Pokemon. A phenomenon that’s been around since 1995 in Japan, and 1996 in the United States. I was seven going on eight years old when I was first introduced to the franchise. A few friends from up the street had a GameBoy with a new game called Pokemon Red Version. I asked if I could play it to try it out, and had no idea what I was doing. I remember exploring Viridian Forest not knowing where to go or what to do and then I walked into the grass area and suddenly the music started to sound like an alarm, and black lines stretched across the screen. I started my first Pokemon Battle. My friend had picked a Bulbasaur as his starter Pokemon, and so that was the Pokemon I used to battle the Weedle I had encountered. I almost lost since I didn’t know what the different moves did and I used up both of his potions to heal myself. As I mentioned, I had no clue what I was doing, but after playing for a bit longer, I knew I needed more. I already owned a GameBoy and played Tetris a bunch as well as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, another game I knew nothing about and to this day have never beaten to completion, but the music was great. Next step was to convince my mother to buy me the game. I don’t remember how I accomplished it, but it was done. I was the owner of Pokemon Red Version. I started the game and input my name, and it was time to choose my first Pokemon. I didn’t know any better, and since red is my favorite color, (it’s the best color don’t fight it) and red equals fire, I chose Charmander.
Thus began my who knows how many hour adventure. My love for the series only became more apparent when the Anime premiered in 1998 in the states.
I remember watching it early in the morning before school started. Pokemon was my thing. It was the best thing. And when Pokemon: The First Movie was coming out in theaters in 1999 I rushed to the movies, dragging my poor mother behind me and sat in awe of watching the epic battle between Mew and Mewtwo on the big screen.
Then Pokemon Gold and Silver, the sequel to Pokemon Red and Blue, released and once again I was sucked back into the world of Pokemon. It was a whole new world.
I was so into Pokemon. But then one day I just woke up and was done with it. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire had released and for the first time, I didn’t want it. Granted it may have had something to do with me not owning a GameBoy Advance, but I had no desire to own one. This was my first Pokemon hiatus. I had moved on to more “mature” video games like Need For Speed: Underground, and Jak and Daxter. Mature is the important word here. I had even broken off the anime, moving on to shows like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Dragon Ball. The biggest aspect was probably, I was the only person who would have played Pokemon. All my other friends had moved on as well, leaving it behind. As a kid, you gravitate more towards what your friends are doing or playing. I didn’t want to seem strange or an outcast because I was into something that was “for kids.” I will say, it felt weird. Like i was leaving a big part of my life behind. And you may be thinking, why? It’s Pokemon. It’s something so insignificant. Except that for me, it was more. I may have mentioned a few friends here and there so far, but the truth is, I keep mostly to myself. Comics and video games were my escape. I wasn’t an only child, but when my next sibling is twelve years older than me it may seem like I’m an only child. I may have been sociable in school, but when I got home, my true self kicked in. I would just stay quiet, in my room, and read Spider-Man, and watch my anime, and even though I was alone, I would be happy because I loved what I did. It was around this time, Pokemon Emerald was released, and somehow I started to gravitate towards it.
I asked my mother to once again purchase not only the game but a new handheld console, the GameBoy Advance SP, to play it on. And when we made our way back to the car, I opened the box and started to play. I heard the opening song.
I was sucked back in again. Immediately. I was all in on Pokemon again. So much so, this was the first game I decided I wanted to capture all the Pokemon in the game. At the time of Emerald, the total count of Pokemon was 386. It was the first time I caught them all. Once again I was on the Pokemon train. I even started to watch the anime again. It was an unbeatable experience.
The only aspect of Pokemon I never really embraced was the trading card game. There was a GameBoy Color game that taught you how to play which I heard was very good. Another friend in school had it and the best memory I have is when I accidentally got his GameBoy Color taken away by the teacher for trying to play it during class. Sorry Matt. Some friends of mine today play it still, and they are trying to get me into it. My second Pokemon Hiatus actually came more recently. After playing Pokemon Fire Red, Diamond, Platinum, Soul Silver, Black, and Black 2, Pokemon X and Y released. I skipped it. I had dropped the anime again sometime during Pokemon Diamond, and X and Y didn’t seem to interest me. So once again, I stayed away from Pokemon. It always seems to grab me back however, and a few years later when Pokemon Omega Ruby released, I started up again. But this time for a much shorter period of time. Omega Ruby was a game that I felt drawn to because of how much I loved Emerald. Emerald brought me back to a time I felt that I could make up my own mind about something and like what I like. Visiting the world of Hoenn, again made me feel nostalgia for the series more than anything else. I finished the game, but didn’t feel the need for finishing all of the post game content like I usually did. And then Pokemon Sun and Moon released. This is now 2016. This is almost 20 years after my introduction. And now my third hiatus begins. I played about the first few hours, and then I put down my 3DS, and stopped playing. I was disinterested. I even purchased its sequel Pokemon Ultra Moon. It’s currently sitting on the shelf. I’m not even sure if I put it in my 3DS. This hiatus was a little longer than the last.
The same year Pokemon Sun and Moon released, a mobile game for phones also released called Pokemon Go. It allowed players to feel like Pokemon were in our real world, using AR technology. Again, I played for a good amount of time before I slowly let it go. Pun intended. And that’s the last point of contact I have had with Pokemon. My 3DS is used for other games, and I occasionally open the Pokemon Go app, catch some guys, and close out. I thought this is how I would feel about the series going forward. What was once something that allowed me to be myself and fell happy, was reduced to an app on my phone I no longer open on a constant basis. Pokemon Let’s Go was also announced for the Nintendo Switch, which is both a remake of Pokemon Yellow, and a a very slimmed down version of a Pokemon game. I had no interest. I thought I was done with Pokemon. I had thought I was now too old for Pokemon.
2019. Today. Well last week, Pokemon Sword and Shield was announced. And for the first time in a long time, I was excited about a Pokemon game. The music. The music is what pulled me back in. Just listen to it.
But now I am back to my question, and the reason I wrote this. Am I too old for Pokemon? This year I will be turning 29, one year from 30. Should I leave Pokemon behind for good? I thought I would have an answer by the time i finished writing, but the truth is I don’t. I think I also wrote this to convince myself that I’m not too old for Pokemon, and it was to remind myself what the series was and could still be for me. Pokemon will always have a special place in my heart. I have always seemed to be able to bounce back from leaving the series, and I hope I’m able to bounce back again. I hope I’m not too old for Pokemon. Writing this made me feel like I’m not done with the series just yet. We’ll just have to see how I feel come late 2019 when I pick up my copy of Pokemon Sword.