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A version of the Pokémon games is a game, up to present, always released on a Nintendo handheld system and developed by Game Freak, which follows the now-standard model of a player's journey through a specific region to collect all of the species of Pokémon there. Collectively, the twenty-one games in Japan (twenty in most other countries) released with the suffix "version" are known by fans as the main series (Japanese: ポケットモンスターシリーズ Pocket Monsters Series) of Pokémon games.
What makes a Pokémon game a "version", aside from the label on the box and game media, is the standard plot which is shared by all of them. The player begins the game in a small town, having no Pokémon of their own. Through a course of events, he or she will come into contact with their region's native Pokémon professor, who will then allow them to keep a starter Pokémon of their choice. The starter Pokémon is always one of a group of three, a Grass-type, Fire-type, or Water-type, and the character who will become the player's rival will choose or already have the Pokémon whose type is super effective against that of the player's choice. The exceptions to this are Pokémon Yellow, in which the player starts with Pikachu and the rival starts with Eevee, and Pokémon Black and White, where one of the player's rivals (Bianca) starts with the Pokémon whose type is not very effective against the player's.
It is at this point where the storyline of all twenty-one diverge. The player is allowed to journey across the entire region, capturing any wild Pokémon he or she chooses to, and using a party he or she assembles to take on the eight Gym Leaders of the region. Alongside encounters with both other Trainers and repeated interactions with their rival, a villainous team will arrive to cause trouble early on in the player's quest, touting plans to seriously affect the world detrimentally and sometimes to capture legendary Pokémon to do their bidding.
Though the game can be considered over as soon as the player has defeated the Champion, the player's other task of completing the Pokédex remains. After this has been done, the player will receive a diploma for completing the regional Pokédex and another for completing the National Pokédex (only one diploma is awarded in games with only one Pokédex). Starting in Generation III, a new task is added in order to fully complete the game: obtaining all Trainer card stars.
- Main article: Version mascot
On the boxart for each game, one Pokémon, always introduced during the generation that game is a part of, or a remake of, will appear. This Pokémon has become known by fans as a version mascot, and beginning in Generation II, has always (with the exception of FireRed and LeafGreen, remakes of the Generation I games) been the legendary Pokémon available in that game at the climax of the storyline.
Relation to one another
When a generation of Pokémon games begins, a pair of games, seen as counterparts to one another, is always released. These paired versions feature the same exact storyline as each other, but some of the Pokémon available in either one are different. For example, one game may have the Electric-type Pokémon Electabuzz, while the other has Magmar, a Fire-type. These Pokémon, due to their usual exclusivity to one or two of the games in a generation, are typically known as version-exclusive Pokémon and must be traded between games in order to complete the Pokédex, a feature that has encouraged collaboration among players since the series began.
A later third game, usually to conclude the generation, is later released with several minor storyline tweaks, but with the same basic plot and taking place in the same region. Like the first two games, it will always be lacking some of the Pokémon present in one or both of the other games, but will also contain some of those missing from one of the them; thus, players of this third version must link together with the original pair to complete their Pokédex as well.
Generation III was the first generation to involve the release of two sets of paired versions: first Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and then Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen. It was also the first generation that did not contain a third version for one of its pairs: the Hoenn-based Ruby and Sapphire were later joined by Emerald, but the Kanto-based FireRed and LeafGreen did not receive a third version because they were remakes of Pokémon Red and Green versions. This was later mimicked in Generation IV, except with the third version being released before the remakes.
List of versions
- Each generation's third version does not use its mascot's original Ken Sugimori artwork. Blastoise (Japanese), Pikachu (Japanese and English), Suicune, Rayquaza, and Giratina use specially made artwork.
- Generation II is the only generation which has only two main versions and one third version worldwide. Generation I has Blue as a third version and Yellow as an added fourth in Japan, Generation III has five with the remakes of Red and Green, Generation IV has five with the remakes of Gold and Silver, and Generation V, which is not yet completed, has four so far.