Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Nintendo, TXN, DeNA and Netflix
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that Pokémon is in one of the most successful periods of its 26-year lifespan. While it may have shaken off the Pokémania moral panic of its late ’90s heyday, Game Freak’s “pocket monsters” are still ubiquitous on a level most franchises can only dream of. Its “generation” of 2019 slices, Sword and Shieldhave sold nearly 24 million copies, placing them in second place in the grand scheme of the game series. Pokemon Legends: Arceus set Twitch streaming records for the number of hours people watched while playing. The mobile game Pokemon GO had its most profitable year ever in 2020. Recently, the trading card game sparked a furor among collectors and auctioneers not seen since schoolyard disputes under the Clinton administration. Pokemon is huge.
So where do you enter if you suddenly feel the Pokémon FOMO? Whether you’re a stranger to the Pikachu brand, a lapsed fan, or just want to introduce it to your kids, Pokémon’s ubiquity means there’s something for everyone.
A quick look at the top-ranked kids’ shows on Netflix will show Cocomelon as the Supreme Being, a nursery rhyme-laden cartoon that blurs the line between cute educational fare and preschooler catnip. Pokémon TV, the franchise-only streaming service, also uses this formula with Pokemon Junior. It is both an exercise in simple songs and an introduction for children to the hundreds of monsters that inhabit its world. The videos all tend to be short, and one includes Pikachu & Co. doing the “Thriller” dance. Like I said, there’s something for everyone.
When Let’s go, Pikachu! was announced for the Nintendo Switch, alarm bells were going off for the part of the fanbase that wanted a more engaging experience. And of course, if you consider yourself a Pokémon expert, the ride is pretty smooth. However, if you are looking for your child’s first Pokémon game, Let’s go, Pikachu!Simplified mechanics make it an easy fit. (Parents can also join in the fun — let’s go includes a co-op option for the first time in Pokémon history.) It even included a Poké Ball-shaped controller, just in case you want to have a good time swinging your arm to capture creatures and time doubtful to do anything else.
Released in early 2022, Legends: Arceus is both the climax of the series that precedes it and a launch into previously uncharted territory. It has all the familiar core elements (you play as a youngster who has to “catch ’em all”) with new mechanics and a pseudo-open-world approach that removes many of the limitations that longtime fans have increasingly found. more archaic. . If you’re new to Pokémon and familiar with a modern video game, this should be a good time and a great way to catch up with a series trying to move in new directions.
Pokémon is a franchise almost entirely aimed at children. There’s no shame in that, though – it’s a testament to its enduring appeal that elements of the franchise remain entertaining throughout the teenage years and beyond. One of these parts is the Pokemon Adventures manga, a Japanese comic book series that takes the story of the games and twists it into something a little more complicated. It’s not necessarily dark, but the series explores a more muddled narrative with a more open look at the violence that would occur in a dragon-obsessed UFC universe.
When Pokemon GO erupted in the summer of 2016, it was perhaps the last time we would experience collective world peace. Everyone you knew was waving their thumbs at a screen, trying to catch a Rattata or Charmander as they paced the block. If you find the idea of a console game or a manga too time-consuming, TO GO has evolved to add a lot more functionality, but doesn’t have to take up more of your schedule. For example, did you know that you can now support the TO GO version of Team Rocket? And that they added hundreds of monsters and “Field Research” missions? You can do anything while embodying the ethos of the original “Hey, just wander around a bit.”
If your last Pokémon memory involved singing “I want to be the best…” and you want to dive back in, then you’ve got a lot to catch up on. That said, if you want to treat yourself to some of the best TV series right away, Pokémon TV has you covered. Sun Moon. This story revamped the traditional look of the series and is packed with smooth, beautiful animations (without ditching all the nonsense and battles and “You can do it!” character work). After that, dive into online series to love Pokemon: Twilight Wingsacclaimed to be possibly the most beautiful thing to ever have the word Pokemon stamped on it.
Look, if you want your Pokemon memories to start and end with what you experienced as a kid, that’s fine. Pokémon is a brand with its backbone in nostalgia, considering it was the product of a man who wanted to recreate the joys of collecting and observing insects. Ultraman like a kid. The entire original adventure is available on Pokémon TV, and if you have a Nintendo 3DS and want to download some stuff before their eShop closes for good, the Game Boy era of the series is available. relive Pokemon Red and Bluemake a bridge in the trading card gameor rediscover why Crystal remains the best of the series to this day.
Getting into the card game in its actual physical form is a gamble these days, given how often booster packs sell out and the price at which many cards are sold. The next outing Pokemon Trading Card Game Live looks like an attempt to streamline the process, where you can not only fight online, but also create a virtual deck and player. The site also says that you’ll be able to “participate in daily challenges”, and given that these challenges won’t be “push off card scalpers into a target’s cramped alley”, that sounds like a win.
If you want to learn more about the origin of Pokémon, the culture that produced it, and the story of the connections that allowed it to have such a global impact, read Pure Invention: How Japan Shaped the Modern World. Written by Japanese media historian Matt Alt, it’s a brilliant look at how things like Karaoke, the Walkman, the Game Boy, and monsters like those found in Pokémon became international hits. And if you’re just looking to relive Pokemania and hear the behind-the-scenes stories of the people who helped make it happen, my book, Monster Kids: How Pokémon taught a generation to catch ’em allis available for pre-order.
While TO GO tends to be the app most people jump to for the experience of battling Pokémon on your phone, there’s another one tailor-made not for casual fans but for those who love the characters and the tradition and would understand any minute reference thrown at them. Pokemon Master EX gives you the chance to challenge and recruit classic characters from the series, ranging from Red, the original protagonist, to gym leaders like Viola, Clair, and Flint. The gameplay is usable, but you stick around for the jokes and interactions that make any 26-year dedication to Pokémon at least somewhat worthwhile.