How 151 fictional species took over the world

When the Gameboy titles “Pocket Monsters: Red” and “Pocket Monsters: Green” were first released in Japan in 1996, few could have predicted what came next.

The concept was simple enough: Players would traverse a fictional world capturing, training and battling the creatures that inhabited it — a mission encapsulated in the game’s famous slogan, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.” But within just a few years, Pokémon, a blend of words of the Japanese name “Poketto Monsuta,” was a global phenomenon.

By 1999, the game had launched in multiple Western markets, later becoming one of the most successful international franchises of all time. It spawned an anime series, which was translated into over 30 languages from around the globe, and trading cards that swept the world’s playgrounds during the “Pokémania” of the late 1990s.

It also imprinted the identities of 151 entirely fictional characters into the memories of millions.

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