Pokémon (ポケモン, Pokemon?, IPA: [ˈpoʊ.keɪ.mɑn]) is a media franchise owned by video game giant Nintendo and created by Satoshi Tajiri around 1995. Originally released as a pair of interlinkable Game Boy role-playing video games, Pokémon has since become the second most successful and lucrative videogame-based media franchise in the world, falling only behind Nintendo's Mario series. Pokémon properties have since been merchandised into anime, manga, trading cards, toys, books, and other media. The franchise celebrated its tenth anniversary on February 27, 2006, and as of December 1, 2006, cumulative sold units of the video games (including home console versions) have reached more than 155 million copies.
The name Pokémon is the romanized contraction of the Japanese brand, "Pocket Monsters" (ポケットモンスター, Poketto Monsutā?), as such contractions are very common in Japan. The term "Pokémon", in addition to referring to the Pokémon franchise itself, also collectively refers to the 493 fictional species that have made appearances in Pokémon media as of the recent two-part Nintendo DS release of the Pokémon RPGs, the Diamond and Pearl versions. As is the case with the terms deer and sheep, "Pokémon" does not have differing singular and plural forms, and neither does each individual species name, so it is gramatically correct to refer to many Pokémon just like referring to one Pokémon. Nintendo originally literally translated Poketto Monsutā – indeed, a "Pocket Monsters" game was created in early 1995. A naming conflict with the Monster in My Pocket toy range caused Nintendo to rebrand the franchise as "Pokémon" in early 1996. The game's catchphrase, in the Japanese language versions of the franchise is "ポケモンGETだぜ! (Pokémon Getto Daze! - Let's Get Pokémon!)"; in English language versions of the franchise, it used to be "Gotta catch 'em all!," although it is now no longer officially used except in the spin-off anime series Pokémon Chronicles.
In November 2005, 4Kids Entertainment, which had managed the non-game related licensing of Pokémon, announced that it had agreed not to renew the Pokémon representation agreement. Pokémon USA Inc., a subsidiary of Japan's Pokémon Co., now oversees all Pokémon licensing outside of Asia.
Collecting and playing
The concept of the Pokémon universe, in both the video games and the general fictional world of Pokémon, stems from the hobbies of insect collecting and cockfighting, the former being a popular pastime which Pokémon executive director Satoshi Tajiri had enjoyed as a child. Players of the games are designated as "Pokémon trainers", and the two general goals of most Pokémon RPGs for such trainers are to collect all of the available Pokémon species found in the fictional region where that RPG takes place, and train a team of powerful Pokémon from those caught to compete against the trained teams of Pokémon owned by other trainers. Pokémon are trained and used for battle this way as a form of non-deadly competition in most instances of the Pokémon franchise. This applies to the video games, the Pokémon anime and manga series, and even the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
In any incarnation of the fictional Pokémon universe, a trainer that comes across a wild Pokémon in its natural habitat is able to capture that Pokémon by throwing at it a specially designed, mass-producible tool called a Poké Ball. If the Pokémon is unable to escape the confines of a Poké Ball, that Pokémon is officially considered under the ownership of that trainer, and that Pokémon will obey whatever commands its new master and/or friend (depending on how that trainer treats Pokémon in general) issues to it from that point onward, unless the trainer demonstrates enough of a lack of experience that the Pokémon may rather act on its own accord. Trainers can then send out the Pokémon to wage a battle against another Pokémon depending on the circumstance, and if the opponent Pokémon is weakened enough by the trainer's Pokémon's attacks, the trainer can capture that second Pokémon with a Poké Ball and increase his or her collection of creatures. Otherwise, if a Pokémon fully defeats an opponent Pokémon in battle so that the opponent faints, the winning Pokémon gains experience and may level up like a playable character in a console RPG would if he gained enough experience. When levelling up, the Pokémon's specifications of battling aptitude increase, including strength, resilience, speed, and so on, and from time to time the Pokémon learns new battling moves. Many species of Pokémon possess the ability to undergo a metamorphosis and transform into a similar but stronger specie of Pokémon, and this is called Pokémon evolution.
In the context of the main RPGs, each game's single-player mode requires the trainer to raise a team of Pokémon warriors to defeat many computer-controlled trainers and their Pokémon. Each game lays out a somewhat linear path through a region for trainers to journey through, complete events, and battle opponents. Each game generally features eight especially strong trainers throughout the land, referred to as Gym Leaders, that trainers must each defeat in a Pokémon battle, and as a reward the trainer gets one of eight Gym Leader Badges. Once all eight badges are collected, that trainer is eligible to challenge that region's Pokémon League, where four immensely talented trainers challenge the trainer to four Pokémon battles in succession, and if the trainer can overcome this gauntlet, he or she must then challenge the Regional Champion, the master trainer who had previously succeeded the Pokémon League. If the trainer can defeat this last battle, he or she becomes the new Champion and gains the title of Pokémon Master.
The original Pokémon games were Japanese RPGs with an element of strategy, and were created by Satoshi Tajiri for the Game Boy. These role-playing games, and their sequels, remakes, and English language translations, are still considered the "main" Pokémon games, and the games which most fans of the series are referring to when they use the term "Pokémon games."
All of the licensed Pokémon properties overseen by The Pokémon Company are divided roughly by generation. These generations are roughly chronological divisions by release; every several years, when an official sequel in the main RPG series is released that features a slew of new Pokémon, characters, and gameplay concepts, that sequel is considered the start of a new generation of the franchise. The main games and their spin-offs, the anime, the manga, and the trading card game are all updated with the new Pokémon properties each time a new generation begins. The franchise is currently in its fourth generation.
The Pokémon franchise started off in its first generation with its initial release of Pokémon Red and Green for Game Boy in Japan. When these games proved extremely popular, an enhanced Blue version was released sometime after, and the Blue version was reprogrammed as Pokémon Red and Blue for international release. The original Red and Green versions were never released outside of Japan. Afterwards, a further enhanced remake titled Pokémon Yellow was released to partially take advantage of the color palette of the Game Boy Color, as well as to feature more of a stylistic resemblance to the popular Pokémon anime. This first generation of games introduced the original 151 species of Pokémon (in National Pokédex ordering, it encompasses all from Bulbasaur to Mew), as well as the basic game concepts of capturing, training, battling, and trading Pokémon with both computer and human players. These versions of the games take place within the fictional Kanto region, though it was not given this nameuntil as such until the second generation. Spin-off first-generation titles include Pokémon Pinball and a digitized adaption of the Pokémon Trading Card Game for Game Boy Color, an on-rails photography simulator for Nintendo 64 titled Pokémon Snap, an N64 Pokémon-themed adaption of Tetris Attack named Pokémon Puzzle League, a 3D console incarnation of the handheld RPGs' battle system named Pokémon Stadium, and a co-starring role in the fighting game Super Smash Bros.
The second generation of Pokémon began in 2000 with the release of Pokémon Gold and Silver for Game Boy Color, and like the previous generation it later had an enhanced remake titled Pokémon Crystal. It introduces 100 new species of Pokémon (starting with Chikorita and ending with Celebi) which add up with the previous151 for a total of 251 Pokémon to collect, train, and battle, and new gameplay features include a day-and-night system that reflects the time of the day in the real world to influence events in the game world, full usage of the Game Boy Color's color palette, an improved interface and upgraded inventory system, better balance in the collection of Pokémon and their moves, statistics, and equipped items (another new addition), a Pokémon breeding aspect, and a new region region named Johto. Unique to the second generation games is the fact that after exploring Johto, the player can reenter and explore the original Kanto region east of Johto. Spin-off second-generation titles include the GBC adaption of Pokémon Puzzle League named Pokémon Puzzle Challenge, an N64 pet simulator named Hey you, Pikachu!, the sequel Pokémon Stadium 2, several Pokémon mini-games for the E-Reader, and a co-starring role in the sequel Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Pokémon entered its third generation with the 2003 release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire for Game Boy Advance and continued with the GBA remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen and the enhanced remake Pokémon Emerald. The third generation introduces 135 more new Pokémon (starting with Treecko and ending with Deoxys) which adds up with the previous 251 for a total of 386 species, and it also introduces a much more visually detailed environment compared to previous games, a new 2-on-2 Pokémon battling mechanic, a special ability system applying to each Pokémon in battle, the Pokémon contest sub-game, and the new region of Hoenn. This generation garnered some criticism for leaving out some gameplay features introduced in the previous generation, however, including the day-and-night system, and it was also the first game that encouraged the player to collect merely a selected assortment of the total stable of Pokémon rather than every last existing species (202 out of 386 species are findable in the Ruby and Sapphire versions). Third-generation spin-off titles include Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire for GBA, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon for GBA and Nintendo DS, Pokémon Dash, Pokémon Trozei!, and Pokémon Ranger for DS, Pokémon Channel and Pokémon Box for GameCube, and a "sub-main" RPG series for GameCube titled Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness.
In 2006, Japan began the fourth generation of the franchise with the release of the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl versions for Nintendo DS, which will be released in North America April 22, 2007. The fourth generation introduces another 107 new species of Pokémon (starting with Turtwig and ending with Arseus in the National Pokédex) which adds up with the previous 386 species to form the current total of 493 species of Pokémon. New gameplay concepts include a restructured attack/move-typing system for all of the attacks and maneuvers Pokémon can perform in battles, and multiplayer trading and battling has now been fully brought online via Wi-Fi on DS. Other new features include the return of the second generation's Day and Night system, the revising of the third generation's Pokémon contests into "super contests", and the new region of Sinnoh which now has an underworld component for multiplayer in addition to the main overworld. Currently, spin-off titles in the fourth generation include Pokémon Stadium follow-up Pokémon Battle Revolution for Wii (which will have Wi-Fi connectivity as well) and as a co-starring role in the 2007 Wii fighter Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
One of the consistent aspects of most Pokémon games – spanning from Pokémon Red and Blue on the Nintendo Game Boy to the Nintendo DS game, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl – is the choice of three different Pokémon at the start of the player's adventures; these three are often labelled Starter Pokémon. Players can choose a Water-type, a Fire-type, or a Grass-type Pokémon indigenous to that particular region; the exception to this rule is Pokémon Yellow (a remake of the original games that follows the story of the Pokémon anime), where players are given a Pikachu, an Electric-type mouse Pokémon, famous for being the mascot of the Pokémon media franchise; in this game, however, the three Red and Blue starter Pokémon can be obtained during the quest by a single player, something that is not possible in any other installment of the franchise.
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The Pokédex is a fictional electronic device featured in the popular Pokémon video game and anime series. In the games, whenever a Pokémon is first captured, its data will be added to a player's Pokédex, but in the anime or manga, the Pokédex is a comprehensive electronic reference encyclopedia, usually referred to in order to deliver exposition. Of the fictional Pokémon world, Pokédex is used to refer to a list of Pokémon, usually a list of Pokémon by number.
In the video games, a Pokémon Trainer is issued a blank device at the start of their journey. A trainer must then attempt to fill the Pokédex by encountering and at least briefly obtaining each of the various different species of Pokémon. A player will receive the name and image of a Pokémon after encountering one that was not previously in the Pokédex, typically after battling said Pokémon, either in the wild or in a trainer battle (with the exceptions of link battles and tournament battles, such as Battle Frontier). More detailed information is typically available after the player obtains a member of the species, either through capturing the Pokémon in the wild, evolving a previously captured Pokémon, hatching a Pokémon egg (from the second generation onwards), or through a trade with another trainer (with a NPC or with another player). This detailed information includes height, weight, species type, and a short description of the Pokémon. Later versions of the Pokédex have more detailed information, like the size of a certain Pokémon compared to the player, or Pokémon being sorted by their habitat (so far, the latter feature is only in the FireRed and LeafGreen versions). The GameCube games have a P*DA which is similar to the Pokédex, but tells you what types are effective against it and gives a description of their abilities.
In other media
The Pokémon anime series and films are a meta-series of adventures separate from the canon that most of the Pokémon video games follow (with the exception of Pokémon Yellow, a game based on the anime storyline). The anime follows the quest of the main character, Ash Ketchum—an in-training Pokémon Master—as he and a small group of friends travel around the fictitious world of Pokémon along with their various Pokémon partners.
The original series, titled Pocket Monsters, or simply Pokémon in western countries, followed the storyline of the original games, Pokémon Red and Blue, in the region of Kanto. The protagonist of the series, Ash Ketchum, began his adventure from his home, Pallet Town, where he received a Pikachu, differing from the games, where only Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle could be chosen.
Ash continued through Kanto, accompanied by Brock, an aspiring Pokémon breeder, and Misty, an up-and-coming Water Pokémon master, catching and battling with various Pokémon, including Butterfree, Pidgeotto, Charizard, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. After defeating eight of Kanto's gym leaders, Ash entered the Indigo League, a tournament of the best trainers in the region.
After exiting the tournament, Ash, and his companions, proceeded to the Orange Archipelago, a group of exotic islands, to collect an ancient Poké Ball, dubbed the GS Ball, being studied by Professor Ivy, to be returned to Professor Oak. After collecting the GS Ball, Brock decided to stay at Professor Ivy's lab, and Ash, accompanied by Misty, and Tracey, an avid Pokémon watcher, continued through the various Orange Islands, battling the gym leaders, collectively known as the Orange Crew, and obtaining Pokémon, such as Lapras, and Snorlax. Ash finally battled the undefeated leader of the Orange Crew, Drake, defeating his strongest Pokémon, Dragonite, with his Pikachu, winning the tournament.
The first, and the most familiar, is Pocket Monsters or simply Pokémon (often referred to as Pokémon: Gotta Catch Em All to distinguish it from the later series), which details the adventures of Ash Ketchum as he travels through Kanto. Pokémon: Adventures in the Orange Islands followed his adventures in the Orange Islands, a place not accessible in the games, and Pokémon: Johto Journeys, Pokémon: Johto league champions, and Pokémon: Master Quest following him in Johto. These series are based on the first and second generation games. Accompanying Ash on his journeys were Brock, the Pewter City Gym Leader; Misty, the youngest of the Gym Leaders sisters from Cerulean City; and later on, Tracey Sketchit, an artist and "Pokémon watcher" who accompanied them in the Orange Islands in the second saga.
The saga continued in Pokémon: Advanced, Pokémon: Advanced Challenge, and Pokémon: Advanced Battle where Ash and company travel to Hoenn, a southern region in the Pokémon World. Ash takes on the role of a teacher and mentor for a novice Pokémon trainer in this series named May. Her brother Max accompanies them, and though he isn't a trainer, he knows massive amounts of handy information. Brock (from the original series) soon catches up with Ash, but Misty has returned to Cerulean City to tend to her duties as a gym leader. This series is based on the third generation games. Eventually, the Advanced Generation was continued with the Battle Frontier saga, which was based off the Emerald version and had some aspects of FireRed and LeafGreen.
The most recent series is the Diamond and Pearl series, with Max leaving to pick his starter, and May going to the Grand Festival in Johto. Ash, Brock and a new companion named Hikari then go through the region of Sinnoh.
Pokémon Trading Card Game
The Pokémon Trading Card Game is a collectible card game similar in goal to a Pokémon battle in the video game series; players must use cards (with individual strengths and weaknesses) in an attempt to defeat their opponent by "knocking out" all of his or her cards. The game was first published in North America by Wizards of the Coast in 1999.
However, with the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Game Boy Advance video games, Nintendo USA took back the card game from Wizards of the Coast and started publishing the cards themselves. The Expedition expansion introduced the Pokémon-e Trading Card Game, the cards in which (for the most part) were compatible with the Nintendo e-Reader. Nintendo discontinued its production of e-Reader compatible cards with the release of EX FireRed & LeafGreen.
In 1998, Nintendo released a Game Boy Color version of the trading card game in Japan. It was also released in the US and Europe in 2000. This game included digital versions cards from the original set of cards and the first two expansions (Jungle and Fossil), but also included several cards exclusive to the game. A sequel to this game exists, but was not released outside of Japan.
- Manga released in English
- The Electric Tale of Pikachu (a.k.a Dengeki Pikachu), a shōnen manga created by Toshihiro Ono. It was divided into four tankōbon, each given a separate title in the North American and English Singapore versions: The Electric Tale of Pikachu, Pikachu Shocks Back, Electric Pikachu Boogaloo, and Surf’s Up, Pikachu. The series is based loosely on the anime.
- Pokémon Adventures, a shōnen manga based on the video games.
- Magical Pokémon Journey (a.k.a. Pokémon: PiPiPi Adventures), a shōjo manga
- Pikachu Meets the Press (newspaper style comics, not released by Chuang Yi)
- Ash & Pikachu (a.k.a. Satoshi to Pikachu, not released by Viz)
- Pokémon Gold & Silver (not released by Viz)
- Pokémon Ruby-Sapphire and Pokémon Pocket Monsters (not released by Viz)
- Pokémon: Jirachi Wishmaker (not released by Viz)
- Pokémon: Destiny Deoxys (not released by Viz)
- Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (The third movie-to-comic adaptation.)
- Manga not released in English
- Pokémon Card Ni Natta Wake (How I Became a Pokémon Card) by Kagemaru Himeno, an artist for the TCG. There are six volumes and each includes a special promotional card. The stories tell the tales of the art behind some of Himeno’s cards.
- Pokémon Getto Da ze! by Asada Miho
- Poketto Monsutaa Chamo Chamo Puritei by Yumi Tsukirino, who also made Magical Pokémon Journey.
- Pokémon Card Master
- Pocket Monsters Emerald Challenge!! Battle Frontier by Ihara Shigekatsu
- Pokémon Zensho by Satomi Nakamura
This original design of the Pokémon Jynx (seen to the right) bore a striking, but possibly coincidental, resemblance to entertainers in blackface. A strong case can be made for Jynx being a parody of or homage to the Japanese Ganguro and Yamanba fashion trends, which were extremely popular when Pokémon was first released. Blackface-influenced characters have appeared elsewhere in anime and manga - examples can be found near the beginning of Osamu Tezuka's early graphic novel, Metropolis and also can be found with Dragon Ball Z's Mr. Popo.
As Pokémon became more popular in the United States, this perceived similarity to a racist image from United States' past offended some. In particular, it had offended children's book author Carole Boston Weatherford, who accused Jynx of being a racist stereotype in an article titled Politically Incorrect Pokémon in the magazine Black World Today, shortly after the anime episode Holiday Hi-Jynx aired. Episodes later on are also either banned or cut in USA. (see anime)
In response to this controversy, in 2002, Nintendo changed Jynx's face from black to purple and its hands from blue to purple in Pokémon games, a change which would be reflected in the anime three years later in Advanced Generation. The act itself of changing Jynx could be seen as offensive and/or ignorant however, to Japanese culture.
The primary mechanism of Pokémon has been compared to the generally-outlawed practice of cockfighting. Seen from this point of view, the game consists primarily of Pokémon trainers capturing and bartering in wild animals, coercing them to fight one another. It also sees various performance-enhancing drugs to give them an edge in the fight. Some people believe that this may encourage children towards acts of animal cruelty and illegal gambling.
Pokémon maintains a fan base that views the battling as a friendly competition between two teams of Pokémon and their trainers. Seen in this light, Pokémon are not being coerced to battle by their trainers. There are references to some Pokémon being territorial (e.g. Pidgeotto), but it is vastly different to the aggressively territorial nature of roosters, who will maim the 'enemy' rooster until it or the other dies. Furthermore, trainers do not relish the idea of allowing two animals (or in this case Pokémon) to fight to the death, while they merely view from the edge of the ‘ring'. In both the games and the television show, the audience is taught that fighting is not necessarily a means to an end. In addition to all of the above, Pokémon do not actually die from battle; they either faint or are in other ways unable to battle. It is also brought up in the animated series that Pokémon trainers are fighting alongside their Pokémon, as opposed to simply issuing commands for them to follow. Team Rocket is often depicted using Pokémon for personal gain with no affection for them. In both the anime and the games, using Pokémon for "evil" purposes is looked down upon.
On December 16, 1997, more than 635 Japanese children were admitted to hospitals with convulsive epileptic seizures. It was determined that the seizures were caused by watching an episode of Pokémon, "Dennō Senshi Porygon," or "Computer Soldier Porygon" (most commonly translated "Electric Soldier Porygon", season 1, episode 43) and subsequently this episode has not been aired since. In this particular episode, there were bright explosions with rapidly-alternating blue and red color patterns. It was determined in subsequent research that these strobing light effects cause some individuals to have epileptic seizures, even if they haven't had any previous history of epilepsy. As a consequence, many video game makers (including Nintendo) added warning labels to their video game products (or made pre-existing labels more prominent), warning that exposure to video games may trigger seizures in individuals vulnerable to photosensitive epilepsy. Detailed research of the alleged incident is detailed here and attributes it to mass hysteria. The incident was also parodied by The Simpsons in the episode "Thirty Minutes over Tokyo" and in the South Park episode "Chinpokomon."
A live action show called Pokémon Live! toured the United States in late 2000. It was based on the popular Pokémon anime, but had some continuity errors relating to it. In late 2002, it was scheduled to tour Europe, but was canceled for unknown reasons, possibly due to lack of interest.
Pokémon, being a popular franchise, has undoubtedly left its mark on pop-culture. The Pokémon characters themselves have become pop-culture icons; examples include not one, but two different Pikachu balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a Pokémon-styled Boeing 747-400, thousands of merchandise items, and a theme park in Nagoya, Japan in 2005 and Taipei in 2006. Pokémon also appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1999. The Comedy Central show Drawn Together has a character named Ling-Ling which is a direct parody of Pikachu. Several other shows such as ReBoot, The Simpsons, South Park and All Grown Up! have made references and spoofs of Pokémon, among other series.