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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Pokemon - Gotta Catch 'Em All

For this week's edition of the Saturday Smorgasbord, I'm actually going to do something unique.

I know that I kicked off the Saturday Smorgasbord just one week ago today, and I know that I already have designated topics depending on what week it happens to be.

For those of you who don't remember, here's the Saturday Smorgasbord schedule.


Okay, so here's the thing. I'm already plotting to break this schedule least for this month anyway. That's because next Saturday is a day in which I will be participating in a special fundraising event called the “Relay for Life”, and I plan to use this date to talk about my experiences at that event.

(Just be forewarned. This event takes place from 7:00pm on Friday, June 14, and runs until Saturday, June 15 at 7:00am. That means that I'll be pulling my first all-nighter in approximately twelve years. So, if I appear to be slightly lucid when I post about my Relay for Life experiences, you'll understand why.

So, because I plan on devoting my June 15 entry to the “Relay for Life”, that means that naturally, I will be foregoing the cartoon discussion for the month of June...

...or WILL I?

And, this week's topic will be one in which I will be discussing a video game in deep detail (something that I haven't done in quite a long time), so this means that I should solely be focusing on a video game series today...

...or WILL I?

I thought about how to present this blog for quite some time in preparation for next week's events, and the only solution that I could come up with at the spur of the moment was to do a blog entry that featured both a video game and a cartoon.

An impossible task, I hear you shouting. How can I do a blog entry on both a video game and a cartoon at the same exact time?


There are loads of examples of Saturday Morning cartoons being the inspiration behind several video games. I can think of quite a few that have featured Garfield and Snoopy as main characters. I recall several video games that have been based on comic book heroes such as Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man. And, I'm fairly positive that every Disney film and every Disney cartoon featured on The Disney Afternoon has at least one video game adaptation.

But the truth is that this works both ways. I can't even begin to count the vast number of cartoons that have featured Super Mario as a main character. Teletoon (a Canadian cartoon channel) used to air a cartoon version of “Donkey Kong Country”. I seem to recall that Sonic the Hedgehog was made into a cartoon as well. And, if you want to throw live-action television into the mix, I know that the video game “Maniac Mansion” was the inspiration behind a short-lived sitcom of the same name.

And, then there's the subject of today's blog. A video game empire that began all the way back in 1996, with just a simple Game Boy cartridge. As of 2013, that empire has spawned several video games (named after colours, birthstones, and materials found on the Periodic Table of Elements), a popular card trading game, and is currently listed as the second most popular video game series right behind Super Mario Brothers.

And, would you believe that there was an animated series that followed the game release that was so successful, it spawned several full-length animated films?

And, would you believe that I have not seen any of the movies, any of the episodes of the animated series, or even so much as played any of the games in this series?

For whatever reason, everyone I knew was hooked on the Pokemon series. And, certainly, there was a lot of fun elements behind Pokemon. There was the competitive nature as people lived by the game's long-standing catchphrase “Gotta Catch 'Em All”. The vast variety of Pokemon titles available for public consumption meant hours of endless fun. And, certainly, many of the Pokemon characters were cute and cuddly little creatures, which attracted many girls to the video game industry – once considered a male dominated form of entertainment for several years.

But I was never one to really jump on the bandwagon just because everyone else did it. In all honesty, I kind of consider myself a video game snob in that I am very particular in what video games I end up playing. I really enjoy games that are challenging and make you think (like the Final Fantasy or Phoenix Wright series). I really like games that are fun and have a great soundtrack (like Super Mario or Donkey Kong Country). Heck, I'll even be the first to admit that I like video games that are based off of game shows (the Wheel of Fortune cartridge that I play on my Nintendo DS gets a lot of use).

But Pokemon was just one of those fads that I never jumped on the bandwagon for. It's not to say that it's a bad game. I know many people who absolutely love it. But the one and only time I played a Pokemon game was probably about twelve years ago, and although I only played it for about a half hour, I wasn't all that wowed by it.

Though, to be fair, at that time I was approximately 19, 20...and I was sort of out of the target audience frame. I suppose that had I grown up playing it as I had with Super Mario Brothers, I might have a different opinion of the game series.

Regardless, I have decided to write a blog on this video game/cartoon series in spite of my lack of playing/viewing experience, because I wanted to see if I could tackle a blog on a subject I'm not overly familiar with.

So, Pokemon was introduced by Nintendo in 1996, and the name Pokemon is a portmanteau of sorts. It takes the first few letters in the words “Pocket Monsters” and combines them to become “Pokemon”. The game was actually inspired by a hobby that the video game's executive director, Satoshi Tajiri, partook in as a child. He used to collect insects, and a lot of the Pokemon that are featured in the game certainly have insect like looks and abilities.

And, the object of all of the Pokemon games is quite simple. The player is referred to as a Pokemon trainer, and there are basically two objectives to the game. The first is to collect every Pokemon in the game and complete your “Pokedex”. The second is to train said Pokemon to become a huge threat to the Pokemon owned by other trainers in hopes of becoming the most elite of them all...the Pokemon Master.

And, how they catch these elusive Pokemon are with one of these.

These little red and white balls are actually Pokemon traps. Their formal name is...get this...a Poke Ball!

NOTE: Poke is pronounced Pok-ay, not like Poke. I forgot how to type in the accents on this word document.

Sometimes, a wild Pokemon can bust out of the Poke Ball, but if they can't, then they become the property of the Pokemon trainer, and the trainer is now responsible for training them, loving them, etc.

I suppose in one aspect, the Pokemon was kind of a companion piece to the Tamagotchi, which also hit store shelves in 1996. I suppose the mid-1990s was the age of the digital pet.

So, just what are some of these cuddly (and not-so-cuddly) creatures that kids of all ages fought so hard to catch?

Well, I don't exactly have the time to list all of them here. Between the various video game releases between 1996 and 2013, there have been a total of at least 649 different species of Pokemon to be caught!

Now, obviously the most popular and well-known Pokemon character is the little yellow guy named PIKACHU. Pikachu is widely considered to be the official mascot of the Pokemon series, and he even managed to get his own video game called “Hey You, Pikachu!” for the Nintendo 64. But even though Pikachu is clearly the most recognizable Pokemon, he is clearly not the only one to make an impact on the game. Here is a partial list of some of the more well known Pokemon.

BULBASAURThe Bulbasaur is a Pokemon that is a master at storing energy. The bulb on his back allows the Bulbasaur to survive for several days without eating, making him a very strong ally to have on your side. In fact, in the animated series, Bulbasaur was a rather prominent character. His name is a combination of the words “bulb” and “dinosaur”

SQUIRTLE – Obviously, the Squirtle is a combination of the words “Squirt” and “Turtle”, and from what I hear, the Squirtle was quite a popular Pokemon as well. When kids were playing the trading card game, I recall that the Squirtle card was supposedly one of the biggest commodities to have...though, I'm not sure why. I do know that the Squirtle lives up to its name whenever it feels threatened. If it does, it hides inside of its shell and sprays a jet of water at its enemies.

JIGGLYPUFF – Okay, I'll admit it. The name itself makes me smile a rather goofy smile. I mean, what kind of name is Jigglypuff? But don't let the name fool you. Jigglypuff can be one tough customer. And, did you know that a Jigglypuff is created after the maturation of an IGGLYBUFF? And, that when a Jigglypuff matures, it becomes a WIGGLYTUFF? My goodness, what strange names.

VULPIX – I must confess...I had no idea what a Vulpix was until I befriended a man who did a little bit of cartooning as a hobby. His name is Hector, and he is quite a decent artist. His renditions of cartoon characters from Disney movies and Pokemon cartoons are quite spectacular. I'm sure that I have some examples of his work kicking around my apartment somewhere. Oh, one thing you should know. Vulpix is not someone you want on your bad side. If you annoy him, you will quite literally become a french fry, as his fire breath could melt the glass off of a car windshield.

MEOWTH – Meowth is one cat that can do it all...even if some critics downplay his usefulness. He can actually communicate with humans, cause enemies some damage with the spikes on his face, and he is easily considered to be one of the most recognizable Pokemon characters right behind Pikachu.

SNORLAX – What can I say about this sloth-like Pokemon? Well, with an estimated weight of over a thousand pounds, it's safe to say that he is the largest Pokemon character to be found. His name is a combination of the words “Snore” and “Relax”, which basically seems to be all that this Pokemon does. However, he also has his claims to fame. He can digest almost anything that passes through his mouth, and his digestive juices are so strong that they literally make Snorlax immune to almost any sort of poison. Definitely a Pokemon you want on your side.

So, I think that I'm going to end this note off with a question and a song.

The question: Have you played Pokemon? And, who are some of your favourites.

And, the song comes from the Norwegian pop duo M2M, which had a minor hit in 1999 when “Pokemon: The First Movie” was released in theatres.

SONG: Don't Say You Love Me
ALBUM: Shades of Purple
DATE RELEASED: October 26, 1999

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