Taking Pokémon across multiple generations ⊟
Something really interesting happened in this week’s Pokémon Direct. After discussing the series’ history on Nintendo handhelds, Pokemon X/Y producer Tsunekazu Ishihara, director Junichi Masuda, and Nintendo president Satoru Iwata all take a trip down memory lane, holding an original Game Boy and Red/Green's packaging for what may be the first time in years. They mention that the connectivity of the handheld devices that Pokémon has been played on in the past has been a key part of building the memories that has surrounded the Pokémon series.
I’ll get to the interesting thing that happened a bit later on.
I’ve grown up with Pokémon. I’ve played every generation of the main game at least until the Elite Four and some of them for even longer. When I was younger, I remember desperately trying to figure out how I would get my Pokémon off of one cartridge and onto the next. Some mess of link cables and wondering whether the game would even accept the previous generation’s adorable monsters would happen every time a new game released. I’ve probably trained at least three dozen level 100 Pokémon – not exploiting Rare Candy or dupe glitching, actually trained them.
I’m 25 now, and I’ve bought every generation of Pokémon that has come out. I don’t think much of it, but seeing Game Freak’s logo that first time I boot up a new one takes me back to playing Blue on my original Game Boy. Similar to many others in my generation, Pokémon are incredibly nostalgic to me, and I’ve been happy to welcome each new generation of them. I’ve since stopped worrying how to transfer all of my Pokémon from one generation of game cartridge to the next, but I sometimes see the old Blue/Yellow/Silver/Crystal cartridges on my shelf at home and miss the teams I trained in them.
During the Direct, Masuda announced the Pokémon Bank, a way to store the Pokémon from Black and White onward, online. For a small fee (around $5/year in Japan), you can store up to 3,000 Pokémon for years to come. Iwata even brings up long-term customer relationships and how the save files that you develop in the course of a game actually end up creating memories. It’s really nice to see this acknowledged by an executive at Nintendo, indirectly implying that the people who play their games are not just children. As Brad O’Farrell pointed out far better than I ever will, many of us have carried Pokémon into our adulthoods. Sometimes, I think the translators may be teasing some of us 90s kids by including references like this one.
"At the end of the interview, [Nakagawa] told me that she wished I would create something like Pokémon Bank. She wanted her Pokémon that she trained to be securely stored and passed down to her kids and grandkids.
She wanted something like Pokémon Bank because she wanted her kids and grandkids to remember that their grandma fought battles using Charizard.”
I had to watch that part of the video again a couple times. I’ve long considered Pokémon to be something I’ll play for as long as they put out games, but here’s someone who wants to hand down Pokémon for generations to come. Until Ishihara shared that anecdote, I had no idea that that was something I wanted to do.
Allow me to remove some context to better allow a look at how amazing this is: we’ve created memories so strong with a piece of digital information that we want to show these memories to our descendants.
Handing down Pokémon isn’t a new thing for the Pokémon world. It actually fits quite nicely in the existing narrative. Many a trainer presented throughout the series of games and animated shows and movies inherited their parents’ or grandparents’ Pokémon, or at the very least, got a chance to meet them. I am so curious about Nakagawa’s statement: what does she want to do once she introduces her Pokémon to her descendants? Is it simply proof? Does she bestow her prize Pokémon to her eldest? What if the trainer is too junior and the Pokémon too unruly? Have they earned enough badges to keep grandma’s Pokémon under control?
Say what you will about the longevity of data “in the cloud” or the things that they don’t say like what happens if you don’t pay for Pokémon Bank one year. But now I have all of these questions stemming from this one anecdote, that I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer unless I or one of my friends eventually live them. I’ve yet to see the Pokémon Bank in action and I’m pretty excited about what it means. Finally, a way to preserve these digital memories.
While I’m on the topic, I still think this is a very fascinating piece of history that I wish someone would respond to.
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