It’s been 22 years since most of us left home as children, ready to explore the big wide world and pit the creatures that dwelled within it, head-to-head in ferocious battles.
Were we all highly independent psychopaths in the making? Nope, we were just playing Pokémon on our Game Boys.
And today, February 27, marks the 22nd anniversary of the Nintendo game’s official release in Japan.
Yep, 1996 was the year many kids faced the biggest dilemma of their young lives, unless like me you were in the UK and had to wait ’til 99 for the European release. Red or Blue?
One had Charizard on the box, the other Blastoise – meanwhile Venusaur was sacked off like grass cuttings in a wheelie bin, which always seemed harsh until the 2004 release of Leaf Green version.
As a child, I suspect a high volume of fellow players only considered which cartridge matched their Game Boy best. No? Just me then. But the decision would have a massive impact on how your Pokédex developed.
Sod Ekans and Arbok, the only member of Team Rocket I wanted was Meowth, and although I was disappointed the feline gobsh*te couldn’t actually talk in the game, the younger version of me was content with the choice.
So, I plumped for Blue version, the colour really popped from the back of my yellow peril Game Boy Pocket – Thanks Mom and Dad, it was just the one I wanted.
Blue exclusively featured Sandshrew, Sandslash, Bellsprout, Weepinbell, Victreebel, Meowth, Persian, Vulpix, Ninetales, Pinsir, and Magmar. While Red version flaunted Ekans, Arbok, Oddish, Gloom, Vileplume, Mankey, Primeape, Growlithe, Arcanine, Scyther, and Electabuzz.
OK, catching a Scyther in the Safari Zone would have been nice, but that’s what friends and trading cables were for.
Beyond the pocket monsters you could catch at varying stages of the game, Red and Blue were essentially identical in terms of the journey.
With either version you got to start the game with the choice of either Bulbasaur, Squirtle, or Charmander, courtesy of Professor Oak – who wasn’t at all creepy in his attempts to have children explore the world for the benefit of his own database.
If you thought about it carefully, Bulbasaur or Squirtle would give you the best chance at the start of the game of defeating Brock’s rock types in Pewter city, before heading to Cerulean to go head-to-flipper against Misty’s array of water Pokémon.
But, if you did go for fiery braun over tactical nouse, you could set up camp in Viridian Forest, crushing bug types, an army of Rattatas, and more Pidgeys than any one need encounter in a lifetime to build up your stats. You may even catch a Pikachu in the process.
Then there was always that one mate who went rogue with Yellow version, smug g*ts walking around with their Pikachu in tow…
The next major dilemma for the developing mind of the user was an ethical one – to cheat or not to cheat?
In fact, the original Pokémon games would’ve made one hell of a pyschological experiment.
Cheat codes and glitch manipulation became all the rage – but for the purists, it was about seeing the game through with honour and to catch Mewtwo. You only got one chance.
Mew meanwhile, there were alternative means that needn’t be considered cheating…
With just one save file available it was always hard to say when the right time to start a new game was.
After hours of earning badges, adding to your Pokédex, trading to get all 150, earning a diploma and being an all round don in Kanto, it was hard to just give it all up.
But that was the frustrating magic of the game. Anyway, I’m off to buy AAA batteries so I can start all over again.
An NCTJ Journalist with an MA in Sports Journalism, Kieron is an experienced social media journalist who has worked in the industry since 2015. His experience includes work with ITN, the MEN, WISH/WIRE/TOWER FM, and 8:50 Sports Digest… not forgetting his time at ASDA.