A Love Letter to the Pokémon Franchise

Christopher Martires, News Editor

It’s safe to say that for a lot of kids Nintendo was, or still is, a big foundation to their childhood, myself included. Legend of Zelda, Kirby, and Super Mario are a few of the classic franchises I grew up with, playing alongside my older brother. Despite my love for those games, nothing will triumph my love for Pokemon, my favorite video game series of all time. The Pokemon franchise, just celebrating its 25th anniversary, developed my imagination, introduced me to new friends, and gave me my fondest and cherished memories in life. 

Growing up, I didn’t really have anything that caught my interest. Sure, toys like action figures and Legos were really fun to pass the time, but it wasn’t something I actively wanted to do as a kid. It wasn’t until I was about four years old when my older brother introduced me to the Gameboy Advance SP and where I found a hobby that persisted with me to this day. I played so many games on that thing and of course one of those games was Pokemon Emerald, the third main series game in the franchise. I absolutely had no idea what I was doing when I was playing that game. I still laugh to this day at the fact that I never learned you needed to save your progress in the game or else you had to play from the very start. I was so confused at the fact I had to play the same boring tutorial, but since I was a dumb kid I just thought it was a part of the game. However, my dumb child self never grew attached to the series until two years later when the newest installment to the main series came out called Pokemon Platinum which started my honeymoon period with the series.

From the beginning with choosing my very first Pokemon to the very end where I had become the Pokemon Champion, I never felt any sense of boredom through my journey as a Pokemon trainer in Pokemon Platinum. The music, the graphics, the story, and obviously the Pokemon are what kept egging me to continue my adventures and fantasize about what’s the next great thing that I will come across. It’s this constant entertainment that developed my imagination as a kid that just really spoke to me on a level I never felt before. The concept of having a young child journey by yourself to catch em’ all and become a Pokemon Master just spoke volumes to someone who rarely got to leave the comfort of their home. Even if all this battling, training, and catching was through a tiny, portable screen it still gave me the opportunity to experience all this fun and excitement I missed out on. I will never forget the time how I encountered a shiny Pokemon (a Pokemon that has a different coloration that is incredibly rare) and how I defeated them so quickly that I never got the chance to try catching it. I definitely will always remember the insane amount of time I put into leveling up all my Pokemon to the max level 100. Finally, I will never forget my experience meeting the Legendary Pokemon (Powerful Pokemon that are incredibly rare) in their own dimension and how frighteningly excited I was. I may have fonder memories for the later games, but Pokemon Platinum is where it all started with me and I will deeply cherish those experiences. 

The greatest part about being a Pokemon fan at the time was the sheer amount of friends you can make by just stating you liked the franchise. I kid you not, the only reason I was able to make friends during my elementary years was that I mentioned I enjoyed Pokemon. I argued with friends about what was the best Pokemon, traded Pokemon cards that no one knew how to play with, and even helped each other with their own copy of their games when we got stuck somewhere. It was an incredible community that was being created and it was done through a little tiny DS cartridge which still blows my mind. I’m still friends with some of these people to this day and if that isn’t a testament to my everlasting friendship with those dummies I don’t know what is. I’m never going to forget the friends I made during my training as a young Pokemon Master, and even if these people grew out of the games, I will always hold my memories goofing off, arguing, and laughing our butts off to the joy that is Pokemon. 

It comes a time where any kid grows out of THAT phase. It could be anything, really. Unfortunately, for a lot of my peers, it was Pokemon that they thought they were too old for. While this wasn’t that big of a deal for me, it still sucked knowing a passion I had was fading away within the same people that shared my enthusiasm for the franchise. However, that only fueled my love for the series as I started to get into things outside of the games. It was around middle school where I learned what anime was and when I really started to watch the Pokemon anime series. Honestly, if I were to rewatch it from the very beginning, it would be a rather mediocre show that suffers a lot with its pacing. 

Nevertheless, it was a show that made me bawl my eyes out, cheer on the main characters, and join with them every Saturday on a new adventure. Classic episodes where you see the main character Ash Ketchum having to deal with releasing some of his Pokemon–his beloved family. The episode where he releases his butterfly-like Pokemon Butterfree is so heartbreaking knowing the development the two had and Butterfree being the very first Pokemon he ever captured. Then there is the soul-crushing episode where Ash is trying to come to terms with giving his best friend Pikachu a better life by releasing him into the wild to roam with the colony of Pikachu they find. On the other side of the spectrum, you get whacky, memorable episodes like when Ash and his friend’s Pokemon get stranded on an island together and the entire episode is the Pokemon talking with each other and with translations to help viewers understand what’s being said. As well, no Pokemon fan can forget the emotionally-charged episode where Ash’s Pikachu has to make a choice to either evolve into his stronger evolution Raichu, something Pikachu refuses to do, or risk never being able to defeat one of the Gym Leaders (a person that tests your abilities as a Pokemon trainer). I know how painfully subpar the show is by today’s standards, but those diamonds in the rough will always stay memorable to an impressionable child. 

I struggled with the idea of what my favorite videogame of all time is. I always felt it was a title that’s always been like a revolving door for me. It’s hard to say just one game that you hold in the highest regard, but after a lot of conflicting thoughts, I know it has to be Pokemon. In the grand scheme of things, Pokemon transcends that title to become the most influential part of my life. It’s why I love gaming as a whole, it’s why I love storytelling in any medium, it’s why I have such a wild imagination. Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon, created this game to capture the love he had for bug collecting and to spread that love of hunting these odd creatures to a new generation of kids. We, the Pokemon fans, are that legacy. If I could, I’d give Satoshi Tajiri all the love, hope, and gratitude I have for his beloved creation in a single Pokeball for him to open, and yet it would still not be enough to deliver the sincerest of love I have for what he’s done. Thank you Satoshi Tajiri, for everything you’ve done.