Pokémon celebrates 20th anniversary

The iconic game and media franchise has a flurry of merchandise to be released this year


Courtesy of Thomas McNab

An original “Pokémon Red” game cartridge.

Marissa Johnson, Reporter, Scottsdale Chronicle

On Feb. 27, 1996, three games came out on the Nintendo GameBoy that shaped an entire generation, creating a cultural phenomenon.

The game was called “Pokémon” and it came out with three different versions: “Pokémon Blue,” “Pokémon Red” and “Pokémon Green” (in Japan), the only difference being one could catch unique monsters within each game. At a young age Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokémon, had a hobby of catching insects and tadpoles. When he first saw the GameBoy and its Link Cable, Tajiri had the idea insects traveling along the cable. This small idea was further enhanced when Tajiri was influenced by a fantasy TV show at the time where it had giant monsters contained into tiny capsules. Thus, the idea of Pokémon was born.

What started with the idea of catching and trading bugs turned into small pocket monsters that could battle and be traded among friends. The concept of Pokémon is that young trainers start their journey to try to “catch ‘em all” within the world of Pokémon. When developer Game Freak created “Pokémon,” they did not think that this series would take off the way it did. To date, the core games have sold over 260 million copies.

With the upcoming 20th anniversary, the Pokémon Company have been releasing new announcements every week and will continue to do so throughout the entire 2016 year.

The original Red, Blue and Yellow games for the Nintendo 3DS have been re-released, along with a specially made 2DS with pre-installed game of your choice inside with colors varying depending on the game you decide to pick up.

There will be new 20th anniversary plush dolls made of crush velvet. These will be sold each month at select stores. For the month of February, Mew and Pikachu were released at GameStop. Figurines for the original Ash, Misty and Team Rocket characters from the original season of the Pokémon anime will also be available.

As Pikachu is the Mickey Mouse of Japan, the country will be preparing for the big celebration. Pokémon Centers are going back to their roots with the 8-bit dot series with pillows, plushies, backpacks, hats and stationary that pay tribute to the original blue and red styles of the game. Alongside the 8-bit-style merchandise, a reprint of generation ones original cards base set will be released on Feb. 27. Many kids who grew up with Pokémon not only collected the cards or played the games, but became attached to the characters in the anime as well.

Pokémon has expanded far beyond the realm of video games, as the anime series has become a staple ever since the original games. With the anniversary, there will be a new anime called Pokémon XYZ, as well as a new movie, the franchise’s 19th, coming out in July.

With over ten core games (and countless spin-offs), 18 movies, an immeasurable amount of merchandise and a long-running anime, Pokémon landed on its feet running and never stopped. Pokémon seems to only get more popular by the year. Pokémon has broken barriers that many franchises hope to accomplish. During Super Bowl 50, Pokémon aired a special commercial celebrating 20 years of encouraging players to “Train On.” Prior to this commercial release another commercial was shown promoting Pokémon GO, here players can experience Pokémon in real life through their mobile phones.

Pokémon affects so many lives that Twitter users have been encouraged to “share a Pokémon memory” with the hashtag #pokemon20. These memories will be shared through Twitter and the Pokémon’s official website. On Feb. 27 at 10a.m. EST on Pokémon’s official Twitch page talk, gameplay, interviews and other coverage will take place in celebration. A 24-hour marathon will follow after at 6 p.m. EST.

The world of Pokémon spans generations and is an adventure that will continue to grow and change the lives of junior and master divisions alike.