We all love Pokemon here at TheGamer (especially Chad Pokemon enjoyer Cian Maher) so it’s no surprise that we’ve established a regular cadence of articles exploring the latest and greatest entries while also delving into the past to examine classic animated films and the revered classics that helped the define the series into what it’s become today. Pokemon is something special, like so many other properties that have spent years developing a massive following.

I remember playing Pokemon Blue on the stairs of my old council house with my older brother, struggling to see the screen as he took charge of the controls and taught me the basics of a world that at the time seemed extraordinary. Compared to today’s entries, the likes of Red and Blue feel almost primitive, but they helped cement an iconic formula that remains largely the same to this day. Sure, we’ve seen new creatures, mechanics, and characters introduced, but the act of becoming the very best like no one ever was remains the same.

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My first real experience with Pokemon, and my favourite to this day, is Pokemon Crystal. The Game Boy Color I received for Christmas alongside a copy of the game changed my life forever, teaching me the immeasurable value this franchise has in the hearts of millions. I will admit that nostalgia plays a massive role in Pokemon Crystal’s place on the podium, but I still feel it remains one of the purest examples of what the series does best. Its world is simple yet sprawling, while it includes a number of classic ‘mons and locations that have since become iconic. It builds upon the excellence of Gold & Silver with new subplots, new locations, and an expanded storyline that was basic yet beautiful.

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Pokemon Crystal

There’s also a charm to the visuals that was lost as Pokemon transitioned to newer, more powerful platforms. Game Freak was required to work within the portable console’s limitations, using a basic selection of colours and sprites alongside a soundtrack that remains relevant to this day. While many will decry Pokemon’s lack of innovation, it has maintained such unparalleled success because it understands the appeal of its simplistic approach to combat, exploration, and the alluring goal of catching them all. Crystal and other earlier games are the perfect distillation of this identity, and returning to them today is still a joy. We all know Diamond & Pearl ruined legendaries forever, while their depiction in earlier games is welcome and digestible, especially in Crystal’s case with Suicune. It rules.

I will never forget being battered endlessly by Whitney’s Miltank, sending my party out to be destroyed by Rollout again and again and again until I finally grew powerful enough to bruteforce my way to victory. There was probably a smarter strategy I could have used, but I was young, stupid, and impatient. I still won in the end, and that’s what matters. I’m one of those players who is too ignorant to bury myself in stats and type weaknesses, preferring to overlevel my starter Pokemon while filling the party with ones I believe look and sound the coolest. I did that as a kid and I still do it now, I guess some things never change.

Pokemon Crystal

When I asked my colleagues if their first Pokemon experience was their favourite, the response was as mixed as I expected them to be. Some agreed, slaves to their nostalgia just like I am, while others pointed to newer entries that were closely related to the games that introduced them to the series, but built upon them in meaningful ways that changed things for the better. No matter how you slice things, nostalgia has a factor in how we approach Pokemon, and perhaps why so many older individuals remain infatuated by it. I have a soft spot for Ruby & Sapphire and Let’s Go because they utilise the formula in a similar way to Crystal, preferring simplicity over gimmicky mechanics that will ultimately come and go.

Final Fantasy is a lot like Pokemon. They’re both turn-based JRPGs with a silly amount of games spread throughout the past three decades, and much like Pokemon, the first Final Fantasy you played is often regarded as your favourite. Final Fantasy 7 will always be one of my favourite games ever created because it shaped who I am today. Cloud’s adventure helped curate the taste I would have in games, film, literature, television, and music as I grew older. Formative pieces of media like that were so influential, and there’s a reason why we place value on the pieces of art that helped us define our personality and how we’d come to love such things. From an objective standpoint I prefer newer games in the series, but when it comes down to the wire, nothing will ever best Final Fantasy 7, just like nothing will ever usurp Pokemon Crystal from the mysterious place it occupies in my mind.

Nostalgia has become something to be weaponized in the modern era. New ideas are risky and expensive, so it’s much easier for companies to rely on fully-fledged remakes of existing products with a guaranteed audience or remasters of classics that they know will go down a storm. There’s value in this approach, but it’s also important to understand when we’re being taken advantage of and that our memories aren’t being constantly abused for corporate gain. I suppose we keep buying such products so we’re part of the problem, and given how nostalgia works in the human mind such things will never go away. I’ll give Pokemon and Final Fantasy a pass in this regard, since it’s easy to recognise the value of their respective legacies while looking forward to a future filled with possibility.

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