The Changing Face Of The Pokedex
“Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” as the famous tagline goes! For the past 25 years one little device has been aiding trainers in their quests to become Pokemon masters, both in the games, the anime and even in real life with the Pokedex toys that arrived during the wave of Pokemania that took the world by storm in the late 90’s. In this article I will be exploring the various Pokedex toys that have been used and enjoyed by Pokemon fans over the years and how these devices have changed and adapted alongside the franchise.
The first Pokedex toy was developed in 1998 and released in 1999 by Tiger Electronics and Hasbro. This Pokedex was a compendium of the first 150 Pokemon found in the Kanto Region (not including Pokemon #151, Mew), featuring information similar to that included in the Pokedex used by the protagonist in the Pokemon Gameboy games and by Ash/Satoshi in the Pokemon anime. This information included each individual Pokemon’s height, weight, type (i.e rock, electric etc), strength (a statistic exclusive to this particular Pokedex device which was of no correlation to the statistics used in the games, as this stat only ranges from one to ten), attack (a list of four attacks that can be learnt by the Pokemon), an attack animation (a two-frame animation in which the black and white sprite of the Pokemon displayed on the Pokedex uses one of its attacks) and a bio entry taken from the Red and Blue games.
As well as being an index of the Generation I Pokemon, the first Pokedex also included a clock system and calculator. It also had Pages, Sort and Favourite functions, which consisted of a basic search feature, as well password protection that could be set by the user and the ability to log which Pokemon the user had captured.
The original Pokedex was heavily marketed and widely available from a variety of retailers upon its release. It was ranked #9 on the BATR (British Association of Toy Retailers) Top Ten list for Christmas 2000.
THINKChip Ash’s Talking Pokedex:
The THINKChip Pokedex device was released by Hasbro in 2000. This peripheral was designed to connect with the THINKChip action figures that Hasbro also released under the umbrella title of the THINKChip Interactive System, as well as to display the collectable cards that were included with the figures. The chips in these figures enabled sound effects and other features. Hasbro released the compatible action figures between 2000 to 2001, the list of Pokemon featured as THINKChip figures consisted of:
Prototype figures of Entei, Venasaur, Heracross and Sneasel were also created and were initially planned to be officially released in October 2001, however these plans were later scrapped. As well as the figures and Talking Pokedex, two battle stadium sets and an Ash Ketchum figure were also released under the THINKChip line.
Tiger Electronics returned to the Pokedex in 2001 with the release of Deluxe Pokedex. This device was a redesign of the original Pokedex inspired by the Pokedex used in the Johto region in the Gold, Silver and Crystal Gameboy Colour Games and featured unique gold colouring, being the only Pokedex toy until the release of 2011’s Electronic/Unova Pokedex to deviate from the original red colour scheme.
The Deluxe Pokedex was essentially an improved version of the original Pokedex released 3 years earlier and had many similar functions, however this new model included the 100 new Generation II Pokemon from the Johto region as well as more advanced features including the ability to set reminders for events, a to-do list and a communicator function that allowed the user to record phone numbers, email addresses and web addresses.
The third re-design of the Pokedex was released by Hasbro in 2003, with a drastically different look to the previous Pokedexes as the Pokedex Advanced was made to replicate the device used in the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald Gameboy Advance games and by Ash/Satoshi in the Pokemon: Advanced anime series (the Pokedex wasn’t the only change for Ash in the anime however, as the Advanced series saw him receive his first new outfit, leave behind his older Pokemon in favour of catching new ones in the Hoenn region, and was also the first series of the anime that saw Ash travelling without his previous companion Misty).
The Pokedex Advanced was much more camera-like in appearance and had a noticeably more minimalist interface than the two Pokedexes that came before it. The functions within the device were very similar to previous devices, however although the sprites of the Pokemon displayed throughout the Pokedex Advanced were still shown on a relatively small black and white LCD screen, the sprites were noticeably more detailed than those on the original and Johto Pokedexes.
The Cyber Pokedex, released in 2004, was the first and only Pokedex produced by Bandai. This Pokedex was very similar in appearance to the Pokedex Advance that had come out the year before as it was still replicating the appearance of the Hoenn Pokedex. The features on the Cyber Pokedex were at first glance seemingly even more minimal than the Pokedex Advance, but it actually had some very innovative functions that aligned with features used in other areas of the Pokemon franchise. One of these functions was known as Camera Mode, which allowed the user to “catch” Pokemon by exploring different environmental location graphics displayed on the Cyber Pokedex’s screen and snapping photos of the Pokemon situated in the location, in a fashion not too dissimilar from some elements (albeit heavily simplified) from 1999’s Pokemon Snap and 2016’s Pokemon Go.
The Cyber Pokedex was also the first Pokedex toy that allowed users to connect with others using the Cyber Pokedex’s compatibility with the Cyber Pokeball device. Users could battle and trade their Pokemon using both devices, which marks one of the first instances of Pokemon’s battle and trading gaming mechanics being implemented on devices that weren’t traditional games consoles. A number of different Cyber Pokeballs were released, such as the Ultraball, the Superball (which came in a variety of colours) and a more traditionally designed Pokeball.
Talking Pokedex Game:
In 2005 Hasbro released the Talking Pokedex Game. As can be seen on the packaging, this device was released during the celebration of Pokemon’s 10th Anniversary. Although it’s design shared some similarities with the Hoenn Pokedex (particularly the minimalistic interface and lack of keypad, although it did include a Gameboy-esque D pad), the Talking Pokedex was inspired by the revamped Kanto Pokedex used by the player in the Generation I remakes, Fire Red and Leaf Green.
Like the Pokedex toys prior, the Talking Pokedex’s graphics were displayed on a small LCD screen and didn’t differ greatly from the graphic style or quality of the previous model. When initiating the device, users were given the option to choose whether the device should be voiced by Ash or May (who would replace Misty as Ash’s female travelling companion in the Pokemon: Advanced series), which was similar to the gender specification option introduced to the main series Pokemon games in 2000’s Pokemon Crystal. Upon selection, the user would be greeted with a graphic of either Ash or May, depending on their choice, then would be able to browse the various functions within the Pokedex. Perhaps due to some influence from the playable and interactive aspects of the Cyber Pokedex, the Talking Pokedex was much more gameplay-orientated than the information/PDA-based Pokedexes that had been released during the first few years following the toy’s conception. The Talking Pokedex included a Scan Mode, which operated in a relatively similar fashion to the Camera Mode used in the Cyber Pokedex, though as well as finding Pokemon, the user would also receive points for successfully locating them. Rather confusingly, the option within the device titled “Game Mode” was actually where the index containing graphics and information on the various species of Pokemon could be found. This index included similar information to other Pokedex toys, such as each Pokemon’s weight, height and typing, with a notable difference being that the Talking Pokedex would tell these facts to the user out loud (using the selected character voice) rather than just having the information available on screen, in a style similar to the Pokedex used by Ash in the anime, which would relay information to him when a new Pokemon to capture or battle was encountered.
Also, rather than having all the information on each Pokemon readily available as it was in previous models, graphics and information on each Pokemon could only be accessed when the Pokemon had been caught in Scan Mode. This again shows another similarity the Talking Pokedex had to the main series games at this point, as in the games a graphic of each Pokemon’s sprite would only be included on the player’s Pokedex once the Pokemon had been encountered (either in the wild or during a trainer battle) and the corresponding information on the Pokemon would only be added after the player had successfully captured it. The Talking Pokedex also had some quiz-like elements to its gameplay functions in the Pokemon Games section, including question rounds such as “Who’s That Pokemon?” (which was potentially inspired by the “Who’s That Pokemon?” segment that appeared before and after commercial breaks during the anime, in which viewers tried to guess the identity of a Pokemon based on it’s silhouette), “What Evolution Level?” (where users would guess the numbered level at which a specific Pokemon would evolve) and “Who Has The Advantage?” (which tested the user’s knowledge of Pokemon type advantages when in battle).
Deluxe Talking Pokedex:
The Deluxe Talking Pokedex marked Jakks Pacific taking over the production and sale of all Pokedex toys from 2007 to 2014. This device was essentially an improved version of Hasbro’s 2005 model, with the designs being almost identical at first glance.
The Deluxe Talking Pokedex’s improved features included a better and more expansive quality of sound, with a variety of different effects and jingles being played during use, along with a light-up feature that activated when the user switched on the device and would react to the user going through the index of different Pokemon. This incarnation of the Pokedex retconned the unlockable information mechanic of the Talking Pokedex and instead followed the Pokedex toys that were released prior to 2005 and made all Pokemon graphics and information readily available from the get go. The Deluxe Talking Pokedex did retain the narration feature brought about by its predecessor however and included spoken narration featuring general information for each individual Pokemon, however rather than use human characters from the anime as narrators, a robotic voice similar to that of the Pokedex used by Ash in the anime filled this role. The Scan Mode from the previous Talking Pokedex was replaced by a Search Mode although the functions were very similar, as were those found in Game Mode which was retained from the older model.
Sinnoh Pokedex/Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Talking Pokedex:
Jakks Pacific released their second Pokedex toy later in 2007, the Sinnoh Pokedex (also known as the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Talking Pokedex). This was the first Pokedex toy modelled on the device used in the Generation IV Pokemon games (which had now moved from the Gameboy Advance to the Nintendo DS). This change of generation and console in the main series Pokemon games was reflected in the Sinnoh Pokedex’s design which included 2 LCD screens, a first for the Pokedex toys and aesthetically reflective of the Nintendo DS’s dual screen functionality.
This Pokedex seemed to be a blend of both the compendium-type features of the first few Pokedex toys whilst still promoting the interactive gameplay elements of more recent devices. The indexing mechanics were back to being at the forefront of the Pokedex’s features, Pokemon could be searched for and information about them could be discovered by using search specifications similar to those featured in the older Pokedexes, such as searching by height, weight and type amongst others.
However the developers were keen to make sure the interactivity that had made the Generation III Pokedexes stand out was still implemented into the device and so as well as the information and search functions, the Sinnoh Pokedex also included 6 mini games and a brand new feature known as “Maze Mode”. Some of the games from previous Pokedexes remained, such as “Who’s That Pokemon?” and “Who Would Win?” (which was essentially a re-titled version of “Who Has The Advantage?” from 2005’s Talking Pokedex), however it also included some new mini games such as Pokemon Memory and Pokeball Shuffle, card games which were rather reminiscent of some of the mini games that could be played in the various Game Corner locations found in the main series Pokemon games. There were some technical glitches with the “Who Would Win?” mini game however, as when comparing Pokemon the device did not take into account dual typing (for example, if a Pokemon was a Normal/Flying type, it may only consider them to be a Normal type) which made some of the outcomes of this mini game incorrect. “Maze Mode” would see the user attempting to escape the Sea Temple maze, which was taken from the ninth Pokemon movie, Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of The Sea, released in 2006. Maze Mode also included an appearance from Jessie and James from Team Rocket, which marks the first inclusion of the characters from Team Rocket in a Pokedex Toy.
A follow up to the previous Sinnoh Pokedex was released by Jakks Pacific in 2009, under the name National Pokedex (though it is also known to some as the Sinnoh National Pokedex). This new device retained the dual screens first featured in the 2007 model and added another feature that also channeled the Nintendo DS by incorporating touch screen capabilities into its design.
As well as the dual screens, the National Pokedex was also decorated with graphics of various Pokemon including Giratina, who was the mascot for the third title from Generation IV, Pokemon Platinum, which was released in 2008. Many of the other features included in the National Pokedex didn’t deviate too far away from those included in the Sinnoh Pokedex, with the traditional index of information on the various species of Pokemon alongside a selection of mini games. Graphical sprites of each Pokemon could also be viewed under the Gallery function.
The Electronic Pokedex (also known as the Unova Pokedex) was released by Jakks Pacific in 2011. This Pokedex was inspired by the Pokedex used in the Generation V games, Pokemon Black and White, which was further illustrated in its design with the game mascots Reshiram and Zekrom featured.
Unusually for a Pokedex toy inspired by a new Pokemon region, the Electronic/Unova Pokedex only contained information on 45 of the newly introduced Pokemon from Generation V, despite there being 156 new Pokemon in total that were included in the Black and White games. Rather than having a Nintendo DS-like appearance similar to the two previous Pokedex models, the user would slide open the Electronic/Unova Pokedex in order to access its functions. Again as well as the index/information mechanics, the device also included similar minigames to those featured in other Pokedex toys, such as Who’s That Pokemon? and Who Has The Battle Advantage?, although this time round these features were listed as “Challenges” rather than simply mini games. The challenges did have some unlockable features however, as if the player could score at least 3 out of 5 in each challenge (the challenges lasted for 5 rounds each), they would unlock a different pose for Pokemon sprites that could be viewed within the Gallery feature, which had also been retained from the National Pokedex.
The Electronic/Unova Pokedex was the first Pokedex toy model since 2001’s Deluxe Pokedex to not adhere to the usual majority-red colour scheme that the other devices followed, as although the outer casing did obviously have a red Pokeball emblazoned on it, the rest of the colour scheme matched the monochromatic colour palette that was featured in much of Pokemon Black and White’s merchandise and marketing. This deviation from Pokemon’s usual bright and cheery look (not just with this particular Pokedex model but with this period in the franchise’s history in general) was the source of much debate between Pokemon fans, as some greatly missed the aesthetic of the older designs.
Pokemon X & Y Pokemon Trainer’s Kalos Region Pokedex/Zukan XY:
The Generation VI Pokedex, the Pokemon X & Y Pokemon Trainer’s Kalos Region Pokedex (also known as the Pokemon Zukan XY, Pokemon Zukan being the Japanese term for the Pokedex), was released in 2014 and was the first Pokedex toy created by Tomy. Despite being heavily involved in producing and releasing Pokemon merchandise (particularly action figures) since the late 1990’s, up until this point Tomy had not worked on any projects involving the Pokedex. The Kalos Region Pokedex was based on the device used in the Pokemon X and Y games (which were the first Pokemon games to be released on the Nintendo 3DS) and the X and Y anime.
The Kalos Region Pokedex kept the black and red colour scheme that was established with the Unova Pokedex, however it did return to some of the aesthetics of the older Pokedexes by making the red parts of its design much more prominent. Whereas other models of Pokedex toy had varied in style from the original PDA/Calculator-type devices up to the more recent games console-esque devices, the Kalos Region Pokedex reflected the trends in mid 2010’s technology in its tablet-like appearance. The device could be operated using both the buttons on the inside of the device or via the touch screen. The Kalos Region Pokedex is notable for being the first Pokedex toy with full-colour graphics, and indeed the appearance and detail given to the Pokemon and characters featured within the Pokedex was drastically improved. This Pokedex was also the first Pokedex toy to feature a map of its specific region and in the Adventure Mode, this map of the Kalos region was split into 3 different parts (as the Pokedex in the X and Y games also was): the central Kalos region, the mountain Kalos region and the coastal Kalos region. The user could select different environments within these regions and then explore them using a trainer sprite similar to those of the protagonist in the various main series games, finding different Pokemon along the way. The user would have to answer questions on each Pokemon encountered in order to obtain them and add them to their Pokedex, in a sort of blend of the Scan Mode and quiz-like features that were included in previous models of the toy. More areas of the game could be unlocked as the user progressed and further information on each Pokemon could be viewed within the Pokedex upon capturing them.
With the improvements in graphical capability and the overall premise of the device made to be more of an interactive journey, The Kalos Region Pokedex was much more of a condensed version of the content of the main series Pokemon games than any of the previous Pokemon toy devices had been. This device was also the first to feature information mega evolution, a game mechanic introduced in Pokemon X and Y which temporarily changed the appearance of Pokemon with the ability to mega evolve and gave them upgraded statistics and battle capabilities. The Maze mode feature from the Sinnoh Pokedex was also brought back alongside the new features incorporating mega evolution, in a mini game where users would explore a maze searching for mega stones, which were used to mega evolve specific Pokemon. This feature could also be used alongside another Tomy-manufactured device that was compatible with the Kalos Region Pokedex, the Pokemon Mega Ring.
Using the Mega Ring device alongside the Kalos Region Pokedex allowed users to gather mega stones more quickly and complete the Mega Evolution Dex, a mode which was unlockable whilst playing the Adventure Mode (another dex, the Evolution Dex, which was based around information relating to basic Pokemon evolution lines was also unlockable in this mode). Users could also interact with other Kalos Region Pokedex users via the Pokemon Centre mode, by exchanging Trainer Cards and quiz letters for various Pokemon in order to help other users complete their Pokedex. There were also extra quiz functions within the device where Professor Oak would ask the user various questions relating to different types of Pokemon, successfully answering these questions would eventually lead to the user earning quiz badges, which could be viewed alongside other user-specific information through the Trainer Card feature, which was similar in appearance and function to the Trainer Cards given to the protagonists in the main series games (again reinforcing the Kalos Region’s Pokedex similarities to the games). The appearance of the trainer sprite used when operating the features of the Pokedex could also be changed at the user’s discretion, mirroring another feature of the X and Y games as these were the first games in the Pokemon franchise to allow players to customize the appearance of their trainer character. The user could also customize the appearance of the Pokedex screen itself, with a variety of different wallpapers.
The Kalos Region Pokedex also featured yet another first in terms of Pokedex toy functionality with the inclusion of a working camera, photos from which could be decorated with a variety of Pokemon-themed frames (more of which would become unlockable throughout the device’s various games) and saved to either the Pokedex’s internal storage or to an SD card.
Pokemon Zukan Z / New Hoenn Pokedex:
In 2015, a second Generation VI Pokedex toy called the Pokemon Zukan Z (also known as the New Hoenn Pokedex) was released by Takara-Tomy. Tomy had actually merged with fellow Japanese toy manufacturers Takara back in 2006, though the name “Takara-Tomy” (as opposed to the usual “Tomy” brand) had been primarily reserved for Japanese products, which befit the Pokemon Zukan Z as it was the first Pokedex toy to not have its text or content translated into any other languages outside of Japanese.
The Pokemon Zukan Z was released following the success of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire on the Nintendo 3DS, remakes of the original Ruby and Sapphire that had been released in the November of the previous year. The device was drastically different in appearance to any other Pokedex toy so far, with its shape resembling that of the original Gameboy Advance, which fans speculated may have been in homage to the platform on which Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were originally released. However, although the appearance of the Pokemon Zukan Z was based around the Pokedex used by the protagonist whilst exploring the Hoenn Region in Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, much of the device’s internal content (particularly in Adventure Mode) was still based in the Kalos Region from Pokemon X and Y.
The Pokemon Zukan Z contained the usual index of Pokemon in numerical order and their various details and statistics, and although non-Japanese-literate users may not have been able to understand the exact content of the index system, they were still able to navigate functions within the device and view images of various Pokemon through the use of universal icons (such as an image of a magnifying glass indicating where to find the search function) and categories such as different Pokemon types (i.e grass, fire etc) being colour coordinated.
In terms of gameplay features the Pokemon Zukan Z retained the Adventure Mode from the Kalos Region Pokedex with the interface based around the map of the region where the user could select which area they wanted to explore being almost identical to that of the previous model. However, the quiz functions in adventure mode had been changed from being used to capture Pokemon to instead being used as the basis for battles with non-playable character trainers. The user would encounter these trainers during the Adventure Mode and would have to correctly answer at least half of the questions given before being allowed to progress. The content of the questions was similar to that found in the quiz functions of previous Pokedex toys, with the user being asked to name, identify and answer trivia on various Pokemon. Much like in the Kalos Region Pokedex, progressing through the Adventure Mode also gave the user the opportunity to collect badges and their achievements would be saved in the device’s internal storage. The Pokemon Zukan Z also had a separate Pokedex index for legendary Pokemon, where their images and data could be viewed and the Evolution/Mega Evolution Pokedexes first introduced in the previous Pokedex were also accessible.
Characters from the Pokemon X and Y anime were also featured within the device, as Ash/Satoshi would appear and introduce the user to new Pokemon species and forms (i.e Ash Greninja) that would appear in the 6th Generation. The Pokemon Zukan Z was also compatible with the Pokemon Mega Bangle (also known as the Mega Bracelet) a device similar to the Pokemon Mega Ring that synced with the Kalos Region Pokedex. The user could wirelessly connect the Pokemon Zukan Z to the Mega Bangle, then attach a Mega Stone accessory to find different Mega-Evolved Pokemon.
Pokemon Ash’s Rotom Dex:
In 2016, Takara-Tomy released their first Pokedex toy model for Generation VII, the Pokemon Ash’s Rotom Dex . The whole design and aesthetic of this new device was completely different from previous Pokedex toys, as the Pokemon Ash’s Rotom Dex was inspired by the device used in the Pokemon Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon games and by Ash in the Pokemon Sun and Moon anime. Within the franchise the Rotom Pokedex was the first Pokedex device established to be sentient instead of just simply being a piece of technology, as according to cannon the Rotom Pokedex was a Pokedex that had been possessed by a Rotom, a species of electric/ghost type Pokemon first introduced in Generation IV.
The Ash’s Rotom Dex contained narrative features which would interact with the user, though as the device was based off a Pokedex inhabited by a Pokemon as opposed to just being a tool to learn about various aspects of Pokemon, the narration had more personality and was a lot more directly interactive on a 1 to 1 base than previous Pokedex voiceovers had been. The gameplay side of Ash’s Rotom Dex’s functionality brought back Maze Mode, however this time the user would navigate through the maze and capture different Pokemon by using the motion sensor built within the device to tilt from left to right and vice versa. The device was also much smaller in size than previous Pokedex toys (particularly the notably bulky Zukan Z) which made carrying the device and using features such as the motion sensitivity/tilt function easily accessible.
Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX:
Takara-Tomy released a follow-up device to Ash’s Rotom Dex the following year in 2017, with the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX (the “DX” standing for deluxe). The Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX featured a touch screen as seen in other previous Pokedex models, with the screen being made larger than that of the 2016 model, presumably as this would work better with the included stylus. This device was the first Pokedex toy to have no buttons or keyboard interface, with all of the device’s operations being controlled solely from the touch screen.
As well as having a larger screen, the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX also had larger speakers to improve the sound quality of the device’s narrative/interactive features. In keeping with the themes from the Pokemon games and anime of the Rotom Dex being inhabited by a Rotom Pokemon, the screen would also serve to show the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX changing expressions.
The device’s main menu consisted of 4 options: Pokedex, Field Work, Pokemon School (inspired by the school attended by Ash and his friends in the Pokemon Sun and Moon anime) and Settings. As with the Zukan Z and Ash’s Rotom Dex, the text and narration within the device was in Japanese, but non-Japanese speaking users could still navigate the majority of its features via illustrated icons. The Pokemon in the Pokedex were listed in the same numerical order in which they were found in the Rotom Dex in the Sun and Moon games and anime, so if a non-Japanese speaking user was familiar with the order in which these Pokemon were listed they would still be able to find the Pokemon they were looking for without being fluent in the on-screen text.
In a feature almost identical to that used in the Zukan Z device, Pokemon typings were again colour coordinated (notably in similar colours used for various Pokemon types and energy cards in the Pokemon Trading Card game, though whether this was intentional or not is unknown) which would also help users navigate this information. The quiz functions within the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX also featured Alolan forms of Pokemon, these were variations of existing Pokemon introduced in Generation VII with appearance, type and attack differences exclusive to Pokemon of these particular species found in the Alola Region.
The Field Work mode was essentially a revamped version of the Adventure Mode found in previous models, with the user being given the option of exploring various environments such as the jungle, the beach and caves, amongst others. The Field Work mode also encompassed the motion sensor feature first established in the Ash’s Rotom Dex model, intertwining it with a photography objective to capture various Pokemon by taking photos of them, which was the first time that this mechanic had been used in a Pokedex toy since 2004’s Cyber Pokedex (excluding the camera in the Kalos Region Pokedex as that was an actual functional camera and not part of the device’s exploration mode gameplay).
The Pokemon School Mode was a separate collection of mini games, where the user would be greeted by Ash and Pikachu and select from a variety of games that were similar in content to those found on previous Pokedex toys, such as matching an image of a Pokemon to the correct name, upon completion of the tasks within each mini game the user would have the opportunity to catch more Pokemon to add to their collection, totals of which would be totted up and displayed on a chalkboard at the end. The mini games also made use of the new stylus feature by including a game where users could learn to spell out various Pokemon names by tracing the Hiragana or Katakana for each name out on the screen using the stylus.
This spelling game along with a mathematics-based game where the user had to select the missing number to complete a simple sum showed much more emphasis towards the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX being used as an educational tool than just a toy, though this was not the first time games in the Pokemon franchise had educational benefits, as many Pokemon titles throughout the years had included a variety of challenges designed to improve numerical, memory, logic and literacy skills. The original Pokemon Red and Blue (or Red and Green as they originally were released in Japan) games have been praised numerous times in later years by fans who claim that the games text-based nature helped them develop their own reading and vocabulary skills as children.
Some of the mini games included in the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX draw some parallels to other games from the Nintendo DS/3DS era, particularly the cooking mini game which at first glance could be mistaken for Cooking Mama, and some of the educational games are similar to aspects of Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training (albeit heavily simplified), though the DS’s stylus-led gameplay had proven to be incredibly popular so it would not be too surprising if Takara-Tomy wanted to capitalise on this, especially in relation to Pokemon’s main series games(from which the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX itself had been derived) at the time being played on the 3DS.
This relationship with the DS was even more relevant in the fact that the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX could actually connect with the 3DS and Pokemon Sun/Moon. Compatibility with other devices had been a recurring theme in the past few Pokedex models but this was the first time a Pokedex toy had been compatible with a fully-fledged Nintendo console and main series Pokemon game. Using the Pokedex in the Sun or Moon game, the user could send signals from the 3DS to the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX by scanning a QR code found when locating a Pokemon in the Sun/Moon Pokedex. This would then register the Pokemon to the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX and give the user information on the Pokemon in question. Using this feature would help the user to complete the Pokedex index within the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX and upon completion the device would acknowledge this by greeting the user with a congratulatory message from all the main characters from the Pokemon Sun and Moon anime.
This notation of achievement draws some similarities to the completion of the Pokedex in the main series games, in which the player is presented with a diploma by the Game Freak lead developer. Somewhat ironically, the only main series Pokemon games in which this reward cannot be received are Pokemon Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which was perhaps implemented to encourage players to purchase and sync up the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX with their copy of the 7th Generation games in order to receive this equivalent to the diploma upon completing the Pokedex, however this has not been confirmed.
Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone:
In 2020, Takara-Tomy released another Japanese-language Pokedex device called the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone. This device was the first Pokedex toy inspired by the Generation VIII Pokemon games, Pokemon Sword and Shield, which had been released on the Nintendo Switch Console in November 2019. The Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone is notable as being the first Pokedex device so far to be modelled on a smartphone, though not the first device in the main series games to have a telephone function, as this was first implemented in-game in Generation 2’s Pokemon Gold and Silver and taken even further in 2001 with Pokemon Crystal through the game’s compatibility with real-world mobile phones (in Japan only) using the Mobile Gameboy Adapter, however this feature proved to be quite unsuccessful and short-lived as the Mobile System GB service was shut down a year later in 2002.
Like the Rotom dex, in the games and anime the Rotom phone is again possessed by the Pokemon Rotom. Rotom is featured on the design of the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone with its face encompassing the casing of the device and providing narrated information to the user, in a similar style to the two previous Rotom-centric Pokedex models. The device again features touch-screen technology and can be personalised to the user via a choice of different avatars. Characters from the Pokemon Journeys anime communicate with the user through a text function and aspects from the anime that were featured in the previous Rotom Dex toy such as the Pokemon School are also featured in the device.
As well as being motion sensitive, the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone also makes use of GPS technology and is the first Pokedex toy to do so. This navigation function (displayed to the user via a map on the device’s screen) encourages the user to walk around with the Rotom Phone in order to make full use of its functionality, in a similar fashion to the mechanics of Pokemon Go, which was the first step into mobile gaming for the Pokemon Franchise and has been enormously successful since its release in 2016.
The Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone also features apps that are commonplace in real smartphones, such as a camera and email, however these features are only usable within the device’s gameplay and the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone is not able to connect to the internet. As well as these interactive elements the device also includes plenty of information on different species of Pokemon and possibly the most clear and detailed graphics feature in a Pokedex toy to date. Information on the new Dynamax and Gigantamax features introduced in the Pokemon Sword and Shield (where a pokemon can change its size and form through the distortion of space) can also be unlocked by the use of a secret code. The communicative aspects of the device are also used when learning new information about Pokemon as characters from the anime will contact the user through the text feature with various facts and new discoveries about the Pokemon world.
What’s Next For The Pokedex?
Considering how far advancements in technology have come in general terms since the release of the first Pokedex toy in 1998, the possibilities for how replicas of the Pokedex may look and operate in the future are seemingly endless. With smartphones and tablets being so commonplace in many people’s daily lives now (including children) I personally would expect that any future Pokedex toy models will continue to mirror the features of these devices. Perhaps compatibility with other aspects of the franchise could also play a role, as the encouragement of exploration in Pokemon Go would be a fun and innovative way to complete a Pokedex and parts of this type of gameplay have been featured in more recent Pokedex toys. The Pokemon Trading Card game has also received a dramatic increase of attention over the past few years and is now playable online/on mobile devices, so maybe a device that allows users to scan their TGC collections to help complete their Pokedex could be on the cards (pun slightly intended)?
Regardless of how these toys shape up in the future however, the various Pokedexes released throughout different periods of Pokemon’s history have provided many fans with the opportunity to experience a key part of being a Pokemon Trainer and to enjoy all the learning, exploration and most importantly in my opinion, the imagination that comes with it. I personally think this not only encapsulates the Pokedex itself but is a huge part of what makes Pokemon the beloved franchise that it is today and I sincerely hope that Pokemon fans continue to try and “Catch ‘Em All!” for many more years to come.
Written by Emily Carney, 2021
Pokemon Pokedex: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pok%C3%A9dex
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