From Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia.
- This article is about the history of the Pokémon media franchise. For other uses of "history", see History.
The history of the Pokémon media franchise
spans over a decade from when work began officially on the first game to now, and has roots even older. It started simply enough as a hobby of Satoshi Tajiri
, who as a child had a fondness for catching insects
near his home in suburban Tokyo
. Over time, Tajiri decided to put his idea of catching creatures into practice because it would give children the same thrill as he had.
With the help of Ken Sugimori
and other friends, Tajiri formed Game Freak
and much later the design studio known as Creatures
. When Tajiri discovered the Game Boy
and the Game Boy Link Cable
, it gave him the image of insects traveling along the wire, which led to concept for a new game called Capsule Monsters
. After several failed attempts at pitching this idea to Nintendo
, Tajiri's new friend Shigeru Miyamoto
pitched it to the company, and Nintendo began to fund the project, spending six years developing the games that would become a worldwide sensation. The original artwork for the games was drawn by Tajiri's friend, the artist Ken Sugimori
. Before the first Pokémon games were released in Japan in 1996, sprites of Pikachu
appeared in Game Freak's Game Boy Camera
in 1995. Around this time, Nintendo decided to change the name "Capsule Monsters" to "Pocket Monsters."
Taking over Japan
The first Pokémon games
, Pokémon Red and Green Versions
, came to the Nintendo Game Boy
system in Japan on February 27th, 1996, which was the fulfillment of Satoshi Tajiri's dream and allowed people of all ages to catch
and trade 151 creatures
and become a Pokémon Master
. Due to high sales, Pokémon Red and Green were swiftly followed up with Pokémon Blue
, which had improved graphics and sounds.
After the games, a Pokémon Trading Card Game was developed by Media Factory with its own set of rules. The first set of cards was released on October 20th, 1996, containing 102 cards, and became very popular.
The popularity of the franchise also led to an anime series based on the games, premiering in Japan on April 1st, 1997. The main character was a young Pokémon Trainer named Satoshi (after Satoshi Tajiri, later dubbed in English to Ash Ketchum), based on Red. Another character introduced in the first episode was Satoshi's rival, Shigeru (after Shigeru Miyamoto, later dubbed in English to Gary Oak), based on Blue.
The franchise also won many manga interpretations, the first being Pocket Monsters. The more famous manga in the western world, however, is Pokémon Special, the first volume of which was first published in Japan on August 8th, 1997.
Shogakukan published the first volume of Pokémon Wonderland, a magazine with the latest information on the franchise, on August 23rd, 1997.
On April 25th, 1998, the first Pokémon Center store was opened in Tokyo, specializing in Pokémon merchandise. Along the way, The Pokémon Company began its operations. Many such stores were opened in later years, and today there are six different stores across Japan, as well as one in New York.
Conquering the world
North America received Red and Blue Versions, as well as the anime, in September 1998 (the anime on the 7th and the games on the 30th), and soon everywhere else began to play the games on the Game Boy under the slogan Gotta Catch 'em All!. The Trading Card Game was also introduced to North America on January 9th, 1999 by Wizards of the Coast.
Meanwhile in Japan in 1998, a new spin-off game, Pokémon Stadium
, was released for Nintendo 64
. This game featured only 42 Pokémon of the full 151. This game proved to be commercially and critically unsuccessful..
The anime, on the other hand, pushed the franchise to new heights. On July 18th, 1998, Pokémon the First Movie debuted in Japanese theaters, featuring the rare Mew and Mewtwo. In the United States, where it was released on November 10th, 1999, the movie even briefly held the record for highest-grossing opening for an animated film.
Plans soon started for a game based on the popular anime and Yellow Version was released September 12th, 1998 in Japan, October 25th, 1999 in North America and Europe. Pokémon Yellow allowed Trainers to take on the role of Ash and travel through Kanto with anime-style graphics for each Pokémon and a Pikachu by their side, following the anime's course of events.
Expanding to spin-offs
On December 18th, 1998 a Game Boy game based on the TCG was released, later arriving in North America on April 10th, 2000. It was followed, only in Japan, a year later by a sequel titled Template:Card GB 2.
The anime, as well as Pokémon Yellow, marked Pikachu as one of (if not the) most popular and recognized creatures in Pokémon history. This led to a small spin-off game called Hey You, Pikachu!, which was released in Japan on December 12th, 1998, and in North America on November 6th, 2000. This was a virtual-pet game, utilizing the Nintendo 64's Voice Recognition Unit to let one interact verbally with Pikachu.
When the anime finished following the games story with Ash's defeat in the Pokémon League in January 1999, it started a filler season in a new region called the Orange Archipelago, introducing the new main character of Tracey Sketchit. During this season's time, a second movie, Pokémon the Movie 2000, was produced. It was first in Japanese theaters on July 17th, 1999, and in North American theaters on July 21st, 2000.
A non-traditional spin-off game for Nintendo 64, Pokémon Snap, was released in Japan on March 21st, 1999, inviting the player (in the role of Todd Snap, a character previously introduced in the anime) to a Pokémon photographing mission in a place called Pokémon Island. This game made its way to North America on July 27th, 1999.
On April 14th, 1999, a spin-off pinball game for the Game Boy Color was released, called Pokémon Pinball. This game took all the mechanics of regular pinball, with some Pokémon aspects added in. Its North American release was on June 28th, 1999.
A sequel to the Pokémon Stadium was also eventually released in Japan on April 30th, 1999, and became a success. This game reached North America on February 29th, 2000, and became known there as the original Pokémon Stadium. The twist in the Stadium series from the main series was that it featured the Pokémon in 3D.
In September 2000, the anime-based puzzle game Pokémon Puzzle League
was released for Nintendo 64
. This game was the only Pokémon game to be made specifically for western audiences and not be released in Japan.
However, this was not the only American-made original Pokémon material. From 2000 to 2002, an anime-based musical called Pokémon Live! was shown on stages around the world. The most memorable plot point in the musical was the revelation that Ash's mother, Delia, used to be a friend of Giovanni when they were younger. The musical isn't considered canon, but it sparked endless theories among fans regarding the identity of Ash's father.
Winds of new beginnings
Almost since the very beginning, it was known that 151 was not the end of things. Ho-Oh
was seen as early as the first episode of the anime
was owned by a main character
, and others like Marill
were seen in the first movie
. Later, when the second generation
of Pokémon was drawing nearer, others like Lugia
made their way to the second movie
On November 21st, 1999, Nintendo of Japan released Gold and Silver Versions for the then-new Game Boy Color. This time, Trainers were invited to the land of Johto, where 100 more Pokémon were waiting to be captured.
The new games enhanced the Pokémon gaming experience by adding many new features, the most famous of which probably being genders for most Pokémon, which allowed for breeding. Also, time came into play, which allowed for differing events in the day, night, and morning, and days of the week. Another important addition was the happiness system. Alternate coloration also first appeared, most importantly the Red Gyarados at the Lake of Rage. Trainers could also return to Kanto and face the Gym Leaders that existed in the original games. Pokémon Gold and Silver made its way to North America on October 11th, 2000.
The anime followed, of course, and Ash and his friends also arrived at Johto in an episode that aired in Japan on October 14th, 1999 and in the US on October 14th, 2000. Pokémon 3: The Movie was then released to theaters on July 8th, 2000 in Japan and on April 6th, 2001 in North America, featuring the legendary Entei.
A new trading card set called Neo Genesis featured the first Generation II Pokémon to the Trading Card Game. It was released in Japan on December 10, 1999 and in USA on December 16, 2000.
A sequel to Pokémon Puzzle League was released on September 21st, 2000 for Game Boy Color, this time in Japan, titled Pokémon Puzzle Challenge. It made its way to North America on December 4th, 2000.
On December 14th, 2000, a sequel to the Stadium series was released in Japan called Pokémon Stadium 2
, bringing the Generation II
Pokémon into full 3D for the first time. This game reached North America on March 25th, 2001.
Like Pokémon Yellow, a third version was made in Japan called Crystal Version and was released December 14th, 2000 in Japan and July 21st, 2001 in North America. Pokémon Crystal had several changes made. Suicune was the title character and the focus of the plot. This was also the first portable Pokémon game that featured animations for every Pokémon. Trainers in Japan received an added bonus of receiving the Pokémon known as Celebi through a wireless link, and also being able to trade wirelessly using a cellphone and the Mobile Adapter. Trainers were, for the first time, allowed to choose their character's gender.
Anime and manga in GS
On December 30th, 2000, the first feature-length special of the Pokémon anime was released in Japan as a sequel to Mewtwo Strikes Back, titled Mewtwo Returns. It was later released on DVD in the United States on December 5th, 2001.
Another movie, Pokémon 4Ever, debuted in theaters in Japan on July 7th, 2001, and in North America on October 25th, 2002. It featured two legendary Pokémon prominent in Pokémon Crystal: Celebi and Suicune.
The Pokémon Special manga finally caught up to the second generation on August 8th, 2001, when Volume 8 was published in Japan, starting a new chapter.
Raikou, the only member of the Legendary Beasts yet to be featured in an anime movie, received its own made-for-TV special, The Legend of Thunder!, on December 30th, 2001. This special didn't feature Ash and his friends, but rather new characters based on the player characters of the second generation.
On July 13th, 2002, the fifth and last movie of the original series, Pokémon Heroes, was released in Japanese theaters. Distributed on limited release by Miramax, it opened in select American theaters on May 16th, 2003.
Advancing to a new age
In July 2001 an episode
of the anime aired in Japan featuring a Pokémon never previously seen - Kecleon
. Soon, Kecleon and others like Wynaut
showed up in theaters in 2 Pikachu shorts
were featured in the fifth
Pokémon movie. During the Silver Conference
Ash battled Harrison
, a Trainer from Littleroot Town
. Professor Birch
, along with other Pokémon
, made a cameo in Johto Photo Finish
. Through them, it became known that the next generation of Pokémon was just around the corner.
Indeed, a major overhaul of the game series occurred when Pokémon arrived on the Game Boy Advance on November 21st, 2002 when Ruby and Sapphire Versions were released in Japan. Trainers found themselves in the southern land called Hoenn where 135 new Pokémon were waiting to be discovered. The games reached North America on March 18th 2003 and had many new features, the most prominent ones being Pokémon Contests, double battles, Pokémon abilities and natures for each Pokémon, along with the reform of effort values and individual values. Also new in these versions were the more detailed weather conditions and the new villains: Team Magma and Team Aqua. Due to the overhaul in the system, however, this generation was not compatible with earlier generations.
The anime started a new series, Advanced Generation, which started in Japan on the same day as the release of the games, and reached North America almost a year later. A lot was changed in this series, including the introduction of a new main character, May, based on her game counterpart. Two new movies were produced during the time in Hoenn: Jirachi: Wish Maker (which was released on July 19th, 2003 in Japan and on June 1st, 2004 on video and DVD in North America) and Destiny Deoxys (which was released on July 17th, 2004 in Japan and on January 22nd, 2005 on North American television).
Around the same time of the Advanced Generation series, a show called Weekly Pokémon Broadcasting Station began to air weekly in Japan, focusing not on Ash, but on other characters of the anime, such as Misty, Brock, Tracey, Gary, Ritchie, Casey and Sakura. The English dubbed version, Pokémon Chronicles, first aired in the United Kingdom in May 2005, finally dubbing The Legend of Thunder! special to English along the way, three and a half years after its original Japanese airing.
Nintendo transferred the Trading Card Game license from Wizards of the Coast to itself in 2003, and released its first set on January 31st, introducing new game mechanics and a new card design. This set was released in North America on June 18th, 2003.
To solve the problem of limited Pokémon storage in the continuously growing Pokémon world, Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire was released May 30th 2003 in Japan, July 11th 2004 in North America, allowing Trainers to store up to 1,500 Pokémon from their Generation III games.
A small spin-off game named Pokémon Channel for GameCube was released in Japan on July 13th, 2003, about a TV-broadcasting network that airs a variety of Pokémon programs, with the player as test audience. This game also included a unique anime episode, Pichu Bros. in Party Panic, and it reached North America on December 1st, 2003.
On July 28th, 2003, Volume 15 of the Pokémon Special manga was first published, starting another chapter for the manga, following the third generation story.
A sequel to Pokémon Pinball met the third generation in Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire for Game Boy Advance on August 1st, 2003 in Japan and on August 23rd, 2003 in North America.
The 3D version of Generation III came in the form of Pokémon Colosseum on November 21st, 2003 in Japan and March 22nd, 2004 in North America on the GameCube. Unlike the Pokémon Stadium series, this game also featured an RPG taking place in the desolate region of Orre. The main new addition to the Pokémon universe in this game was Shadow Pokémon.
Back to Kanto and onward to the Battle Frontier
On January 29th, 2004, two new games
were released in Japan: FireRed and LeafGreen Versions
. They arrived in North America on September 9th, 2004, and were remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue
, only in Generation III standards, wireless connection and with an added region - the Sevii Islands
. They also gave Event Pokémon Deoxys two additional forms
which could only be obtained by moving Deoxys over to those games.
Not finished with the Hoenn story, Game Freak developed a third version to go with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, called Emerald Version. This game was released in Japan on September 16th, 2004, and in North America on May 1st, 2005. Emerald featured the same wireless connection as in FireRed and LeafGreen, as well as a return to Hoenn with many new features, including the Hoenn Battle Frontier, re-battling Gym Leaders, changes in plot and animations for all Pokémon, like in Pokémon Crystal.
The anime caught up with both the Generation I remakes and Emerald by having the group travel back to Kanto and face the Kanto Battle Frontier there. During this season's time two more movies were produced: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (premiering in Japan on July 16th, 2005) and Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (debuting in Japanese cinemas on July 15th, 2006).
On August 28, 2006, volume 22 of the Pokémon Special was published, starting the FireRed & LeafGreen chapter, and on June 23, 2007, volume 26 of the Pokémon Special was published, starting the Emerald chapter.
Original new concepts
A spin-off racing game called Pokémon Dash was released in Japan on December 2nd, 2004 and in North America on March 14th, 2005. It was the first of many Pokémon games to come made for Nintendo DS.
On August 4th, 2005, Trainers were invited back to Orre in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, a sequel to Pokémon Colosseum taking place about five years later. This game found its way to North America on October 3rd, 2005.
A spin-off puzzle game, Pokémon Trozei!, was released on October 20th, 2005 in Japan and on March 6th, 2006 in North America. The game had a story mode, which followed Lucy Fleetfoot as she attempted to take down the Phobos Battalion.
Starting with the TCG expansion EX Delta Species, which was released on October 28th, 2005 in Japan and 3 days later in the United States, a new special kind of Pokémon called δ Delta Species was introduced. δ Delta Species Pokémon were found only in a few TCG expansions, and were given a backstory involving a new region called Holon.
A new concept saw light on November 17th, 2005, with Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
- a pair of games, one for Game Boy Advance
and one for Nintendo DS
- in which the player
is turned into a Pokémon at the beginning of the game. The games, that were released in North America on September 18th, 2006, have received adaptations in the anime episode Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Team Go-Getters out of the Gate!
and the manga series Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Ginji's Rescue Team
Another new twist on Pokémon came in the spin-off Nintendo DS game Pokémon Ranger on March 23rd, 2006. This time, players didn't play regular Pokémon Trainers, but Pokémon Rangers traveling the land of Fiore with a device called the Capture Styler instead of Poké Balls. It was released in the North America on October 30th, 2006. The game was also promoted in the anime through the appearance of Pokémon Rangers in the main series, a special episode and the ninth movie.
Ten years of Pokémon
2006 was marked officially as Pokémon's tenth anniversary, and was celebrated as such in many ways, such as Journey Across America. Among other things, an English CD was released titled Pokémon X - 10 Years of Pokémon.
On April 29th, 2006, a special episode of the anime called The Mastermind of Mirage Pokémon was broadcast in the United States. This was the first episode to use The Pokémon Company International's new voice actors (Pokémon USA at the time), causing big controversy among the Pokémon fan community. The special was eventually broadcast in Japan as streaming video from the TV Tokyo Anitele web site from October 13th to October 31st, 2006.
In fall 2006, another section of the Pokémon franchise was created in the form of the Pokémon Trading Figure Game in Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia, made by Kaiyodo. The figures reached North America and Japan in 2007.
Diamond and Pearl
Lucario and the Mystery of Mew
Just like with Kecleon
in Generation III
, the public learned of Generation IV
through a new Pokémon - Munchlax
- in May 2004. Munchlax was soon featured in Pokémon Dash
, as well as the seventh movie
and later the main anime
. Others such as Lucario
, Mime Jr.
then made their way to the eighth movie
, and Mantyke
appeared in the ninth
, which featured Manaphy
- a new legendary Pokémon
that even became obtainable in Pokémon Ranger
Diamond and Pearl Versions were eventually released for Nintendo DS in Japan on September 28th, 2006, and in North America on April 22nd, 2007. Along with 107 new Pokémon in the new huge land of Sinnoh, these games offered an actual 3D rendering of the overworld, the return of the time system, gender differences between Pokémon, a split between physical and special moves, and Pokémon Super Contests.
The anime Diamond & Pearl series started in Japan and in the US in synchronization with the release of the games. Like the previous series, it introduced a new female character, Dawn, based on her game counterpart.
The three movies of this series, while so far being only partway through, form a continuous trilogy. The first part of the trilogy, The Rise of Darkrai, premiered on July 14th, 2007 in Japanese theaters, and aired on February 24th, 2008 on North American televisions. The second part premiered in Japan on July 19th, 2008, and aired on February 13th, 2009 on North American televisions.
A new TCG set was released in Japan on November 30, 2006 and in the USA on May 23, 2007, featuring the new Pokémon from Sinnoh.
On December 14th, 2006, two weeks after the launch of Nintendo's Wii
console, Generation IV
Pokémon turned 3D in the form of Pokémon Battle Revolution
. It was released in the United States on June 25th, 2007.
The paired sequels for Pokémon Mystery Dungeon for Nintendo DS were released in Japan on September 13th, 2007 and in North America on April 20th, 2008. Just like before, an anime adaptation was also produced. It was followed by a third version, Explorers of Sky, which was released in Japan on April 18th, 2009. Just like the third versions of the main series, Explorers of Sky had additional content. Another anime adaptation was produced as well.
Pokémon Rangers were also brought into the fourth generation in a sequel called Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, set in the new land of Almia. It was released in Japan on March 20th, 2008 and in North America on November 10th, 2008. An anime special was also produced, and aired on the same day as the Japanese release.
Like with Pokémon Box in Generation III, a storage game titled My Pokémon Ranch was released on March 25th, 2008 in Japan and on June 9th, 2008 in North America, featuring the character of Hayley.
The third version of Generation IV, Platinum Version, was released on September 13th, 2008 in Japan and on March 22nd, 2009 in North America, bringing new Pokémon forms into the ring for Giratina, Shaymin, and Rotom, as well as updates similar to those found in Pokémon Emerald.
The future of Pokémon
The history of the Pokémon media franchise already spans long over a decade, and is rich with four generations
, many main series games
, spin-off games
, a Trading Card Game
, three series of anime
complete with 11 movies
, endless manga
, a musical
, and plenty of music
, but it is far from over.
Pokémon Platinum was first released in Japan on September 13, 2008, with subsequent releases in North America on March 22, 2009, and PAL regions staggered through May 2009. This game ended the Generation IV story set in the Sinnoh region, but like Generation III brought about remakes for the incompatible Generation I games, a remake of the Generation II Pokémon games, Gold and Silver, has been confirmed to be released for the Nintendo DS titled HeartGold and SoulSilver. The paired games are expected to be available in Japan in fall, 2009.
The last part of the Diamond & Pearl series movie trilogy has already been confirmed, but little is known about it. It is set to premiere in Japanese theaters on July 18, 2009.
It is widely believed that a fifth generation of Pokémon is inevitable, and that the Pokémon world will continue to grow with it. While no official announcement has been made by the game developers, anime director Masamitsu Hidaka said in an interview that there will definitely be a fifth generation of Pokémon. The new generation will probably extend the Pokémon universe in similar fashion as the older generations did, with new Pokémon, a new region, new characters and features. However, no details have been confirmed and there is only a vague picture of the future of Pokémon: only time shall tell.