This past Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the very first Pokémon game in Japan. In the two decades since, Pokémon has gained unprecedented international success and has become one of the most recognizable and cherished video game, film and TV franchises ever.
The second most-popular exclusive franchise for Nintendo next to Mario, the handheld video game series lets players fill the shoes of a Pokémon trainer from the moment they receive their first Pokémon — a creature with special abilities — all the way to becoming the Pokémon League Champion. Along the way, players collect and train their Pokémon while competing against their rivals, other trainers and criminal organizations. While the Entertainment Software Rating Board gives these games an “E for everyone” rating, the series has featured more mature topics of death and religion, leaving many adults still hooked on the game they loved as children.
Following its launch in Japan and abroad, Pokémon reached success far beyond the video game industry. The Pokémon Trading Card Game, first published in 1996, allows fans to collect their favorite Pokémon and compete against friends without a video game system. Both the handheld video games and trading card games are still played today in tournaments year-round, including the 2016 Pokémon World Championships, which will be held in San Francisco in August.
On the air since 1997, the Pokémon television series follows the adventures of the 10-year-old trainer Ash Ketchum on his quest to become a Pokémon master. Based on the video game series, the show has produced over 900 episodes and 18 movies with no indication of stopping any time soon.
To celebrate the franchise’s 20th year, “Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition” were re-released through the handheld 3DS’s Nintendo eShop for $9.99 each on Saturday. The company also released a now out-of-stock special edition Pokémon-themed New Nintendo 3DS, which comes with “Pokémon Red and Blue” preinstalled.
On Friday, Nintendo hosted a Pokémon Direct, a live, online, six-minute presentation from The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara, to announce the next installments for the handheld 3DS and 2DS, “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon.” The two new Pokémon role-playing games are slated for release this holiday season.
Pokémon Sun and Moon will be the seventh generation of Pokémon handheld games, the latest since the company’s 2013 releases of Pokémon X and Y. Little is known about the new titles, but players will be able to explore a new region filled with new Pokémon, trainers and exciting adventures.
Other than the re-release of the franchise’s original titles and the newest generation to come this year’s holiday season, The Pokémon Company has new developments on the horizon to continue its worldwide brand. Scheduled for a worldwide release on March 18 is Pokkén Tournament for the Wii U console. Developed by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment, Inc., the producers of the fighting game series Tekken, Pokkén Tournament will allow players to battle Pokémon in an arcade-fight style, which will be much different from the Pokémon games that players have become accustomed to.
Also to come this year is Pokémon GO, a virtual reality app for iPhone and Android devices. This highly anticipated release will allow smartphone users to explore the real world for Pokémon using their actual location. Players will have to search far and wide across the world to find, battle and capture Pokémon. Trading and battling with other players will also be possible, making the Pokémon world truly come to life.
From reliving their first experiences with Pocket Monsters to preparing to travel the world and capture their favorites, fans will undoubtedly have another exciting 20 years to look forward to in the world of Pokémon.