Our Two Cents: A Trip Through the Tall Grass

What do you do when you want to write a top ten list, but you’re too lazy to come up with ten whole entries? Just ask your friends to chip in! Our Two Cents is making its grand return, a feature in which the writers of The Glorio Blog take turns to throw in their proverbial two cents on one topic at a time. That’s one far-fetched question, with up to ten entirely unsolicited answers! Today, we celebrate the recent announcement of Pokémon Sword and Shield by getting all misty eyed about the past.

A new Pokémon generation always inspires comparisons to the huge legacy of the franchise, taking us back to the distant past of the late nineties, when our childhoods were coloured by suspectibility to mass-marketed whimsey, or to the more recent past, when we rediscovered our beloved memory as the grossly addictive masterpiece of a franchise it is. Pokémon is the language of a generation, as the very nature of the over 20 games that have been released in the series since its launch in 1996 seem to have been intentionally designed to feel like an adventure that is all your own. With so many ways to play, so many monster companions to choose from and so little effort put into the story, Pokémon to many is as much about the stories surrounding it than about the games, the anime or the metric tonnes of merchandising itself.

That’s why the question for this Our Two Cents this time around is: What’s your favorite Pokémon memory? With over 20 years of history, many of our writers have been fans of the series from their formative years, and that nostalgia hits hard. Jel, Iro, Aqua, Euri, colons and Artemis are here to throw in their two cents.

Cold Steel Vengeance

My memory is a little fuzzy on this but back in the Fire Red/Leaf Green GBA era, I had a friend who would mop the floor with me in versus battles. I did not win a single match. I would say say I’m an extremely casual Pokemon player but even so, a man has his pride. I wasn’t happy about this. My only saving grace was a Magneton with a custom name that looked like a serial number (sadly I don’t remember what I named it). Even though I lost every game, that thing gave ’em hell on the way down.

Fast forward many years later to the release of Black/White on DS. I had played some Diamond/Pearl but never finished it and never tried to avenge my brutal losses from Red/Green. This time though my friend starting dragging up old memories about how badly he used to beat me, and I reached my limit. I took him up on his challenge, but asked not to play until we really had time to build up our endgame teams.

I knew I had to do more than win, I needed total fear and humiliation. To do this, I would need to secretly transfer my original Magneton across three games, upgrade him to Magnezone, and use it as the anchor of my final party. If anyone recalls the hoops you had to go through to do game to game transfers, it took a LOT of time. I think I spent somewhere around 60-80 hours game time making this happen, not to mention getting another one of my friends with a DS to secretly help me complete the transfer from Diamond/Pearl. I’m sure there was an easier way for me to get a Magnezone in Black/White, but it had to be THAT one.

The fateful day finally arrived. I threw out some ceremonial party members before the big reveal. I’ll never forget the look on my friends face when he saw the Magnezone and said, “wait, why does that name sound familiar?”, then realized who it was. I destroyed him so hard that I literally ended his Pokemon career. He has not played since that day. My revenge was complete.​

Honorable mention(s): I went to Japan in December 1999 and bought a Pikachu backpack for my little sister that was not available in the USA. It was like, literally a Pikachu with straps, not a backpack with a picture on it. Pokemon was just becoming a massive phenomenon at that point, and my mom told me a woman in McDonalds saw it and offered her $200 for the backpack. She declined, and to this day I’m wondering if that was the right choice.​

iro_700

Bootleg of a Bootleg

It’s hard for me to come up with any singular story about Pokemon since I was pretty much in on the ground floor; my brother and I received Red and Blue respectively for Christmas in 1998, and the franchise has been a part of my life ever since. I’ve played at least one game from every generation, and plenty more besides. I’ve watched the anime longer than anyone else I know (and I still haven’t seen over half of its total runtime). I’ve even read large chunks of the Adventures manga, which continues to be criminally underrepresented and underappreciated. None of these are unique – not even the story to follow – but they’re all certainly part of what Pokemon is to me.

At a shady Chinese supermarket in the town where I grew up (which includes plenty of non-shady Chinese supermarkets), sometime after Crystal came out but before 9/11, I acquired a Game Boy cartridge purporting itself to contain both Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Jade. Neither of these were real Pokemon games, of course, but I didn’t realize until I actually started up the game. Although I could barely understand the poorly-translated English, I figured out that it was somehow about electric waves and mysterious trees, and that while this creature was following me around like Pikachu did, this most definitely wasn’t the Pokemon I knew. But I was still playing as a cap-wearing kid wandering a strange world and meeting monsters; close enough, when you’re nine years old.

I found out years later that these mystery games were a totally separate monster-collecting series titled Telefang, hastily translated and modified by enterprising hackers to make a quick profit. In the weirdly widespread world of Pokemon ROM-hacks and bootlegs, Jade is one of the most infamous, and certainly a notable moment in my time with the franchise.

Honorable mention(s): Obtaining Mew with my next-door-neighbor’s Gameshark and proliferating it across the schoolyard via the Link Cable duplication exploit, grinding in Blue with Pokemon Stadium‘s Dodrio-Speed feature, experiencing the first two weeks after Pokemon Go released, Ash finally defeating Gary during the Johto League, getting mad when the dubbing company and entire voice cast changed, and simply too many other memories to list.

AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!

Back when I was little, I hated sports. I was tiny and lanky, more accustomed to gripping a pen or a computer mouse than a bat and ball. So, when I had learned I was going to a Chicago Bears game when I was in the middle of Very Important Business playing Pokémon Silver, I was not enthused. Cue me smuggling in my GameBoy to play while the game was going on. I think they were playing the Lions, though it’s honestly pretty surprising I remember considering just how little I cared about the actual game. Part of the reason I was so adamant was that I had just gotten the Silver Wing and was finally ready to face Lugia.

It had an absolutely infuriating combination of moves that made him a pain to fight. I remember failing at least three times as my fights kept going, not least of which because of that stupid safeguard making it difficult to give Lugia an effect that would make him easier to catch. This was made no easier by the fact that I was still kind of an idiot kid and basically used my Feraligatr for every fight, making all my other Pokémon under-leveled in comparison by far. Thankfully, my recently evolved Ampharos was able to paralyze it early and get the fight started off right. With my Feraligatr I was able to chip away little by little and tank its Aeroblast, but none of my balls were working. In a desperation throw, I sent out a Heavy Ball as the last of my reserves. One shake. Cade McNown goes back into the pocket. Two shakes. Marcus Robinson gets open for the pass. Three shakes. The throw is out! THE BALL IS RED! I FINALLY DID IT!!! And for one brilliant moment, I stood up and cheered as the crowd goes wild.

Honorable mention(s): Trying out every urban legend that sprang up about Pokemon in the late nineties, and finding out some of them were actually true.

aqua_700

The Race for Rayquaza

In sixth grade, my class went on a skiing trip to Switzerland, as is somewhat customary in my country. I didn’t care much for the skiing, though. What I cared about were the afternoon breaks, during which we’d huddle together and play the then recently released Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. Now, you have to know that back then, us kids weren’t exactly as well-versed in the ways of the Internet, nor were we very fluent in English — the language these games were sold in. This lead to a kind of “Mew is hiding under the truck” scenario on steroids — lots of rumours were going around and no one really knew what the heck they were doing. There was no common knowledge of the games’ post-game content, and the in-game dialogue supposed to point you in this direction was entirely lost on us, leaving most kids my age simply training their favourite monsters and completing their Pokédex after they’d beat the Elite Four, blissfully unaware of the many secrets still to uncover.

That’s exactly what we were doing when all of a sudden, one of my classmates found themselves in a location no one recognized. “Sky Pillar”, the screen read, and it was clear from the moment they stepped in that this place meant business. There had to be something awesome at the top of this tower. As soon as everyone had figured out how to get to the Sky Pillar, an impromptu kind of race started to see which player could reach the top and acquire whatever it was that would be waiting there first. Now, I don’t actually remember if anyone actually ended up catching Rayquaza, the Mythical Pokémon that can be found at the top of the Sky Pillar, that day, but it does remain a fond memory reminding me that Pokémon is as much a game about discovery, surprise and wonder as it is about collecting andf battling.

Honorable mention(s): Back in the early days of the Glorio Blog, when Pokémon Black and White had just come out, Iro traded me an Oshawott that knew Surf long before I was supposed to gain access to Surf in the game. Cue me going to places I wasn’t supposed to be going, encountering wild Pokémon 15 levels stronger than mine, and winning.

 

chris

Walking a level 1 Snorlax to level 100 in a bid to lose weight

Pokémon, for me, is a bit of an obsession. I consume the anime, the games, a lot of merch, and I spend pretty horrendous amounts of money going to Japan to then spend even more on it. I have a growing collection of pressed pennies from the Pokémon Centers I’ve been to, and stacks of arcade-only doodads that I’m not quite sure what to do with. The point is, I like Pokémon a fair bit, and so narrowing down my favourite memory has proven pretty tricky to do. 

Back in February 2015, I decided to make use of the PokéWalker I’d rediscovered when moving to a new town. I honestly didn’t much care for it back when HeartGold released, outside of a few weeks trying to figure out whether to keep using it, but the fresh start that moving home gave me was enough to get me thinking about what I could do with it. After putting it off for weeks, as I do with a lot of the ideas I come up with, I got started. I wrote about the set-up on my personal blog at the time.  Carrying the PokéWalker around isn’t exactly a lot of effort, but for someone who was only walking to and from work at the time, in a pre-Pokémon Go world, I needed to give myself reasons to walk more. So I did, and eventually found myself with a level 100 Snorlax just before the end of 2015. 

The reason this is such a fond memory is not that it was some grand weight loss plan that changed my body and future for the better, because it wasn’t. But it did put me on the right path and make me a lot more active than I was before, and it would later help me to take weight loss more seriously. This tiny piece of plastic, which had sat in a box forgotten for years, that I often clipped onto the inside of my jeans pocket because I was too embarrassed to be seen wearing it, gave me a goal. I hit that goal, and I can confidently say that this Snorlax is the fittest fucking Snorlax out there. 

Honorable mention(s): Visiting most of the Pokémon Centres in Japan, being embarrassed to buy Pokémon Colosseum in front of a friend and then finding out that they were super into it too, how Pokémon Ruby felt like the god damn future, crying during the first Pokémon movie while my dad slept through it at the cinema, completing a living Pokédex, and finding that first (non-Gyarados) shiny.

colons

Comfort in a cottage

My favourite place in the world is a cottage on the Isle of Mull. I visited it with my family every year while I lived with them, and I still visit it with friends pretty regularly. You can only get to it by foot or by boat, there’s no Internet, and sometimes even FM radio is shaky. It’s cosy. It’s familiar. It’s never felt anything but safe.

The Pokémon memory I want to share from here is not some grandiose event; I never really got into trading with anyone or sharing strategies or challenges, and my recent fondness for the franchise started with Alpha Sapphire, so it is especially telling that I have such a clear and fond recollection of it.

It’s late at night. It is quiet. I am lying on the top shelf of a bunk bed, and I’ve got my Game Boy Color and my prized copy of Pokémon Yellow. I have long since completed the game a dozen times, and at this point there’s not a lot to be gained by exploring Kanto, so I’m making my own fun. I faff about. I use my Xploder to break the game in many fun ways; I set my team’s levels to 255 only to have them ‘level up’ to 100 after every fight, and explore the rest of the memory space with the search and filtering features.

Most importantly, and this is the thing that specifically sticks with me for some reason, I set the game to one of the weird ‘headphone’ audio settings (for variety’s sake), I head into the first battle with the Elite Four, I put the GameBoy under my pillow, and I fall asleep.

artemis

Becoming Pokemon League Champion

I’ll come clean and say I’ve never been a die-hard fan of the Pokémon franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I did watch the original couple of seasons of the anime, even if I much preferred the Digimon anime myself (heresy, I know). That said, I haven’t watched any of the Pokémon anime at all, even just in passing, since about 2001, (though in fairness, I haven’t actually owned a TV for the last seven years), and was never a manga reader or card game collector either. I’ve also never owned a Nintendo console, don’t buy any Pokemon merchandise, and play Pokémon Go only on a very casual basis.

And yet. No matter how many years have passed, you just cannot prize me away from the original Game Boy versions of this franchise. Every now again, normally when I’m feeling particularly stressed and don’t want to think about anything much, I start up a new team and get to levelling up. I’m talking purely fourth generation and below: Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen, Emerald, Platinum, and very occasionally HeartGold/SoulSilver. My favourite memories? Beating the crap out of the Elite Four, decimating Lance’s beloved dragon Pokémon with a high level Lapras, Cloyster, or Dewgong.

 

 

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