When I was a kid, I used to love the Pokemon games. I personally didn’t have any of them initially, as I was unable to afford a Game Boy, but I had a friend who had one along with the first generation of Pokemon games, Pokemon Red and Blue. At recess I would watch him play the game, and I enjoyed what I saw. When the anime (not that I knew what anime was at the time) began airing in North America, I watched it nearly religiously. I collected the cards, mostly of the water or flying type Pokemon, since those were my favourite. Like many of the people in my generation, I knew all the words to the theme song, and while I can’t do it now, I used to be able to recite the Pokemon Rap from memory.
I wasn’t until the second generation of Pokemon games, Pokemon Gold and Silver, that I actually owned a Pokemon game for myself. I spent hours at a time playing the game, catching pokemon and raising level grinding, quickly filling out my team of favourites (lead by my fearless Pidgeot, which is my favourite Pokemon to date). I was never one much for battling other people, mainly because in those days battling someone required a rather bulky and expensive cable, and I knew very few people who owned one. So you would think if anyone would have been excited for the next generation, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, it’d be someone like me, right? Unfortunately, a few things conspired against me in that aspect.
When Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire (and eventually Emerald a year later) first released, I was more or less just starting high school. At that time, Pokemon wasn’t really “cool” anymore, and being the sucker that I am, ended up following this trend of shunning things we liked as kids because we were better than that. I also never owned a Game Boy Advance, which meant that even if I wanted to play the games, I wouldn’t have had the capacity to do so. For better or worse, Pokemon left my life for the time being, to be replaced with much more hip and cooler things. Like Magic: The Gathering.
Enter August 2013. Having just got home from visiting some family, I found myself both unable to sleep and itching to play some Pokemon after spending the weekend with my brother, who is a huge Pokemon fan. One thing lead to another, and I found myself playing through Pokemon Emerald (which has been out for less than 10 years but shhh). Being the grumpy old man that I am, I initially figured I would only stick to Pokemon I remembered from the generations I was familiar with. So I challenged myself. Specifically, I took on what is known as the Nuzlocke Challenge, a form of self-imposed challenged popular in the Pokemon community. (For those of you unfamiliar with the rules, there are only two of them: You can only catch the first Pokemon you see in a new area, and any Pokemon that faints is dead, and must be released or permanently placed in the PC)
After picking my initial Pokemon (Torchic, because birds), I found myself quickly getting sucked into the game like I did all those years ago when the franchise had first come out. I spent literal hours playing the game (I think my save file is logged in at 60+ hours at the time of this writing, and I’m still messing around with it every so often), leveling my companions to be the best they could be. While my main party was composed of a few old faces, namely the ever-reliable Gyarados and Bellossom, many of the pokemon I used throughout my adventure were new to me. Thanks to the nature of the Nuzlocke Challenge, I felt myself becoming rather attached to these new Pokemon (and suffering a few heartbreaks along the way), Pokemon that I had originally written off as being “dumb” or “stupid” when I was younger. Pokemon like Torkoal, the fire-breathing turtle of awesomeness, or Mawile, a defensive power house of a Pokemon that saved my ass in more than a few tough battles.
Looking back, I wish I could have experienced this game when it was brand new, to discover and raise these new and wonderful Pokemon at the same time as everyone else, and experienced the joys and wonders of the Pokemon community. With the fire of Pokemon love very much stoked, I find myself extremely eager to go forth and try the titles in this franchise that came after, to see what new and interesting innovations were made further down the line. Maybe I’ll find a new favourite Pokemon, or at least someone close (Pidgeot probably won’t be leaving that spot any time soon). I’ll just have to see where the next adventure takes me.