As Diamond and Pearl have officially brought Poke-fever back to North America, it seems like a perfect time to take a look back at the series as a whole. Think of it as "everything you ever wanted to know about Pokemon but were too embarrassed to ask."
Overhearing Poke-fans discuss their favorite franchise can be like overhearing people talking in a foreign language. Modojo understands that not everyone has been afflicted with poke-fever for the last decade, so we've put together this Pokemon primer, to get you up to speed on the history of this record-setting franchise.
Note that this entry in our Pokemon encyclopedia covers just the main, "core" Pokemon titles, none of the dozens of spin-offs. We'll be tackling them in a later feature.
[SUBHEAD]Red, Blue, & Yellow[/SUBHEAD]
Pokemon Red and Blue were released on September 30th, 1998; a pair of unassuming games that could have easily been mistaken for another typical, third-person RPG. Set in the fictional land of Kanto (based heavily on the Japanese region of the same name), the world of Red and Blue revolved entirely around training monsters called Pokemon, creatures that permeated all aspects of everyday life. Some kept them as pets, some used them as beasts of labor, but most spent their time battling other trainers as preparation for taking on the Elite Four and earning the title of champion.
The games were revolutionary in a number of ways, featuring 151 unique monsters to catch, a deep and complex typing system, and the ability to customize move sets. By limiting availability of certain monsters, players were encouraged to trade and battle with friends using a link cable. From favorites like Pikachu and Meowth to the exceedingly rare Mew, you needed a friend's help to "catch 'em all," but there was a lot of satisfaction to be earned once you had done so.
The following year, on October 1st, 1999, Pokemon Yellow made it to U.S. shores. Capitalizing on the popularity of the anime, the player was given a Pikachu as a starter Pokemon, the very same little electric pal that Ash Ketchum used from the beginning of the cartoon series. To make things even more interesting, your Pikachu visibly followed you around the overworld map, allowing you to talk to it at any time and find out how happy (or unhappy) it was. Aside from some other small technical changes, Yellow was the same adventure as Red/Blue, beginning the now-traditional practice of releasing "update" games for each generation.
[SUBHEAD]Gold, Silver, & Crystal[/SUBHEAD]
Another year passed, and Pokemon Gold and Silver were released for the Game Boy Color on October 15th, 2000. While Yellow was barely an update, these two games ushered in the second generation of the franchise with a bevy of upgrades and the brand new land of Johto. Designed with Japan's Kansai region in mind, Johto featured a hundred new Pokemon to catch and train, including a new set of legendaries and the extremely popular grass/psychic type Celebi, bringing the grand total to 251 monsters. Two new types were also added, Dark and Steel, which served to balance a few of the combat issues in the previous games.
Even more significant was the addition of Pokemon breeding, a system where the female determined the type and the male determined the moveset of the offspring Pokemon, an egg that needed to be hatched by having it in your party for a certain number of steps. The final large-scale upgrade was the addition of an in-game clock that controlled catch rates and evolutions for certain Pokemon. For example, the dark-type Umbreon could only be acquired by evolving a happy Eevee at night. Smaller upgrades included a move deleter, specialized pokeballs, ultra-rare shiny Pokemon, the beneficial pokerus disease, and hold items for use in battle.
The "update game" for the second generation came in the form of Pokemon Crystal, released in July of 2001. As was the case with Yellow before it, Crystal combined features of Gold and Silver while adding a new storyline, this time centered around the legendary water type Suicune. Only two other significant changes were made, the addition of animated battle movement and the first appearance of the battle tower (a feature that has now become a series staple).
[SUBHEAD]Ruby, Sapphire & Emerald, FireRed & LeafGreen[/SUBHEAD]
Finally making the move to the Game Boy Advance in March of 2003, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire started the third generation with a large graphical step forward but fewer gameplay upgrades than fans expected. The new region of Hoenn, somewhat based on the real island of KyÅ«shÅ«, featured 135 new monsters and an entirely new storyline. Unfortunately, trainers could only catch about 200 of the now 386 total species available while battling the baddies of Team Aqua (or Magma, if you picked up the other game). This sad detail aside, the addition of abilities and natures deepened the already complex battling/training system, and the inclusion of 2v2 fighting added yet another facet as support Pokemon suddenly became far more useful. The other major upgrade came in the form of Pokemon contests, judged competitions where moves are used to impress rather than damage.
Released in September of 2004, FireRed and LeafGreen were based on the original generation of Pokemon games, finally allowing players to complete the third-gen national Pokedex (a feat previously impossible, as there was no way to trade between the Game Boy and GBA games). In an attempt to make the games more user-friendly, the storyline of Red/Blue was updated with help features, move tutors (NPCs that teach specific moves and explain the move being taught), and a tool that allowed you to remain in contact with certain trainers met during your travels. A wireless adapter was also packaged with the game, allowing trading and battling without the use of a link cable.
Emerald, the final GBA Pokemon, was released on May 1st, 2005. The expected update to Ruby/Sapphire, Emerald combined their storyline into one massive tale involving Team Aqua, Team Magma, and a new legendary, weather-controlling dragon called Rayquaza. Additionally, the battle animations made a return from Crystal, the safari zone was expanded, and many new areas were added. The post-storyline game was also drastically improved with the new Battle Frontier, essentially an area with seven different battle towers (one of which is based on the original tower).
Which brings us to 2007, and the end of this history lesson. The fourth generation games have been released and there are now 493 Pokemon in the national Pokedex. That's a lot of creatures to find, so it's time you stopped reading and got back to playing Diamond and Pearl, isn't it? Have fun!