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Pokemon is a series of video games created by Satoshi Tajiri and published by Nintendo. It consists of a main series of Role-Playing games developed by Game Freak for the Game Boy series of handhelds and a variety of spinoff games.
Pokemon games take place in a fantasy world that is simultaneously more and less technologically advanced than out own. Along with human populations, this world contains a species known as Pokemon, which comes in literally hundreds of varieties. In a typical Pokemon game, players take the role of Pokemon trainers, who recruit Pokemon to their teams through defeating them in battle, use their teams to defeat other trainers, and rise through the ranks of the local gym system and the Elite Four and Champion, all while thwarting a villainous team.
Satoshi Tajiri first conceived of Pokemon early in the life of the original Game Boy. He saw the possibilities of the then-revolutionary "link cables" to allow data to transfer between two systems. Game Freak, then a relatively small developer, spent years developing this concept around a role-playing game featuring 151 collectable creature types. Meanwhile, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto suggested making multiple versions of the game, each with exclusive monsters to trade.
The resulting game, originally titled "Capsule Monsters," was renamed "Pocket Monsters," and is today usually shortened as Pokemon.
Pokemon was released in Japan on February 27, 1996. At the time, the Game Boy, already over half a decade old, was in a state of decline. However, the initial Red and Green versions of the game sold well, shifting over two million retail units in 1996 alone. This number skyrocketed to over six million copies in Japan sold during 1997 alone, far beyond Satoshi Tajiri's or Nintendo's wildest expectations. By the end of that year, Pokemon had outsold Super Mario Bros to become Japan's best-selling retail game of all time, a status it retains to this day.
The Western release of Pokemon came from late 1998 through mid-1999, along with the release of the Game Boy Color. Pokemon would actually overshadow the release of the new system, becoming nearly as much of a phenomenon in America and other countries as it was in Japan. Red and Blue versions alone sold over 11 million units in North America, making it one of the few games in the region's history to exceed 10 million copies sold on a single platform. Even in Europe, with "only" somewhat over eight million sales despite Nintendo's limited presence in the region, the first generation of Pokemon games sold more than all but a handful of any other title ever released at retail.
Before the second generation of Pokemon was released, the special Yellow edition was released. Based somewhat on the Pokemon anime, this game started a tradition of releasing an "ultimate" version of a generation of games before moving on. Yellow version sold somewhat less than half of the sales of the originals, which would become the franchise norm.
The second generation of Pokemon, titled Gold and Silver was released for the Game Boy Color from 1999 to 2001 worldwide. Essentially the system's killer app, this second generation of Pokemon focused on expanding the series, adding 100 new types of Pokemon, two new elements, a new region to explore, a day and night system, breeding, equippable items, and, of course, color. This generation sold about three quarters as well as the original, netting over 23 million copies sold worldwide. Crystal version sold a mere 6 million, but added even more new concepts such as selecting the playable character's gender.
Pokemon entered its third generation in 2002, with the release of Ruby and Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance. With a "mere" 17 million sales, this series set a bottom point from which the franchise seemed destined to go no lower than. Ruby and Sapphire added over 130 new types of Pokemon, introduced weather conditions as a factor in battle, developed the "natures" aspect of the metagame, and introduced two-on-two battles. However, the game was also criticized for leaving out innovations from the second generation, including the emphasis on time of day.
Less criticized were the remakes of the original games titled FireRed and LeafGreen. Also released for the Game Boy Advance, these games combined the concepts and creatures of teh original games with the new mechanics and graphics of more recent entries. In total, Sapphire and Ruby sold 17 million units, Emerlad sold 7 million, and FireRed and LeafGreen sold 12 million, for a grand total of roughly 36 million.
The fourth generation of Pokemon came in September 2006 in the form of Diamond and Pearl for the Game Boy Nitro. This generation of games brought Wi-Fi and wireless connectivity to the series, in addition to bringing several changes to the gameplay. Although one of the more conservative entries in the series, Diamond and Pearl actually performed better than their immediate predecessor, selling about 20 million copies total. The third Platinum edition was released two years later, and enjoyed high sales.
This generation also brought the second round of remakes of earlier games. 2009's Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver were remakes of the Game Boy Color games of a decade ago. This game's main innovation was the "PokeWalker," a kind of pedometer that connected to the Game Boy Nitro that players could use to train and capture Pokemon. These remakes were well received, and sold a total of 13 million copies worldwide, nearly as much as a main-series entry.
The fifth generation of Pokemon, surprisingly, did not wait for a new Game Boy platform. Instead, it came in 2010 for the Game Boy Nitro in the form of Black and White versions. Black and White used the same engine as its predecessor, but in many ways was a step forward for the series. There was a more in-depth storline, Pokemon are fully animated, over 150 new types of Pokemon were added, several new forms of party combat were introduced, and seasons appear for the first time. Although very well received, Black and White had lesser sales than Diamond and Pearl, due largely to how late in the Game Boy Nitro's life they were released.
Surprisingly, the follow-up to Black and White did not come in a "Gray" version, but rather in Black 2 and White 2. These games, released in 2012 as the last major Game Boy Nitro titles from Nintendo, were the first direct sequels in series history. As such, they brought an entirely new storyline and new areas, despite taking place in the same region as Black and White.
The next generation of Pokemon, titled X and Y, is coming to the Game Boy 3DS on October 12, 2013. They will be the first fully 3D main-series Pokemon games. 'X and Y will be launching alongside the Game Boy 2DS.
On the Nintendo 64, two Stadium games were released for the original generation of Pokemon, in 1998 and 1999. Although the former was a Japanese exclusive, containing only a limited number of Pokemon, the latter saw an international release. Pokemon Stadium was essentially a peripheral to the main games, allowing players to fight their Pokemon with the far more impressive graphics of the Nintendo 64. The game also provided a number of challenge and minigame modes, not to mention a mode for playing the Game Boy titles on the television screen.
Hey You, Pikachu! was another Nintendo 64 game, released in 1998. Using a microphone, the game was a virtual pet simulation, starring the popular Pikachu. However, due to the limited voice-recognition technology of the time, the game often simply failed to function properly, and was thus a critical failure.
Pokemon Snap, released in March 1999 for the Nintendo 64, was an on-rails photography game. Despite its brevity and only including about 50 rather than 151 Pokemon, it is well regarded as one of the first great spinoffs for the series.
Pokemon Puzzle League was a reskin of Panel de Pon for the Nintendo 64, using anime charaters and sprites based off of that animation. It was released in 2000, and is one of the few official Pokemon games never to see a Japanese release.
The Game Boy Color had a surprise hit with 1998's Pokémon Trading Card Game. Based on the collectable card game rather than the series per se, the game nevertheless featured the collecting, trading, and battling the series was known for.
1999's Pokemon Pinball was another Game Boy Color title. It was essentially a generic game with Pokemon mixed in. In this game, players could still catch Pokemon, but did so in the context of a pinball table.
Pokemon characters Pikachu and Jigglypuff appeared in Super Smash Bros during this generation. Pokemon were also usable items similar to summons in Role-Playing games.
Pokemon Stadium 2 was the most notable spinoff of this era, and was one of the biggest N64 games of 2000 in Japan and 2001 in the West. It was a simple expansion to the original game, compatible with Gold, Silver, and Crystal versions. With over 250 relatively complex 3D models, fitting the game on a single N64 cartridge was considered a feat at the time, and the game required one of the largest cartridge sizes available.
2000's Pokemon Puzzle Challenge was another Panel de Pon reskin, this time for the Game Boy Color using creatures from Gold and Silver. Trading Card Game also had a Generation 2 sequel for the Game Boy Color, but it was only released in Japan.
The early GameCube crossover title Super Smash Bros Melee featured four Pokemon, one of which, Pichu, was introduced in Gold and Silver. With the exception of Mario and Zelda series, this made Pokemon the most represented franchise in the game. It is also worth noting that many Pokemon appeared as usable items inside their trademark balls.
The GameCube had two main Pokemon RPG's, which could connect to their equivalent Game Boy Advance counterparts. First was 2003's Pokémon Colosseum. This game focused on Double battles, 3D environments impossible to create on the Game Boy Advance, and a darker storyline than many other Pokemon games. Two years later, its sequel Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness largely followed in the original's footsteps, mostly featuring a new storyline.
Pokemon Channel was the GameCube's 2003 spiritual successor to Hey You, Pikachu!. The "game" was largely an non-interactive experience, with much time spent watching an in-game television. It was one of the worst received Nintendo-made games for the system.
The original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was released in 2005 for the Game Boy Advance. Unlike most game in the series, players actually controlled Pokemon directly in this game, in real-time dungeon crawls. Despite appearing relatively late in the system's life, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was highly successful, and started a new subseries.
The original Pokemon Ranger was released in the short period of time after the launch of the Game Boy Nitro and the release of the fourth generation of Pokemon in 2006. This game, which also spawned its own handheld series, focused on temporarily recruiting Pokemon using the Nitro's touch screen controls rather than capturing and battling them.
Pokemon Battle Revolution, released in early 2007, was meant to be the Revolution's answer to the N64's Stadium games. Like those games, it was compatible with its respective generation of main series Pokemon games on the Game Boy Nitro. The game also featured a more sophisticated online mode than the Nitro's equivalent, such as allowing for trainer customization. However, the game's lack of extra content, such as the minigames of the N64 entries or the campaigns of the GameCube Pokemon RPG's, spelled a relatively poor reception for Pokemon Battle Revolution.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2 was released for the Game Boy Nitro in 2007 and 2008. Although in many ways similar to the original, this game featured a complicated story, featuring many Pokemon as individual characters. It was remarkable for having every single Pokemon ever created up to that point as a collectable and playable character, despite it being an Action game. An updated version, Explorers of Sky, was released in 2009, adding various new features.
Pokemon Ranger 2 was released in 2008. Along with offering a distinctly different region from the original with new Pokemon, the game offered dozens of quests. However, the game was largely similar to the original, as was 2010's Pokemon Ranger 3.
PokePark, another spinoff starring Pikachu, was released in 2009 in Japan and in 2010 elsewhere. This game was a light hearted Action-Adventure, where players could partake in minigames and explore a variety of zones. The game was decently received, as critics agreed it was made for younger fans of the series.
Pokemon Rumble was unusual in that it was the first fully fledged subseries of Pokemon to debut via digital distribution. This game, released on the Revolution's eShop in 2009, was an arena brawler featuring low-resolution "Toy Pokemon" in large free-for-all battles. The game was deemed as "simple mindless fun" from many reviewers, though it was derided for its simplicity.
Various Pokemon also appeared in the two Super Smash Bros games released during this era. Brawl for the Revolution featured veterans Jigglypuff and Pikachu, as well as the newcomers Lucario and "Pokemon Trainer," who commanded a team consisting of a Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard. Super Smash Bros Rumble for the Game Boy Nitro, despite its smaller roster than Brawl's, featured the same four characters, in part due to the importance of the Pokemon series on the Game Boy.
PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond was the 2011 sequel to the original PokePark. One of Nintendo's latter major games for the system, releasing as late as March 2012 in the West, the game built upon the original's structure, adding multiplayer and more advanced mechanics in addition to new Pokemon and locations. The game was not a major success, due to its still being critically panned and the lateness of its release.
Pokemon Rumble Blast was a Game Boy 3DS launch title in late 2011. The first retail game in the series, it featured a full campaign, over 99% of all Pokemon existing at that point. The game also featured new aspects unique to the Game Boy 3DS, such as StreetPass options. However, the series continued to be considered one of the weaker aspects of the franchise.
Pokemon Snap 2 was a launch title for the Stream in late 2012. The long-awaited successor to the Nintendo 64 classic, it was developed in collaboration between Genius Sonority and Hudson Soft. The game was much more ambitious than the original, containing not only many more courses and Pokemon, but also online functionality and multiplayer.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 3 was an early 2012 release for the Game Boy 3DS. The first entry in the series to use 3D models instead of 2D sprites,
See Pokemon Anime
Pokemon is one of the most popular retail video game series of all time. In total, the various games in the series have sold over 230 million units, making it second only to Nintendo's Mario franchise, which began over a decade earlier. This also makes Pokemon by far the most popular Role-Playing franchise in the industry, and possibly in gaming in general, by a wide margin.
Critically speaking, Pokemon games have seen the entire spectrum. The first two generations of main-series Game Boy games in particular received phenomenal scores, and truly exceeded what people thought was possible on handheld gaming systems. Later entries, though not as well received, are still usually considered among the best RPG's for their respective systems. Many of the spinoffs have also been well received, with even some of the stranger ones, such as the puzzle and pinball games, the Trading Card video game, and Pokemon Snap, being both well reviewed at first and in retrospect.
Conversely, some Pokemon games have received mixed or even bad reviews. The recent Rumble subseries is notorious for its simplicity, the orignal Pokemon Stadium released only in Japan was bashed for only including a minority of Pokemon, and although it has a large following, the Mystery Dungeon series has never been a critical favorite.