It’s never too late to become a Pokémon fan.
The original games came out 20 years ago and spawned a franchise that stretches across cartoons (the show has over 900 episodes), movies (19 of them), a card game (that has 68 sets), and more. In total, the Pokémon brand earns $1.5 billion annually. The game series alone has sold over 200 million copies, and that will likely increase this holiday when Pokémon Sun and Moon come out. It’s a lot of media, and it can be intimidating for a Pokémon newbie to know where to start.
That’s why GamesBeat created this guide. It should answer some of the basic questions anyone who’s curious about the Pokémon phenomena might have and get them started on their quest to catch them all.
OK, what exactly is Pokémon?
Pokémon is many things these days, but its most popular components include the games, the cartoon, and the card game.
What are the video games about?
The main games are essentially turn-based role-playing affairs where you capture your party members. You train your Pokémon by fighting with them, which levels them up and makes them stronger. Doing so will earn them new moves and can even make them evolve, which turns them into a new, more powerful Pokémon.
The game also encourages players to battle and trade with friends, which you can easily do with the 3DS’ wireless communication features. Still, you’ll get plenty out of them if you want to play alone. They’re sizable adventures that will probably take you around 30 hours each to complete, but they could last considerably longer if you get serious about catching every Pokémon.
What’s the anime like?
The cartoon follows a similar plot as the games: a young boy travels the world capturing and battling Pokémon. It’s a relatively simple show that doesn’t have a whole ton of continuity, with most episodes telling a self-contained story loosely connected by a larger goal to become Pokémon Champion. The show keeps up with the games by sending its main character, Ash, to the new location introduced in the latest releases.
The show has also spawned a ton of movies. The films feature the same characters from the anime, but usually involve a grander plot that includes one or more Legendary Pokémon (the rarest kind you can find in the games).
What about the card game?
The card game is similar to Magic: The Gathering or, if you prefer digital ones, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. You’re still battling Pokémon, but cards represent all of the monsters and other items. This game will require two players, so it’s best if you have a friend who’s interested. You can also go to local comic book and gaming stores, which often hold Pokémon card play sessions that will let you find opponents.
So, where should I start?
If you want to check out Pokémon, you should really try one of the games first. Nintendo has released the originals, Red, Blue, and Yellow, on the 3DS, so you can download those if you want to see the series’ origins.
However, those games are a bit archaic by today’s standards. You’ll probably have a better time playing the newest (X and Y, or Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire). These feature 3D graphics and a better user interface than the originals, thanks to the 3DS’ bottom touchscreen that easily lets you look at maps and organize your party.
But isn’t Pokémon for children?
Yes and no. Pokémon certainly remains accessible for kids, but the main games are still fun RPGs that have a surprisingly large amount of the depth. The cartoon show, though? Yeah, that’s mostly geared toward children. Its plots are relatively simple, with most episodes involving Ash and company making a new friend and meeting a new Pokémon or two.
But about all of those other Pokémon games?
Outside of the main RPGs, Pokémon has spun off into dozens of other games. These include digital takes on pinball and roguelike dungeon-crawlers (a kind of turn-based action role-playing game). You probably shouldn’t start with any of these games, but you can have fun checking them out once you’ve become familiar with the franchise.
But you only should if you’re a big fan of that particular type of game. If you really like fighters, check out Pokkén tournament when it comes out next month. If you really like Picross (a kind of grid-based logic puzzle), then why not play Pokémon Picross?
How do I get into the card game?
You can find starter sets of the card game at most major retailers, including Walmart. A starter set includes two premade decks and explain the rules, so you and a friend can begin playing immediately. After that, you’re free to buy booster packs and other premade decks if you want to expand and customize your collection.
So, which Pokémon should I use?
Whatever you feel like! The games have a ton of Pokémon to capture, and a lot of the fun comes from organically making your own party based on your current needs. However, if you want to see how you can capture specific Pokémon (or learn how to evolve them), we recommend checking out Serebii.net, which is the best online source for the games. It’ll give you detailed info on every Pokémon and each of the games.