Ah, Pokémon - the digital equivalent of cockfighting, only less bloody, immoral and illegal, and the first franchise that forced you to make friends with someone who had the other version of the game if you truly wanted to "catch-'em-all". What a diabolical concept.
Remember having to cajole your best friend (well, the best of your friends who had a Game Boy) to get the other version of the game so you could connect your sets and trade your little digital 8-bit monster slaves? Precious little of the core gameplay has changed over the years, except cartridges are now downloads and wires are now... wireless? Despite graphical improvements, Pokémon still somehow manages to retain its simple 2D cartoon charm. And that's for the best if you ask us: just imagine how horrific a realistic rendering of Diglett would be.
So as the gaming franchise enters its 20th year, and as we celebrate the two decades of this beloved genre of non-human gladiatorial combat, let us look back at how Pokémon - the game - has evolved, just as its monsters are wont to do.
Pokémon Red and Blue (Game Boy, 1996)
Pocket Monsters Red and Green were released in Japan in 1996, where it became an unexpected hit. This eventually culminated in the reprogramming of the games into Pokémon Red and Blue, the versions that were released internationally, and from which all the Pokémon mania sprung forth.
To say this double-headed game was a hit would be a massive uderstatement: it's listed as having shifted over 23 million copies. Not bad for a game primarily about subjugating innocent creatures for the sole purpose of battle. It's more romantic when you don't think about the premise too much, isn't it?
The success of Red and Blue in turn inspired the anime, which also proved to be a massive hit. You’ve got the Pokémon theme song playing in your head right now, haven't you? Sorry about that.
Pokémon X and Y (Nintendo 3DS, 2013)
After Red and Blue's breakout success, it's little wonder that Nintendo made Pokémon an anchor game series for its platforms. When the Game Boy died, Pokémon continued, making its way onto the Nintendo DS handhelds that replaced it. It was 2013's Pokémon X and Y that brought the game into the 3rd dimension, though.
A renaissance for the Pokémon games, it introduced a slew of new gameplay features including the fairy type, character customization and probably most importantly - Mega evolution: a new type of evolution for previously fully evolved Pokémon. Throw in 70 brand new Pokémon species and it’s no wonder X and Y broke sales records.
As a treat for hardcore Pokéfans, Pokémon’s 20th anniversary has seen the release of Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow on 3DS - you know, in case you missed the 8-bit monochromatic graphics of the originals. Don’t forget your nostalgia goggles!