The buzz surrounding the new Pokémon games—Sun and Moon, in case you’re wondering—had me reminiscing about the good ol’ days of Red and Blue. As a 28-year-old, I believe I’m mature enough to tell young‘uns what they are missing out on if they didn’t play the original Pokémon games.
Jokes aside, while Red and Blue were a huge part of my childhood, I’m pretty sure that I’d tire of the games quite quickly if I played them again now. Still, the series had come a long way, with some things still staying the same throughout the years; the release of Sun and Moon heralded yet another generation of critters for trainers to catch and enslave, and the age-old argument of which starter Pokémon is the best still rages on.
But between the latest title and the original released 20 years ago, plenty more things have changed—and I’m not talking about the swanky features that were slowly introduced over the years. Your long-suffering mum finally has her own room in Sun and Moon, and is no longer living in the kitchen. The Swimmer who challenged you to a battle, in the middle of the sea, is now an attractive, well-built man. Most of all, your rival is not an insufferable know-it-all like Blue; he is Hau, a big-hearted friend who greets you with a grin, and accepts his defeats graciously.
Unlike the new world in Sun and Moon, which seems much more fleshed out, the simplistic portrayal of the world in Red and Blue appears childlike in comparison. Red and Blue feel as if they were from the perspective of a young child, filled with wonderment and excitement at the thought of being a professional Pokémon trainer—like the series’ very first fans.
Take myself for instance. Minor but illogical details, like how my poor mum couldn’t afford a bed while I had an entire room to myself, were inconsequential to my eight-year-old self. I was preoccupied with discovering new Pokémon, besting my rival and making my way to the Pokémon League, where elite trainers compete against one another for the prestigious title of Pokémon League champion. I only knew that Charmander was my favorite starter and Pikachu looked weird, but I had loved them both all the same.
Of course, my outlook changed when I grew up; villains can be relatable, and heroes aren’t always the very paragons of virtue. These changes are reflected in the series too. Team Magma and Team Aqua, the designated “bad guys” in Ruby and Sapphire, had sympathetic, albeit extreme, environmental leanings; in the end, they just wanted to create a world where Pokémon and humanity could co-exist peacefully. This is in stark contrast to the dastardly evil Team Rocket, the original villains in Red and Blue, who would steal and even hurt Pokémon if they could profit from these insidious deeds.
Growing alongside its fans, Pokémon proved that it is more than just an unforgettable series; it is a large cultural touchstone, and a monument to how far videogames have brought us today. And perhaps in another two decades, we will see a Pokémon universe filled with middle-aged adults discussing current affairs, while still harboring hopes of becoming the region’s next Pokémon League champion.