Format reviewed: Game Boy
Developer: Satoshi Tajiri
Submitted by: John Delaney
Back in 1995, C&VG printed a short article in its news section about an unusual game that was rescuing the stalwart Nintendo Gameboy from bargain bins across Japan (I had it clipped out, but I can't seem to find it). It said that it would be keeping an eye on this Pocket Monsters incase it ever got a western release. On the off-chance that you've just somehow warped from that year to this, I'll make it short: It did.
It's amazing to think that the biggest global phenomenon since World War 2 erupted from these two little primary-coloured cartridges. They're so simple. Collect stuff. Bum around a little fictional country, collect small animals and customise them into your own personalised team of pets/friends/pit-bulls. Something in there clicked. Something in there made Pokémon into the world-sweeping sensation that's still going strong today.
It wasn't the graphics. Those were ridiculed even at the time for being primitive and childish. The gameplay was basic enough, just your standard level-upping, random-encountering, turn-based-combating RPG fare. The connectivity played a huge part in the success; you couldn't completely finish the game by yourself, you had to scout out a friend who had the other version of the game. That factor made Pokémon the natural schoolyard successor to the Turtles card. The ability to select your team from 150 different possibilities also let players invest their own personality in the adventure, adding to the appeal.
Something in that mix allowed the Gameboy to turn a corner and remain the standard of handheld gaming. It kept Nintendo on top despite the onslaught of competition it was facing on every other front. It made Pokémon become the template for practically every fad that followed it. Yu-Gi-Oh! shamelessly builds on Pokémon's playing card success, which was, along with the animated series, one of the three primary strands of Pokémon's strategy, and whatever follows Yu-Gi-Oh! will no doubt also be able to trace its roots directly back to Satoshi Tajiri's masterpiece.