No one could have predicted how popular the Pokémon anime became. The influence of this series on mainstream culture cannot be understated. It’s safe to say that Pokémon helped anime become more widely accepted, as it was much more of a niche interest before the late ’90s.
Pokémon is just as huge in its homeland as it is in other countries. Japan has the benefit of receiving almost all of the Pokémon media ever produced. Not every Pokémon video game or comic leaves Japan, however.
This could be due to the fact that some of it has inappropriate content, extreme cultural differences, or is just plain bad and Nintendo doesn’t want to embarrass themselves further by unleashing the humiliating product on the world.
We are here today to look at all of the pieces of Pokémon media that never left Japan. From the true original games in the series to Pikachu’s gritty police drama, here are the 15 Pokémon Games And Comics You Can Only Get In Japan.
15. Pokémon Green
The first Pokémon games to make it overseas were Pokémon Red & Blue. When the games were remade for the Game Boy Advance, they were called Pokémon FireRed & LeafGreen. The reason for this is that the first Pokémon games to be released in Japan were called Red & Green.
One of the most notorious aspects of the original Pokémon games was how buggy they were. Pokémon Red & Green were even worse in this regard than the games we received in North America. This led to Game Freak releasing an updated version of the games, called Pokémon Blue. The games we got were built on Blue‘s engine, and our versions of Pokémon Red & Blue had numerous new glitches that were introduced as part of the localization process.
The original versions of Pokémon Red & Green are mostly the same as Red & Blue, with one key difference: the Cerulean Cave (where you find Mewtwo) has a totally different layout than the other versions of the game.
14. Pokémon Stadium
The first Pokémon games were released on the Game Boy, which was already an old system in the late ’90s. Fans quickly began petitioning Game Freak for a Pokémon game on the Nintendo 64, which had the most impressive graphics of its console generation. Game Freak’s answer to this was to create the Pokémon Stadium series, which focused solely on Pokémon battling, rather than exploring a region and defeating Gym Leaders.
We did receive a game called Pokémon Stadium, but it was actually Japan’s version of Pokémon Stadium 2. The original game in the series was thrown together quickly and only had 42 different Pokémon available to use in battle. This can be seen by the fact that 3D models exist for the other 109 Pokémon in the game, but they can’t actually be used in battle.
Pokémon Stadium 2 was superior to the original in every way, and it was released only a year after the original. Nintendo made the wise decision to hold off and skip the first Pokémon Stadium game entirely.
13. How I Became A Pokémon Card
The most well-known Pokémon manga is called Pokémon Adventures. This is popular because it is a long-running series that has maintained a single storyline since the days of Red & Blue. There have been many other Pokémon manga series over the years. One of the most notable is called How I Became a Pokémon Card, which was linked to the real life Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Each issue of How I Became a Pokémon Card came with a free card, and the plot of the comic would be a backstory for the artwork on the card.
One of the most well-known issues of How I Became a Pokémon Card is “Akari and Pikachu’s Birthday.” This is because it features a transgender character named Akari, who identifies as a male. The story involves Akari rejecting a Pikachu that is given to him on his birthday because he feels that it is a cute Pokémon that is meant for girls. It takes Pikachu beating up some other Pokémon in battle for Akari to realize that he was wrong about judging the Pokémon in such a way.
12. Pokémon Card GB2: Here Comes Team GR!
The Pokémon video games led to the creation of a popular trading card game, where players could battle against each other. The Pokémon Trading Card Game would receive a popular video game adaptation on the Game Boy, which used a similar setting to the Pokémon games, as you needed to travel around an island and defeat foes that were similar to Gym Leaders.
Pokémon Trading Card Game had a sequel that was only released in Japan. This game was called Pokémon Card GB2: Here Comes Team GR! and it introduced Team Rocket to the setting. It also introduced the “Dark” versions of monsters (before the Dark-type was officially added to the series), which were evil variants of the regular Pokémon cardswith new abilities and weaknesses.
The reason this game wasn’t released outside of Japan was likely due to the fact that it came out at the end of the Game Boy’s lifespan. However, an English patch was created by fans, so you can still play this game on an emulator.
11. Aim To Be A Card Master
The Pokémon games are set in a fantasy world that emulates certain places in our world. There was actually an obscure Pokémon manga that was set in the real world called Aim to Be a Card Master!!
Aim to Be a Card Master!! is basically a version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, if they played the Pokémon Trading Card Game instead of Duel Monsters. The series stars a boy named Kenta Minamii, who uses a mixture of Fire/Grass, Electric/Water, and Fire/Psychic deck in order to become the best Pokémon Trading Card Game player of all time.
The manga only lasted for a single volume, so it likely wasn’t successful in Japan. They should have have included a volume where Kenta was possessed by an ancient Egyptian Pharoah who specializes in Dark-type magician cards. “I need to pull Professor Oak’s letter in order to search for two energy cards… I have to believe in the heart of the Pokémon cards”. It would have sold millions.
10. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon (WiiWare)
The Mystery Dungeon series was developed by one of the creators of the Dragon Quest series, as he wanted to make a game that was similar to Rogue. These games involved randomly created dungeons that were filled with monsters and treasure. There have been several licensed Mystery Dungeon games which have included Pokémon.
The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games usually involve players playing as a Pokémon and leading a team on missions. Three of these games were digital-only titles that were exclusive to the Nintendo Wii.
These were Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Keep Going! Blazing Adventure Squad, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Let’s Go! Stormy Adventure Squad, and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Go For It! Light Adventure Squad. These games weren’t as detailed as the later Mystery Dungeon games and had less content. It is unknown why they weren’t translated into English, as the Nintendo Wii had a massive user base.
9. The Sega Pico Games
Yes, there were Pokémon games on a Sega console.
The Sega Pico was a bizarre console that was intended for very young children. As such, almost all of the games on the system were educational titles. The Sega Pico had massive cartridges which had books attached to them. You had to flip the pages and complete tasks that were displayed on your television screen.
Nintendo was most likely fine with Pokémon games appearing on this system, due to its educational value. Pokémon: Catch the Numbers! was a maths title, while Pokémon Advanced Generation: I’ve Begun Hiragana and Katakana! taught beginner lessons in Hiragana and Katakana.
The final Sega Pico game was Pokémon Advanced Generation: Pico for Everyone Pokémon Loud Battle! which contained numerous basic minigames that involved the characters from the Pokémon anime.
8. Pokémon Card Game: How To Play DS
The Pokémon Trading Card Game for the Game Boy was an awesome game that made a lot of people interested in playing the real life card game. For some reason, Game Freak backed off the idea of making more Trading Card Game games after that. We didn’t even get the sequel to the original Pokémon Trading Card Game, even though the series was still at the height of its popularity.
There was a game that was released on the Nintendo DS that was intended to teach people how to play the Pokémon Trading Card Game. This game was called Pokémon Card Game: How to Play DS and it came packaged with the Beginning Set, which contained several decks of the real life card game. You could also play against CPU controlled opponents in the game.
7. The First Ever Pokémon Cellphone Game – Pokémate
Pokémon Go has helped to reestablish Pokémon as a mainstream franchise across the world. The series achieved new heights of popularity in 2016 when the game took the mobile phone world by storm. It seemed as if everyone’s childhood dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer had come true, which made us overlook Pokémon Go‘s many faults and technical issues.
However, there were other Pokémon mobile phone games that were released in the past, but they mainly stayed in Japan. The first major Pokémon cell phone game was called Pokémate. This game allowed you to catch Pokémon and send messages to people on your friend’s list.
You were limited to three Pokémon at a time unless you were willing to pay a monthly subscription fee. The purpose of the game was to raise the Pokémon in a virtual setting, like Tamagotchi, even though they couldn’t gain levels or battle.
6. Picross NP
The Pokémon franchise first became popular at the end of the Super Nintendo’s lifespan, which means that all of the first console Pokémon games appeared on the Nintendo 64.
There was actually one Pokémon game on the Super Nintendo, though it was Japan-only and is almost impossible to find or play, outside of emulation.
In Japan, there was a service called Nintendo Power (which had no relation to the magazine of the same name). These were kiosks that allowed you to download games onto blank cartridges, which you could reuse at a later date.
This was actually the only way to purchase Super Punch-Out!! in Japan. One of the Nintendo Power games was called Picross NP. This was a Picross game that was sold in episodes. The first episode featured Picross puzzles based on Pokémon characters. When you cleared out all of the spaces in each level, the solutions would look like the heads of certain Pokémon, such as Meowth and Snorlax.
5. Pokémon Pocket Monsters
The Pokémon franchise was based on the video games and the anime. Pokémon Red & Green helped to create the franchise in Japan, while the anime helped to popularize it in the west. This led to numerous other adaptations, which include music CDs, board games, the trading card game, novels, a musical, and pretty much every other media form you can imagine.
There is actually a Pokémon adaptation in Japan that predates the anime. It’s a manga called Pokémon Pocket Monsters that has been running since 1996. Pokémon Pocket Monsters is a humorous comic that follows the events of the games. However, in it, the main character’s signature Pokémon is a Clefairy, rather than a Pikachu. It runs in CoroCoro magazine, which often receives a lot of Pokémon exclusives.
4. PokéPark Fishing Rally DS
This might have been the most difficult game to acquire on this list. It is one of the few examples of a Nintendo game that will delete itself after a certain amount of time has passed.
The Nintendo DS (and 3DS) have a feature called Download Play. There are some games that allow multiplayer with only one person needing to own a copy of the game. The other player could download a client from the first player, which would allow them to access the multiplayer. There were located at special kiosks in Japan that allowed players to download small games using the DS Download Play option.
PokéPark: Fishing Rally DS could only be acquired from special download stations and it would only remain active for twelve hours. The DS would delete the game if you shut down the system or after the twelve hours had passed. This was a basic fishing game that allowed you to catch various Pokémon. You could then submit your score to the DS Download Play kiosk.
3. Pokémon Tretta
One of Nintendo’s biggest money-makers are the amiibo figures. These have totally cornered the toys-to-life market and it seems that every major new Nintendo game comes with a selection of new figures for you to buy. The amiibo figures aren’t Nintendo’s first attempt at this concept, however, as they can be seen with the Pokémon Tretta games.
Pokémon Tretta was a series of arcade games that used real life plastic coins in order to play. Each of these coins depicted a Pokémon and their stats, which could be inserted into the game, as the coins had a microchip with all of this information. Pokémon Tretta was an attempt to create a simpler Pokémon game that anyone could play, which also happened to involve buying cheap toys in order to run.
2. Pokémon PC Master
Nintendo and Game Freak seem to be a lot more open to allowing Pokémon titles on other systems if they exist for an educational purpose. We likely won’t be seeing any mainline Pokémon games on anything other than Nintendo consoles, though.
One example of an educational Pokémon game was Pokémon PC Master, which was a game that was made for Microsoft Windows. This Japan-only game was designed to teach children about the basics of how to use a personal computer. These were very basic lessons, which contained instructions on how to use a mouse and a keyboard, as well as how to use Internet browsers.
This program is likely redundant in the modern age, considering how integral computers and the internet have become in our daily lives, and it would be a lot harder to find someone who doesn’t know how to use a computer at this point. Most kids wouldn’t need Pikachu’s help in order to learn how to use the internet at this point.
1. Great Detective Pikachu
One of the biggest Pokémon games to never see a release outside of Japan is Great Detective Pikachu. This is mainly due to how utterly bizarre the game looks.
In Great Detective Pikachu, you play as a kid named Tim Goodman who teams up with a Pikachu that possesses the ability to communicate with humans. This Pikachu has become a detective and uses his deduction abilities to solve crimes. The gameplay in Great Detective Pikachu is similar to that of the Phoenix Wright series, as you investigate crime scenes and question witnesses.
The fact that we haven’t heard anything about an English release of Great Detective Pikachu is puzzling, especially as a movie adaptation of the game is being made by Legendary Entertainment, with Rob Letterman directing the film. They might want to hold off releasing the game until the movie comes out, however, which might take several years, at which point the 3DS may no longer be a popular console.
Great Detective Pikachu is one of the most unusual and intriguing Pokémon games to have been released in years. Let’s hope that it manages to escape the fate of all of the other games on this list.
Can you think of any other Pokémon games or manga series that were only released in Japan? Let us know in the comments!
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