When did Pokemon Red Come out ? The making of Pokemon Red and Blue: How Game Freak changed the world

When did pokemon red come out ? The intro to Pokémon Red and Blue has been witnessed by millions of gamers around the world. The same is also true of Pokémon Red and Green, which are the best selling games ever in Japan. There is an oddity in the intro sequence of all these Pokémon games that fans might not realize, as the date at the start is technically incorrect, seemingly due to a last-minute delay.

The development of Pokémon Red and Green was tumultuous, as the entire Pokémon concept took a long time to nail down. Leaked Pokémon Red and Green content shows just how much the games changed over time.

It didn’t help that Pokémon Red and Green was the biggest project Game Freak had tackled up to that point, and it had to use the limited hardware of the original Game Boy for such an ambitious set of games.

When a player boots up Pokémon Red and Blue, they’re shown three dates: ’95, ’96, and ’98. The ’96 refers to the year Pokémon Red and Green were released, and ’98 refers to the year Pokémon Red and Blue were released in Europe and North America.

Pokémon Red and Green, meanwhile, only have 1995 in their intro sequence. The Pokémon franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, so what does the ’95 refer to?

The answer to this question can be found in old adverts for Pokémon Red and Green (via Famicom.chu). The original release date for Pokémon Red and Green was December 21, 1995.

This means the games would have launched just before the holiday season, but they were pushed back to February 27, 1996. This delay was apparently so sudden that the original copyright date was retained. Despite this, The Pokémon Company ignores the original date when referring to the anniversary of the series.

It’s likely Pokémon Red and Green were pushed back due to glitches. The first generation of Pokémon games are notoriously buggy, so it wouldn’t be surprising to learn they needed some last-minute work before hitting store shelves.

Pokémon Red and Blue were superior in terms of polish, as the developers had time to iron out some of the worst bugs – not that this stopped glitches like MissingNo. from slipping through.

The 1995 copyright is likely a result of this seemingly hasty delay, but it might have been necessary in order to make sure the first Pokémon games were working properly.

when did pokemon red come out

Pokemon takes off!

Some of this could be seen in the game at the time, with character limits on menu terms, character, creature and item names and even a few attacks. Space, both on the screen and on the cart itself, was at a premium, hence these unusually short chunks of text, as seen elsewhere in the game actually, as Masuda highlights. “Another example is the Pokédex.

In the original Japanese versions, you just had one screen and everything was displayed there whereas in the US and European versions, it had to be changed to have two screens with the names and details of the Pokemon.

Doing all these great changes took a long time, so that was what contributed to the delay. We never expected things to be so popular abroad, either – we had no idea this would be such a phenomenon so that was really amazing. But yes, it took a long time to make all the changes needed to get the game into different markets.”

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After all this extra work, Red & Blue released in the US towards the end of 1998. With the anime, the trading card game and more toys games and other assorted tat with the Pokémon logo slapped on it releasing alongside it, the buzz was huge and with no European launch date so much as hinted at by Nintendo at the time, would-be Trainers would have to go out of their way to grab import copies of the game – some indie game stores even imported these in bulk to sell through at a premium.

“Back at school, a friend of mine had brought back Pokemon from America, where he had gone on holiday,” recalls Joe Merrick, webmaster of Pokemon fansite Serebii.net – a resource many like-minded Pokémaniacs have been using for well over a decade. “It hadn’t been released here, though the anime was running on Sky and so when he showed the game, I was intrigued, watched the anime and pestered my mother to import the game.”

Surrounded as it was by a hype machine on a peerless scale, you might think that this wasn’t a matter of quality – for those who weren’t fans, the choppy, low-budget animation of the TV show and hoards of cheap collectible junk certainly could have suggested as much, at least.

Despite its seemingly low production values, the anime series was entertaining in its own way, luring in new fans with its colourful characters and easy-to-follow stories, but the games have always been superb.

“I think the quality had to be there,” muses Merrick. “Without it, people wouldn’t have felt encouraged to play the game. While Red & Blue were a bit buggy, they had a solid foundation, and were complete fun to play causing a lot of people to jump in.

However, the factor of the anime and cards also had a huge impact to the reach of Pokemon. Many people didn’t play the games and just focused on the cartoon or the cards, but like the games, the quality definitely had to be there for it to take off.”

But take off it sure as hell did, the multi-limbed approach meaning that there was always something going on in the world of Pokémon – game development may be time-consuming but when you’ve got new TV episodes dropping, trading card sets being released, toy lines coming out and Arceus-knows what else helping to fill the gaps between the mainline video game releases, it’s easy to maintain a high-profile media presence.

“We do have various staff involved in different things and we always think about these when developing a game,” confirms Masuda. “We really want to think about how we can develop beyond the game and widen things once it’s finished.

For the card game in particular, we’ve got Creatures Inc. working on the game itself and we discuss with them how best we can expand on the game there and how the new Pokemon we’re creating might fit in with their plans.”

He goes on to explain the difficulty in such coordination between multiple teams and companies, especially when game release dates can’t be easily altered. “As we develop the game, we get the TV, TCG and animation teams in to play it so that they have a better idea of what the world, the characters and the Pokemon are like,” adds Sugimori. “We’re all creating the characters and the settings together so that they’re consistent across movies, games and trading cards.”

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As was to be expected, sequels to Red & Blue came thick and fast, but not before Game Freak could establish something that would go on to become almost traditional for Pokémon releases – a third game to complement the original pair of releases, originally in the form of Yellow (or Special Pikachu Edition, to give it its full title) which bridged the gaps between Red & Blue versions and was tweaked to tie into the events and characters of the anime.

Crystal, Emerald and Platinum all filled similar roles in their respective generations, although it stopped there – Black & White didn’t exactly lend themselves to the naming conventions of this trend (honestly, who would buy Pokemon Grey?) and got direct sequels instead, while X and Y were long rumoured to get the trilogy treatment with Z, although all the stuff that has emerged that follows legendary Pokemon Zygarde has instead found its way into 2016’s Pokemon Sun & Moon.

Each game, while still rooted in the core structure used in Red & Blue, has made great strides in terms of improving quality of life for players, which can make it hard to go back to those older games after being spoiled by so many minor improvements in more recent ones. “I look back on them fondly, for sure, but replaying them is a tricky proposition,” Merrick tells us in discussion of returning to the original games today. “So often when I go back to play them, so many of the modern conveniences in it are just not there and make playing a slog.

For example, in Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow, you had no idea what a move did in-game unless you had an external guide. Sometimes playing the old games without the conveniences and features of modern games just causes me to think, ‘How did we play these games?’ Once I erase that from my mind, though, I can still enjoy and play through them happily.”

Even then, it’s not just these minor convenience tweaks, with each new generation expanding the strategic aspect of the game, not least with every new generation bringing with it a whole new selection of Pokemon. “The reason why there are about 100 Pokemon added per game is not that we can’t come up with the ideas, especially when we have new staff – everyone can come up with unique ideas,” Sugimori explains. “The number is set by the duration of the project.

Plus, if you added like 300 or so new monsters, that’d just be too many – we have to think of the balance of battles.” The same is true of introducing new types into the mix, which is why only three new ones have been added to the initial 15 since launch.

“By adding even one more type, it definitely makes the gameplay more complicated so when we did that, we had to really look into the battle balance,” Sugimori tells us. “With new moves, there’s an infinite combination. If we can solve that problem, we can always add more types – it’s not impossible.”

when did pokemon red come out

Cultural impact

Having been on board since the very beginning and been more attached to the series than most thanks to his ongoing hard work with Serebii.net, Merrick is as well-placed to discuss the significance of the series as anyone else you might care to mention – he has dealt with the franchise in all its guises on a pretty much daily basis, with a weekly workload that is pretty staggering for a fan project.

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“Sometimes it’s as little as five hours, others it is pretty much 155 hours,” he laughs. “It all depends on what is going on in the franchise. As time has gone on, not only have I focused more on the quality of the site, but more stuff is happening in Pokemon.

In past years, I would typically have a lot of times where I had nothing to do; as I have a policy of never skipping more than one calendar day in a row on the news updates, it got tricky to a point of having to contrive reasons to update. Now, though, I rarely have this issue. In 2015, I updated on 331 of the 365 days, and on the other days I was typically working on something else.”

There’s so much to love about Pokemon that it saddens us to hear the blinkered views of those who base their opinion of the franchise on the colourful promotional material and frankly ropey cartoon that emerged while it was still young enough to be considered a fad; before the franchise had even had a chance to prove itself and long before it had evolved into one of the complex RPG series made.

“People think that Pokemon is a game for children but I believe that’s a misunderstanding,” says Sugimori, and we’re inclined to agree – look beyond the presentation around it, peer deeper into its near-bottomless strategic complexities and you’ll find an RPG deserving of far more respect and credit than it often gets.

But while some can be harder to convince of the series’ merits, those who are comfortably on the Pokémon Express make up an expansive player bases that spans every age group and demographic imaginable, as you probably saw recently when Pokemon Go brought fans of all ages out of the woodwork in search of virtual creatures in the real world.

“The community is by far my favourite thing about Pokemon,” Merrick tells us. “Aside from a few elements within it, it’s one of the friendliest communities around. People go out of their way to help others to find Pokemon. The game by design, has mandated to get people together to battle and trade, and it has continued to do that. There are people alive today because their parents met due to Pokemon and that is utterly incredible to me.

“Its impact back in the Nineties was phenomenal,” he closes. “It was everywhere and everyone was playing it. I honestly never thought we’d see anything like that again. Then, Go happened and once again, Pokemon was everywhere. Whether or not we’ll see an equal of that again? It’s hard to say.

The industry is far more volatile these days than it was back in the Nineties, and far more saturated. Yo-Kai Watch, while huge for a few years in Japan, has diminished and, just hasn’t taken off over here. I am unsure if we’ll ever see a series permeating so many facets of media at once and be a phenomenon like Pokemon ever again.”

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