Did you know the first ever Pokémon video games came out in Japan 15 years ago? Released on February 27, 1996 for the Game Boy, Pocket Monsters Red and Green were the first games that introduced Pikachu, Poké Balls, and all the other familiar elements we are used to seeing today. After five generations of games spanning several systems and consoles, it's amazing how this worldwide success first got started.
Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri grew up collecting bugs. As a child, he and his friends would run around the rural suburbs of his Japanese town collecting different varieties of insects and beetles that they would use in bug matches. He loved bugs so much that his friends used to call him "Dr. Bug." It's no surprise then that when he saw two kids playing Game Boy with their link cables, he imagined what it would be like if bugs were being exchanged instead. His rural town of Machida was undergoing modernization during this time and his ponds and forests were being replaced by arcades and electronic stores. Tajiri thought it was about time his lowly childhood bug hunts received an update too.
After pitching his video game idea to Nintendo and getting the help of Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Tajiri and his team spent six years developing Pokémon Red and Green for the Game Boy. The game turns bug catching into a quest to gather all 151 Pokémon in a world that is based on the real life Kanto region of Japan. Despite being released near the end of the Game Boy's lifespan, these two games became extremely popular throughout the country and saw worldwide success. Updated versions of the games included Pokémon Blue and an anime-inspired Pokémon Yellow followed shortly.
The Pokémon Red and Blue versions Americans got to play were actually a combination of the Japanese versions of Red, Blue, and Green. The Japanese Red and Green provided the basis for the games and the full list of Pokémon. Blue provided updated graphics, text, and a new game engine. The US versions were released September 26, 1998 while the European versions came out the following year. It took over two years for the rest of the world to experience Pokémon. But it was well worth the wait.
The Pokémon franchise is now in its fifth generation of video games. Since its 1996 debut, it has spawned countless toys, trading cards, television shows, movies, and even food-related items. Regardless of where you go, chances are someone will have heard of Pokémon or at least Pikachu, its mascot. I've been playing Pokémon since the games were released on Game Boy, and I definitely have a lot of memories with these games. For some people, Pokémon has grown up with them and shaped their childhood. What are your earliest memories of Pokémon?