In the private school that I attended, we were outlaws. Hiding in bathrooms, finding corners with low faculty traffic, creating walls with our bodies to conceal the trading and capturing of the original 150 in Pokémon Red or Pokémon Blue. When I was keeping lookout for teachers or breaking line of sight with my husky build, I would listen in on stories and strategies from veteran classmates to the greenhorns. Magikarp is useless, this I knew for certain. We all knew. But one day, I overheard a classmate instructing another to keep the Magikarp as the first in the party and to swap him out as soon as the battle started, granting the feckless fish a portion of experience without having to partake in battle. This was one of the most powerful epiphanies of my young life. The next day, my nomadic band and I broke formation, jumped in the air and celebrated the first Gyarados in our class on an empty basketball court. After months of watching others, I was determined to experience the magic first-hand.
Ever since Gold and Silver, the main push was that there were more Pokémon to catch, more to explore and more badges to earn. It was all the series needed. However, they seemed to lack the testicular fortitude to wipe the slate clean and make a game featuring only a set of 150 or 200 all new monsters. Every iteration included all monsters from the previous entry. Not only did it make the environments feel cluttered, but the designs of later generation Pokémon were terrible. White and Black saw the abominations such as Trubbish and Vanillite, which are literally a bag of garbage and a living ice cream cone, respectively. As basic as some of the first generation monsters were, they weren’t so lazy as to tack on a set of eyes to inanimate objects or food items. Without having to waste time on creating subpar monsters to raise the count, development could be focused on new features, better story sections or even the full 3D models that fans have been clamoring for since Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64.
The first generation had a few Pokémon that would only evolve into their final states after a trade to another player, and there has always been an emphasis on trading and collecting between versions. The problem with having 600 different Pokémon in a single game is that players become focused on collecting them to fill up a Pokédex rather than battling them and leveling up their party. The time one can dedicate to each individual is inversely proportional to the amount of monsters that can be found in the wild. This leaves gamers with a party of relatively strong members, most of which they have carried since the early portion of the game, and a plethora of low level, ill-equipped Pokémon stashed in the Pokédex. It becomes a chore to withdraw a Pokémon from level 5 or 10 to carry around into fights against trainers with level 40’s or 50’s. As with the Magikarp strategy, swapping these weaker monsters so that they gain a percentage of experience is the only option besides backtracking twenty hours to grind against wild enemies. The levels don’t feel earned, time doesn’t feel well-spent and the endgame is just another check mark.
Pokémon has been a passion for me ever since it first showed up on US shores. To this day, I have played every version that Nintendo has released. I want this series to continue, but not at the cost of its personality. As more and more Pokémon are created to fill the games to come, the less people will be interested in the quest to catch them all. Pokémon used to be mascots, which my friends and I attached to and identified with. To this day, gamers who grew up with Red or Blue can name the original 150 (151 if we count Mew) completely from memory, a feat that seems unfeasible with the current count, not only due to overwhelming number but also from the substantial forgetfulness permeating the new designs. Perhaps I were born into a later generation, I could play with and love over 600 Pokémon despite their faults, but I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that these games aren’t made for me anymore. These creatures aren’t meant to entice me to purchase the latest version and trade with my friends. I have never and will never outgrow Pokémon, but Pokémon has outgrown me.