I have early memories of playing my parents’ NES. We had Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Dr. Mario. We may have had more games, but my memory is a little fuzzy there. Those were the first video games I ever played. But they weren’t mine, they belonged to Mom and Dad.
It wouldn’t be until Christmas a few years later that I would get my very own video game system, along with the first game that would ever be mine: a teal GameBoy Color with Pokémon Pinball. Like every other kid my age, I was sucked into Pokémon once the anime hit the States. I’m sure my parents hated it (I’ve recently gone back and watched an episode or two for nostalgia – they don’t hold up), but they let me indulge in my fandom all the same.
I must have seen ads for the game on TV. Between my love for Pokémon and fascination with pinball (a local restaurant had a machine my dad would play), I was sold. Who knows how many times I asked for it? Enough to convince Dad to tell me I’d be getting it for Christmas, apparently. This prompted my mom to ask him whether he knew what he has just promised me.
Dad’s limited knowledge of video games at the time meant he didn’t realize I would need a new gaming system as well as the game itself. Mom would explain all of this to him. I never thought about it until this moment, but this comes as a surprise to me as they owned an NES, which also worked in tandem with cartridges. That’s really neither here nor there, because the damage was done: I knew I was getting Pokémon Pinball.
And Christmas morning, there it was. My GameBoy and what would be the game I’ve probably logged the most hours on. Pokémon Pinball is like any other pinball game, but with that classic Pokémon twist: catch every Pokémon (“Gotta Catch ’em All” is even on the title screen). There are mechanics on the table to encounter new monsters in order to catch them, travel to new towns to discover the different types, and train your Pokémon so that they may evolve. All the while, the in-game Pokédex fills up with information about the creatures as you collect them.
I still play this game. It’s hard to say whether it’s mostly nostalgia. The physics were weird, and the elements on the table could have been more fleshed out (it’s a fairly simple game of pinball). But I can tell you it’s not a bad pinball simulator, it’s pure fun, and it has something most others don’t: a goal (unrelated to high score) that continues on after you lose the last ball. If you care about filling out the Pokédex 100% of the way, you’ll play both tables, hit every town you can, and catch/evolve those “Pocket Monsters.” All the while, you never forget that – this time – you’re going to beat that high score.