Pokémon’s 20th anniversary and its effect on pop culture

Chapman W.

Without a doubt, Pokémon has been one of the defining pop culture icons of the millennial generation.

The Pokémon series celebrated its 20th anniversary Saturday. The first two games, “Pokémon Red and Green,” released in Japan Feb. 27, 1996 for the Nintendo Game Boy. The games, where the goal was to catch and train elemental creatures, called Pocket Monsters, was a resounding hit in Japan and “Pokémon Red and Blue” were later released Sept. 28, 1998 in North America. In the 20 years following the original games, Pokémon has become a massive series, and has become ingrained in pop culture.

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Over the course of Pokémon’s life, the series has released 24 main-series games in six different generations as well as a large collection of spin-off games. New games release every few years, and each new generation introduces better graphics, new ideas and many new Pokémon to the games. While the original games had 151 Pokémon for trainers to collect and train, the current generation offers a much larger count of 721. The latest generation, gen VI, began with the release of “Pokémon X and Y” as well as “Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire,” remakes of older games. The current games were released for the Nintendo 3DS and have had over 14 million copies sold worldwide since their release in 2013. However, the latest news from Pokémon is pointing toward a seventh generation.

On Friday, the Pokémon Company announced “Pokémon Sun and Moon,” the first games in the new generation. Although very little is known about the games so far, some teaser images were shown in the trailer, and one new Pokémon has been revealed. The games are slated to release in late 2016, making this year a very exciting one for the series. Not only do the games celebrate their 20th anniversary, but the release of the classic Red and Blue for the Nintendo 3DS virtual console combined with the release of “Pokémon Go,” an app for phones that allows users to capture Pokémon in the real world this year, means that Pokemon is catering to its older audience as well as newer players in the best ways possible.

While many millennials have fond memories of playing early Pokémon games in their childhood, it’s amazing how significant the games still are to pop culture. While the days of the early 2000s where there were Pokémon-themed everything are no more, the franchise is still easily recognizable to many people, and sales of both games and merchandise continue to prove that the series is beloved by both new and older fans. Most toy stores have a section specifically devoted to Pokémon merchandise, and the pre-sales for each new generation continue to grow. The games have spawned a long-running television series, a collection of feature films and an entire Internet sub-culture devoted to the appreciation of the series. While many berate the games for running out of ideas, and passionate “genwunners” insist that gen I is the only real set of games, there’s no doubt that the franchise has come to lie in the hearts of many.

It’s difficult to nail down exactly what makes the Pokemon games so beloved. Perhaps it’s that there’s something in the games for everyone, with children loving the simplicity of the games, older gamers enjoying the competitive aspect or simply the desire to “catch ’em all” that appeals to the inner collector in many. There’s no doubt that the franchise has been extremely successful in the last 20 years, and there’s no worry for anyone that it will be beloved for years to come.

Collegian Reporter Chapman W. Croskell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @Nescwick.