Few games are able to drum up as much excitement and enthusiasm as Pokémon, and with the release of HeartGold and SoulSilver this Friday, poké-fever is at an all time high. What is it that gets fans so giddy with excitement? Why is the Pokémon franchise so mind-bogglingly popular? Here are ten possible answers.
Of the hundreds of Pokémon Nintendo and Game Freak have designed, none are more recognisable than Pikachu. He's not only the iconic face of the franchise, but a mascot for Nintendo as a whole. Interestingly, his rise to stardom wasn't due to the game itself, however, more the marketing that surrounded it. Because of a certain television series and a boy in a red hat, Pikachu became the biggest celebrity in gaming.
The TV Show
With the Pokémon TV series, an entire generation dipped their toes into the icy waters of anime without really knowing that's what they were even doing. The exploits of Ash Ketchum and his trusty Pikachu captured the hearts of children across the globe, and increased sales far more successfully than any advertising campaign. "I wanna be...the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them is my real test, to..." Don't pretend you don't know the words...
Gotta Catch 'Em All
Children love collecting things. It doesn't even really matter what it is; they just like seeing a few of something become a lot - a concept that can be found at the very heart of the Pokémon experience. The first games featured 151 unique creatures to catch and collect, but today, with HeartGold and SoulSilver, there are 493 of the blighters to catch.
A complete Pokédex might be a wonderful achievement, but ultimately, it's only a virtual one; nothing more than a random assortment of code and algorithms brought to the life on the screen of your Game Boy. For Pokémaniacs who prefer a more tangible collection, there's a wealth of plushies, toys and duvet covers to collect in the real world too. Of course there were some who took the 'Gotta Catch 'Em All' mentality a little too far...
I'll Trade you!
There isn't a game in existence that utilises multiplayer and connectivity as successfully as the Pokémon series. Not only could players battle one another with a link cable (replaced by WiFi today), they could also trade one Pokémon for another - allowing the collection of new creatures that might not be obtainable in their version of the game. From a connectivity perspective, Pokémon was years ahead of its time.
With Pokémon Gold and Silver, we learnt where baby Pokémon came from - and it wasn't a stork. Apparently, all Pokémon are born from eggs. Since this startling revelation, players have been able to play cupid; matching together two Pokémon at the day care centre to see if they'll hit it off and have an egg. Some Pokémon, such as Pichu, are only obtainable through breeding, making it an incredibly important aspect of the game.
Sequels, Spin-offs and Remakes
There are four pairs of games in the main Pokémon series; Red and Blue, Gold and Silver, Ruby and Sapphire, and Diamond and Pearl. This doesn't even scratch the surface of what else the franchise has to offer the video game industry. There's Pokémon Snap, Pokémon Stadium, Pokémon Dash, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Platinum, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver - the list goes on.
Aren't you a bit old to be playing that?
Just like The Simpsons and Toy Story, Pokémon is able to bridge the gap between two generations. Whilst children might enjoy the cute monsters and easy-to-understand narrative, adults revel in the deep RPG mechanics and hundreds of hours of potential gameplay. If somebody tells you Pokémon is just for kids; they're quite simply wrong.
The Trading Card Craze
Yes, we've spoken about merchandise already on this list - but Pokémon cards are more than deserving of a spot of their own. In many respects, the Pokémon trading card game was just as popular as the video game itself, and captured the concepts of trading and battling perfectly. Pokémon cards were a playground craze all on their own, and undoubtedly helped Nintendo shift more copies of the game.
Japanese Culture and Cosplaying
Pokémon might be big in the West, but in Japan it's huge. Tokyo has a Pokémon Centre - a shop in a similar vein to the Disney Stores over here. Then there's the cosplayers; fans that dress up as their favourite Pokémon for events, expos and parties. In short, the Japanese go mad for Pokémon, and their enthusiasm for the franchise makes it even more popular over here.