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15 Pokémon Facts to Inspire You to Catch ‘Em All

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If you can easily attribute the quote, "Hi! I like shorts! They're comfy and easy to wear!" then you were likely one of the millions of kids who have caught, trained, and battled the mini-monsters of Pokémon Red Version and Pokémon Blue Version.

Since the games’ 1998 North American launch, the Pokémon series has racked up six generations of games, more than 600 monsters, and sold 270 million units, so there are a few things about it that even Professor Oak might have missed along the way.

1. PER JAPANESE GRAMMAR, THE SINGULAR AND PLURAL ARE BOTH ‘POKÉMON’

The title Pokémon is a contraction of the romanized Japanese brand name Pocket Monsters (Poketto Monsutā), and also the word for the little beasts. As with most Japanese nouns, which are typically modified for number by preceding ‘counter words,’ the singular and plural versions of Pokémon are identical (as in, “Billy has 249 Pokémon; alas, I only have one Pokémon”), and the singular/plural for species names are interchangeable, too (“I’ll trade you one evolved Pikachu and two Bulbasaur for two non-evolved Pikachu and 1,000 Mewtwo”). 

2. THE GAME WAS INSPIRED BY (AND ITS CHARACTERS BASED ON) INSECTS 


Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri told TIME that he, like other kids of his generation, spent many happy childhood hours collecting bugs and examining their behavior. But as urban development began to push bugs out of their natural habitats, he saw kids migrating, too. “Kids play inside their homes now, and a lot had forgotten about catching insects. So had I. When I was making games, something clicked and I decided to make a game with that concept.” 

His solution was a videogame that allowed kids to collect creatures with different features and behaviors that they could study. Just like bugs were for young Tajiri, these creatures were “mysterious” and “odd,” and “moved kind of funny.” 

In the same interview, TIME asked if Tajiri made his insects fight one another, to which he responded, “No, but sometimes they would eat each other.” For his own Pokémon universe, Tajiri also made sure that battling creatures would never bleed or die, but rather just faint when defeated. 

3. AMERICAN AUDIENCES ALMOST GOT BEEFED-UP VERSIONS OF POKÉMON 

As Kotaku points out, U.S. players came close to getting muscular versions of Pokémon instead of the regular, cute versions we know and love. Current Nintendo president Satoru Iwata says that the idea for muscle-bound monsters was an attempt to speak to American gamers. Luckily, American players were perfectly happy to accept the cute fighters, divergent as they were from the then-status quo of kids’ toy culture.

4. BETWEEN THEM, THE ORIGINAL 151 POKÉMON MAKE ONLY 37 SOUNDS ... 

In Pokémon Red and Blue for Game Boy in the U.S., there are 151 different monsters, but their collective cries only contain 37 unique sounds in total. Many of the cries were adapted for different Pokémon by changing their speed or pitch, but several monsters, including Charizard and Rhyhorn, are simply vocal twins. 

5. ... AND WHILE THE BOX PROMISED 139 POKÉMON, YOU COULDN’T CATCH MORE THAN 124.

The Game Boy packaging for first-generation Pokémon games told players that they could round up 139 different characters without needing to trade. However, gameplay requires players to choose between certain character families, so—when excluding starter and Fossil families, and a couple of trading-based evolved characters, as well as glitches—the maximum number of Pokémon attainable in an adventure is 124. 

6. IT LET PLAYERS PLUG IN TO TRADE AND BATTLE THEIR CHARACTERS ... 

Using a Link Cable for Game Boy, Pokémon players were suddenly able to trade uniquely trained and developed characters with one another, a kind of information sharing not previously available to home gamers. As 1UP.com reported, Tajiri explained, "I imagined a chunk of information being transferred by connecting two Game Boys with special cables, and I went wow, that's really going to be something!"

The Pokémon team followed up this game-changing tech, which was a late-in-life achievement for the Game Boy system, with the Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak hardware for Pokémon Stadium, which allowed players to use their own characters (trained and toned via Game Boy) on the big screens of their TVs. 

7. ... PERHAPS SETTING A PRECEDENT FOR THE CARD GAME’S MASSIVE SUCCESS. 

The original Japanese releases of Pocket Monsters: Red and Green established a winning formula (for Nintendo, anyway): Pokémon-hungry players needed to buy both separately-sold games in order to amass all available characters and adventures. Players’ ability to collect and swap characters also made the practice of stockpiling as many Pokémon as possible an even bigger part of the franchise’s culture. The Pokémon Trading Card Game, first launched in Japan in 1996, complemented this formula, and more than 21.5 billion cards have been shipped out to more than 74 countries to date. (Some are now worth between $20 and $100,000 each.)

8. IN THE JAPANESE VERSION, THE OLD MAN IS SECRETLY DRUNK. 

If you played Pokémon Red and Blue, you may remember an old man in Viridian City (his character name is “old man”) who blocks your way to Route 2 while grumpily demanding his morning coffee. The character was placed there as a barrier, making sure players complete certain tasks before proceeding. In the Japanese version of the game, the coffee serves not to fill his daily caffeine fix but rather to sober him up (after which he can usefully teach a player needed skills).   

9. THE FIRST POKÉMON GAMES WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE A FEMALE TRAINER. 

During development of the original Red and Green releases, designers planned to include a female trainer with the games’ two male ones. She didn’t make it into first-generation Kanto (though she’s featured in the games’ strategy guides and artwork) but reportedly became the character “Green” in Pokémon Adventures comics and “Leaf” in the remakes FireRed and LeafGreen

10. MEW WAS LAST-MINUTE, HAS UNIQUE POWERS, AND WAS (SOMEHOW) TRADEMARKED BEFORE POKÉMON ... 

Among the most mysterious of all Pokémon, Mew is rumored to be the ancestor of (or involved in the ancestry of) all other Pokémon, is the only genderless Pokémon to learn to Captivate, is from Guyana, and reportedly was trademarked on March 31, 1994 (with an application date of May 9, 1990)—despite the fact that Pocket Monsters itself wasn't trademarked until December 26, 1997. 

Programmer Shigeki Morimoto claims he snuck Mew into the game at the eleventh hour. Two weeks before the first Pokémon titles were released, he’s said, he added the infamous feline to the game unofficially in a remaining parcel of space, even though the production team had already completed its final checks. As a result, players could collect the secret Pokémon using an in-game glitch through a few different methods.

11. ...AND MAY HAVE TWO CLONES (ONE OF WHICH PRECEDES IT IN POKÉDEX). 

Mewtwo, listed as #150 in the Pokédex character roster, is a clone of Mew, who took the #151 spot as a secret Pokémon. However, fans have also speculated that Ditto—another genderless Pokémon that weighs the same as Mew, has the same base stats, has near-identical coloring, and can also Transform innately—is a "failed" clone of Mew. Ditto is also known to hang out with Mewtwo and on Cinnabar Island in a mansion where Mew was supposedly experimented on. 

12. NINTENDO DIDN’T THINK THE GAME WOULD SUCCEED ... 

Nintendo had turned down the plans for Pocket Monsters—first called Capsule Monsters while in development by Tajiri at Game Freak—several times before Shigeru Miyamoto (of Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, and Star Fox fame) got involved and became a proponent of the game. Once Nintendo was on board, the team had the funding to see development through.

13. ... BUT IT BECAME THE SECOND-MOST SUCCESSFUL FRANCHISE EVER, AND AN ALL-TIME CRITICS’ PICK. 

Haseo, Flickr //CC BY 2.0

From a financial standpoint, the pint-sized scrappers of the Pokémon franchise have more than pulled their weight. Pokémon is second only to Mario (and right above Final Fantasy) as an all-time top seller, and early games collected the hearts of critics across the board, too. Upon the release of Pokémon Red, the gaming site IGN wrote that the game “isn't just a fad. It's an awesome game worthy of any gamer's Game Boy library,” and that, "Even if you finish the quest, you still might not have all the Pokémon in the game. The challenge to catch 'em all is truly the game's biggest draw." In its review of Pokémon Blue, GameSpot noted that "Under its cuddly exterior, Pokémon is a serious and unique RPG with lots of depth and excellent multiplayer extensions” and “easily one of the best Game Boy games to date."

14. TAJIRI NAMED POKÉMON’S RIVAL CHARACTER AFTER HIS MENTOR.

To thank Shigeru Miyamoto for his help with and support in launching the game, creator Satoshi Tajiri named the default rival in the first-generation Japanese games “Shigeru” (with the games’ protagonist called, of course, “Satoshi”).

15. POKÉMON IS STILL A REAL MONEY MAKER—AND WAS ALSO MADE INTO MONEY. 

Next year, the Pokémon franchise will celebrate 20 years of nonstop mini-monster brawling. During that time it’s churned out not only 270 million game units and 21.5 billion cards in 10 languages, but also 18 international seasons of an animated series, 17 feature-length films, and countless toys and other kinds of merchandise. In all, the monsters have raked in $2 billion. 

Unlike other bestsellers, however, Pokémon has the rare honor of having been made into actual legal tender. In 2001, the self-governing state of Niue (a South Pacific island nation in free association with New Zealand) printed a special run of $1 coins featuring Pikachu, Meowth, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander. Collectors hotly pursue the coins, which sell for $300 apiece or more. 

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Something Something Soup Something
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This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is
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Something Something Soup Something

Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

[h/t Waypoint]

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Pop Culture
15 Forgotten Video Game Mascots From the 1990s

With the growing popularity of Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog on home video game consoles in the 1990s, it seemed that almost every video game company was set on creating a lovable mascot to give their brand a unique identity. Sometimes these mascots were memorable and iconic, like Capcom’s Mega Man or Namco’s Pac-Man, but other times they failed to leave any lasting impression. Here are 15 forgotten video game mascots from the '90s.

1. ROCKY RODENT

In 1993, Japanese video game developers Irem Software Engineering created Rocky Rodent, an anthropomorphized rodent with a cool attitude and hair to match. This would-be mascot was tasked with rescuing the daughter of a restaurant owner named Pie Face Balboa from the mob. As a reward, Rocky Rodent would get an all-you-can-eat buffet. His bizarre weapon of choice was a can of hairspray, which he used to both defeat bad guys and style his hair.

2. AWESOME POSSUM

Tengen created a rival for Sonic when it released Awesome Possum... Kicks Dr. Machino's Butt for the Sega Genesis in 1993. The game featured the cool and badass Awesome Possum, who would collect empty bottles and cans instead of coins or gold rings, in an effort to clean up the forest. It was sold as an educational game for children with an environmental activist theme, but it never caught on with gamers, despite positive reviews. Maybe kids back in the '90s didn’t want to learn about recycling and Earth science while they were playing video games.

3. CROC

Originally developed for the SNES, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos was created as a 3D platformer starring Yoshi from Super Mario World. However, when Nintendo rejected the game, the developers at Argonaut Games changed Yoshi from a lovable dinosaur into a lovable crocodile named Croc, who tried to rescue furry creatures from the evil Baron Dante. Argonaut then pitched the mascot to Sony, who loved the gameplay and released it for the original PlayStation in 1997.

4. RISTAR

Released in 1995, Ristar was developed late in the Genesis's life cycle by Sonic Team, the same production company that created Sonic the Hedgehog. The mascot was a cute star who had the ability to stretch his arms in any direction to climb, swing, and grab enemies, as he explored a number of planets.

Since the character and game came out just before Sega released the 32-bit Saturn, the mascot never grew in popularity. Ristar managed to gather a cult following for its mechanics and strong gameplay, and the character has since made cameos in other Sega games, such as Shenmue, Segagaga, and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

5. GEX

In 1994, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer console was released with the promise of high-end 32-bit gaming. To compete with established consoles like the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn, 3DO needed a cool mascot like Mario and Sonic to bring more attention to their video game system. Enter: Gex.

Released in 1995, Gex featured a wisecracking gecko (four years before the first appearance of the now iconic Geico Gecko) with a cool attitude and a penchant for watching TV. The game followed Gex as he tried to find remote controls hidden in TV show-themed levels to get home, but the evil Emperor Rez stood in his way.

While Gex received critical and fan acclaim, it wasn’t strong enough to bring the 3DO into the mainstream against tough competition. The 3DO was eventually discontinued two years after it was released, and Gex was then ported to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.

6. CONKER THE SQUIRREL

While he first appeared in Rareware’s Diddy Kong Racing (along with Banjo-Kazooie) for N64 in 1997, Conker the Squirrel received his own spinoff game for the Game Boy Color in 1999. Conker's Pocket Tales was a lighthearted game that followed the adventures of Conker, a cute squirrel who has to rescue his girlfriend Berri from the Evil Acorn. In 2001, Rare released Conker's Bad Fur Day, where the character went from a cute and cuddly mascot into a hard-drinking and foul-mouthed squirrel who would constantly break the fourth wall during gameplay. The game was remade in 2005 for the Xbox, under the name Conker: Live & Reloaded and later included in the Rare Replay compilation game for Xbox One in 2015.

7. BONK

While the NES and the Sega Genesis were the two systems at the center of the console wars of the late '80s and early '90s, NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 was a modest console from Japan, where it was known as the PC Engine before it was rebranded in America. The console’s mascot was Bonk, a prehistoric caveman kid whose main attack was a fierce headbutt. The mascot and game series—the first game was Bonk's Adventure released in 1990—were quite popular in Japan and Europe, but didn’t gain the same success in the U.S. due to the popularity of Mario and Sonic.

8. POCKY AND ROCKY

Released as a sequel to the 1986 Japanese arcade game KiKi KaiKai (it was called Knight Boy in limited release in the U.S.), Pocky & Rocky was developed by Natsume for the SNES in 1992. The sequel followed a young Shinto shrine princess named Pocky and her sidekick, Rocky the Tanuki, as they try to save small and cute creatures called Nopino Goblins in a top-down co-op adventure game. Pocky & Rocky received good reviews from critics and even got a sequel for the SNES in 1994, but the characters were never elevated to mascot status.

9. BATTLETOADS

Rare’s Tim and Chris Stamper created Battletoads, a co-op beat-'em-up game for the NES that featured three musclebound toads named Rash, Zitz, and Pimple as a rival to the widely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games of the early '90s. Battletoads was mostly known for its fun stage design and heart-stopping speed and difficulty level. The characters even crossed over with brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon in an ultimate beat-'em-up action game.

While the games spawned a short-lived cartoon series and comic strip, Battletoads could never escape comparisons to TMNT. The warrior toads have not been featured in their own video game since 1994.

10. BUBSY

In 1993, a cocky bobcat with a cool attitude named Bubsy was positioned to usurp the video game mascot throne from Mario and Sonic. However, Bubsy's games didn't live up to the hype, despite being available for the Sega Genesis, SNES, PlayStation, and Atari Jaguar, where he eventually found a home as one of the console's short-lived mascots.

Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind followed the titular bobcat trying to get back the world’s largest yarn ball from a fabric-stealing race of aliens known as the “Woolies.” A sequel was released in 1994 with an exclusive follow-up for the Atari Jaguar called Bubsy in: Fractured Furry Tales released later in 1994. The game series lasted for one more game with the release of Bubsy 3D: Furbitten Planet for the Sony PlayStation in 1996.

11. GLOVER

In 1998, Interactive Studios and Hasbro Interactive released a platformer called Glover, which followed the adventures of a sentient four-fingered right-handed glove, for the N64. The object of the game was to get a ball to the end of each level, while trying to solve puzzles, dodge enemies, and find lost crystals to restore the Crystal Kingdom. Glover’s life was tied to the ball, so if it fell off the platform, the glove would also die.

The gameplay was a little ahead of its time and would probably do better with motion-control consoles like the Nintendo Wii or touchscreen Android or iOS devices. As a result, Glover had poor sales and low critic ratings, which led to the cancellation of its sequel.

12. ALEX KIDD

Before the advent of Sonic, Sega had a different mascot named Alex Kidd, a small boy with big ears and monkey-like features who lived on the planet Aries, which was also known as Miracle World. The games started out in the arcades, but made their way to the Sega Master System as a mix of platforming and puzzle solving games.

Alex Kidd was featured in six games throughout the late '80s and early '90s, but never rivaled Nintendo’s Mario in popularity. Sega needed a different mascot to represent the company, so video game designers Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara created Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991.

Sega stopped making Alex Kidd games and focused all of its resources into making Sonic more popular than Mario. However, Alex Kidd still made cameos in various Sega games, such as Altered Beast, Sega Superstars Tennis, and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

13. TITUS THE FOX

Created by French video game developers Titus Interactive, Titus The Fox: To Marrakech and Back (Lagaf': Les Aventures de Moktar) was released for the Amiga and Atari ST personal computers in 1991. The video game followed the titular fox on a quest to rescue his girlfriend Suzy. He must complete 15 levels through the Sahara Desert while dodging dogs, construction workers, and giant bees to save her. It was also eventually ported to the Game Boy and Game Boy Color later in the '90s.

Unfortunately, Titus The Fox received poor ratings from critics and fans alike, and Titus Interactive ultimately filed for bankruptcy and folded in 2005.

14. BANJO-KAZOOIE

After the pair first appeared in Diddy Kong Racing for the N64 in 1997, Rare released a spin-off game starring a bear named Banjo and a bird named Kazooie in 1998. The puzzle-solving 3D platformer followed Banjo-Kazooie as they tried to stop the evil Gruntilda from stealing Banjo's sister's beauty. The game was praised for its non-linear level design, as well as its immersive graphics and deep sound design. A sequel called Banjo-Tooie was released for the N64 in 2000.

Fun Fact: The video game was originally developed as a role-playing game called Dream: Land of Giants for the SNES before it was re-developed.

15. ZERO THE KAMIKAZE SQUIRREL

In 1994, Iguana Entertainment and Sunsoft released Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel as a spin-off game of Aero the Acro-Bat, where he appeared as a sidekick. Zero’s mission was to stop an evil lumberjack named Jacques Le Sheets after he kidnapped Zero’s girlfriend (or should I say “squirrelfriend”) and started to tear down the forest to make counterfeit money.

While it received favorable reviews, Zero The Kamikaze Squirrel never caught on with gamers due to its sloppy controls, while the perception that the character was a blatant rip-off of Sonic the Hedgehog persisted.

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