Welcome to “Speech Check,” a mini-series that examines some of the most memorable speeches and monologues in gaming. This week it’s, erm, all the Pokémon games.
The best Christmas of my life by far was the bright, sunny, and windy 1999 morning I received a lime-green Game Boy Color and a copy of Pokémon Yellow. After a frantic scramble to shove two AA batteries into the plastic brick, flick the on switch, and rapidly mash the A button, Professor Oak’s pixelated face popped up to greet my seven-year-old self for an adventure I would take countless times over the next nineteen years.
He addresses you like a narrator of your very own storybook. He explains that fantastic creatures called Pokémon exist, and the massive importance they have on the game’s world. He then forgets his grandson’s name, and hypes you up to set off into the world. It’s a formula for an intro that’s been oft repeated in the mainline series. Sweet, short, and simple.
Growing up as a suburban kid, hanging out in the same backyards and playgrounds everyday made me yearn for the adventure of setting out on my own. Oak’s speech was an invitation to a world I could call equally home as any place I’ve lived.
Hundreds of hours and dozens of batteries later, I finally had explored every corner of the world, caught all 150 Pokémon, and beaten every trainer. Ready for more, I returned to the title screen, and hit “New Game.”
Professor Oak greeted me once again.
I’ve done hundreds of playthroughs of the various games in the series since, and no matter how many times I’ve seen these opening screens, I can always feel my heart begin to race each time the regional academic of a Pokémon game tells me about this universe.
Every day, another seven-year-old kid is booting up their first Pokémon game and seeing a version of the same intro I saw as a 90’s child. They’ll feel the same electricity, wonder, and sense of adventure I did on that Christmas day.
Maybe I’ve become a sentimental and nostalgic old fool since then, but those opening lines bring me back to a simpler time. It was back when the most important thing was finding enough time to sneak away and play more videogames, and when you could lose yourself in a world where fire breathing chickens and a pile of sentient magnets could be your best friends. It’s the refrain of a familiar daydream, ready for my return no matter how many years pass.
Sometimes there’s some more frills, animations and orchestrated music. But in the end, it’s always about a young kid, a world full of adventure, and a professor who isn’t good with names.