Friday, May 12, 2017

Ben's Beginnings: First RPG

When I was a kid, I was like many others at the time and I quickly got caught up in the whole Pokemon craze. Kids at school would talk about it, I'd see the previews for the show on TV, and stores would be filled with the toys and cards. Seeing all of this pulled me in, and before long I was yet another fan. I can still recall the first episode I ever saw of the show, the one with Todd and the second Team Rocket group, and I can still remember the day I discovered Kids WB was showing reruns of it after school. Funny enough, just after watching only two episodes, I began drawing the Pokemon I knew of, and I was even cutting them out and putting them inside a plastic Easter egg I had laying around. I was hooked, and I wanted to play along in any way I could. Eventually I got the cards, I caught up on the episodes I had missed, I started talking about it at school with other kids, and finally I asked for the big one. I wanted a Game Boy, and Pokemon Red.

Back then I had no idea what a Role Playing Game was, and I had no idea that Pokemon was considered one. It was purely out of my love for the anime, cards, and toys that I wanted the game, and because of that Pokemon Red ended up becoming my first RPG. It was my big gift on Christmas that year, and it was a game I would continue to play for the years to come. Although, not everything was "happy fun time" for me, and there were a few moments that really hung me up. Playing Pokemon wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, but looking back now all I can really do is laugh at myself for being the way that I was.

The first thing that happened to me when starting up Pokemon was my fear of not being able to play. I got a Game Boy Color for Christmas, and the Pokemon box just said "Game Boy." Going by the NES, SNES, and N64 before, I figured that was it for me. I was so worried that the game wouldn't work, that I actually tried putting it in BACKWARDS at first. "NO! IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK!" My fears were coming true right before my eyes, but then I decided to flip it around and hope for the best. And it worked! Pokemon Red played just fine, but what wasn't fine was my reading skills.

Being in elementary school at the time, I wasn't the best reader in the world, and being new to RPGs and RPG systems didn't exactly help. I could read and understand most of what was going on in the story, but every once in awhile an attack or some sort of mechanic description would completely go over my head. This didn't actually stop me from beating the game, but early on it did cause one major issue... I had no idea what save meant!

Years later I mentioned this to friends at school (high school) and found out I wasn't alone, but somehow I completely overlooked that you could save your game. Rather than getting as far as possible and shutting it off (only to then restart), the game was actually made to be saved so you could continue your adventure. Just imagine my shock when I randomly clicked the "save" option in the menus, and it let me keep going right from where I left off! It was one of my best discoveries when playing, but it's also something that would come back to haunt me later on.

As months and weeks went by I slowly got used to the idea of getting into random battles, and choosing my attacks from menus, but I still struggled with the idea of leveling up more than one Pokemon, and learning special moves like "Flash." For most of the game I used my starter as my only "real" Pokemon, but after finally getting a Beedrill thanks to the day care, I switched focus over to it and it became my new "main." That moment was another highlight of the game for me, and I still remember that I was sitting in a darkly lit restaurant trying to play as it happened. I don't know how I managed to see enough to know what I was doing, but somehow I got by and Beedrill was mine. (Glad those days of finding a light source are over...)

Speaking of the dark and game mechanics, Flash was something I didn't understand... And that wasn't good. The caves that lead to Lavender Town were pitch black, and all you could see was your character's sprite as you slammed into walls and other objects along the way. In reality you just use Flash to make it so you could see, but I didn't know that, and I continued to push on. Somehow by following walls I eventually reached the end, and then freaked out. Lavender Town... The colors on the GBC, the music, the look of the town, and the talk of death scared the CRAP out of me, so I saved and shut the game off. Yet, it still continued to bother me! So rather than leaving my character there alone all night, I turned the game back on, made my way BACK through the dark cave by slamming into walls and following them, and eventually I once again saved and quit once I was back on the other side. Of course this meant I'd have to go back again later... But at the time I didn't care.

Eventually I would go on to conquer my fears and finish Lavender Town, and I'd even eventually take out the Elite 4 with just my Beedrill and some potions (I don't know how...) By that point I was finally done with the game, and ready to move on with capturing the big one -- Mewtwo. Getting to him wasn't too hard, but catching him was another story. After I failed the first time, I decided to leave it till later, and instead I started a "new game." I had learned that you can play new games without using save to delete your old game, and I would do so pretty often just to mess around. I wanted to show my dad Mewtwo before I caught him, but I didn't want to stop playing, so I hit new game and went about my adventure. Then, I slipped up... As part of my messing around I decided to change my PC Box number, and that was the end of it. You see, back in the old days changing your PC Box number for Pokemon storage actually forced a save, and that's something I didn't realize until I turned on the game to show my dad Mewtwo, but instead ended up showing him a PC screen with all of my Pokemon gone instead. I lost everything, and I never got it back.

Losing it all in Red crushed me, but I took what I learned from it into Pokemon Yellow. I now knew the importance of leveling all Pokemon, I knew not to kill the legendary birds, I understood the RPG mechanics a lot better, and my reading skills had vastly improved. I was older, more experienced, and ready to take on the Pokemon world once again. This time I would go on to capture every Pokemon possible within that version (including the legendaries), and I would destroy the Elite 4 without issues. I became a true "Pokemon Master," and I couldn't wait till my next adventure. Little did I know, it would be coming sooner than I thought. Within about a year Pokemon Gold and Silver would be out, and I'd once again dive into the world I loved.

After going through many Pokemon games, it wouldn't be until much later that I realized they were RPGs or that there were other games similar without Pokemon. It was actually a friend at school who told me about this, but it wouldn't be until I was older that I experienced it for myself. But that's a story for another time.

Even if I'm not as big of a fan as I once was, Pokemon will always be special to me, and it's where I got my start on RPGs. It's a genre that I'd now consider my favorite, and I'm glad I was introduced to them the way that I was. I have so many fond memories coming from Pokemon, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.