Pokémon is all about finding, catching, and battling beasts, but perhaps the biggest beast of all is the franchise itself, which has seen an incredible number of iterations and has even spawned films, anime series, manga, toys, cards, and so much more. You name it, Pokémon has conquered it, and now Pokémon Let's Go! Pikachu and Eevee are here to introduce the Switch to the franchise. But where did it all begin?
To answer this question we actually need to look at the games that Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee are effectively reproducing: Pokémon Red and Blue. Red first released back in 1996 for the Game Boy in Japan, and both games came to North America in 1998 (Europe had to wait until 1999), becoming instant hits everywhere they landed. Pokémon fever took over as kids and adults alike took to the Kanto region to collect 'em all. Game Freak had struck gold, and they'd strike gold again when the Yellow version came out to enhance these two games, except this time with Pikachu as your starting choice.
There is a boatload of reasons why Pokémon resonated so well with people as a concept, but one of the main pillars of this was (and still is) the pokémon themselves. All 150 pokémon brought their own flavour, abilities, personalities, and more to the game, which was then explored in more depth in the anime, and this gave everything a personalised feel. "Oh you have Charmander, well I have Bulbasaur" was a phrase you might have heard at the time, as each player's squad of beasties was unique to them. You could even name your pokémon however you wanted to too.
Then came the social aspect of these Pokémon titles, as not only could you grab a bunch of wires to hook your Game Boys together and battle for supremacy, but you could also trade with each other to get the Pokémon you always dreamt of. Inclusion, cooperation, and competition is a recipe for success with kids, and hell, even the adults wanted a piece of each other to show who was the best trainer in the office.
While JRPGs might be a bit daunting, Pokémon had this clever method of hiding its RPG nature behind the cute facade of this colourful critters. This wasn't your Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest - this was simpler as a concept and way more accessible. All you had to do was defeat trainers to get gym badges, before eventually going on to face the very best and prove yourself a champion. There were a few bells and whistles of course, but that was the overarching narrative of the experience, and it just worked.
The turn-based battle system was also made a lot simpler and easy to understand, as there were four options (fight, run, item, or change pokémon), with four more options when you chose to attack. Keeping things tight like this meant it was easy to keep track of what your capabilities were, and with only six pokémon to rotate at any one time, it never felt like juggling plates. It became a case of grinding and tailoring your Pokémon to be the very best.
Then came the elemental effects, which meant you had to know which attacks were most effective against what pokémon, and which attacks you were vulnerable against. All of this became a learning experience as you used your Prima guide to figure out how to beat gym trainers, ask your buddies what your pokémon were weak against, and planned ahead for each fight. All of this made it easy to learn but hard to master, and the feeling of satisfaction when besting a tough competitor was immense.
There are a ton of other reasons why Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow took off so well, but all you need to know is that it introduced the core concepts of the franchise that would persist to this very day. Sequels have come along to tweak and add stuff to the formula, but this was Pokémon at its purest form, and we have it to thank for the hours of fun we've been having collecting pokémon ever since, whether that's the stuffed toys on your shelf or the monsters on your phone.