What better way to wrap up my Pokeweek than with a little trip down memory lane to remember all the Pokemon toys I had when I was a kid? While the games were what introduced us to the concept of Pokemon, it was the phenomenon that exploded shortly afterward with the toys, cards, clothes, and cartoon that grabbed the rest of the world’s attention. I won’t talk about the cards (maybe another day) but I’d like to just riff a bit about the Pokemon toys I had. Ready? Go!
I was in roughly 4th grade when Pokemon hit. Back then, it wasn’t quite the thing it is today. As with most surprise phenomena, the merchandise was quick to come but not to the quality levels we’d expect. It was a surprise hit, so toy companies began chugging out whatever they could with the Pokemon logo on it and called it a day.
The toys I had the most were the miniature figures for the various Pokemon. These were literally chunks of plastic shaped like the Pokemon characters standing no bigger than your thumb. They had zero points of articulation, zero attachments and zero projectiles. They were just the Pokemon they were supposed to be. My first two sets were the Pikachu/Raichu set and the Rattata/Raticate set. Each set came with two Pokemon, usually the first and second stages of the Pokemon, which meant that for a little under $10 you could have two similar-looking chunks of plastic. Some sets included all three stages of a Pokemon, like the Charmander or the Squirtle set, but usually it was the standard two.
I don’t know what it was about these, but I got addicted to collecting them. I stopped about the time Gold and Silver versions were released, so my collection only included the first 151 Pokemon, but I had a pretty impressive number. I won’t go so far as to say I had over 100, but I think I was close. Even though they were just chunks of painted plastic, I battled them constantly. I loved those stupid things, partly because I was the perfect age for the marketing to work on me.
Besides just the mini figures, I had a Plush Pikachu doll that I snuggled with constantly. Yeah, I said I snuggled with Pikachu, what of it? It was the perfect plush doll. Super soft, just the right size, and it looked exactly like the character. It was one of those things they got right on the first try, but of course a search of “Plush Pikachu” yields dozens of results other than my exact Pikachu. Now there are quite a few other plush Pokemon ranging from the 9” sizes to beanie-baby sized to big ol’ stuffed animals.
I keep an eye on the toys whenever I stroll down the toy aisle in department stores and I’m happy to see that the newer figures have made two big improvements. First, they’re quite a bit larger, making them more compatible with other toys and of course look more impressive by themselves. Secondly, they have moving parts and in some cases projectiles. I was never into the Pokedex electronics that let you place the figures on them for battle and info purposes, but those are still prevalent. Basically, you have a lot of good options to feed your Pokemon addiction in the toy aisles, so I’m happy, even if the prices are a little steep.
I’ll probably never get back into Pokemon toys, but the time I spent with them as a kid is enough for any one lifetime. I moved on to bigger and better things, but while it lasted, I was a Pokemon Master and it felt great.