghost Pokémon are not really scary at all unlike Sabrina. Ash enters a “Tower of Terror” to capture one. Ghastly and its evolved forms, Haunter and Gengar, await in the tower. They are practical jokesters that just want some playmates to entertain them. The episode is like a Scoobie Doo episode where Ash and his Pokémon are petrified by the ghosts before they realize they are harmless and actually quite fun. In the end, the Haunter agrees to join Ash and help him defeat Sabrina by making her laugh which fuses the two personalities back together to form one balanced individual. Sabrina is one of seven Gym Leaders that lead to the eighth and final gym in Viridian City. The big reveal is that its Gym Leader, Giovanni, is also the leader of Team Rocket. Just like the pilot episode, Gary Oak beats Ash into the gym. Although he quickly defeats Giovanni’s first two Pokémon, Giovanni unleashes his trump card: the legendary Mewto. Its psychic attacks totally overwhelm Gary. When Ash gets a chance to enter the gym, Giovanni has left to attend to an important matter. Consequently, he leaves Jesse and James to battle as the gym leaders and even leaves three of his powerful Pokémon to help them. Naturally, they are aloof and lose to Ash despite trying to cheat. Afterwards, Ash has enough badges to enter the Pokémon League to battle.
In addition to the Gym battles, the most memorable episodes are the ones when Ash acquires the three starters that he missed out on during the pilot episode: Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander. Of course, all three are fan favorites. Ash meets a Bulbasaur who serves as a bodyguard for injured and abandoned Pokémon living in the “Hidden Village”, run by a girl named Melanie. Bulbasaur protects the village against Pokémon trainers. Naturally, it distrusts and dislikes Ash. Eventually, Ash gains its trust by saving the Pokémon from Team Rocket. Melanie suggests Bulbasaur go with Ash so it can maximize its development. Although Bulbasaur agrees, it still wants Ash to battle him to earn it. Obviously, Ash catches it. In terms of Squirtle, it is the former leader of the “Squirtle Squad” which is a Pokémon gang. It is a funny idea having Squirtles acting like gangsters. Initially, Meowth manipulates Squirtle into helping them attack Ash by appealing to its distrusts of humans. Of course, Team Rocket’s true colors show themselves and Ash and Squirtle unite against them. The saddest of the three starter stories is Charmander. It is a Pokémon abandoned by its trainer and practically left for dead. Eventually, Ash rescues an extremely weakened Charmander from the rain and a flock of Spearow before rushing it to a hospital to save it. Naturally, Ash earns its loyalty. However, Charmander becomes a problem when it evolves into Charmeleon and later Charizard. It becomes moody and rebellious. It often shoots fire at Ash and chooses to ignore Ash whenever it feels like it. It is a very similar story to Ash and Pikachu in the pilot episode. One would assume it would be end up at the same conclusion that includes a bonding moment. Unfortunately, the relationship does not turn around during the Indigo League. Near the end of the original series, Charizard is Ash’s last remaining Pokémon in the quarterfinals of the Pokémon league. It easily defeats the first opposing Pokémon it faces. When it is down to Charizard and the last Pokémon of the other trainer, Charizard becomes disinterested in the battle and simply lies down and causes Ash to lose the match. Nevertheless, Charmander is definitely my favorite of the starter Pokémon. Who does not like a fire breathing dragon?
In addition to the three starter Pokémon episodes, another memorable episode relates to the Eevee brothers. The Eevee Pokémon is a very unique one. It can evolve into a Flareon (fire), Vaporean (Water) and Jolteon (Electricity). It is a pretty cool quality to have. The names of them in the show are appropriately Pyro, Rainer, and Sparky respectively. If you are playing Pokémon Go, Eevee will evolve into one of the three forms randomly. However, you can choose by naming it one of those three names (e.g. Pyro to evolve into a Flareon. In The Battling Evevee Brothers, the fourth and youngest brother, Mikey, has an unevolved Eevee but is being pressured by his brothers to evolve it. It is a similar episode to the one when Pikachu and Ash decide not to evolve despite pressure to do so in order to defeat a powerful adversary. Again, the storyline is great in that it tells young kids to be true to themselves and not succumb to peer pressure. Predictably, the Eevee storyline resolves itself in the same way. The unevolved Eevee proves that it is just as capable as its evolved versions.
Although the television series is fun for young kids, I doubt Pokémon becomes the mania it ends up being without the genius move of concurrently pairing it with the release of the Gameboy game. In addition to watching Ash out on his adventures, young fans could enjoy the journey themselves on a handheld video game console. I remember wanting a Gameboy and the Pokémon games very badly. My parents did not give out allowances or gifts (e.g. birthday, Christmas, etc.). From their perspective, they provided everything my siblings and I needed so those things should be considered gifts. Looking back, I can appreciate the important life lessons and values it taught me. In the moment back in 1998, I needed to figure out a way to get my hands on a Gameboy and the Pokémon games. I negotiated a deal with my mom to get $1 a week if I did a bunch of chores. Obviously, I needed a union representative because I was grossly underpaid. Nevertheless, my thought was that I would eventually get to play the game if I was diligent and patient by working and saving money. More importantly, it got me in the right direction. Eventually, my mom saw how hard I was trying to work. Of course, she also just wants her children to be happy. Well before the year plus time that I thought it would take for me to save up enough to get and play the game, my parents bought my brother and I two refurbished Gameboys and both versions of the original game, the Blue and Red Versions. Like Ash Ketchum, I finally entered the virtual world of Pokémon to prove that I was the best.
The game delivers in every way a young Pokémon fan could have ever dreamed. It is the exact journey Ash goes on in the television series except that the player does not oversleep and actually gets to pick any of the three starter Pokémon he wants. The storylines are the same too, from the battling the same Gym Leaders at the Pokégyms to cruising on the S.S. Anne. Of course, it culminates with a battle with Giovanni at the Viridian Gym against his Mewto. Bulbasaur is the best Pokémon to start with since plant types are strong against the first two gyms, Brock’s rock types in Pewter City and Misty and her sisters’ water types in Cerulean City. Squirtle is the second easiest to start with since it is strong against the rock types. Charmander presents the most difficult path because it is weak against both the rock and water types. Pokémon are generally found in the grass and other geography (e.g. edge of a beach touching the water). A player moves up and down the areas with Pokémon until they appear and engages in battle. A player will then battle them with his own Pokémon to weaken the wild Pokémon so it can be captured with a Pokéball. The wild Pokémon can also run or be knocked out before they are captured so it is a delicate balance of weakening then throwing the ball at the optimal time. As you go further into the game, you will be able to purchase stronger balls with higher catch rates, Great Balls and Ultra Balls. In addition, you will get a hold of a single Master Ball. It automatically captures any Pokémon it is thrown at even if it is at full strength. They are especially useful against the three legendary birds (Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos) and Mewto [if you are lucky enough to encounter it since I have never in the many times I have played all the way through] since they are extremely difficult to catch. While there are various ways to level Pokémon, the strongest ones will be the ones a trainer catches in its original form and levels through battles. As such, a trainer’s core team should be built and evolved through this manner. One of the fun functions of the game is that two different players can link their Gameboys together to battle and trade Pokémon. Accordingly, spending the time to correctly level makes a huge difference when you are dueling with friends. Even when you play through the story, you can play to level Pokémon and capture all 150 for your Pokédex.
Of course, players eventually took advantage of glitches and loopholes in the game. The first trick is the one that allows a player to replicate a Master Ball, or any other item, an infinite amount of times. A player did it by performing the following steps:
- Placing the desired item in the 6th slot of your bag or inventory.
- Fly to Viridian City and walk north until you reach the old guy on the road. Answer that you are not in a hurry and watch him demonstrate how to catch Pokémon.
- Fly to Cinnabar Island and surf on the right side of the island until you find Missingno, the glitch Pokémon that looks like a defective legendary bird. The trick is completed once you fight and defeat it.
I cannot count the number of times I did it. I have also caught the Missingo and it is a pretty powerful Pokémon to use in battle. Infinite Master Balls made catching any Pokémon quick and easy. Of course, the only area where a Master Ball could not be used is the Safari Zone. To make matters worse, you cannot even use your Pokémon to weaken them. There are two rare bug Pokémon in the Zone, Pinsir or Scyther depending on the version of the game, as well as Chansey. It is already difficult to encounter any of the three Pokémon in the Zone. For this reason, it is excruciatingly frustrating to engage them and not catch them. Of course, another glitch in the game allowed me to avoid wasting countless hours trying to get these rare Pokémon or find Mewto. The loophole involves cloning Pokémon through the trading function. The first Pokémon that is traded should be the one collaborating trainers want to clone. After it is transferred, the cord needs to be pulled to interrupt the trading process so that the sender keeps the Pokémon they wanted cloned. The receiver will still lose whatever Pokémon he sends so sacrificing a common one, such as Rattata, is standard operating procedure. This trick allowed me to get the other two starter Pokémon I did not select at the beginning, Pinsir, Scyther, Chansey, Mewto, and Mew. I still remember my excitement when my friend agreed to clone them for me and we did it during lunchtime in the cafeteria.
The game was incredibly fun during my childhood. I remember playing it during the bus ride to and from school and during lunch. During my 8th grade science fair, it seemed like everyone had the game. I had a thrilling day battling my fellow classmates. Ten years after and when I was in college, I decided to crack out the Gameboy again and play Pokémon to bring me down memory lane. It was still as amazingly fun as it was when I was a decade younger. Of course, I now have Pokémon Go and am incredibly entertained again.
I wanna be the very best
Like no one ever was
To catch them is my real test
To train them is my cause
I will travel across the land
Searching far and wide
Teach pokemon to understand
The power that’s inside
Pokemon! Gotta catch ‘em all! It’s you and me
I know it’s my destiny,
Pokemon! Oh you’re my best friend
In a world we must defend
Pokemon! A heart so true
Our courage will pull us through,
You teach me and I’ll teach you,
Pokemon! Gotta catch’em all