Way back in 1999, a friend of mine gave me an ancient gray brick of a Game Boy and a very used copy of Pokémon Red while we were on a middle school field trip. An eighth grader, I already knew myself to be "too old" for Pokémon. After all, I was already into games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger; besides, everyone knew Pokémon was for little kids. Of course, on a six-hour car trip, when someone offers you a Game Boy, you take it—no questions asked. I was completely unprepared for how utterly and completely addictive the game would be. By the end of the car ride, I had a full team of Pokémon led by Bulbasaur and two gym badges under my belt. And my friend, knowing exactly what he had led me into, gave me both the game and Game Boy to borrow indefinitely. (I still have both to this day.)
Over the next few weeks, I did indeed "catch 'em all"—well, all those that could be caught in Red anyway. I even caught myself a Mew through a now well-known glitch. After leaving the game all but mastered, I returned to it the following year when Pokémon Stadium hit the N64. It was during this time I also picked up Pokémon Snap and started watching the anime on TV (though I stopped once Ash became the Pokémon champion). But by the time Gold and Silver came out late that year, I was pretty much
Pokémon-ed out—and the addition of an entire new set of Pokémon past the original 150 was more intimidating than exciting. When Pokémon Stadium 2 came out, I was saddened and more than a little annoyed to find my team from Red unable to stand up to the new types of Pokémon. I was pretty much done with the series.
Over the next decade, a lot happened. I graduated high school and college and then moved to Japan. Sometime during all this, I remember briefly trying the remakes of Silver and Red, but neither was able to hold my interest past the first sitting—they were still the same old story but with reams of Pokémon I didn't know.
The next time I picked up the series was for work rather than pleasure—and I wasn't very optimistic. Yet, to my surprise, White was the perfect game to bring me back into the fold. It had a new world, an interesting plot, and—if you see the game the way I do—a villain protagonist. Moreover, with nothing but new and unique Pokémon, I felt I was on an even footing with everyone else—no one knew which the best Pokémon was or what the best teams were. I beat it, but didn't attempt to master it. I largely avoided the online features as well; versus fighting still doesn't interest me.
When Pokémon Conquest hit Japanese stores earlier this year, I had a good time with it, despite not being the biggest fan of turn-based strategy games. So heading into Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, I was still feeling pretty excited. But sadly, the feeling was fleeting. White 2 leaves behind the interesting story and social commentary of the original Black and White and returns to the tried and true formula of the other Pokémon titles—the formula I tired of back in 2000. And as the feature with the most staying power, the online battling, failed to interest me once again, it looks like I won't be playing another Pokémon title for pleasure anytime soon.
Really when it comes down to it, Pokémon hasn't changed very much in the years since I first played Red. But I have. Everything that made me like the series is still there—it's just that now I look for other things in the games I play. But as the original Black and White showed me, every once in a while, the series is capable of drawing me back in. So while I may never have the need to "catch 'em all" again, I'm sure that Black 2 and White 2 are far from the last Pokémon games that I will ever play.
Pokémon White Version 2 and Pokémon Black Version 2 were released on June 23, 2012, in Japan and will be released in North America on October 7, 2012 (October 12 for PAL).