Ever since I can remember, whenever I got the question “What’s your favorite kind of video game?” my answer has always been a firm “RPG.” Pokémon Yellow was my first RPG and was the one that got me absolutely hooked on the standard JRPG formula. Ever since that first Pokémon game I’ve spent my life chasing the most exciting and magical-looking RPGs, even buying a used Xbox 360 just to play Final Fantasy XIII and Lost Odyssey. Yellow largely shaped my gaming habits for years after playing it.
What made Pokémon Yellow so exciting was how expansive the game world was and how I could take my friends along with me on the journey! It was so easy to become attached to those first few creatures that I ended up sticking with the first five Pokémon I caught (plus Pikachu) as my party throughout my entire playthrough. Yep, that’s right–my Butterfree made it all the way to the Elite Four. By the end of my 80-90 hour playtime, I felt an amazingly strong connection to my team. I lived by the “stick with the original six” formula all the way until the fifth generation because, well, it just made the game feel that much more special.
This “setting out on an adventure with your friends” element is what I really think appealed to me the most and pulled me towards various other party-based RPGs. The Elder Scrolls series missed me with its solo adventuring and dark aesthetic, whereas the Final Fantasy games and Tales series caught my interest with their friendship-centered dynamics and more colorful palette. I’ve always approached games as a form of escapism, and nothing screamed it louder than getting lost in an exciting, fantastical world with true friends as companions. Though it may seem strange, my first Pokémon filled that role for me and inspired that desire.
This sentiment came to a head during my senior year of high school, one of the worst years of my life. I’d lost almost all of my friends and was seriously depressed and incredibly lonely. Though my mind has blocked out much of that year from my memory, one thing that I do remember was the intense longing to replay Pokémon Pearl to feel like I had friends again. I was in a very low place, but I knew that if I could just escape into that fantasy world and have my friends there, everything would be okay. The influence of Pokémon Yellow on my psyche ran deep.
From spurring my interest in RPGs as a whole to being my introduction to a series that I’d turn to in my time of greatest need, Pokémon Yellow has truly changed my life. The spirit of friendship and lightheartedness I got from the game–as well as the intersecting TV series–largely formed the kind of games I play to this very day. If it wasn’t for Pokémon, I’d likely have no interest in series like Fire Emblem, Disgaea or Final Fantasy. And the best part? The game still holds up today! If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend picking it up on the 3DS. I did, and it was a delight the whole way through.