The gameplay of the Pokémon series of role-playing video games involves the capture and training of a variety of fictional creatures called "Pokémon" and using them to battle other trainers. Each successive generation of games builds upon this concept by introducing new Pokémon, items, and gameplay concepts. Some of the general concepts were featured elsewhere before being introduced in the games; double battles appeared in the anime long before appearing in the games, and Pokémon Abilities are similar to the Pokémon Powers introduced in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, which also introduced Shiny Pokémon.
Each of the games in the handheld Pokémon RPG series, from the first games to the latest ones, takes place in a particular fictional region of the Pokémon world, and begins with the player receiving a Starter Pokémon from that region's local Pokémon Professor. By traveling around the world, capturing and evolving Pokémon, and defeating other trainers in battle, the player increases the breadth and strength of his/her Pokémon collection. A major subplot of each game is to defeat a criminal organization trying to take over the world through the misuse of Pokémon. These organizations include Team Rocket, Team Magma and Team Aqua, Team Galactic, and Team Plasma.
Among the facilities found throughout the Pokémon world are Pokémon Centers, PokéMarts, and Gyms. Pokémon Centers will heal a player's Pokémon for free, and house PCs where players can organize their collection of Pokémon. Here, players can also link up with other cartridges to battle or trade. PokéMarts are shops where players can buy items with the money they win during battles; certain cities may have specialized shops, like a pharmacy or a department store. Periodically, a town will contain a Pokémon Gym, which houses a powerful trainer known as a Gym Leader. Victory grants the player a Gym Badge and typically advances the plot. After collecting eight Gym Badges, the player may challenge the region's Elite Four and Champion; defeating the Champion finishes the main story.
Completing the main storyline opens up other features in the games; this is primarily done by allowing passage into otherwise inaccessible places. Afterward, the game remains virtually open-ended, with the ultimate goal of the player being to obtain at least one member of each of the different species of Pokémon, thus completing the Pokédex. With the exception of the first generation, once all species of regional Pokémon are captured, the player may then update his Pokédex to the National Pokédex, with the new mission of capturing all Pokémon from the previous series (that is, from Bulbasaur to the last Pokémon in that generation's Regional Pokédex). The number of Pokémon increases with each game generation, starting from 151 in the first series to 649 in the latest series.
One of the somewhat consistent aspects of the Pokémon series of role-playing games is the choice of one of three different Pokémon at the start of the player's adventures; these three are often labeled Starter Pokémon. Players have the option to choose one of three different types of Pokémon: a Grass-type, Fire-type, and Water-type, (Bulbasaur, however, is a dual Grass/Poison type, and many starter Pokémon evolve to be dual-typed Pokémon), all of which are supposedly indigenous to that region, yet otherwise unattainable except through trading with another game (leading to their rarity). Afterward, the player's rival will always select the Pokémon whose type is "super effective" against the player's Starter Pokémon. In the Black and White Versions, where the player has two rival characters, both of the alternate Pokémon are chosen.
The exception to this concept is Pokémon Yellow, where players are given a Pikachu, the Electric-type mouse Pokémon famous for being the mascot of the Pokémon media franchise, who walks along behind them. The rival trainer receives an Eevee, a Normal-type Pokémon. The Eevee will evolve into one of its (then) three different evolved states depending on how the player fares in his battles with the rival in the beginning of the game.
Pokémon Gyms are buildings situated throughout the Pokémon world, where Pokémon Trainers can train or compete to qualify for Pokémon League competitions. Although the internal organizations of Pokémon Gyms may vary, all specialize in one certain type of Pokémon, and all are manned by a Gym Leader , a formidable Trainer that acts as a boss. Pokémon Gyms can be found in some towns and cities in the Pokémon world.
When an official Gym Leader is defeated, the challenger wins a Badge, which serves as proof of a Trainer's skill and is a key part of advancing the plot. Victory also earns the challenger a unique Technical Machine that allows the player to teach his or her Pokémon a unique move from the Gym and the ability to control traded Pokémon at a certain maximum level (if the level exceeds this maximum, the Pokémon will not obey the player's commands). It also usually enables the player to utilize the overworld effects of one of the various Hidden Machines such as the ability to cross bodies of water with the Surf move or the ability to remove some trees from paths by means of the Cut move. In order to qualify for the Pokémon League, a Trainer must collect eight badges. In the video games, a region only has eight Gyms, although the anime asserts the existence of others (such as Gary Oak having acquired ten badges, but had not defeated the Saffron City and Viridian City Gym Leaders). It is said that Pokémon are more likely to follow the advice of Trainers with more badges; some badges also allow the Trainer to use higher-level traded Pokémon. For example, when the player beats the first gym leader, traded Pokémon up to level 20 will always obey the trainer, whereas previously, they may not have obeyed orders when fighting in Pokémon battles.
After a player defeats the eight Gym Leaders, he or she can travel to the location of the games' Pokémon league and take on the Elite Four and the region's Pokémon League Champion, and ultimately win the game.
Battles between Pokémon are the central game mechanic of the Pokémon video game series. They are used to train Pokémon to become stronger, as competition and to reach certain objectives within the game. Battling can also be done between human players via a link cable or wireless technology.
Pokémon uses a turn-based system. When the player challenges a trainer or encounters a wild Pokémon, the screen changes to a battle scene with the opposing Pokémon, their respective HP bars, and an option menu. At any time, the player may carry up to six Pokémon (ordered by the player) in his active party; the top Pokémon in the lineup is automatically sent into battle. At the start of each turn, both sides can choose to attack, use an item, switch the Pokémon for another, or flee from battle (the last not an option in battles against other trainers). If both sides attack, the one who goes first is determined by Speed, although some moves, items, and effects can override this. If either side chooses any other option, that action is performed before the attacks.
Each Pokémon uses moves to reduce the respective opponent's HP to zero, at which point the Pokémon faints. If the player's Pokémon wins, it receives experience points; when enough have accumulated, the Pokémon's level increases. If the player's Pokémon faints, he/she may use another Pokémon or flee; (the latter being only possible in wild Pokémon battles) if the player has no usable Pokémon left in his or her party (i.e., if they have all fainted), he/she loses the battle, returns to the last Pokémon Center he/she visited, and loses half of his/her money.
Sapphire and Pokémon Ruby introduced double battles, in which the opposing teams battle with two Pokémon at a time. Though the basic mechanics remain the same, moves may have multiple targets; some affect the ally as well as the opponents. Additionally, some Abilities work only in double battles. The third generation games only included double battles against other trainers, but Pearl and Diamond introduced double battles with wild Pokémon if the player is accompanied by an NPC. White and Black got rid of this limitation and introduced a special type of tall grass where wild Pokémon appear in pairs.
Black and White also introduced Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. In Triple Battles, both teams send out three Pokémon at once. Pokémon on the left side can attack all Pokémon on the field except those on the right side, and vice versa. In Rotation Battles, both sides send out three Pokémon at once, but only use one at a time. The Pokémon which is battling can be switched out with the other two without using up a turn.
A Pokémon's type is an elemental attribute determining the strengths and weaknesses of each Pokémon and their moves, offsetting each other in rock-paper-scissors relationships. The game's primary example of this elemental relationship is that between the Grass, Fire, and Water types: a Grass is weak to Fire, Fire to Water, and Water to Grass, with each resistant against the others. Elemental relationships where Pokémon are immune include Ghost types immune to Normal and Fighting moves. These weaknesses, resistances, and immunities can be combined if a Pokémon has two types. For example, a Ground and Flying Pokémon would be immune to Electric moves, as its weakness as a Flying Type is negated by its Ground Type; however, such a Pokémon would be doubly weak to Ice moves, as both Ground and Flying are weak to Ice, and the Pokémon would receive four times as much damage. Some Pokémon Abilities can change these interactions, such as Levitate making Pokémon immune to Ground type moves.
In the original Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow games, there are a total of 15 Pokémon types, including all those listed above as examples, as well as Poison, Psychic, Bug, Rock, and Dragon. Two new types were added in Gold and Silver, Dark and Steel, bringing the total to 17 for the next 14 years. The games also featured an unknown type ("???" Type) which was used for a particular Pokémon move until that move's typing was changed in Black and White. The console RPGs Colosseum and XD featured a unique move type known as Shadow but it could not be used outside of the console games. The upcoming X and Y games introduce a new 18th type: Fairy.
Like the characters in many role-playing video games, Pokémon are able to learn a wide variety of moves. These moves may inflict damage, induce status problems, restore health, or perform actions that in some way affect the overall battle. All moves have a Type, Power, Accuracy, and amount of Power Points. The moves that one Pokémon may learn are different from another depending on the species of Pokémon; even those that evolve from others do not necessarily learn all the same moves that their predecessors learn. Each Pokémon may only know a total of four moves at any one time. Moves may be learned through leveling up, using TMs and HMs, breeding, and move tutors (NPCs that teach moves).
Each Pokémon move is classified as one of the 18 Pokémon types. The effectiveness of a move is dependent on how susceptible the target Pokémon's type is to the move's type. Common phrases associated with this aspect are "It's super effective!" (damage is at least doubled), "It's not very effective..." (damage is at least halved), and "It doesn't affect [defending Pokémon]..." (damage and all effects are negated). A Pokémon with the same type as the move it uses will receive a 50% bonus to its damage, referred to as a "Same Type Attack Bonus" (STAB) in game jargon. Moves are further defined as "Physical" or "Special", determined by the fictional means the move lands; Physical moves are those that would make physical contact, such as punches or bites, while Special moves generally involve elemental control, such as breathing fire or manipulating the wind. Prior to the Diamond and Pearl games, entire Pokémon types were deemed "Physical" or "Special" rather than individually. The general strength of and resistance to these moves are determined by the various statistics a particular Pokémon has. There are also "Status" moves, that deal no direct damage and inflict status changes on the defending or attacking Pokémon. A Status "???" type move existed prior to Black and White, until it was classified amongst the then 17 existing types. A damage-inflicting move will remove a certain number of Health Points from the target Pokémon based on weakness, resistance, and the statistics of the target. Other factors include items held by either Pokémon as well as their Abilities.
Each move has a specific Accuracy, which determines the chance of hitting the target Pokémon, in tandem with the user's accuracy and the target's evasiveness. Very powerful moves, such as those that are "one-hit KOs" (moves that instantly defeat the target Pokémon if successful), will often have very low Accuracies. Moves with 100% Accuracy ratings may occasionally miss due to changes in the user's accuracy and the target's evasiveness. A small number of moves will always hit the target, regardless of relative changes in accuracy.
The Power Points (PP) of a move indicate how many times a Pokémon may use that move. As with Accuracy, a powerful move is often offset by having a low amount of PP. Once a Pokémon uses up all the PP for a certain move, it can no longer use that move. If a Pokémon expends all the PP for all of its moves, it then resorts to a move called Struggle. However, in the first generation games, the game does not reduce the PP of Pokémon controlled by non-player trainers, enabling those trainers to use powerful moves an abnormal number of times.
Most moves are coupled with some sort of effect beyond inflicting damage. Many of these secondary effects include a chance that the move will induce a certain status effect (Paralysis, Burn, Freeze, Poison, or Sleep), which negatively affects how the afflicted Pokémon performs in battle. For example, many Electric type moves have small chances of Paralyzing the target. Some moves have negative side-effects for the user, such as forcing the player to wait a turn before or after use, or causing recoil damage. One move, Splash, is noted to neither inflict damage or a status condition.
Certain moves can also be used in the overworld in order to bypass certain obstacles such as small trees and bodies of water, to quickly travel between locations, to escape dungeons, or to even heal Pokémon. These are usually taught through the HM items.
Pokémon Abilities are special attributes which were introduced in Sapphire and Pokémon Ruby. Specific species of Pokémon have one to three possible Abilities with individual Pokémon exhibiting one Ability each, which, unlike the moves it knows, can never change (except sometimes during evolution).
Most Pokémon use their Abilities in battle. Abilities can strengthen a Pokémon's own statistics or weaken a foe, inflict status effects such as paralysis or poisoning, or perform one of many other effects. For instance, a Bulbasaur uses its Overgrow Ability to power up its Grass-type attacks when it has low HP, and when Arbok is sent into battle, it will use its Intimidate Ability to lower the opposing Pokémon's Attack statistic. Other Abilities render some Pokémon impervious to certain types of attacks, such as the Levitate Ability rendering a Pokémon like Carnivine immune to Ground-type attacks. Some Abilities also grant immunities or resistances, such as Lapras' Water Absorb restoring its own HP when hit by Water-type attacks or Arcanine's Flash Fire negating Fire-type attacks and boosting the power of its own attacks once hit. A Pokémon with the Lightning Rod Ability, such as Marowak, will keep its partner safe from Electric-type attacks in a double battle by drawing the electricity away from it. Not all Abilities are helpful and may be implemented to hinder a Pokémon. Slaking, which would otherwise be extraordinarily powerful, has the Truant Ability, which allows it to attack only every other turn.
Some Abilities come into effect outside of Pokémon battles. For example, Pokémon with the Pickup Ability, like Meowth, will sometimes retrieve items off the ground. Also, starting from Pokémon Emerald, a handful of Abilities that were once only used in battle have effects outside of battle as well. For example, a Pokémon with the Ability Intimidate will cause the player to encounter lower-level wild Pokémon less often.
Pokémon Black and White introduced Hidden Abilities, which initially could only be found on Pokémon primarily acquired from the Internet-based Pokémon Global Link, either through the Pokémon Dream World feature or through promotional releases. There are also rare instances of Pokémon with their Hidden Abilities available in the main game, either as a special encounter or as an in-game Trade with an NPC. Black 2 and White 2 introduced the game mechanic of Hidden Grottos ; special trees dotted around the Unova region can be interacted with, and once inside the player might find either an item or more rarely a Pokémon that has its Hidden Ability. Some other Pokémon in Black 2 and White 2 are also obtainable with their Hidden Abilities, but they are also special encounters. In addition, the Pokémon Dream Radar 3DS Download Software game released to accompany Black 2 and White 2 enables for the capture of Pokémon with their Hidden Abilities that can be transferred to the main games.
All Pokémon have six statistics (colloquially called "stats") which affect their performance in battle. These are HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed. In the first generation games, Special Attack and Special Defense were combined into one statistic called Special.
There are also two other statistics, Accuracy and Evasiveness, which are not affected when Pokémon level up. No Pokémon has innately higher Accuracy or Evasiveness than any other, but these statistics can be modified by Abilities, items, or moves. Increasing Accuracy makes a move more likely to hit, while increasing Evasiveness makes the opponent's move more likely to miss. A Pokémon's Accuracy, the opponent's Evasiveness, and the Accuracy value of a given move affect whether or not that move will hit.
Not only do these statistics affect the battle, but the battle can affect the statistics. Many Pokémon moves and items exist which can temporarily, or even permanently, raise and lower each one.
When Pokémon level up, their statistics increase, as determined by the Pokémon's base stat values, effort values, Pokémon nature, and individual values. These variables working in tandem provide each individual Pokémon with its own unique stats.
Base stat values determine the natural statistical strengths of the various Pokémon species. Every Pokémon is assigned a number in each stat; the higher the number, the higher the stat can potentially be. While these values may greatly vary between species, they are the same for each member of that species. It is the difference among species which explains why all Aerodactyl will have a higher Speed than any Snorlax of the same level; however, it is the combination of other factors that causes some Snorlax to be faster than others. Adding up all the base stat values for a certain species generates the Base Stat Total, which players use to determine approximately how strong that Pokémon is.
Effort values (EVs) are hidden values that affect the strengths of a Pokémon in particular statistical areas. Differing effort value levels between two Pokémon can create a significant difference in the two Pokémon's statistical strengths. When a Pokémon battles and defeats an opponent, they gain experience points, also known as EXP, and also receive a number and type of EVs according to the defeated Pokémon's species. Every defeated Pokémon gives at least one EV to each of the Pokémon that fought it. Certain factors, like holding the Macho Brace item, can increase the rate at which EVs are gained in battle. In addition, consuming vitamins will give Pokémon EVs; however, Pokémon will refuse vitamins after reaching a certain value threshold. Certain berries also exist which increase a Pokémon's Loyalty, but in turn decrease EVs. There is a limit on the number of EVs Pokémon can have, both for each individual stats and combined across all stats, which prevents stats from increasing in a never-ending manner. The total limit allows for maximum Effort Values in two stats simultaneously.
In the first (Red, Blue, Yellow) and second (Gold, Silver, Crystal) generation games, a similar system usually referred to as Stat Exp. was used. As with Effort Values, there is a limit to how much Stat Exp. a Pokémon can have in each stat; however, unlike Effort Values, there is no limit to the total Stat Exp. a Pokémon can have across all stats, meaning that a Pokémon can have maximum Stat Exp. in every stat. Also of note is that, in order for Pokémon from the first generation (where there was only one Special stat) and the second generation (where there are both Special Attack and Special Defense stats) to be forward and backward compatible for trading, Stat Exp. was not tracked separately for Special Attack and Special Defense in the second generation games. Instead, the Special Stat Exp. value was used to calculate both separated Special stats.
Pokémon natures were first introduced in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. Each Pokémon has a nature, randomly assigned when it is generated, which cannot be changed. A Pokémon's nature affects the rate at which some of its stats increase: out of the twenty-five possible natures, twenty will increase one stat's growth rate but decrease another's. The other five modify the same stat in both increases and decreases, and thus the Pokémon's overall growth is unaffected. Natures also determine which flavor of PokéBlocks/Poffins that Pokémon likes and dislikes.
Individual values (IVs) are essentially a range in power for each statistic, which determine a Pokémon's maximum potential. These values are randomly generated along with each Pokémon when it is encountered or bred, and set in stone for the rest of the game. These hidden values are why even Pokémon that seem identical and have been raised the same way still may have different stats.
Throughout the games, players will collect many different types of items. The vast majority of these are stored in the player's inventory or PC.
Many items received in the game are used to heal Pokémon in and out of battle, much like a Pokémon Center does. HP-recovery items include an array of potions. Status recovery items include Antidotes (to cure poisoning), Awakenings (to wake Pokémon up), Paralyz Heals (to cure paralysis), Ice Heals (to defrost a frozen solid Pokémon), Burn Heals (to cure a burn), and Full Heals (which heal all status conditions). Revives restore a Pokémon's HP to half of the maximum, but only if it is currently fainted. The more powerful Max Revive fully restores a fainted Pokémon's HP. The Sacred Ash is a rare item that fully revives all fainted Pokémon in the player's party. PP-recovery items include Ethers and Elixirs; unlike other recovery items, these cannot be bought at shops. They may be found while exploring, or with the Ability Pickup.
Technical Machines (TMs) and Hidden Machines (HMs) can be used to teach moves to Pokémon. TMs are commonly found in the wild and in shops, but up until the fifth generation could only be used once. HMs are very rare and can be used outside of battle when a certain Gym Leader's badge has been acquired, but can be used as many times as desired. HMs are often vital to game progression as they have important overworld effects. For example, Pokémon who learn the HM move "Surf" can transport the protagonist over the sea, which is necessary to reach island cities. When a Pokémon learns an HM move the move cannot be deleted or replaced, unless taken to a specific NPC, who deletes moves, called a Move Deleter.
Key Items are rarer than regular items and are usually given to the player rather than found. These include fishing rods which are used to find water-dwelling Pokémon, a bicycle which allows the protagonist to move around faster, a dowsing machine, and keys which open locked doors leading to important areas. These items cannot be thrown away, sold, or given to a Pokémon.
Starting with Silver and Pokémon Gold, each Pokémon is able to hold a single item. Items carried by Pokémon can do a range of things; berries can be consumed by the Pokémon during battle to restore health or boost stats, while other held items can enhance the offensive or defensive power of a Pokémon. Some items only have an effect once and then are used up, while the effect of other items is permanent. Just like moves, some items, particularly powerful ones, have negative side-effects to compensate their power. Some items will cause a Pokémon to evolve, and also holding an item while trading to another player can make the Pokémon evolve with the items help or evolve in general trading. Pearl and Pokémon Diamond introduced items that cause evolution if another condition is met. However, most items have no effect at all when held, and some items, such as Hidden Machines and Key Items, cannot be held.
Because each player begins the game with only one starter Pokémon, capturing is one of the most fundamental aspects of Pokémon, and the primary method of recruiting new Pokémon to the player's party.
In a battle against a wild Pokémon, the player may, instead of defeating it, choose to capture it by using (“throwing”) one of many different types of Poké Balls. The odds of success vary, but are increased if the target Pokémon's HP is low, if the target is affected by a status-altering effect like sleep or paralysis, and if a stronger or specially-suited Poké Ball is used.
If the capture is successful, the captured Pokémon's data is added to the Pokédex, the player may give the Pokémon a nickname, and the Pokémon is added to the player's party. However, if the player's party is filled to its maximum of six Pokémon, the captured Pokémon is instead sent to one of many boxes accessible via PC. In the first and second generation games, if the current PC box is full, the player will be unable to capture any new Pokémon until he or she accesses a PC and switches to a different box. In all other versions, new Pokémon are transferred to the next available box.
The Poké Ball (Monster Ball in original Japanese language versions) is a spherical device used by Pokémon Trainers to capture wild Pokémon and store them when not active. Upon contact, the balls convert a Pokémon into energy, draw it inside, and close automatically. Wild Pokémon are able to resist and break free; however, weakened Pokémon and Pokémon with status conditions are less able to struggle and therefore more easily captured. Legendary Pokémon will resist being caught much easier, and will often require many Poké Balls or more powerful Poké Balls in order to catch them. If the player attempts to capture a non-player character's Pokémon, the opponent will block the Ball to prevent its theft.
As depicted in the anime and manga series, the Poké Ball, when not in use, is the size of a golf ball and, with a press of the central button, enlarges to the size of a baseball. The Pokémon is released for battle by throwing the ball; when retrieving a Pokémon, a beam of red light converts the Pokémon into energy to reclaim it. Poké Balls are explained as being incredibly comfortable for Pokémon, so much that they would willingly enter one without any sort of encouragement. The Pokémon Voltorb, Electrode, Foongus, and Amoonguss are often mistaken for Poké Balls, due to their shape and color schemes which highly resemble Poké Balls.
Various types of Poké Balls exist. Introduced in Blue and Pokémon Red, are, in order of progressing strength, the Poké Ball, Great Ball (Super Ball in Japan), Ultra Ball (Hyper Ball in Japan), and the Master Ball , which has a 100% success rate against any Pokémon that can be captured, and of which typically only one is available in the game. In Crystal, Silver, Pokémon Gold, SoulSilver and HeartGold, there are fruits called Apricorns, which, when given to Kurt in Azalea Town, make one of seven special types of Poké Balls, depending on the Apricorn's color. The seven kinds of Poké Ball (and apricorn) are Level (Red), Moon (Yellow), Lure (Blue), Friend (Green), Love (Pink), Fast (White), and Heavy (Black). Beginning in Emerald, and Sapphire, Pokémon Ruby, other specialized balls appear, including the Timer Ball, which becomes more effective as the battle progresses, the Net Ball, which has a better chance of catching Water- and Bug-type Pokémon, and the Dusk Ball, which is most effective at night or inside caves, among others. In addition, in several games there exists an area called the Safari Zone in which only Safari Balls can be used; these cannot be used elsewhere in the game.
In the Nintendo GameCube RPGs, Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, the player is able to capture non-player character Pokémon through the use of the Snag Machine which turns Poké Balls into Snag Balls. Snag Balls are capable of capturing any Pokémon (with the same strength limitations as the standard Poké, Great, Ultra, and Master Balls), and they are developed by the antagonists to steal Pokémon where they are not common in the wild. Snag Balls can also be used by the player to capture the specific Shadow Pokémon who have been tainted by the antagonist group and that the player is required to purify for game completion.
UGO.com listed the Poké Ball eighteenth on their list of "Our 50 Favorite Video Game Power-ups" citing how everybody runs to get it in the Super Smash Bros. series.
The Pokédex is an electronic device designed to catalog and provide information regarding the various species of Pokémon. The name Pokédex is a portmanteau of Pokémon and index. In the video games, whenever a Pokémon is first captured, its height, weight, species type, and a short description will be added to a player's Pokédex. Each region has its own Pokédex, which differ in looks, species of Pokémon catalogued, and capabilities such as the ability to sort the list of Pokémon based on alphabetical order, or display the Pokémon's height compared to the player character. The "National Dex" allows all Pokémon from other regions to be catalogued. The Nintendo 3DS application Pokédex 3D Pro features all of the Pokémon with all of its forms and each one has its own animation.
In the anime, the Pokédex acts as a portable reference tool, able to give information about a certain species of Pokémon even if a trainer has not seen or caught it before. It can also give detailed descriptions of various trainer tools, and it acts as a form of identification. The Kanto and Johto versions of the Pokédex are nicknamed Dexter and voiced by Shinichiro Miki in Japan, Eric Stuart in the 4Kids English dub, and Bill Rogers in the Pokémon USA English dub. The Hoenn and Sinnoh versions are named Dextette and voiced by Megumi Hayashibara (Hoenn) and Tomoko Kawakami (Sinnoh) in Japan, Rachael Lillis in the 4Kids English dub, and Michelle Knotz in the Pokémon USA English dub. The Unova Pokédex is voiced by Unshō Ishizuka in Japanese, and by Marc Thompson in English.
Evolution is a sudden change in form of a Pokémon, more akin to a metamorphosis than actual evolution, and is usually accompanied by an increase in stat values. The player can choose to halt evolution at any time before the animation is finished (only by level up), simply by pressing the B button, unless the evolution was purposely initiated using an evolutionary stone. Evolution can occur in Pokémon for several different reasons, the most common of which is gaining enough battle experience. There are many other factors that can determine if, when, and into what, different Pokémon will evolve. The original alternate methods were the use of an item called an Evolution Stone or by trading the Pokémon to another player. Later methods of evolution put into the games include dependence on the Pokémon's Happiness, the time of day in the game, carrying a unique item while being traded, the gender, the area in the game where the Pokémon levels up, having a separate specific Pokémon in the player's party, or trading for a specific Pokémon.
The Pokémon Trading Card Game introduced the idea of numerical stages for referring to different points in a Pokémon's evolution. This has translated into colloquial usage among fans of the games. All Pokémon can be placed at one of four evolutionary stages (though no existing Pokémon line includes more than three out of the four stages): Basic Pokémon, Stage 1 Pokémon which evolve from Basic Pokémon, Stage 2 Pokémon which evolve from Stage 1 Pokémon, and Baby Pokémon which are acquired by breeding certain Basic or Stage 1 Pokémon and hatching their eggs. A Pokémon higher up on this evolutionary scale is called an evolved form of the previous stages; a Pokémon lower down on the scale is said to be a pre-evolved form of later Pokémon in the chain. In general, the lower the evolutionary stage that the Pokémon is, the faster it will learn moves.
Happiness (also referred to as friendship) is an attribute that can rise or fall based upon several conditions and events. This aspect, introduced in Pokémon Yellow, was what determined Pikachu's stat growth and affected the outcome of certain NPC events (such as receiving Bulbasaur in Cerulean City). In Silver and Pokémon Gold it is a means to evolve several Pokémon with the focus on taking care of the Pokémon, rather than merely worrying about it leveling up. When a Pokémon like Chansey or Golbat has a very high Happiness, it will evolve after the next time it levels up. Also, most baby Pokémon (itself a mechanic introduced in Gold and Silver) evolve by leveling up with a certain Happiness rating. To further exploit this mechanic, two moves base their Power upon the amount the Pokémon either likes or dislikes its trainer—Return and Frustration. In addition, there are several cheap restorative items that "have a bitter taste" and will lower the Pokémon's Happiness, as well as several berries that lower a stat but raise Happiness.
"Legendary Pokémon" is a term of art; a Legendary is not simply an individual Pokémon about which legends are written, but differs from regular Pokémon in key ways. Currently the group is distinguished by being the only one member of its given species which can be captured per game. Since the Gold and Silver versions of the games (with the exception of FireRed and LeafGreen), the main series' game package features one Legendary, usually the Pokémon most involved in the main storyline of that game. Legendaries are also exceptionally powerful, extremely difficult to capture, unable to reproduce through breeding, and not part of an evolutionary chain. Certain Legendary Pokémon colloquially termed "Runners" or "Roaming Pokémon" randomly move around the world map and flee from battle, making them even harder to obtain.
"Mythical Pokémon" are a subset of Legendary Pokémon that consist of Pokémon that cannot be obtained through standard gameplay without the intervention of an external mechanic. These Pokémon are usually placed at the end of their respective games' Pokédex and can only be obtained through events set up by Nintendo. The first of these Mythical Pokémon was Mew, who was programmed into the Red and Green games as a secret character by one of the programmers without any knowledge of the other members of the development team, and was not announced until several months after the games' release in a special promotion. Since then, the games have continued to feature Pokémon that cannot be obtained through standard gameplay, but the programming that allow their capture within the games can be activated by special items (or other Pokémon) given out by Nintendo. The first of these such items was the GS Ball in Crystal, which was distributed to players in Japan through the mobile phone connector, allowing them to encounter Celebi.
Palette swapped Pokémon, initially referred to by players as "shiny" Pokémon, were first introduced in Silver and Gold as a way to demonstrate the new color-capabilities of the Game Boy Color system. Encountering a shiny Pokémon is extremely rare; the probability of encountering one is 1 in 8,192. There are only a few major exceptions to this rule, with the first being the "Red Gyarados" present in Pokémon Gold, Silver, Crystal, HeartGold, and SoulSilver. There are various other ways of increasing the chance of getting a shiny Pokémon. In second-generation games, breeding a shiny Pokémon with a regular Pokémon has a higher chance (1 in 64) of producing a shiny Pokémon. In Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, the Poké Radar can be used to "chain" Pokémon of the same species, improving the odds of a shiny Pokémon with each link (up to 40 links, when the odds are 1 in 200). An item introduced in Black 2 and White 2 called the Shiny Charm increases the probability to 1 in 2,730. However, this item is only accessible long after completing the game, as the player must have seen all Pokémon in order to obtain it.
Shiny Pokémon are not necessarily better than regular Pokémon, although in Gold, Silver, and Crystal, they have better-than-average individual values. In the third generation, however, "shininess" is determined by another value, and shiny Pokémon are not stronger than any other Pokémon in battle. Most fans consider shiny Pokémon to be collectors' items since they are so rare.
The term "shiny" was initially a term invented by the Pokémon fan community due to the flash of stars appearing as the Pokémon enters a battle, implying a sheen or crystalline property to the colors of the Pokémon. Since first-generation games do not recognize shiny Pokémon, there is no distinction unless the Pokémon is traded to a later version. The term "shiny Pokémon" was not officially acknowledged in English games until two lines of NPC dialogue in White and Pokémon Black, but it has been used in the anime and in a few strategy guides before this. It also was a widely-used slang term in Japan, existing as the word hikaru ; Ken Sugimori uses hikaru in the title of a piece of artwork featuring a shiny Charizard. The alternate term "Alt. Color" appears among the options the player can choose when filling out forms in the third generation of games.
Shiny Pokémon have also appeared in the anime, including (but not limited to) the aforementioned red Gyarados and a Noctowl that protagonist Ash Ketchum captures and is then featured throughout several seasons. A pink-colored Butterfree was also featured in an episode of the first season of the anime, but this alternate coloration is not what appears in the subsequent games where the shiny feature has been implemented.
Trading is an important aspect to the Pokémon games, being the crux upon which much of the franchise is based. This is because the slogan, and consequently the goal, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All,” is logistically impossible without trading. Each game released in a generation has certain Pokémon that are exclusive to that version. For example, in Pokémon Red players can catch the Pokémon Ekans and its evolved form, Arbok, while both are absent in the wild in both Pokémon Blue and Pokémon Yellow. Other Pokémon are only available when offered up as a choice. The most obvious example is the choice between three starter Pokémon at the beginning of the game. The only way to get the other two is by trading. Another aspect of trading, in-game trades with NPCs, allows players to acquire Pokémon otherwise unavailable. For example, the only way to get a Jynx in Pokémon Red and Blue (other than trading with another cartridge) is through an in-game trade. The other way that trading is made instrumental in gameplay is that many Pokémon, like Haunter and Machoke, cannot evolve into their final forms without being traded. Gold and Silver built upon this idea with the advent of holding items; some Pokémon only evolve when given certain items to be held and then trading them. Pokémon that previously did not evolve could now become more powerful, like Onix and Scyther, which starting from the second generation games evolves into Steelix and Scizor (respectively) by holding the item "Metal Coat" and being traded. Black and White introduced a new mechanic where two Pokémon (Karrablast and Shelmet) can only evolve (into Escavalier and Accelgor respectively) when one is traded for the other.
Before the concept of breeding was introduced, players would sometimes have to settle for merely trading Pokémon back and forth between cartridges. This was because certain Pokémon a player owned (e.g. the starters) were often the only one they had. The game's Pokédex does not monitor whether a player still owned a specific Pokémon, only whether they had ever owned it.
Trading between games on the Game Boy and related systems is accomplished through a Game Link cable that attaches to ports found on all Game Boy incarnations. The size of the ports varies between consoles, so several hybrid cables have been created that allow, for example, linking between the original Game Boy and the Game Boy Color. LeafGreen and Pokémon FireRed include a special wireless dongle which plugs into the game link port for local wireless communication. On the Nintendo DS, DS Wireless Communications is used instead. Pearl and Diamond also introduced the Global Trade Station (or GTS), a place where people all around the world may trade Pokémon using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. In the GTS hall, the player can input their own location and pinpoint the locations of other players they have interacted with. The Nintendo WFC records this data when they trade successfully with someone over the GTS or in their Pal Pad.
Mystery Gift, a means by which players can receive items from other people, was introduced in Silver and Pokémon Gold and has appeared in every handheld Pokémon game since. To use Mystery Gift, the feature must first be activated in a specific way.
In Gold, Silver, and Crystal, if two players line up the infrared ports on their Game Boy Color units and activate Mystery Gift from the intro menu, each will receive an item. This process also sends a record of each player's party Pokémon to the other player's game for a daily event in Viridan City in which they can battle the other player's Pokémon (controlled by the computer). Players can use Mystery Gift an unlimited number of times, but only once per day with each person. In addition, a player of Pokémon Stadium 2 with a Gold, Silver, or Crystal cartridge plugged into the Transfer Pak can use Mystery Gift with a girl in White City. A Mystery Gift can also be received by connecting with a Pocket Pikachu 2 GS.
In Sapphire and Ruby, Mystery Gift is replaced with Mystery Event. This feature utilizes the now defunct e-reader accessory. Using special e-cards the player could obtain special items such as rare berries or the Eon Ticket. In FireRed, LeafGreen, and Emerald, Mystery Gift is a means to obtain special items at Nintendo's promotional events (through the use of the Wireless Adapter), which allow the player to catch otherwise unobtainable Pokémon, such as Mew and Deoxys.
Pearl and Pokémon Diamond expanded Mystery Gift to include a variety of transferring options. After enabling Mystery Gift, players may obtain items via wireless or Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and may also transfer them to friends. Wireless connection also allows the player to transfer items from Pokémon Battle Revolution. Currently, Mystery Gift via Nintendo WFC has only been implemented in Pokémon Platinum and SoulSilver and Pokémon HeartGold. However, this was changed when the shiny Pichu was distributed to all version games via WFC. Also, with the creation of the Pokéwalker, in SoulSilver and Pokémon HeartGold, came another way to Mystery Gift. By pressing the connect button on two Pokéwalkers and pointing them at each other, both Pokéwalkers will receive an item, which the player will receive upon connecting with his or her game.
Pokémon breeding was introduced in Silver and Pokémon Gold. Pokémon can be bred in-game at a Daycare Center. These are businesses generally run by an elderly person or couple (NPCs), which raise Pokémon Trainers' Pokémon for a fee. If two compatible Pokémon are left there, they will eventually produce a Pokémon egg, which the trainer can pick up for free. After being carried by the trainer for some distance, the egg will hatch into a young Pokémon, usually of the lowest stage in its mother's evolutionary line.
Some Pokémon have pre-evolutions that are hatched from an egg. These eggs are normally obtained by breeding Pokémon caught in the wild, but sometimes are given as gifts to the player character by NPCs. Known as "Baby Pokémon", these Pokémon are unable to breed but have evolutions that can breed baby Pokémon. For new Baby Pokémon introduced after Gold and Silver, the parent can only produce these Pokémon when holding a certain item.
Compatibility is usually restricted to one male and one female. In addition, Pokémon species are assigned to Egg Groups, which determines their breeding compatibility with other species. Pokémon may belong to up to two Egg Groups; in order to breed, they must share at least one Egg Group. How fast two compatible Pokémon breed depends on how well they get along (a hidden calculation based on various factors). If a Pokémon species is all-male or entirely genderless, the only way to breed it and get an egg with that Pokémon is with Ditto, a shapeshifting Pokémon, which can also breed with any other Pokémon capable of breeding. The egg produced will yield a hatchling from the non-Ditto Pokémon's evolutionary line.
A select group of species cannot breed at all, which includes most legendary Pokémon and all Baby Pokémon (Though sometimes breeding is possible by using a Ditto). This is called the "Undefined" egg group. Although some legendary Pokémon (such as Heatran and Cresselia) have genders, they still refuse to breed. An unusual circumstance involves the relation of Manaphy and Phione: Manaphy can breed with Ditto to create an egg hatching into Phione, yet Phione does not evolve into Manaphy. Manaphy itself is obtained from an egg from Pokémon Ranger games but will never breed to produce a Manaphy egg in Pearl, Pokémon Diamond, and Platinum.
Pokémon hatched from eggs can inherit stats from their parents. The Pokémon inherits the quality ("Individual Value" or "IV") of a random number of stats (maximum of 3) from each parent, with the hatched Pokémon's other stats being random.
Moves can also be inherited through breeding. Moves that a newly hatched Pokémon begins with are divided into three categories: Learned Moves, Inherited Moves, and Hereditary Moves or "Egg Moves". Learned Moves are moves that the Pokémon would have naturally at its starting level; Inherited Moves are those that the Pokémon would be able to learn at later levels or through TMs; and Hereditary Moves, inherited from the father, are those that the Pokémon would not be able to learn normally. The Pokémon can learn the move on this occasion as it receives the move from a parent of a different species. Upon birth, the young Pokémon's move slots are filled with Learned Moves. However, if there are any Inherited or Hereditary Moves available for the Pokémon to learn, they replace the Learned Moves.
In addition to the Pokémon Gyms and other battles to advance the plot, side games and post-game areas have been introduced in subsequent editions of the Pokémon games that extend the gameplay.
First introduced in Pokémon Crystal, the Battle Tower is a game feature accessible outside of the main storyline where the player faces several trainers in succession with a limited set of their Pokémon and receive prizes in the form of otherwise rare items. The Japanese version of Crystal which had a mobile phone adapter allowed for players to challenge other players to Battle Tower fights. The next Battle Towers appear in Sapphire and Ruby, which is similar to the Crystal Battle Tower, and in Pearl and Diamond, which has a boss character and a point system similar to the Battle Frontiers.
The Battle Frontier was introduced in Pokémon Emerald, replacing the Battle Tower as found in the Ruby and Sapphire games. In addition to having its own Battle Tower with the same rules as the previous ones, the Battle Frontier adds several other game mechanics that make battles unique in the end game. Examples include the Battle Palace's prohibition on choosing what moves the Pokémon uses and the Battle Factory's random rental Pokémon. Instead of prizes, the player is awarded Battle Points (BP) which can be traded for rare items or TMs. The Diamond and Pearl Battle Tower uses this same system, and it is replaced by a Battle Frontier in the Pokémon Platinum game. The SoulSilver and HeartGold games also have a Battle Frontier, identical to that of the Platinum version, where the Battle Tower was found in Crystal. After a series of battles in each venue, players encounter Frontier Brains who are challenged in the same fashion as all other battles, and the player will either earn a Symbol or a Commemorative Print for winning. The Frontier Brains can be challenged a second time to more advanced versions of the Symbols or Prints (advancing from Silver to Gold). The Frontier Brains have very powerful Pokémon, often including Legendary Pokémon, making a victory even more difficult than in the main storyline.
Emerald also features Battle Tents , which allow the player to encounter some of the unique battle mechanics of three of the Battle Frontier venues. Rather than Battle Points, the player is awarded with an item that is rare or expensive.
The Battle Subway is unique to the White and Black games and serves as the games' Battle Tower, taking on the form of a subway to match the games' New York City-styled setting. In the same vein as the Battle Tower in Diamond and Pearl and the various Battle Frontiers, players earn BP and after a certain number of battles they challenge one or both of the two Subway Bosses (Subway Masters in Japan), depending on what type of battles (Single, Double, or Multi) the player was competing in.
The Battle Subway returns in White 2 and Black 2, but it is joined by two new sets of areas. The first one introduced in the games is the Pokémon World Tournament , wherein the player participates in a tournament-style setting with various NPC trainers, set to a particular theme of a level limit, using randomly assigned teams, or using teams downloaded from the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, to earn BP. The more advanced side of the Pokémon World Tournament is a tournament-style setting in battling the Gym Leaders and Pokémon League Champions from all over the Pokémon World, enabling players to challenge characters such as Brock and Misty from Red and Blue, Volkner from Diamond and Pearl, Lance from Gold and Silver, or Steven from Ruby and Sapphire. Also introduced in the games are the Black Tower in Black 2s Black City and the White Treehollow in White 2s White Forest. In these facilities, the player must battle a series of trainers without using items, and only relying on Doctor or Nurse trainers to restore their team's health. At the end, the player challenges the leader and later is awarded a rare Pokémon for succeeding.
In addition to battling, several Pokémon Competitions have been introduced throughout the series to provide an alternate set of mini-games.
Pokémon Contests are competitions of skill among Pokémon Trainers and their Pokémon partners. Pokémon Contests are different from Pokémon battles, testing talent rather than power. They were introduced in Sapphire and Pokémon Ruby and later appeared in Emerald, Pearl, Diamond, and Platinum.
There are five categories that a Pokémon can be entered into: Beauty, Cute, Cool, Tough, and Smart. In addition, there are four ranks of contests: Normal, Super, Hyper, and Master Rank. To enter, a trainer must go to the contest hall that holds contests of the appropriate rank, and in ranks higher than Normal, the participating Pokémon must have won the contest of the selected category in the previous rank. In Diamond and Pearl, Contests are renamed Super Contests, and the four ranks are named Normal, Great, Ultra, and Master.
In the first round (called Visual Competition in Diamond and Pearl) the Pokémon is shown to the audience, who then vote on their favorite. Pokémon will gain more points here if they have good condition in the selected category, which can be increased by using Pokéblocks. In Diamond and Pearl, Pokéblocks are replaced by Poffins, and the player can also use the stylus to dress up their Pokémon in certain Accessories to fit the theme of the contest.
The second round, called Dance Competition, was introduced in Diamond and Pearl. The participating Pokémon join in a dance routine. The leading Pokémon gets rated based on following the rhythm, and the rest of the Pokémon have to mimic the leader's steps. All four participants take turns to be the leader.
The final round (Acting Competition) comprises a few rounds, and the Pokémon are ordered in sequence based on their performance in the previous round. Each round, the player chooses one Pokémon move to perform before the judge, and in Diamond and Pearl players also choose which of three judges to appeal to. Each move has a category, appeal value, and effect. Using a good combination will gain the Pokémon more appeal points, but using the same attack twice will generally lose the Pokémon points. Moves can have many effects, such as "jamming" previous Pokémon to reduce their appeal, or randomizing the order of appeals in the next round. After appeals are concluded, the results are shown, and the Pokémon with the most total points wins a ribbon.
Pokéblocks (Polock ), introduced in Ruby and Sapphire, are candy-like treats used to increase the contest condition and Loyalty of Pokémon. Pokéblocks are created from berries in the "Berry Blender" minigame, which can be played by two to four human or computer-controlled players. The types of berries blended by all participants affect the category and effectiveness of the resulting Pokéblock. Pokéblocks are also used in the games' Safari Zone to attract wild Pokémon.
Poffins , a type of baked goods, were introduced in Pearl and Pokémon Diamond as replacements for Pokéblocks. Poffins are made by adding a berry to some batter in a pot, and stirring it with a stylus using the Nintendo DS's touch screen. Poffins can be mixed only with human partners and can be done solo or with two to four players wirelessly.
In SoulSilver and Pokémon HeartGold, the contest minigame is replaced with an athletic competition called the Pokéathlon . The competitions range from track and field events such as hurdling or a relay race to a snowball fight and a game resembling pachinko.
A Pokémon's stats may be increased by consuming "Aprijuice" ("Bon Drink" ) made from fruits known as Apricorns that the player can find throughout the world. By putting a number of Apricorns in a blender and making the player character run a certain number of steps, the Apricorns are mixed into a milkshake-like blend. The process can be repeated multiple times, each time adding more Apricorns to the mixture and running to blend them. The number of times this is done, along with the variety of Apricorns used, affects the type and effectiveness of the resulting Aprijuice. Aprijuice will increase one of five additional statistics that only exist for the Pokéathlon which consist of Speed (unique from the standard Speed statistic), Power, Skill, Jump, and Stamina.
In White and Pokémon Black, the contest minigame is replaced by the Pokémon Musicals . Rather than grooming Pokémon with Pokéblocks, Poffins, or Aprijuice, the player's Pokémon is only dressed in Accessories which can be waved around on stage when the Pokémon dances to various pieces of music; the player does not control the Pokémon during this time, other than Appealing with special props. If the audience likes the performance, they give more props to the player in person post-performance.
Another minigame is added in Black 2 and White 2 called Pokéstar Studios (Pokéwood in the Japanese release). The player joins the cast of a movie and participates in a mock battle with a chroma key opponent, all while picking line options that match the script of the film and completing an objective within a particular set of turns. Depending on how well the player performs according to the script (or if the player introduced a twist to the intended ending), he or she receives items from the film premiere's audience and unlocks more movies to participate in.