Pokémon Day 2018: My Favorite Pokémon Memories

Feebas, my gaming arch enemy. Pokemon.Wikia

Pokémon turns 22 this year, a milestone for fans old enough to remember when the game wasn't a phenomenon, a time before Pikachu backpacks roamed the halls of every middle school across all 50 states, when RPGs were still for adult gamers who didn't mind grinding in Final Fantasy. Grandmas said "pokemans" and teachers were worried Koffing would lead to kids smoking cigarettes: my Pokémon master childhood.

When I was six, my mom bought me my first Game Boy. It was clear, had a monochrome screen and the only games she bought me where Oddworld Adventures and Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening, which were both too hard for me to play. I mashed at the plastic buttons anyway, getting stuck on levels, my first lesson in how stressed out video games make me. After a few months of floundering with failure, the original Pokémon Red and Blue were released in the U.S. Mom got both Red and Blue but forced me to give one to my younger sister, which may have caused a few (well-deserved) temper tantrums. Begrudgingly, I handed over Blue since Blastoise has, and forever will be, lamer than Charizard.

pikachu but fat
This is Pikachu before he got famous and let it get to his head. Pokemon Company

I was immediately hooked. Running headfirst into the bushes of Pallet Town, jumping on my couches like a feral lemur after beating Misty and nearly breaking my Game Boy trying to find my way through Mt. Moon without Flash were just a few of my childhood's fondest memories. We lived in a sleepy Long Island town where getting drunk was considered a career choice, so my mother kept us indoors most of the time. I didn't mind, because being a Pokémon Master was the only thing I needed to keep going.

When Yellow was released, our sibling rivalry turned into a full-scale assault. I'd play through the first few hours with Pikachu as my trusty sidekick and when I went to bed, my sister would steal the cartridge right out of the slot. I'd whine to my mom to no avail; she never understood the concept of single-save games. The war raged on for months, reaching a boiling point when I transferred buddy Pikachu to box 5 on Bill's PC, stuck in virtual limbo and never to be seen again.

Gold and Silver helped ease tensions, since my mom bought us each a Game Boy Color and I saw Lugia as a mythical penguin. My sister still played, but being an eight-year-old girl with academic aspirations, she had more productive priorities. I went the other way, spending hundreds of hours exploring Johto and collecting Shuckles.

My most vivid Pokémon memory, one that decades later still feels new, took place in front of the cave at Cerulean City. I was surfing back and forth on my Gyarados after completing my training to defeat Red, when an oddly colored Tentacool popped into view. I never thought in a million years thought I'd see a shiny. With a rarity rate of 1 in 8,192, I'd have a better chance of talking to a girl. Unfortunately, I didn't have any Pokémon under level 50 and the thought of just throwing an Ultra Ball never crossed my mind. So I killed it. That fainted Tentacool still haunts my dreams, mocking my biggest poke-failure with it's spectral tendrils.

shiny tentacool
A dramatic interpretation of my nightmares. YouTube via fresherfreshgaming

When Ruby and Sapphire debuted in 2002, I dragged my mom to Gamestop right after school so I could have as much time playing as possible. For a full year, I did nothing but capture Vibravas and Spheals on my Game Boy Advance. By the time summer rolled around, I had every pocket monster in Hoenn, except for two. Feebas could only be caught in one river on one specific tile, so I'd spend hours traveling up and down stream, to no avail. It's evolution, Milotic, wasn't even possible for anyone to get without a ton of berries to make it beautiful.

One summer camp day, I see a kid with his GBA who had every single Pokémon, even the elusive Milotic. I asked him how and he showed me his Action Replay, a device that lets you cheat and get whatever you want. Being young and impressionable, I couldn't resist the urge to partake in the devil's beauty pageant, so I cheated and got multiple Feebas. It felt undeserved and empty, quite like my later high school relationships. My moral compass was shaped by Pokémon.

As the games went on, I still played but the magic was gone. I found friends who played Super Smash Bros. Melee and discovered writing. But Pokémon will always be my first love, the experience that turned me into a gamer, one that fills the recesses of my mind with useless trivia. I can still name every first generation Pokémon in order and tell you the names of the next three just by looking at their picture.