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Can we catch ‘em all?: Generation I

2,234 bytes added, 06:34, 7 November 2014
Rewrote the section on platform specificity for Yellow, added sources/citations, and rectified formatting errors.
"Tajiri had a novel idea: to utilize the tsushin keburu [Game Boy Link Cable] for ‘communication’ instead – for exchanges between players in which the objective would be to barter with, rather than eliminate, an opponent by training monsters.”
- Anne Allison, ''Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination''<ref>Anne Allison, ''Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination'' (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).</ref>
Twenty years ago, many players first encountered a video game through its advertisement campaign. Nintendo, in particular, was notorious for tightly controlling advertisement through censorship of unwelcome critiques in Japanese gaming magazines. This control went even farther in the United States, where the company-run {{bp|Nintendo Power|’’Nintendo Power’’}} essentially functioned as a subscription advertising campaign. As a result, marketing controlled how players understood their games.<ref>Allison, ''Millennial Monsters.''</ref> Nowhere is this more obvious than in {{bp|Generation I|Generation I core series titles}}.
Before applying media archaeology methodologies to these versions, it is helpful to look at Nintendo’s advertised descriptions of versions as described in Nintendo Power.
[[File:GenIOfficialVersionTreeV2.png|Generation 1 Official Version Tree]]
According to Nintendo's official publications and advertisements, Pokémania began with the Japanese release of {{bp|Pokémon Red and Green Versions|''Pocket Monsters: Red'' and ''Green''}} for the {{bp|Game Boy}} in 1996.<ref></ref> A minor revision, {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}}, was released later in the same year as a gift to loyal {{bp|CoroCoro Comic}} subscribers.<ref></ref> Red and Blue were translated into English, with no other changes made to the games themselves, and released in the United States in 1998 as {{bp|Pokémon Red and Blue Versions|''Pokémon Red'' and ''Blue''}}<ref></ref> followed by {{bp|Pokemon in Australia|Australia}}<ref></ref>. Some advertisements noted the existence of a secret third version known as Green in Japan, but little to no information was released on that title. Once successful in the United States, Europe received its translated versions in 1999.<ref></ref>
The popularity of the anime series throughout the world happily surprised Nintendo, which decided to treat its fans during the long wait until {{bp|Generation II}}. Therefore, {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pocket Monsters: Pikachu''}} was released in Japan in 1998.<ref></ref> Renamed {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition''}}, it was released in the United States in 1999<ref></ref> followed by Europe and Australia in 2000.<ref></ref><ref></ref> All of these international versions were marketed as exact translations of the original Japanese titles.<ref>In the United States press release cited above, Nintendo stated Pokémon was "already part of a thriving phenomenon in Japan" and noted the number of product sold. There is no indication of any difference between the Japanese and American products, heavily implying they are the same game (albeit translated).</ref> Though these versions were all compatible with the new {{bp|Game Boy Color}}, they were not designed for that system.
Players soon discovered that Nintendo’s statements did not mesh with reality. In Japan, players noticed that {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}} was a significant departure from the previous versions. Graphics received a major overhaul, and a number of glitches were neutralized. Players with access to both the Japanese and North American titles discerned that the international localizations resembleddid {{bp|Pokémonnot Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}} more thanresembled {{bp|Pokémon Red and Green Versions|''Pocket Monsters: Red'' and ''Green''}}.<ref>émon_sprites,_art_evolve_over_the_years</ref>
In addition to these content alterations, a major technical change was discovered after comparing {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pocket Monsters: Pikachu''}} and {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition''}} acrossrevealed platforms.technical Japanesediscrepancies playerson usingboth athe {{bp|Game Boy Color}} couldand select{{bp|Super oneGame ofBoy}}. severalOn colorthe palettehandheld optionssystems, indicating the game was built primarily for {{bp|GamePokémon BoyYellow|Pocket Monsters: Pikachu}} anddisplayed nota itsless saturated color successorscheme. InPlayers contrast, international versionswere defaultedable to achange single, richerthis color palette, indicatingby using a specific button combination. {{bp|GamePokémon BoyYellow|Pokémon ColorYellow: Special Pikachu Edition}} title.contained Thesea indicationspreset, weregame-specific reinforcedcolor bypalette comparingthat took far more advantage of the versionsnew onsystem's thegraphical abilities. Even on {{bp|Super Game Boy}}., Thethe Japanese version's containedsprites nowere specialsubstantially featureslighter onthan thethose device,found butin internationalall versionsother accessed a variety of specialinternational bordersreleases.<ref>Special Thisthanks mayto notZesty appearCactus significant,for butpointing studyingout technicalerrors limitationsin givesthis a clue: only {{bp|Game Boy Color}} games contained borders on the {{bp|Super Game Boy}}section.</ref>
How can a player make sense of this confusion? Why are Nintendo’s statements nonsense when compared to the obvious reality of versions? For a more honest breakdown of versions, we must look at links within the source and executable code itself.
[[File:GenIUnofficialVersionTreeV2.png|Generation I Unofficial Version Tree]]
The diagram above demonstrates the actual connections between versions from a media specific, code-based examination using fan sources such as The Cutting Room Floor.<ref> The Cutting Room Floor</ref> Media archaeology is critical to make sense of the differences between this diagram and the previous, official diagram of versions taken from Nintendo advertisements.
{{bp|Satoshi Tajiri}} released a superior set of games withhand-coded the original Pocket Monsters titles, but he hand-coded those games over a period of six years. This limitation of resources resulted in well-known {{bp|glitch|glitches}}.<ref></ref> The purpose of {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}} wasappears notto a minor aesthetic revision but insteadbe a much-needed overhaul of problematic source code, neutralizing {{bp|glitch|glitches}}. What is so impressive about this version is that such an overhaul had to beis invisible; more precisely, these structural changes appear minimal to players but radically altered the structure of the game’s code underneath the surface.
Nintendo considered the release of the Pocket Monsters franchise in North America to be a problematic endeavor. Stories of the company’s reluctance to send the games overseas are well known.<ref>Allison, ''Millennial Monsters.''</ref> How, then, could Nintendo knowingly release glitchy games to an audience they felt expected better of their products? Revision was needed, and it appeared under the guise of {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}}. Using media archaeology as a framework, it is possible to dig into the code. Comparing code across titles demonstrates that {{bp|Pokémon Red and Blue Versions|''Pokémon Red'' and ''Blue''}} were heavily derived from {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}}. Game engine, script, and audiovisual content were all ripped from the less-problematic version, with only {{bp|version-exclusive Pokémon}} lists surviving from {{bp|Pokémon Red and Green Versions|''Pocket Monsters: Red'' and ''Green''}}. It is these ideal English-language versions that were translated for other international audiences, ensuring the best-quality product available outside Japan.
What, then, of the confusion surrounding {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pocket Monsters: Pikachu''}}? Once again, glimpsing at the code itself is key. The title is not a version of previous Japanese titles but instead derived from what was considered to be the most stable set of games: {{bp|Pokémon Red and Blue Versions|''Pokémon Red'' and ''Blue''}}. Hidden objects in the code taken from the international releases confirm the connection.<ref></ref> To decipher the difference in Howevergraphics, whatone remainsmust especiallyinstead confusingturn isto media specificity. {{bp|Game Boy}} games accessed through {{bp|Game Boy Color}} did not contain color information in and of themselves. Instead, those color palettes existed within the data{{bp|Game discoveredBoy byColor}} accessingand were accessed by the game across platformscartridge. WhyThis wouldexplains Nintendowhy releasethe aJapanese moreversion's colorfulcolors versionare toless-specific internationaland audienceslighter: butthey neglectare theirnot ownprogrammed specifically for the ultra-saturated palette players became accustomed to through the anime.<ref></ref> Without access to these media platforms, the mystery could not be solved.
By the time this version was in the process of translationHowever, thewhat {{bp|Gameremains Boy}}especially wasconfusing atis the enddata ofdiscovered its lifecycleby inaccessing the United States and an incentive was needed to purchase the newestgame mobileacross platformplatforms. AsWhy such,would allNintendo international versions were slightly altered so that they are actually {{bp|Game Boy Color}} games rather than {{bp|Game Boy}}, giving children an excuse to hassle their parents into buying the newest system. What remainsrelease a mysterymore is unknown why Nintendo chose to continue marketing thecolorful version as a {{bp|Game Boy}} game. There are some questions that require a wider societal context than mere media archaeology. It is possible the company did not wish to confuse international audiences aboutbut platformneglect compatibilitytheir or anger its Japanese audience by giving an enhanced product to non-Japanese audience. In the end, only speculation is possible.own?
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In many ways, this article adds nothing new to fan knowledge. It does not discuss {{bp|Pokémon data structure in Generation I|data structures}} or {{bp|trade}}. Such factors are best discussed in the context of inter-generational trade beginning in {{bp|Generation II}}. Instead, what is most significant about this generation is that it lays the base for how Nintendo communicated Game Freak’s products to their fans. Reality within code and reality within advertising are not the same, and if players do not consider media specific ideologies, the truth is quickly obscured.