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The Pokemon Series - A Gaming Phenomenon
Pokemon has been around for centuries. Centuries! OK, so maybe not that long, but the little critters have been around for a very long time. When I was a kid, I loved waking up early and watching the Pokemon anime on TV before school. I collected the trading cards, got some unofficial Pokemon toys from Downtown Los Angeles, and even borrowed friends' Game Boy systems so I could play the games. But as a child, I figured Pokemon would eventually go away like so many fads before it. Little did I know how wrong I was. Because Pokemon wasn't a fad back then. No, when I was a kid and Pokemon first launched, it was the start of a video game phenomenon.
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A New RPG Series
When the Pokemon RPG series first arrived on the Game Boy, gamers were quick to pick up the dual releases for their Nintendo handhelds. And as quirky and gimmicky as the idea of "catching 'em all" seemed, it was an effective tool, not only from a marketing standpoint, but also as a means to make the games ridiculously addictive. Even gamers who knew they would never put in the time to capture every single Pokemon made it a goal to at least catch as many as possible without having to trade or shell out the cash for the other version of the game. Though the Pokemon series followed several standard RPG rules and design directions, its solid gameplay, rewarding difficulty, and enjoyable collection of creatures made it a beloved IP. It was something new, and it did its job incredibly well, providing one of the most memorable RPG experiences on the Game Boy.
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Not a Fad
Years passed, and I stopped watching the Pokemon anime. All of my friends did, too. But I noticed that the series lived on, and the games continued to pop up. I didn't touch Pokemon again until Diamond and Pearl launched for the Nintendo DS. And you know what? Pokemon was still awesome! I had never realized it, but at that moment, I figured it out. Pokemon was never a fad. It was never a trend. It was a reputable franchise with Nintendo as publisher, and like so many Nintendo series, it was here to stay. Like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong, Pokemon was a big part of Nintendo, and it would be moving forward with the company every step of the way across every console generation.
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An Awesome Series for Everyone
For me, Pokemon is more than just a video game series. Every time I eagerly await the launch of a new entry in the franchise, I relive my childhood. I remember being a kid and looking forward to watching the anime on TV before school. I remember collecting those trading cards. I remember going to Downtown L.A. and buying those counterfeit Pokemon toys. I remember borrowing my friends' Game Boy handhelds and spending days playing Pokemon Red Version. Earlier this year when I attended the Pokemon Black & White Mall Tour, I had a total blast running from station to station, collecting stamps, seeing promotional content for Pokemon Black & White, and yes, reliving my childhood. It was innocent fun, and it was rewarding seeing everyone from young children to people older than me going across the entire mall as they took in this very special Pokemon experience. Pokemon isn't just for kids - it never was. Pokemon is about experiencing something fun, and with every entry in the RPG series, we get exactly that.
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No Changes, No Problem
Usually, one of the main issues gamers have with a long-running series is its lack of evolution. Somehow, Pokemon manages to get by successfully without changing much. Most of the time, every new Pokemon title offers up a similar experience in terms of story and gameplay, but it still manages to sell countless copies to consumers. Admittedly, the last dual titles in the famed RPG series, Pokemon Black & White, did manage to feel fairly new due to the darker story and minor gameplay tweaks. But I can assure, had they stayed exacty the same as their predecessors, they still would have fared quite well. Gamers gravitate toward Pokemon because with every iteration we get to see new Pokemon, we get to explore new regions, and we get to have a reason to play Pokemon.
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Here to Stay
Pokemon has been around for a very long time, and just like Mario, it's here to stay. I seriously doubt the series will ever evolve drastically from what it is now. But even then, I can tell you right now that when the next chapter in the Pokemon series lands, I'll be there to pick it up on day one, and so will countless others. Why? Because we love Pokemon. Some of us may not watch the anime anymore. We may not collect the trading cards. We probably don't get super stoked about the latest animated film. But we love Pokemon. We always have, and we always will.
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Information and screenshots from their respective Pokemon games.