For some, Pokemon is a place to return to, and for others, [Pokemon] is the exciting start of a brand new adventure. The next adventure is expected to take place in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl and Pokemon: Legends of Arceus for both old and new players alike, and while a few months separate us from starting this journey, this waiting period can be used to return to existing titles, not only in gameplay but in the messages that have remained present and constant throughout the Pokemon franchise.
Find Something New in Something Old
The beginning is almost always the most exciting part of the journey, and Pokemon has captured that feeling and turned it into something that’s close to tangible. No matter where or when players start in their Pokemon journey, the Pokemon games are designed to acknowledge the present moment. Every player is a new player: when players press “New Game,” they automatically see through the lens of a trainer who’s only just beginning their journey with a Level o5. starter of choice at their side. It’s a familiar mechanic that hasn’t grown old, and the underlying message isn’t so much that the developers assume that most players are brand new players or that all players need a constant reminder of the game mechanics; rather, starting the player from zero translates to how every player is seeing the world [of the game] for the very first time each time they play through it from beginning to pause. Even if players are playing the remake of an original, a new release still means a new lens: [you] are still starting/seeing that world with brand new eyes, you are meeting never-before-seen Pokemon in every generation, and you are journeying across a land that you may or may not have visited before with the promise that you will discover something new. In the overarching picture, Pokemon, while being called its own world, encapsulates a variety of worlds – called regions – that make up one part of the ever-expanding, ever-discoverable world of Pokemon, much like its real-life parallel: our world.
Coexistence: Home is Where it Begins
In the Pokemon ORAS Creators’ Interview, Shigeru Ohmori talked about his desire to express the beauty he saw in the idea of coexistence, citing that “there is a kind of richness in the idea that different values can coexist at the same time and in the people who hold different values being able to accept one another” (pg. iii). Pokemon recognizes people at the collective and individual level both simultaneously and separately, and it accepts that people are similar in their differences and vice versa. Even if the same game is being played by many ‘different’ people, because each person is unique, no two experiences can be exactly the same – and it is because of this that players are able to connect. Every team is built just a bit differently; every trainer is moving at a different pace, and yet, every person is sharing the same space and moving along the same path – how they get there, however, is entirely up to them. Every player will create their own experience, develop their own meaning(s), discover a particular feeling – the player chooses how their story gets told, and it’s that sort of essence that makes Pokemon resonate with millions around the world to this day.
Furthermore, Junichi Masuda, known for his role as game director and composer for the Pokemon games, expressed how he and his team “wanted players to feel that the various worlds [across all the Pokemon installments] are able to coexist together in parallel” (pg. vii). Pokemon X and Y, for example, were inspired by France whereas the more recent Pokemon Sword and Shield were modeled after England. While the two exist as different installments and as different worlds, they remain interconnected to the world of Pokemon as a whole. Similarly, our world is connected by various realities, some of which we are familiar and others that we are not, and most that we have yet to discover. As Pokemon continues to expand its world, we are able to discover and rediscover the world around us when the real world sets its limitations. More than that, we are able to travel through that space with old and new friends by our side, Pokemon or people, creating connections and bonds that can last for a lifetime and more.
What’s Your Pokemon Story?
Even in its other incarnations, Pokemon has remained true to its ongoing message of accepting differences and recognizing similarities. In the first Pokemon movie, Team Rocket’s Meowth ponders over the unfound answer of what the world would look like if [we] were to look at what’s the same rather than what’s different, going on to recognize that at our core, “we do have a lot in common” [Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back, 01:09:45]. The world you come from is where you begin your own journey, and that is a reality that can’t be ignored nor can it be dismissed. It is from those experiences and feelings – from that reality – that exists a message waiting to be discovered: a story waiting to be told, and a life lesson that can be shared with those around us and beyond. Pokemon has not only been able to capture that essence but also accept it, acknowledging that Pokemon fans come from all around the world, ones even they have yet to stumble across. The message of discovery, the message of bonds, the message of coexistence: Pokemon may be 25 years old now, but it continues to do what it has always done best, and that is to connect us, together as one and uniquely as individuals.