Hello, all! It’s November and that means we should be thankful for the good things we have in life: Friends, family, hobbies we love to do in our spare time. One thing I am VERY thankful for is video games! So I am going to do a four-part Thanks-Gaming for the month of November! As part of my Month of Thanks-Gaming, I’ve selected four games that I am truly thankful for and have helped define my taste in gaming. On September 28, 1998 Generation 1 of Pokemon invaded the Western pop-culture conscience and became the highest-grossing game franchise in history while creating an almost infinite repeating loop of rumors and supposed cut/changed content. To compare, it has made DOUBLE the revenue that the Star Wars Franchise has, and Star Wars has had a very sharp uptick in popularity in the last near-decade. So in the spirit of giving thanks, I will be talking about the first Pokemon title I actually owned: Pokemon Yellow.
Pokemon Yellow then Gold versions are my quintessential childhood Pokemon games. By the time Generation 3 (Ruby and Sapphire Versions) rolled around, I’d fallen somewhat off the bandwagon and didn’t legitimately play a Pokemon game until Generation 7 (Sword and Shield respectively). I’ve since gone back and played remakes of Generation 4 (Diamond and Pearl) on the Nintendo Switch as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl and the newest Generation (Scarlet and Violet) also on Nintendo Switch and I must say, I am having a blast! However I’m not here to talk about Pokemon Skyrim right now, I want to talk about the Special Pikachu Edition of Generation 1 that came out a year after launch to celebrate the anime becoming insanely popular. Instead of using the commonly given name of “Red” as the Main Protagonist of Generation 1 the anime created an entirely new character and in some ways, big and small, an alternate universe in Pokemon.
The series starred Ash Ketchum on his journey to become a Pokemon Master. Due to oversleeping, Ash misses out on choosing the typical starter Pokemon of Generation 1 (Fire-Type Charmander, Water-Type Squirtle, and Grass-Type Bulbasaur). He instead is given a very cranky Pikachu that initially doesn’t like him, and tries to electrocute him numerous times in the first few episodes. The only real similarities the anime had to the games were the order in which Ash/Red battled the different Gym leaders and how the Pokemon looked. In Pokemon games, Gyms are training areas dedicated to one particular type of Pokemon and once you beat the Leader you earn their Badge which comes with a number of gameplay advancements and allows you to further your Pokemon journey. However, the anime DID set up quite a few elements that would show up as soon as Generation 2 (Gold and Silver) such as Pokemon Breeding and Poke Eggs and friendship values with Pokemon to name a few. For more information about the history of Pokemon as a franchise click here. If you want a more “database-y” rundown of Generation 1 of Pokemon click here.
Now that the slight introduction to the anime is out of the way, Pokemon Yellow or Special Pikachu Edition was released on September 12, 199 in Japan and North America one year later on October 18, 1999. I never owned a copy of Red or Blue, one of my middle school friends at the time introduced me to the game and I just borrowed his copy continuously until Christmas of `98 when my mom bought me a Game Boy Color and a copy of Pokemon Yellow and I was ECSTATIC. I still wax nostalgic for the winter nights I would sit in an oversized suede recliner next to the wood stove doing nothing but playing this game. The old saying is true “You never know what you have until it’s gone, and when it’s gone it’s gone”.
Thirteen-year-old me thought this was the greatest video game ever made by the hands of man, and I suppose that can be a philosophical statement as well, to me it WAS the greatest video game I’d ever played up until that point, broken, buggy, linear and cash-grabby though it was. Pokemon Yellow was my first real jump into the JRPG genre, I’d played Final Fantasy VII but at that time it didn’t grab me like it would just a few short years later.
Even though it’s getting very near its 25th anniversary I would still recommend this title as a first-timers entry point to not only Pokemon but JRPGs as a whole. While being a basic game, this title does have the earmarks and tropes of good JRPGs: A relatable protagonist, a seemingly unstoppable villain that’s evil just to be evil, bumbling comedy relief, and collectibles! Although the Pokemon themselves are the collectibles…..however, this has been retconned/smoothed out in later generations to where they are willing companions, and when they’re stored in Pokeballs they live a very luxurious existence.
Sadly, in March of 2023, the 3DS E-shop has closed its servers. I doubt that this title will ever make it to the Nintendo Switch, or its successor console. I strongly urge anyone interested to play this title. Thank you for reading and I will be talking to you all soon.