Earlier today we saw the reveal of Pokémon’s Generation 8 with Sword & Shield versions for Switch, but February 27 is actually a special day for the franchise, as it all began on this day 23 years ago with the release of the two original Pokémon games, Pokémon Red & Green, in Japan.
Japan has been through all kinds of “collection booms” going decades back with the Kamen Rider cards in the early ‘70s to Lotte’s Bikkuriman stickers that dominated the late ‘80s, followed by Mini 4WDs and Barcode Battlers in the ‘90s. Around this time, they would encounter the biggest one yet—the Pokémon boom.
Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri established Game Freak in 1989. The first game the company developed was Mendel Palace for Namco in June of 1989, the same year Nintendo released their Game Boy. The Game Boy’s portable characteristics made it an ideal device for puzzle and action games at the time, so those were the kind of games that flooded the market. However, after seeing the success of Square’s Game Boy title, Makai Toushi Sa·Ga, or The Final Fantasy Legend, Tajiri realized he can pursue something that wasn’t action-based for the portable device.
In particular, Tajiri paid close attention to the Game Boy’s communication function, and that’s where he got the idea for a game made from the concept of “trading.” Tajiri was also a big fan of Ultra Seven, and after getting inspiration from its “Capsule Kaiju” he began writing plans for an RPG called “Capsule Monster.”
Tajiri had ideas for having monsters in capsule toy-like cases that were made to be exchanged using the Game Link Cable. After showing his plan to Nintendo, they quickly decided to help fund its development cost and get things started.
The “Capsule Monster” title would end up being changed due to trademark reasons, and the developers felt that the abbreviated name “Capu-Mon” sounded awkward, so they ended up going with Pokémon, short for Pocket Monsters. However, Tajiri always liked the word “Capsule” as he felt it invoked a sense of nostalgia, so it was quite difficult for him to let that one go at the time.
Pocket Monsters Red & Green released in Japan on February 27, 1996 for the Game Boy.