(NOTE: I take no credit for the pictures, except for the sprite sheet one.)
As I type this, I’m taking the time to get used to play with a Nintendo DS Lite. It’s my first new handheld in 10 years, and just like 10 years ago, the first game I have for it is a Pokemon game. The Pokemon series is one of a scant few RPG titles that keep all the elements that I love from the genre, without giving me the heart palpitations, migraines or fatigue of other RPG titles. It’s also one of a few titles that has always lived by the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. (I wish to God SEGA would learn this.)
But some things have changed. Some of those changes are welcome, like how TM’s are now reusable, no longer causing me the heartbreak of choosing when and where to use my only special moves. Another nice change is that I can trade Pokemon anywhere ~ not just in front of Nurse Joy ~ and that Poke Marts are now stationed inside the Poke Center.
But some things shouldn’t have changed.
10 years ago, I obtained my very first Pokemon RPG ~ Pokemon Silver. One feature of the Gold/Silver/Crystal series is that you can trade the Kanto region Pokemon back and forth with Red/Blue/Yellow and the Japan only Green, provided that you have not taught them any Gold/Silver moves, use the correct link cable and your country’s games.
Now? No way. If I want to import my Gameboy Advance series of Pokemon into one of the DS games, I have to beat the DS game, go through a process to unlock a new area, import the GBA Pokemon to Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, re-capture them, then do this all over again if I want that Pokemon in Black or White. SHEESH whatever happened to the time machine?
10 years ago, your starter trainer was a boy, unless you were playing Pokemon Crystal. Back then, it was the first and only game to give you the choice of a female lead ~ one that acted exactly the same as the male lead and never had an attitude problem. She kind of dressed her age too.
Now as you start ANY Pokemon RPG, you get to choose between a boy and a girl trainer.
Now in all of the Pokemon RPG’s your lead trainer is 10 years old. His or her rival is also 10, as well as any additional rival you may have. In some games, you may even battle a Gym Leader who is between 10-12 years old, though most Gym Leaders are adults. Misty is the most famous kid leader at age 12 in Pokemon Red/Blue/Green/Yellow/Leaf Green/Fire Red, and at age 15 in Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal. Misty made more than a few moms upset once upon a time, because Misty does not dress like a 12 year old. Instead, she wears precious little, as seen in the anime.
All of the other Poke Tweens dressed their age.
Now?? Take a look at this:
How many of those sprites look like actual tweens? Has anybody at Game Freak ever SEEN a tween before?? Good God, I’m going to be 25 years old my next birthday, and even I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing shorts as tiny as my trainer in Pokemon White. But this kid is 10?!? And the boys look like angry little mountain men! Which reminds me, have you all noticed how creepy Ash Ketchum is getting?
(Pic is from www.serebii.net my all time favorite Pokemon spot) Ok, when I started watching Pokemon, it was 1997. We were both 10. (My b-day is in November) How is it that I grew up and he hasn’t yet? What’s more, his hair is turning grey-blue, and that voice is so gravely and awful. I’m expecting him to leap out at me any second now, yelling “HEY! Hey little girl. Little girl wanna have a Pokemon battle? C’mon little girl show me your Pokemon!!” Piiii~iiiiiika….
10 years ago there were 251 Pokemon, and my brother and I were still able to name every last one of them by heart. By this time the Pokerap had been yoinked from television (since nobody wanted to name THAT many Pokemon) so we just had random issues of Pojo’s Anime and Beckett Pokemon Monthly to help us name them all. But still, Professors Oak and Elm reminded me that I had to catch ‘em all.
Now? There’s 649 Pokemon total, and Professor Juniper just told me to do the best I can and grow as a person. At this point, she’d like me to fill up the Pokedex just to see how many Unova region Pokemon I can find, but it’s not totally necessary for me to catch all 649, though data for all of them exists in my tiny chip.
And there’s another change too! Gone are the days of jamming a mini-cartridge into a bulky-non-pocket Gameboy, now I just click a chip in, tap the touch screen and begin the game.
The parenting hasn’t changed much. 10 years ago, my trainer’s mother kicked her 10 year old son out the door, and told him to go live on his own, earn his own money and take care of himself and his Pokemon. She then took half of everything he earned, spent a good chunk of it on plushies for his room, and now holds onto those funds for the next time I turn on my Gameboy.
Now? Well my new trainer’s mom doesn’t seem to care about her daughter’s finances, but she handed her 10 year old a town map, a pair of running shoes and said “best of luck to you”. Only in the Pokemon world is 10 considered the legal age of adulthood.
Do you remember the anime, where 10 year old Gary had a car full of bitches?
Okay, I’m on Route 3 in Unova, not to be confused with Kanto’s Route 3. I think I see Cheren again. I can’t stand Cheren. He’s pretentious, shifty and thinks he knows better than everyone else. And the way he keeps touching his face and glaring at me over the top of those Emo Grandma glasses just makes me want to punch him. And who the hell names a kid Cheren?? That’s probably his problem right there. I don’t know who’s worse, Cheren or Bianca? Man I can’t stand her. So many times so far I’ve tapped the A button until my thumb cries for mercy. Okay I get it, you’re stupid and can’t figure out what a Musharna is. Shut UP BIANCA!!
Once upon a time, your top rival had an attitude problem, need a severely debilitating butt-whoopin’ and was often family to a main character in the game. My first rival was a boy with long red hair, whom I later figured out was Giovanni’s bastard son. But most early Pokemon fans knew Gary/Green as their first rival, grandson of Professor Oak… who come to think of it spends an awful lot of time with Ash’s mom, Delia. Say… we never see Ash’s father, but we know he was a Pokemon trainer once, so was Oak. And only Oak has those zig-zags under his eyes, those freaky brown eyes, and flaky yet determined attitu… HEY!!
In the first batch of Pokemon games, you just had one rival to deal with, and you only saw him 2-5 times, total. Now? My new rivals Bianca and Cheren seem hell-bent on stalking me and trying to battle my Oshawott every 9 minutes. You know, when Bianca isn’t babbling on and Cheren isn’t acting like a know it all douche. And I’m not more than 6 battles past Team Plasma yet, but I’ll say this, if these panda-hugging bozos are ready to splash paint on me because I own Oshawott like a pet, I’d hate to see them meet Team Rocket, who just didn’t give a damn what a Pokémon’s feelings were, as long as they could control them. These people remind me of PETA and the WWF. I wonder if this is a coincidence? *stares*
But some things haven’t changed that much. I still need to earn 8 badges before I can face the Elite 4 and then the Pokemon Master. I still have an adventure to go on with my Pokemon, and somewhere in my 24 year old heart is that same, rambunctious 10 year old, who just tilted backwards her cap and whispered “let’s do this”.