I was on the road to Viridian City!
Recently, I have been re-embarking through Pokémon Blue, even going as far as playing it on a Game Boy Pocket! I am steadily getting through the game, and have almost completed the main story. During my recent playthrough, I thought about that period of my life/Pokémon fandom, and I have decided to share some of my recollections from those early days of Poké-mania in Australia.
My initial exposure to the franchise came when I woke up one morning and tuned into the morning kids program Cheez TV—I just so happened to catch the first episode of the anime. From what I can remember, the show first aired the second week of the Easter school holidays in 1999, which was around early April. Although it may have been the last couple of weeks of the Christmas break. My first impression of the show was extremely positive. I found it so fresh and exciting! I was immediately turned into a fan from just that one episode.
Over the following weeks my interest grew quickly. I began to record the show onto VHS tapes and started quickly learning about the wider Pokémon craze. At school, some of my closer friends were getting really into Pokémon, too. Although as I was in Year Six, which is the last year before high school here in Australia, the majority of the class didn’t find it a cool thing to like, even though I am sure many still secretly watched the show.
The Pokémon games were apparently launched in Australia on or around October 23, 1998. They were, however, not well known, at least with people around me, until the anime became popular. Once I learned there were Game Boy games of Pokémon, I knew I had to get a Game Boy and a copy. Most of my friends managed to get the game fairly quickly from what I can remember; I, however, was not so lucky. My parents would not simply buy me a game for no reason, so I had to spend weeks saving up enough money to afford it. I used to go look at the boxes for the game pretty much every Saturday at Toys R Us while my sister was getting piano lessons. It felt like a long time before I could afford the game, which was AU $50 at the time. I did, however, play up to Cerulean City a few times on various friends’ cartridges, as they let me play without saving.
Once I had a copy of Blue Version, I played it a lot, and even restarted the game numerous times for various reasons, one time because I mucked up the cloning trick and erased my friend’s save file. My final save before I recently restarted clocked in at around 78 hours, though I am sure that number could of been somewhere closer to 500 when taking into account all the times I restarted the game.
At some point throughout the year of 1999, my close friends and I started our own little fan club for Pokémon. It started when one of my friends and I made our own Pokémon handbooks, which were filled with drawings and any information we could find about the series. We all met up every now and then outside of school and talked/played Pokémon. This was also probably around the time the big merchandising toy/memorabilia juggernaut was hitting its fever pitch. I had books, framed posters, shirts… I was in deep.
My Charizard drawing from the handbook
As 1999 drew to a close, more and more information was coming out about the first Pokémon movie. To say people were hyped about the upcoming release is an understatement. Just as the movie was getting close to release, one of my friends rang me and offered tickets to an advanced screening he had won somehow. Super excited to have the opportunity to see it early, I gladly accepted. The screening was on a weekday night, however, and my dad didn’t seem to want to have to take me. Luckily, when I offered the tickets to a friend at school, his mum agreed to take us that night.
The night was awesome fun. There was a massive crowd at the cinema and they were even handing out prizes before the movie started. I was just happy to be able to see the movie, though, and get my first real glimpse of new Pokémon like Pikablu, I mean.. Marill.
After the movie craze died down, the airing of the new series of the anime was the next big thing. The amazing thing to me at the time was that Channel 10 were going to air the opening episode at prime time in order to give fans their first taste of the new series. The show was bookended by small segments from the Cheez TV hosts, although I cannot remember exactly what those entailed. It’s still amazing that they actually aired they way they did at all. I doubt that this would happen these days for any kind of cartoon.
Cool holographic cards!
The year 2000 bought us Pokémon Stadium, Gold and Silver, and ended with the release of the second movie, Pokémon: The Power of One. It was a good year, and my interest held up throughout, One of the cooler things I acquired during Stadium’s marketing were these small cards found in chip packets. I did not need to collect them through buying chips, though: my dad worked for the chips company Smiths and he was given a completed folder. Strangely enough, he also was given a Game Boy Color and a copy of Pokémon Gold through the company as well. My sister got the Game Boy and I was given the game. I never started Gold Version, however: it’s still sitting on a shelf basically un-opened.
First page of my reply from Nintendo. Second page is below in the gallery.
Early 2000 I also ended up sending a written letter to Nintendo Australia, telling them about my love of Pokémon and even sending an original design along with it. My Pokémon’s name was Komora and it was an electric type which can apparently power a city for a week. I did receive a reply eventually, it included a two page letter and some small goodies such as Pokémon stickers etc.
Once I started my second year of high school in 2001, I still liked Pokémon a lot, but the hype was beginning to fade. I stopped watching the anime around midway through the Johto saga, and although I have caught episodes of newer series over the years, I have not kept up with it on a consistent basis. 2001 was probably the end of my big fandom days, and it was not until Ruby and Sapphire were being talked about that I started to pick up interest again, although not to the same level.
Komora! Designed before Gold/Silver Pokémon were unveiled.
In 2003, Nintendo Australia held a special competition scheduled for March 29, 2003, which was a few days before the release of the GBA games. People had to enter their names and reasons why they should be entered into this competition. As luck would have it, I was accepted into the competition to compete against a fairly large number of other Pokémon fans.
The event took place on Darling Harbour in Sydney, with the contestants having to play through the new games as quickly as possible and raising their Pokémon’s levels as high as possible. Every half hour or so the levels of every players Pokémon were tallied up and a certain number of people with the lowest overall number were knocked out, Eventually the remaining players fought against each other on a large screen as the crowd looked on. I made it through to the top 25 of the contestants, and as a prize I received the copy of Pokémon Sapphire I had been playing and some other goodies to take home. It was an awesome experience. Not only did I get to compete, I was able to get the game early.(We have a full writeup of the event on the site, 2003 Pokémon Playoff writeup)
I am sitting on the right of the red hat guy!
Looking back on the whole Pokémon craze now, I feel I was just the right age to have gotten into it. I was almost 12 when I discovered the anime; had I been a few years older, I may not have been affected as much as I was. I owe a lot to the Pokémon series It is what made me want a Game Boy and it was from that point on that I discovered the great Nintendo franchises, which was a great thing.