To start with, I’m a huge Pokémon fan, but I accept that you take my card out of the club if I say I didn’t know the franchise’s history in depth. That’s why, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the launch of the first games, Red and Green, I tried to rescue this journey and understand how monsters evolved here in Brazil. In the end, tell me if capturing the facts is enough to get my badges back.
Pokémon Red and Green were released in Japan on February 27, 1996. However, it was not soon that they arrived in other countries. In the United States, the versions that landed there were Red and Blue, with some improvements over the first cartridges in the game. In Brazil, this launch only took place in 1999, under the umbrella of Gradiente Entertainment.
Gradiente Entertainment, the former Playtronic
It wasn’t exactly Nintendo that brought consoles and games to Brazil. The story begins with a joint venture between Gradiente and Estrela to form, in 1993, Playtronic, based in Manaus.
The group was responsible for assembling and selling Nintendo products in the country, establishing competition with TecToy, which represented Sega. In the same year, the Super Nintendo was announced for the Brazilian market.
Although the first Game Boy was launched in 1989, it was only in April 1994 that the laptop arrived in Brazil, costing 120 dollars and with 20 games available, among Tetris (which came with the device), F-1 Race, Metroid – Samus Returns, Super Mario Land 2, Mega Man 2 and others.
In 1996, Estrela sold its share of the joint venture to Gradiente, from which Playtronic became Gradiente Entertainment.
However, Brazil still did not know Pokémon, either with Playtronic or Gradiente Entertainment. Pablo Miyazawa, who worked on Gradiente’s Power Line team (a phone line that offered tips and guides for Nintendo games), told the Tecnoblog who never heard of Pokémon while at the company.
“There was no Pokémon yet, only in Japan. There was no mention of Pokémon in the entire period that I worked there, until June 1998”, he commented. Upon leaving Gradiente, Miyazawa went to Conrad (formerly Acme) to work on the magazine project Nintendo World, scheduled to be launched in September 1998.
THE Nintendo World was the “official Nintendo magazine” in Brazil, licensed by the brand and monitored by Nintendo of America, Gradiente Entertainment and editorial support from Nintendo Power, United States publication.
Pablo Miyazawa followed:
As we were starting to produce the first edition of Nintendo World, in August 1998, my boss at the time, editor of the magazine, André Forastieri, said that he wanted us to post at least one news about this Pokémon phenomenon, that was going on, that was a fever, that had a cartoon, based on a Game Boy video game.
This had been the first time he had heard of Pokémon. In the first edition of Nintendo World, published in September 1998, the mention of Pokémon is placed in the Hot Shots section, for brief news about games. The text mentions the launch of Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64 and the possibility of taking the Pokémon from the Game Boy to the most modern, 64-bit console.
“We didn’t talk about Pokémon because it was something that was not on our radar, it hadn’t arrived here. It was really more of a Japanese RPG that probably wasn’t going to resonate much outside of RPG environments, ”concluded Miyazawa.
But, for this egg to hatch, all it took was a little push from the Record.
”Record brings controversial design”
That was the headline used by sheet on February 14, 1999, to refer to the premiere of the Pokémon anime in Brazil, the following month, during the program Eliana & Alegria gives Record.
On the thin line, the newspaper emphasizes that an “animation that sent 600 Japanese children to the hospital arrives here in March”. The tranquility comes in the following paragraphs of the news, when the reporter mentions that the scene (between Pikachu and Porygon), originally shown on December 16, 1997, had been cut from the anime.
At the end of the same text, there is the first mention of games: “Anyone who wants to can also play Pokémon in Brazil. Here, the game is marketed by Gradiente. It can be found in two versions, blue and red (R $ 59 each) ”.
The blue and red versions are the same that arrived in the United States, there was no translation of the dialogs or the game’s location for the Brazilian market. Eric Araki was one of the editors of Nintendo World magazine and told the Tecnoblog that the ink cartridges Red and Green (from 1996) were almost prototypes, while the version Red and Blue they were already a little bit improved.
“Even so, due to the fact that they combined all the things from green to blue, the game still has several bugs. Hence the Missing Number was born [MissingNo.], which is the Pokémon that has no number, is all buggy and it allows you to duplicate items ”
The Missing Number or “MissingNo.” it is a bug of the first games that was triggered from a combination of actions in the Kanto region. It appeared as a kind of Pokémon (without number) and allowed to multiply an item in the backpack.
“The anime was very successful. The game had not yet arrived and when it arrived it was a success. It was one of the things that contributed to his success to this day. ”, Declared Araki.
A fever. It was like the sheet he again mentioned the franchise in September 1999, six months after its debut in Brazil. To announce the Game Boy Color version and show the channel anime cartoon Network.
In agreement, Pablo Miyazawa said “there came a time when Pokémon became fever, and when it becomes fever you cannot understand what the main symptom and what the main cause (…) Pikachu is really the great invention of this business, the reason why Pokémon has become so important ”.
Pikachu is the form of the franchise, the icon and the covers of the magazine. Although he never became Raichu, he knew how to deploy himself in three to compensate for the three evolutionary stages he faced. So much merit did not fit in just a cluster of pages. So there were three.
Nintendo World, Pokémon Club and Pokémon Evolution
While Nintendo of America distributed the Nintendo Power American consumers in Brazil, the Nintendo World fulfilled the role of being the main source about Nintendo at the turn of the 2000s. However, a single publication was not enough to cover all the brand’s releases and still feed a legion of spectators and Pokémon players.
It was inevitable, “we started to hear more and more about Pokémon”, recalled Miyazawa, until a moment that the franchise deserved to be highlighted. “This culminated with us finally giving a cover for Pokémon, in issue 11, that is, almost a year later, in July 1999, we gave cover for Pokémon[at[na[at[naNintendo World]with the first part of the game’s walkthrough Pokémon Blue and Red”, Reported the journalist.
“When the versions finally arrived in Brazil, it was Pablo [Miyazawa] that guided me to make a detonation of the game. So, at the end of the day, I did all the blasting from the red version to the Nintendo World. It was hours and hours of playing, capturing screens, ”said Eric Araki. Miyazawa cited that he had the help of an original Nintendo guide to give light to the detonated.
The cover has Ash holding Pikachu in his arm, with the call for adventures on TV, Game Boy and Nintendo 64. At that time, was there any place for Pokémon to be? Only if it were in people’s homes – which leads to the draw of a console by the magazine.
We opened this promotion to distribute 50 Game Boys with Pokémon. It was an absurd success. We received 70,000 letters from people wanting to win a Game Boy with Pokémon. It was a very mythical prize, for everyone to participate. The promotion lasted I think two months or three and it was crazy.
It was also in this edition that the Nintendo World contextualized the “fever” of the franchise to readers, placing it as an overcoming of classics like Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon. In addition to Blue and Red, Pokémon Yellow, Snap, Pinball and Stadium they were already reality. The Game Boy was a laboratory for Pokémon to find its trainers.
Vinicius Chaos was one of those coaches. I bought the Nintendo World whenever I left. “When I saw the story of the success of the recently released game in Japan, I was already waiting for the English version to come out to play”, he recalled, in conversation with Tecnoblog. “I remember enjoying the dynamics of being a classic RPG, style the first Final Fantasy, but somehow ‘collectible’, with the capture dynamics of the Pokémon. It charmed me right away, ”he revealed.
Before long, Pokémon demanded more space, more content. THE Pokémon Club appeared in August 1999. In the editorial of the first edition, Marcelo Del Greco highlighted the publication as “the official magazine of Pokémon in Brazil (…) made to measure for young Brazilian trainers”.
Following the pages, Professor Carvalho appears explaining the Pokémon world and the entire story of Ash and Pikachu. The footer listed the Pokémon in order of the Pokédex, each species with its number. Strategy that confirmed Eric Araki:
The two things that drew the most attention to a fan in the Pokémon magazine were: first a list of all Pokémon, because those posters that we put, with all Pokémon, the evolutions and numbers were the things that drew the most attention from the public, they always sold a lot; the other was the detonated. I ended up having the pleasure of doing both, when I did it for Nintendo World, as well as the posters of the various Pokémon, when I was editor of the Pokémon Club.
And who never wanted to have a real Pokémon? Miyazawa recalled the phone calls at the publisher:
After Pokémon Club 1 left, after we say “Hi, I’m Professor Carvalho, I’m here to teach you which are the best Pokémon…”, a lot of children took it seriously, literally, saying “I want to my Pokémon ”. And they called in the newsroom to talk to us, to learn more about Pokémon and how to get a real Pokémon. So, this type of search happened a lot, it was a very healthy moment. We gave a lot of interviews to television stations, who wanted to understand the Pokémon phenomenon.
And the Pokémon Club remained the home of Pokémon for a long time, until the 33rd edition. “When the Pokémon Club emerged, she turned as if she were the owner of Pokémon affairs at the publisher. Everything was going there. Only Pokémon Club it was a fan magazine and aimed at a younger fan. So it was a deeper thing, ”said Miyazawa. “At the end of 1999, publisher Conrad was the largest Pokémon specialist in Brazil. Nobody knew more than us ”, he defended.
With the stone of evolution, Pokémon Club Evolution
There were two audiences: the cartoon and the games. It was time for another evolution. THE Pokémon Club it became Pokémon Club Evolution in the 34th edition. “We made the transition from Pokémon Club to the Pokémon Evolution that was exactly when the games started to take up more space in the magazine ”, said Araki, continuing:
Funny that, in the beginning, the magazine [Pokémon Club] focused on anime and comics and the like. It was a publication more for children, from the moment we started to put more of the game, strategies, how to assemble a team, how to face other people and those things, the magazine started to take another direction. People started to like this content more and then we made this transition. She had a lot more focus on games, of course, still with the comics and anime stuff, but she had a lot of focus on games.
Although it lasted until the 87th edition, the magazine embraced the Pokémon community even more. This turnaround culminated in the organization of championships, Pokémon battles, across the country. Eric Araki reported:
Because of this transition, we managed to set up a Game Boy league here in Brazil. There were competitions that we organized in anime events, in games and similar events around Brazil. Many people came from other states to participate. We held one of these editions at Anime Friends, we had 200 or so participants.
The events – which brought together players from various states with their Game Boys – took place between 2000 and 2001 and lasted about five hours. According to Araki, editions of these championships, entitled “Challenge to the Elite of the Four”, were held in São Paulo (SP), Belo Horizonte (MG), Brasília (DF) and Curitiba (PR), organized by the magazine.
And how did the franchise maintain the leadership of the gym?
Pikachu is legendary, even without being considered one by the franchise. To this day, there is no doubt about the success of the games. On the Switch, Pokémon Sword and Shield and Let’s Go accumulate more than 33 million units sold. But, at the beginning, while there were not as many games and opportunities as today, Pikachu was the mainstay of this brand. Miyazawa pondered:
I think, in the end, what made Pokémon last was the cuteness and charisma of certain characters, but especially of Pikachu, if there weren’t a Pikachu, there wouldn’t be the Pokémon phenomenon. It was going to be limited to games, games would be something that players would like, it would be those historical games but they would not overcome these huge barriers of pop culture.
What is cool about Pokémon is this combination of cute and charismatic character with these fights and the crazy aspect of collecting, which is this thing about you having a lot of options and characters and having to collect and collect and have seen and captured all .
The fact of keeping the anime show on TV open also influenced this continuity. Who could not buy a Game Boy or Pokémon cartridge, could still be aware of the adventures in the Kanto region by the anime. The relevance of the franchise, as Araki said, only fell when the cartoon left the TV grid open.
Pokémon affectivity beyond screens
Even out of the reach of the general public, the fever had already become an epidemic. The games came Crystal, Silver, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald (along with updates or new consoles), the long Pokémon The Movie and Pokémon The Movie 2000, sticker albums, collectibles from Guaraná, clothing, plushies and many other products.
Vinicius Chaos commented:
On the one hand, like all nerdy culture of the time (late 90s), there were prejudices and bullying, but inside the nerdy core it was all fun, exchanging Pokémon and tips with the crowd, training and testing battle strategies. At this point I can say that I was lucky to have a group of friends who also really liked the games in the franchise. I can say that I really consumed all the Pokémon products of the time: drawings, games, card games. It was really a fever that got me and within my circle of friends I was one of the most addicted without a doubt.
The exchange spans (u) generations and the link with the franchise, even if only from a distance, still remains. While, in the past, Pikachu represented originality, today it represents nostalgia. “That time was a good time that brought together hundreds of different tribes. Each one went to one side, each to a place, but now and then we get together because of the game. We get together more because of the game than for other reasons ”, reported Eric Araki.
And is there a way for new fans, new fans? While in the beginning, at the turn of the year 2000, the competition was less, with no internet on every device in the house, today, Pikachu vies for attention with so many other pets and platforms. Pablo Miyazawa reflected:
Can you make new fans? do it. Is the appeal different? It is, because before it had the originality of a Pikachu to appear. And now, it’s something else. New Pokémon fan will be charmed by exactly what? (…) It’s kind of hard to explain today, it’s a 25-year franchise. So the fact of continuing, of persevering is a very tense and varied combination of factors.
Where’s Pokémon? In Brazil, the animation can be found on Prime Video, Nintendo still sells the games (even if not translated), Pikachu is still printed on clothing brands (subtly), the Illustrated Prints are found in pop culture stores. The new audience does not discover Pokémon as before. There may even be no interest in understanding the complexity in which young people in 2000 grew accustomed.
On the other hand, in Japan, Pokémon is part of the culture. According to Araki, there the franchise reaches any audience: “there was a big guy, there were people in suits and ties, people with briefcases, there were mothers carrying their children, mothers with children on the bicycle and each child with his cell phone too. Everyone running and we didn’t understand what was going on. Then we heard a man saying ‘Lapras’. At that time it was very rare to have a Lapras ”- about Pokémon GO.
There are also Pokémon Center stores, scattered throughout the regions of Japan. “The Pokémon Center has a series of plushies and toys. You can find everything, for all ages. So, you can find clothes for babies, for you who are having children, plushies and toys for the kids or other ties for Pokémon, if you want to wear a discreet tie, but still for Pokémon ”, explained Araki.
Other than that, “there are also Pokémon-specific restaurants, a series of these cool things, there are the dishes, the little shows of people dressed as Pokémon. They make those stops, marches and so on. There are a lot of cool things, but there ”, he concluded.
At 25, Pokémon celebrates being one of the most valuable franchises in the world. Even though growth has slowed, it maintains the affection of (perhaps still) fans. “Today I only follow the franchise from afar, but with respect to the nostalgia that was hearing those little noises in the Game Boy, just thinking about the game’s opening song comes to mind,” said Chaos.
You found a wild Pokémon …
In concluding that, in Brazil, Pokémon is all about nostalgia, let me give you this reminder:
So, after 25 years, what is your willingness to become a Pokémon master?