I’m in my 30s, so I don’t get excited about turning a year older anymore. Except this year, I have a reason to get giddy: A new Pokémon game is coming out near my birthday, and I have been squealing with childlike joy at each new snippet of info about it.
I got hooked more than 20 years ago, when my younger brother got “Pokémon Blue” as a present. I watched him play, enthralled by the variety of creatures and the addictive rock-paper-scissors strategy of the game. Eventually, I got my own copy to play with. I traded beasties with my brother, beat the game, caught them all and restarted so I could do it all over again.
Since then, I’ve saved and scraped for the money to buy each of the successive generations of games and the Game Boy iterations required to play them. The original 151 monsters has mushroomed to more than 800, and the stories have taken place in analogues of Japan, New York, France and Hawaii. “Pokémon Sword” and “Pokémon Shield,” coming out Nov. 15, will be the most expensive yet: A Nintendo Switch runs about $300, and the game will be sold for $60.
This new release will be set in a region named Galar, which looks like the United Kingdom if it were infested with electric corgis and rabbit-shaped soccer (sorry, football) hooligans. Last week, a Nintendo Direct video revealed new characters and monsters, including my new favorite, a squishy sheep named Wooloo (insert Age of Empires reference here).
My innocent delight in this fluffball was short lived. Before you could say “Rule 34,” the internet’s porn mongers showed up in force to do what humans have historically done: violate sheep. It would be tempting to make some joke here about the Welsh countryside if this sort of fan art hadn’t been so prevalent with all the other regions.
For the love of all that is good and wholesome, please, I beg you, do not Google “Pikachu NSFW.”
The creepiness continued Tuesday, when folks all over Twitter and Reddit responded with, ahem, extreme enthusiasm for a newly revealed character, Nessa. She is a gorgeous, dark-skinned gym leader who’s best friends with a giant snapping turtle (basically Gamera), so I understand the heart eyes. But you just know someone, somewhere is already printing her likeness onto body pillows.
That wasn’t the worst thing to come out of this week’s news, however. Ever since “Pokémon Ruby” and “Sapphire,” players have been able to trade their old monsters to future versions. It appears the new game won’t be backward compatible, severing a chain of critters that goes back 16 years. If they’re breaking tradition, it forces me to wonder whether I should, too.
As much as I want to conquer pseudo-Britain with a herd of Wooloo, I’m not sure if I want to play in a world without my vintage ones and zeroes.