Episode 9: Pokémon
Josh Curry

Pokémon has been a mainstay in my gaming life since I was a little kid; It was my first RPG and one of my favorite game series. I will readily admit the series hasn't changed much over the years. Instead of focusing on major design innovations, Pokémon has instead concentrated on refining the experience and over the years, this led to me feeling franchise fatigue.

One of the nicest things about covering Pokémon for this month's Retro Encounter was being able to see all the visual and story changes they implemented in Pokémon X/Y. The shift to 3D was enough to make Pokémon feel new again. I have no illusions that new Pokémon games will ever again be anything revolutionary, but let's be honest, they are already perfect the way they are.

Pokemon Black and White 2
Marcos Gaspar

Pokémon does it again! I try to leave the series behind me, foolishly thinking I can run from its grasp; However, it manages to catch me in its own pokéball. But that's okay, because I adore the music of the series and truly enjoy the innocent story it tells. Black 2 has some of the best music in the series in my opinion, so it's always fun to return to it and give it another go. I can do without the constant Team Plasma fights, but that's okay, because I'm content with my experience with Black 2 and the Pokémon series in general. I look forward to Pokémon's next move in the series!

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire
Chris Gebauer

Crazy, absolutely crazy to think it has been 20 years since the advent of this series: almost 20 years since I first put Pokémon Blue in my yellow Game Boy Pocket and fell in love with my first starter. But what's even more impressive than the longevity of the franchise and its various iterations, is how the wonderfully simple yet deep franchise formula still kicks ass. And that goes for all of the franchise's core iterations. Playing through Pokémon Yellow after not having played a first gen Pokémon since Blue launched a disturbing amount of years ago, I was beaming over how much fun Yellow STILL is. And that went for every iteration our Retro Encounter group played (I really dig Sapphire). Pokémon is one of the few timeless series still kicking: it is easy to grasp, hard to master, simple yet brilliant fun. Even though it makes me feel old, I still love it unconditionally.

Here's to countless more years of creature catching to come! But for now, I need to go clear out an endgame dungeon...

Pokemon X and Y
Peter Triezenberg

The real power of Pokémon, if you ask me, how it sticks with you. It's a series very near and dear to my heart, being an integral part of my childhood, but I've only recently come back to the series thanks to the excellent 3DS entries. I've got a lot of catching up to do, so what better way to start than playing the remake of what many consider to be the high point of the series? While there are a few dated quirks inherent to the Pokémon formula that reared their ugly heads during my play through, playing SoulSilver felt like coming home. It perfectly captures the adventurous spirit of the Pokémon franchise, and even represents the ideal RPG sequel with the inclusion of the Kanto region in the postgame, adding tons of additional content to the main adventure.

Pokemon Black and White 2
Mike Sollosi

Over the month of January I played Pokémon Red and Pokémon Platinum, two games separated by ten years and three Pokémon generations. One game from my middle school days and one from my college years. Sure, every Pokémon game is still about defeating eight gym leaders, four elite trainers, and one criminal organization on the road to becoming Champion, but with each generation comes more details, more extras, and at least ninety more Pokémon. That's no small potatoes. Pokémon as a series hasn't gone anywhere in some respects, but has become astonishingly deep in others.

It's completely up to you what you want to get out of playing a Pokémon game, and that's a beautiful thing. Players can just finish the story, try to catch them all, or become a master battle strategist after training and researching hundreds of species across eighteen Pokémon types. I went for the first option only because I was time-limited. Playing one of the original Pokémon games and one of the more modern ones was an interesting comparison and I'm glad I signed up for this Retro Encounter cycle. It won't be my last Pokémon journey, either.