Franchise: Pokémon

"Hello there! Welcome to the world of Pokémon!"
Professor Oak, Pokémon Red and Blue

These Role Playing Games, developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo, spawned a multi-billion dollar franchise rivaling the Mario series (which of course is also published by Nintendo), and indirectly caused the proliferation of Western broadcasts of anime along with Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon.

Released in Japan in February of 1996 for the Game Boy, Pokémon (or in Japan, Pocket Monsters) came in two versions: Red and Green. The idea of the game is to run around and battle wild Mons with your own, catch them with hand-held balls, and teach them to battle (non-lethally) with each other under the guidance of human Trainers for fun and profit. The original idea was for an artificial form of insect collecting for kids that lived in cities and thus couldn't participate in such a hobby (as the original creator was a bug collector when he was a kid), with the paired versions providing incentive for players to get together and trade Mons with their friends (but more on that later).

The strategy in the gameplay comes from two factors. First of all, there's an ambitiously large Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors setup. 15 (later 17, and now 18note ) different elements are in play, and some species of Pokémon belong to two elements instead of just one, which can neutralize or compound the elements' respective resistances or weak points. Pokémon aren't strictly limited to moves of their elemental type eithernote , but can learn almost any move the particular creature might reasonably be capable of executing (like Water Pokémon using Ice-type moves, or Dragon Pokémon using Fire-type moves), and sometimes ones they aren't (a plesiosaur-like creature learning to eat dreams and shoot lightning? Okay!).

The second factor is the strict move limit: each of your Pokémon can only know 4 moves at once, out of a large movepool that they can learn from. This was hampered in the first generation by balance issues leading to some elements and species becoming obvious Game Breakers, but later generations have made many strides in balancing them out, most notably with the addition of new types: Dark, Steel and Fairy.

The plot of each main-series game is typically a quest To Be a Master; the player is given one Pokémon to start their team with, then proceeds to take on the region's "Pokémon League" by catching new Pokémon, defeating other Pokémon trainers in battles (most importantly your childhood friend and rival), challenging type-specialist Gym Leaders and collecting Gym Badges, and ultimately battling the Elite Four to become the regional League Champion. During your journey, you also manage to single-handedly take down some kind of crime syndicate (and/or save the world) at some point along the way, and capture really powerful Pokémon that the local legends are based on.

While these aren't necessarily the greatest stories ever told, the games are certainly enjoyable, especially if you have friends that also play the games. You see, the completion of the in-game storyline and Bonus Dungeons only comprised part of the gameplay. The real meat of the game (or as some insist, the only point of the game) was the one-on-one Competitive Multiplayer. Not only were the player's Pokémon usable against the in-game enemies, these same Pokémon can be pitted against Pokémon trained by other live players of the game. As such, players continued to train and catch Pokémon just so they have the best team among their peers. To further facilitate interaction between players was the fact that Pokémon can also be traded between games, and that certain Pokémon can only be obtained by trading. That was the rationale behind releasing different versions of the game, as each version had certain Pokémon that were exclusive to it, and trading was the only way to get those exclusives in the other version.

To say that the brand took off like a (Team) rocket would be an understatement. Part of its success is down to the fact that with each generation, you must have access to (through purchase or a friend) at least two games to complete your Pokédex, trading with another player, and you both need Game Boys and alternate copies of the game. Despite being a relatively young series, the franchise is the second-best-selling video game franchise of all time, by a wide margin,note  and is only beaten by its older brother, the Mario franchise. Though it consistently has come close to topping it, Pokémon still has a way to go before it's the very best it tops the plumbers.

The concept of Pokémon would not be confined to the Video Game medium. Merchandising sprung up all over the place, including, of course, an anime. The game series continued on with a third version, Blue, that mostly just improved the graphics and altered the distribution of the mons, which also started the practice of making a "Special Edition" game for each generation, with an altered Pokémon lineup, and special events and items.

Yet after all this, it wasn't until September of 1998 that Pokémon made its way to North America and then the world at large. The world got two versions, labeled Red and Blue, which were pretty much the original Red and Green with Blue's better graphics. With so much time to prepare, the merchandising launch was all ready to go, and the games became as much of a smash hit in America and the rest of the world as they did in Japan. About a year later, a version loosely based on the anime called Pokémon Yellow was released, that featured now-mascot Pikachu as your starting Pokémon and even better graphics.

Of course, sequels were inevitable, especially in the video game world. The next generation of Pokémon games, titled Pokémon Gold and Silver, added the two new Dark- and Steel-types mentioned earlier, around 100 more Pokémon, among other improvements. Most notably, the developers improved game balance; the Psychic element was no longer the ruler of the roost. Crystal came out soon after Gold and Silver and is the first game to allow the player to choose their sex; previously, the player's avatar was male-only. It also started the trend of each generation's third version having a noticeably different plot than the initial paired versions, by way of the additional minor subplot with the legendary Pokémon Suicune and its interactions with both the player and another Trainer that's been seeking it.

Further sequels added their own wrinkles to the game mechanics among other minor improvements/adjustments: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire on the Game Boy Advance completely overhauled the way stats were handled and gave Pokémon special Abilities and Natures, as well as implementing 2-on-2 battles and introducing the concept of Pokémon contests. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl reclassified attacks as Physical or Special based on the nature of the move, rather than on elemental Type as in previous generations; plus new features allowed worldwide trading and battling over the internet, thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi hardware of the Nintendo DS. Pokémon Black and White escalated the multi battles by expanding them to 3-on-3 and introducing combination attacks, as well as adding new connectivity features. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 marked the debut of several new Pokémon Formes and introduced two new gameplay modes to reduce or heighten difficulty. Black 2 and White 2 also brought about the Pokémon World Tournament, bringing back every single Gym Leader and Champion from preceding Pokémon gamesnote , as well as a few Bonus Bosses to challenge the player. With the release of Pokémon X and Y the main series has now gone full 3D with cel-shaded graphics on the Nintendo 3DS, and they are the first games in the series to be released internationally at the same time worldwide.

X and Y also brought new temporarily-activated Mega Evolutions to the table, altered type matchups with the first new type introduced in over fourteen years (the Fairy-type), added new status-related perks to Grass-, Ghost-, and Electric-type Pokémon, modified character/item name limits with much-appreciated increases, heralded online Pokémon cloud-computing storage with Pokémon Bank, and pioneered the game-changing advent of dual-type moves.

You can visit the official website(s) (Japanese; English/Worldwide), as well as the official YouTube account (Japanese; English), Twitter account (English), and Facebook account (English). See also Game Freak's official website (here, in Japanese), and Junichi Masuda's blog (which contains content regarding the Pokémon series — Japanese; English).

You can get the "é" symbol by holding down "ALT" and keying in "0", "2", "3", "3" or "1", "3", "0" in that order on the numerical pad to the right of the keyboard. For some keyboards "CTRL-ALT-E" works too (though others may end up with the Euro symbol instead). If you are using British keyboard layout, "ALT GR-E" will get you it (but it only works with the right hand key marked ALT GR). For Mac users, hold down option-E, then type an E. For iPhone, iPod Touch and Android users, hold down on the letter E to get the option. If none of these options work for you, type into Google "e accent" or simply "pokemon" and copy-paste the character. Or just copy it directly from the top of this paragraph. And of course, if you are a native speaker of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Czech, Lakota, etc. or have your keyboard set to the U.S. International layout, it's a lot simpler than that.

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