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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 games (twenty-one in Japan and twelve in South Korea) released with the label Version after the game's title are known by fans as the main series of Pokémon games. In Japan, this series of games is officially named Pocket Monsters Series (Japanese: ポケットモンスターシリーズ).
Main series model
While there are no strict rules that make a game a main series game, and previously assumed rules are continuously broken, the games generally have a similar plot and mechanics.
The player begins the game in a small town or city, having no Pokémon of their own. Through a course of events, he or she will receive a starter Pokémon from the region's Pokémon Professor; the starter Pokémon is always a choice 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 Yellow, in which the player starts with Pikachu and the rival starts with Eevee, and 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 these games 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, the player must also stop the plans of a villainous team, whose plans often involve the manipulation of legendary Pokémon.
After all eight Gym Leaders have been defeated, the player can enter the Pokémon League, where the Elite Four and Champion await challengers.
Though the game can be considered over as soon as the player has defeated the Champion, there is still post-game content. Often there is a post-game plotline and locations and facilities that could not be previously accessed. The overarching goal is the completion of the Pokédex; 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
The boxart for each game features one Pokémon as a mascot, always introduced during the generation that game is a part of, or the generation that the original game was a part of in the case of remakes. This Pokémon is referred to by fans as a version mascot, and beginning in Generation II, has always (with the exception of FireRed and LeafGreen, remakes of the Japanese Red and Green from Generation I) been the legendary Pokémon available in that game at the climax of the storyline.
While releases continue to break patterns, there is overall a model that the release of new main series games follows.
When a generation of Pokémon games begins, a pair of games, seen as counterparts to one another, has always been released. These paired versions feature the virtually the same storyline as each other, but the Pokémon available differ, and usually other mechanics are slightly different. This is marketed as a way to encourage trading by requiring it in order to complete the Pokédex.
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 Ruby and Sapphire and then FireRed and LeafGreen. It was also the first generation that did not contain a third version for one of its pairs: Ruby and Sapphire were later joined by Emerald, but the FireRed and LeafGreen did not receive a third version because they were remakes. This was later mimicked in Generation IV, except with the third version, Platinum, being released before the remakes, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver.
Generation V is still currently in progress and has had two sets of paired versions, Black and White and Black 2 and White 2.
Generation VI will start in October 2013 with the release of Pokémon X and Y.
List of main series games