Pokemon: history, origin and controversies

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Pokémon is a global phenomenon. With merchandise in the forms of trading cards, clothing, and plushies, as well as sản phẩm điện thoại apps, anime, manga, và food (yes, even food), the franchise is virtually everywhere these days. Sitting comfortably at the top of the danh mục of highest-grossing media franchises of all time and at second place (behind Mario, of course) on the danh sách of best-selling video clip games of all time, it’s become apparent that these dễ thương pocket monsters are here lớn stay. Hell, Pikachu’s ears and cheeks have become just as recognizable as Disney’s Mickey Mouse ears, so yeah—Pokémon is that iconic. But, what is now considered a pop culture mainstay wasn’t always the case.

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pocket Monsters: Red & Green, game Freak và Nintendo have released New Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl (a remake of the 2006’s Pokémon Diamond and Pearl)for the Nintendo Switch. So, to lớn celebrate their celebration, we’re taking it back to the ’90s—the beginning of our Pokémon adventure—as we run down the history of the making of Pocket Monsters: Red và Green, và how it all began just 25 years ago.

Game Freak Presents…

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Long before the company had evolved into an unstoppable Pokémon-churning behemoth, game Freak started as a humble fanmade gaming magazine. Satoshi Tajiri founded, crafted, hand-wrote, và edited the fanzine during the early 80s. From about 1981 lớn 1986, the fanzine simultaneously served as Tajiri’s love letter to video games out around that time & a strategy guide lớn accompany those games.

As faith would have it, Ken Sugimori, best known as the character & art designer for the Pokémon franchise, would find a copy of the fanzine in a local dojinshi shop and tương tác Tajiri with an interest in becoming an illustrator for the fanzine. The last piece of the trò chơi Freak puzzle was Junichi Masuda. Masuda was approached by Tajiri in 1989, who asked if he wanted to join trò chơi Freak as a composer. Around the same time, Masuda worked in a corporate office job và was looking to get away from that type of work. Masuda agreed lớn Tajiri’s offer and became one of the three founding members of the gaming company. The three men would turn Game Freak (the fanzine) into game Freak (the company) in 1989. “Our conclusion was,” Tajiri said to lớn TIME magazine in a 1999 interview, “there weren’t too many good-quality games, so let’s make our own.” The inception of Pokémon came shortly after that.

Choose Your Starter

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Tajiri first came up with the idea of Pokémon towards the beginning of 1990. Back then, though, it wasn’t called Pokémon; it was referred khổng lồ as Capsule Monsters. Tajiri came up with the original name to lớn pay homage khổng lồ gashapon machines, a variety of Japanese vending machine-dispensed capsule toys. He couldn’t get the name trademarked, so he changed it khổng lồ CapuMon for a brief time và finally landed on Pocket Monsters—known in the west as Pokémon, of course! Inspired by his childhood love of insect và fish collecting in his hometown of Machida, Tokyo, Tajiri wanted to lớn capture the magic he felt as a bug-obsessed youth & replicate that feeling in a video clip game. He also found inspiration in the GameBoy’s ability to communicate with other GameBoys via liên kết cable; it reminded him of his bug trading & collecting days harkening back khổng lồ his youth.

As envisioned by Tajiri, Pocket Monsters: Red & Green was meant lớn draw from that nostalgia, preserving the wonders of exploring the countryside và instilling it in a new generation of kids, who were growing up in an increasingly urban Japan. The game’s premise was simple: you play as a young boy tasked with collecting all 150 Pokémon in hopes of completing your Pokédex. Along the way, you would also be tasked with battling, trading, and catching new creatures in the hopes of becoming a Pokémon Master. In a quirky, romantic kind of way, Pocket Monsters: Red & Green was ultimately a love letter khổng lồ Tajiri’s childhood.

But Tajiri wasn’t the only one drawing inspiration from childhood lớn aid in the creative process. Sugimori designed most of the Pokémon during the early days of development, và he was inspired by his love for Godzilla và Ultraman. Because of this, a lot of the early designs for the Pokémon are relatively large, hulking, brute monsters that look as if they could go toe lớn toe with MechaGodzilla. Sugimori also found inspiration in everyday life.

“Rhydon, Clefairy, Lapras, etc. . Our original idea was for Pokémon to live alongside humans & assist them in useful ways,” Sugimori said lớn Nintendo Online Magazine in July 2000. “So the earliest Pokémon had well-defined functions—like ferrying people across the sea or carrying things. I also created Pokémon like Clefairy, who were basically xinh tươi pets. It started with designs of dinosaurs and monsters. Then we started adding dễ thương Pokémon as the game’s development progressed.”

Noticing that most of the inspiration for the game’s monsters early on were too ferocious, Tajiri & Sugimori brought in Atsuko Nishida lớn cutify these beasts and give the newer creations a softer touch. Inspired by her childhood, Nishida would go on lớn create the starters of Red & Green: Bulbasaur, Charmander, và Squirtle. In addition, she designed the first pseudo-legendary, Dratini; one of the first monsters to lớn evolve by a Firestone, Vulpix; & the mascot itself, Pikachu! During this process, Nishida, Sugimori, and two other trò chơi Freak artists ended up creating about 300 different Pokémon for the game, with only 150 making the final cut in the end.

By infusing the foundation of this passion project with his childhood memories, hobbies & outlook on life and the lived experiences of his colleagues, Tajiri sought out khổng lồ make a trò chơi that could be appreciated và loved universally, regardless of where you were located in the world. It was this kind of thinking that would ultimately lead khổng lồ Pokémon’s domination in the marketplace: a franchise built off of the idea of collecting & trading creatures through handheld systems. This idea would play a direct role in making certain Pokémon exclusive to Pocket Monsters: Red và others exclusive lớn Pocket Monsters: Green, encouraging players to lớn trade their collections of monsters with hopes of completing their Pokédex.

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Tajiri also made sure to lớn make the protagonist the same age he was when he began exploring his surroundings in Japan. He argued that making the main character a kid instead of an adult would prove lớn be more influential in how kids view themselves with regard to the game. Giving kids a character that they could identify with, age-wise, would allow them to become immersed in the world of Pocket Monsters.

“Pokémon will always be about my childhood. I think adults and children see the world differently, so I wanted that to be reflected in the game. That’s why in Pokémon, you never see things from the adults’ perspective. When I was a kid, I really hated being called ‘squirt’ or ‘little boy.’ Maybe that’s how adults saw me, but I felt like I was more than just a kid,” Tajiri said to lớn Nintendo Online Magazine. “That’s also a theme in Pokémon. That’s why the protagonists in the games are on the same màn chơi as adults, even though they look down on them. But when you can defeat them in a battle, they start lớn view you differently. That happens a lot in the game as you gain recognition và continue khổng lồ grow.”

And continue to lớn grow, trò chơi Freak did. In the years leading up lớn the release of Pokémon, game Freak’s staff would increase khổng lồ a little under 30 employees in total. Và as time went on, Tajiri và Sugimori began to lớn realize that, if they were going to lớn make their dream of releasing the most optimal & polished version of their passion project come true, they would need a bit more cash. So, while they were hard at work on Pokémon, Tsunekazu Ishihara, then an employee of Ape Inc., suggested that game Freak take on more projects, like Yoshi & Mario & Wario, lớn name a few. So Satoshi Tajiri put his passion project on hold & began working on these Nintendo projects. While this decision was highly influenced by the company’s need for extra cash, committing lớn working on both Yoshi & Mario và Wario would prove to be creatively beneficial for the company. “Even though developing games like Yoshi were completely different, in my mind, it was necessary lớn the eventual development of Pokémon. Making Yoshi ended up really helping us out a lot as a company. I was extremely grateful it was released worldwide, instead of only in Japan,” said Tajiri. “We accepted the project for financial reasons, and making money from outside nhật bản really saved us. Back then, most trang chủ console games were made in Japan, but it was obvious they’d eventually be sold in the international market. So I was really happy to see the trò chơi recognized as a true fundamental in gaming history all around the world.”

From the time they initially began working on the Pokémon project in 1990 lớn the release date in 1996, trò chơi Freak worked on and released several other games, including Mendel Palace, Magical Taruruto-kun, và Pulseman. The employees that were hired lớn work on the previous games ended up becoming a part of the game Freak team that helped make Pocket Monsters: Red và Green a reality. These legendary talents included: Shigeki Morimoto, one of four programmers; Koji Nishino, bản đồ and parametric designer; and Shigeru Miyamoto, who was a producer at the time. The Pokémon journey had officially begun.

PKMN Trainer Gary Wants khổng lồ Fight!

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With the foundation of the company & the creative team established, game Freak came up with a rough draft for the premise & concept of Pokémon and how it would be played on the game Boy system. Satoshi Tajiri, overjoyed to lớn finally accomplish his dream, took the project lớn Nintendo và pitched the idea khổng lồ the suits. And, well, they didn’t like it. They weren’t sold on Tajiri’s overall idea & were actually confused at the premise of the game. “At first, Pokémon was just an idea,” said Shigeru Miyamoto in a 1999 TIME interview, “and nothing happened.”

Miyamoto is best known as the mastermind behind Nintendo’s beloved mascot, Mario. He saw promise in Tajiri & decided that he would take him under his wing & mentor him. Miyamoto helped lớn sell the idea of Pokémon to Nintendo, citing trò chơi Freak’s previous contributions as examples of what Pokémon could eventually evolve into. The iconic gaming company almost gave up on Pokémon entirely but, having been blown away with trò chơi Freak’s streak of previous successes, they gave Pokémon a chance. Nintendo still wasn’t too sure what Pokémon was about, but they took Tajiri & Miyamoto’s word for it and gave the project the green light. Tajiri signed the contract và began brainstorming.

“The first trò chơi we started planning together was Pokémon. Pokémon was originally planned as a smaller, more compact game,” Tajiri told Nintendo Online Magazine. “When we saw Final Fantasy Legend made by Square, we realized we could make a non-action trò chơi on game Boy. We figured we could probably make a game Boy game in about six months. But our goals for Pokémon just grew & grew, so we eventually realized it’d be difficult to lớn develop that quickly. Of course, ultimately, our six-month plan didn’t work out.”

Game Freak would take six years lớn complete the game and, in the process, almost went utterly broke. It was reported that Tajiri barely had enough money khổng lồ pay all of his employees, which resulted in five of them quitting altogether. It was a rough experience, but that didn’t keep the team down for too long, as their luck would eventually turn around. Creatures Inc. Saved the day, investing in the company to get them to lớn the finish line. In exchange, Creatures would receive one-third of the rights lớn Pokémon. Nonetheless, Pokémon was finally here.

Welcome khổng lồ the World of Pokémon

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1996 brought us lớn the beginning of the revolution—the Pokémon revolution, that is. But, at first, the revolution was definitely not televised. Pocket Monsters: Red and Green was finally released in japan on February 27th, 1996, on a console that was already past its prime. Because of this, little to lớn no press was done around the game; the truyền thông just wasn’t interested in covering a game that was exclusive lớn an archaic console. Nintendo saw the blood in the water và wasn’t expecting much of this little game. They planned to lớn collect whatever minuscule amount of money they could from the newly released project and then move on from it. “No magazine or TV show was interested. They thought GameBoy was finished,” said Masakazu Kubo, the executive producer of the publishing company Shogakukan Inc. “No toymakers were interested either.” The final straw for the trò chơi came when the biggest tech companies in japan began lớn make the move to lớn CD-ROMs, which provided cleaner graphics & smoother fidelity. Corporate nhật bản was looking towards the future of gaming, a future that seemingly had no place for a time-displaced RPG called Pocket Monsters. Except, that’s where they were wrong.

There was a faction of Japan’s population that the corporate suits forgot khổng lồ consider when dealing with Pokémon: the youth. The young boys & girls in japan were immediately attracted to Pocket Monsters: Red và Green when they first appeared on store shelves. Unlike CD-ROMs & the computers required lớn play them, trò chơi Boy tech và games were much more affordable. Shogakukan Inc. Saw the spell that Pokémon seemed lớn have cast on children, & decided that they were interested in backing the product after all. With that last hurdle out of the way, Pocket Monsters: Red và Green began to lớn take off. Slowly but surely, the trò chơi was selling out all across Japan. That’s when Nintendo truly began khổng lồ understand the vision of what Tajiri & Game Freak were trying to lớn create. And they had finally succeeded. “That’s why it was originally conceived as a game that would be developed for this new hardware. Then there were substantial delays in completing the title,” said Ishihara during an interview with Satoru Iwata for Iwata Asks. “Still, as the producer, when I saw the nội dung of Pocket Monsters: Red và Green, my personal feeling was that of all the titles I had experience of, that I had played or worked on as a producer, this was of the very highest caliber. That is to lớn say, I was confident that this was streets ahead of the crowd in terms of sheer enjoyment.”

As the game gradually crept up the menu of best-selling games, the attitude towards the game had shifted. Word of mouth và the curiosity of children had prevented Pocket Monsters from failing, and the hype was only getting started. Final Fantasy was the đứng top game around that time, but that all came to lớn an end when players discovered the mysterious feature that Tajiri and Shigeki Morimoto snuck into Red & Green. Officially, there were thought lớn be 150 Pokémon in the game’s Pokédex overall. But, unknown lớn Nintendo and the general media, Tajiri và Morimoto had managed lớn sneak in a creature named Mew, the 151st Pokémon who would also happen khổng lồ play a significant role in the first-ever Pokémon movie. Mew was a Pokémon that Morimoto created for the sole purpose of playing a prank on the other members of trò chơi Freak towards the kết thúc of development. Because of this, the only people who were aware of the mythical Pokémon’s existence was, well, trò chơi Freak. As time went on, though, players had managed to lớn exploit a glitch in Red and Green & encountered the legendary Pokémon. Tajiri decided he would conduct an official announcement for the Pokémon, looking lớn capitalize off of the hype.

Tajiri went to CoroCoro Comic, a famous Japanese manga journal, and conducted an experimental showcase of the legendary Pokémon, stating that trò chơi Freak và Nintendo would be giving away Mew Pokémon cards for free, in partnership with the magazine. The promotion proved to be a success. Trò chơi Freak planned khổng lồ take the hype a step further by announcing they would be giving away 151 Mews khổng lồ 151 winners of a contest they were looking to hold. The contest and announcement of Mew proved to be even more successful than the last effort, and resulted in more games flying off the shelves. “I think one reason is the power of word of mouth. In 1996, people weren’t writing their own internet blogs, but word steadily spread about how much fun Pokémon was,” Ishihara said. “In addition, I strongly felt that the power nguồn of the media, centered around the CoroCoro Comic, served lớn accelerate the growth in Pokémon’s popularity. Finally, there was also the small matter of Mew, the Pokémon that Morimoto-san contrived as a kind of prank.” Well, the prank worked, & Nintendo was pleased with the outcome. In fact, Nintendo was so pleased with the performance of Pocket Monsters: Red and Green that they immediately greenlit an anime based on the property.

Pocket Monsters: Red & Green had cemented itself as a dominating force in Japan. But trò chơi Freak wouldn’t stop there, eventually setting their eyes on a global release, and eyeing America as their first stop on their tour of world domination. & the rest, as they say, is history. Pocket Monsters: Red & Green, và the eventual third version, Blue, would sell a whopping 10.23 million copies in Japan, marking the start of the world’s 25-year-long obsession with Pokémon.

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Pokémon Master

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Whether you know it as Pocket Monsters or Pokémon, one fact remains: the brand was undeniably strong in the ’90s, & it has only gotten stronger over time, like Rollout. As we look to the future of Pokémon, may we never forget the turbulent beginnings of a franchise that all began with the dream of one young man—a dream that sought lớn preserve his childhood in a time capsule. Red and Green, as a finished project, was an RPG based on friendship, collecting, exploring and curiosity—all the ingredients that make for a beautiful childhood, if you ask Satoshi Tajiri. As Pokémon TCG, Pokémon Go, and the Pokémon vi xử lý core games continue to grow in popularity, it’s clear that trò chơi Freak is still determined lớn spread the excitement of new adventures.Here’s to another 25 years of catching them all.