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Pokemon inspired illustration by Ross Grenier, featuring Pokemon and trainers

Pokemon is Legendary: The Enduring Legacy of Pokemon Cards, Games, and Beyond

In 1996, something big was born, unleashed into the world, and then took off like a rocket across the country. It’s the year I was born, but I can hardly compare myself to the world of wonder and majesty that comes with the topic of this article. No, that would be Pokémon, which had its own humble beginnings. Originally it was released in Japan for the Gameboy, a small handheld gaming device, and with all the limitations that came with it. This was still four years before the release of the Nokia 3310 and its well known Snake game. With the limited technology, they managed to create a world where monster-like creatures (originally called Pocket Monsters) ran free and players could catch them to join their team.

Exploring the World of Pokemon

These Pocket Monsters would then travel and battle with you, the player, against other Pocket Monster trainers, overcoming trials and forming bonds that could never be broken. They were your friends, family even. You were encouraged to try to catch all 151 monsters to help discover their mysteries. You fought the masters of monster training until you were the master, the Pocket Monster League Champion. The path to get there was filled with struggles, discoveries of wonder, and fun as you explored the Kanto region, the world of Pocket Monsters. All of that ran on technology you could take with you, in a cartridge and game player you could carry in your pocket. And it was magical.

Pocket Monsters had their name pushed together and shortened, inventing the catchy name Pokemon, the name of the games, brand, and the monsters you caught along the way. Pokemon were intelligent, strong, and willful companions, each bursting with personality. They grew from tiny pixels in your pocket to an animated show in 1997, where we joined trainers bonding and growing with these creatures as their friends and confidants.

Wizards of the Coast Brought the Pokemon Card to the US

Wizards of the Coast is a company that specializes in making magic and fantasy come to life. They are known for some of the most popular role-playing and trading card games of all time, like Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. They licensed Pokemon in 1998 to begin making English versions of the Pokémon Trading Card Game following the popularity of the anime release, and it was finally launched in January of 1999. By the time Nintendo took over the Pokémon Cards in 2003, Wizards of the Coast had helped to spread the popularity of the game and brand worldwide. Some of the cards they created are still highly coveted collectible items today, and fueled the powerhouse that Pokemon would become.

Pokemon: A Bond Between Siblings

I started my Pokemon journey watching the animated TV series, pretending I was a Pokemon trainer along with the characters in my favorite show as they took down bad guys, helped other trainers, and learned about the world of Pokemon. I adored them and dreamed of having a Pokemon of my own.  Meanwhile, my brother was battling trainers with his Pokemon team and advancing to the League Champion in Pokemon Blue on his Gameboy, then Gold on his Gameboy Color. He collected the Pokemon cards to see his favorite characters go from gray pixels to dynamic and bright images.

It wasn’t for another 5 or 6 years that I would own a Nintendo DS (several generations of consoles past the Gameboy) and Pokemon Soul Silver, a remake of the sibling game Pokemon Gold my brother played. Meanwhile, he held tight to his original Pokemon collection, attached by years of memories, and he still has them. I also still play Pokemon’s newest games at 27, and even started collecting the Pokemon cards within the last few years, remembering looking up to my brother’s collection with awe and wanting a legacy like that of my own.

How Pokemon Stays Current and Exciting

To this day, Pokemon continues to be fresh, relevant, and reinventive.  In 2021, they had huge celebrations for their 25th Anniversary with collectible card sets, new toy lines, and events taking place inside their existing games. Pokemon has made its way into phones with Pokemon Go, a game that lets you walk around our world catching Pokemon as though we were in Kanto ourselves. They still release new console games, as well. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet released November of 2022 on the Nintendo Switch to huge success and popularity, and the card game had a huge release of their next generation of products on March 31st. Between the Nintendo Switch games, a massive show legacy, and the ever-evolving Pokémon Trading Card Game, there’s a way for players of all kinds to continue enjoying Pokemon.

My Pokemon Collection and Friendships

I now have my own collection of Pokemon cards and various other items.  My friends and I in our late 20s continue to trade Pokemon in our games and form friendships with these creatures and each other over our shared love of Pokemon. I have Pokemon toys, plushies, pins, and accessories. There is not a single Pokemon out there that is unloved. Even the least popular ones have people who adore them for their style and personality. Every time new Pokemon are released, people flood to the scene to catch them all and discover their secrets.

Pokemon Lets You Choose Your Own Adventure

So I had said that this article would not be about myself, and yet I have given you a rundown of my life and experiences with Pokemon. That’s because this is the beauty of Pokemon, it’s a world that invites you to explore and adventure together. Whether you collect the cards to build your perfect team, take hikes and walks to find new Pokemon on your phone, buy the latest games and challenge new trainers and champions, or collect toys inspired by the games, the world of Pokemon is your world. It’s up to you to make these friendships, train your team, and explore new heights. You trade cards with friends to help complete each other’s collections, you trade secrets about where to find fun events and how to beat difficult challenges, and you search for what you love most–whether it’s a Majestic Legendary Pokemon, secrets hidden in weird caves and forests, or a little Bidoof who’s not very strong but is very cute and friendly.

Pokemon Invites You to Be a Hero

Everything Pokemon, whether it’s made with a few pixels, some ink and cardboard, or fabric and stitches, is designed to make you the hero of your own story and bring you and your friends into the world of Pokemon. Heroic battles, mysterious villains, and natural forces older than time are yours to seek out and bring balance to the world, and it encourages you to join forces with allies both in the Pokemon world, and in ours. Now if you excuse me, I was going to go buy another pack of the new Scarlet and Violet cards. There’s a set of three cards that depicts a family growing as the Pokemon evolves, and I’m hoping to get at least one for my collection. It reminds me of the changes in my life, and how Pokemon really has been there with me from the start.

Ross Grenier, former Pokemon kid, current Pokemon Master.

View our collection of Pokémon toys and cards.

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