Pokemon chronology - Do the Pokémon games follow real time dates?
by, 10th May 2013 at 06:57 PM (2153 Views)
That's a bit of a curious question. What would dates in the real world have to do with the Pokémon games, and most importantly: if that were the case, then it must mean that the Pokémon world has some sort of relation to our world, bringing a second question into the soup (but first to need answering): is the Pokémon World an alternate version of our world?
I, for one, think it is, and fortunately, it's not a crackpot theory, but I actually have some in-game evidence to support my position.
First off, here and there we have mentions of real world places, specially in the early generations. I'm not counting the Pokédex mentions since we all can agree that most of the time, Pokédex content is bogus. However, in the original games we have two gems: first, when visiting the Pewter Museum, there's an old man speaking about the man landing on the moon; second, in Silph Co., there's an employee who claims the company has a branch in Russia. These lines imply that the Pokémon world is indeed our world (or, more precisely, a fantasy counterpart of our world). The fact that both lines were kept in the remakes despite many other retcons being done, means that they're still part of the games' canon.
Now, what about dates? Well, the fact that the Silph employee mentions Russia, not the Soviet Union, implies a modern setting. But the most important evidence comes from the man at the museum. Not only he speaks of the man landing on the moon, but also mentions the actual date that event happened in the real world (July 20, 1969 for that effect) and even goes to recount that he was so excited about it that he went to buy a color TV; the man's dialogue, analysed, brings us the following information:
1) He had enough money to buy himself a color TV, from which we can interfere that in 1969 he already had a stable source of money (i.e. a decent job), meaning we would at least be in his 20's of 30's; by 1996 when the game was released he would indeed be an old man on his 50's.
2) The moon landing was considered a big event in the Pokémon world, not unlike our real world.
3) Back in Poké-1969, color TV's were still a big thing, just like in the real world, where they didn't enjoy massive use until the late 60's, fitting again with the context from the man's dialogue.
All of this, put together, clearly confirms that Pokémon Red, Green, Blue and Yellow are set in the mid-to-late 1990's of a fantasy counterpart to our world, even if we don't get the specific date.
Now on the Pokémon world chronology. What do we know? What do we not know?
We know, for a start, that Gold, Silver and Crystal happen 3 years after RGBY, as well as their remakes. We also know that Diamond, Pearl and Platinum happen at around the same time, if only slightly later, than GSC, given that the Red Gyarados that appeared at Lake of Rage in GSC is referenced and treated as a recent event (the original DP only said "a Red Gyarados appeared at a lake", but Pt let you meet the camera man who filmed it and he confirmed that it was indeed the same Lake of Rage incident), that is without mention of Jasmine (from GSC) appearing in DPPt and her expanded subplot in the Johto remakes, which gives us further information on Jasmine's travel to Sinnoh confirming that DPPt happen between GSC/HGSS first and second halves (that is, between the Johto protagonist defeating the Elite Four and their travel to Kanto).
Also, we know that there is a 2 year gap separating Black and White to their sequels, Black 2 and White 2. And that's all we know for sure. It is hinted, but not confirmed, that the third set of games, Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald take place at around the same time as the Kanto story, but that's all. Nothing else.
What we don't know is, for starters, the true confirmation that RSE are concurrent with the first generation games and, especially (and probably which has brought the most debates among the fandom when it comes to the Pokémon timeline), the exact amount of time between the second/fourth generations, and the fifth. We know that it's a long one, but not exactly how long.
On the Hoenn topic, originally I thought those games were set after GSC. There was no mention or even reference to any of the previous games characters or events, however, I came to that conclusion because of the Pokédex: in RGBY Oak says it's his latest invention, and even in GSC it is Oak, not Elm, the one who gives you a Pokédex, something that made me gues that by the time of the Johto story, Pokédexes were still developed exclusively by Oak; then in RSE, the Pokédex is handled to the player by Birch, with no mention of Oak's involvement, hinting that many years have passed since the Johto games and that by by that time, Pokédexes are mass-produced and thus they're more common among scientists; gameplay-wise, breeding (which was just discovered in the Johto games, and was still unknown in the Kanto games) was common in the third generation meaning that indeed it was set after GSC; finally, the player is said to be native from Johto but recently moved to Hoenn, which to me was a metaphor about leaving Johto behind, that region being "a thing from the past".
But then the Kanto games were remade as FireRed and LeafGreen and included many retcons to accomodate to the (then) current gameplay mechanics, namely breeding and the Steel type were not discovered in the GSC era, but rather were already commonplace in the Kanto days; plus, the player was able to trade Pokémon with the Hoenn games without any mention of a time paradox (something that actually was part of the Game Boy games when trading between generations, which was adressed by a deivce called the Time Capsule) and finally, there was a NPC that tells the player that they (I don't remember the NPC's gender) have their significant other in Hoenn; no such counterpart was present in the original Ruby/Sapphire, but was added to Emerald, RS's updated version. The retcons to the updated Kanto story, the ability to trade between FRLG and RSE without the mention of the Time Capsule (it still required a special upgrade for the transregional trade, which means that the developers just didn't ignore the matter of the trades making sense in-story) and the transregional couple were interpreted by the fanbase as hints that the Kanto and Hoenn stories were concurrent; plus, the protagonist being from Johto was removed in Emerald, meaning (at least according to my metaphor from the previous paragraph) that Johto was not a thing of the past anymore; indeed, since the Hoenn games happened at the same time that FRLG, then the Johto games were actually the future.
So, the pieces fit together; it's fair enough to recongnize that, while not outright stated, most probably the Hoenn and Kanto games are concurrrent. But that's not news.
The true nature of this post is to clarify the distance between the second/fourth generations to the fifth one.
Unlike many other chronology issues, here, there is only one hint, so it's harder to establish the true ammount of time that's passed. This hint is the infamous Rocket grunt. Let us recapitulate on him:
In GSC, as well as its remakes, in the second half of the game, after Team Rocket has disbanded in Johto, the player encounters a solitary Rocket Grunt in Kanto who (due to the distance, we assume) has not gotten the memo that TR is no more and is still causing trouble near Cerulean City; he's also somewhat peculiar in that he has a bad grammar, but at first we don't know why. Once the player finally defeats him for good in the Nugget Bridge, he says that he comes from another country (hence the bad grammar) and that now he plans to revive Team Rocket in his home country. We never see him again in the game.
Fast-forward to Pokémon Black and White. If we reach Icirrus City during the winter, we have access to a house where a family lives. There's a husband living with his wife, and there's also one kid, whose character model is that of a schoolboy, a trainer class depicted as 8-10 year boys. If we speak to the father, he confesses, with bad grammar, that he used to be a member of Team Rocket who intended to revive the criminal team in Unova, but there he fell in love and the rest was history. Note that Unova is said to be in a different country than the other regions visited so far in the series. Sounds familiar? Of course it does! He's the foreigner Rocket grunt from the Nugget Bridge.
And that's the only hint we get to the passage of time between previous games and BW. The answer lies in the kid's age.
As I mentioned earlier, he is a schoolboy, who are depicted as elementary kids ranging from 8 to 10 years old, however, some people lower their age down to 6, so that only worsens the matter, Or not? If we set a middle point between the range (6-10), the reuslt would be 8, so I say giving the kid the age of 8 is reasonable, even if some people claim that BW might be as close to HGSS/DPPt as only 5 years. But that seems too young to me; furthermore, being younger than 6 would make the kid a preschooler, who are a separate class with their own character model. So 8 be it.
Adding to the kid's age, we also have to count the 9 months that lasted the mother's pregnancy and that's not to mention the time that passed during courtship and engagement. I mean, the woman didn't get pregnant the first day his husband arrived in Unova. His dialogue in BW states that they first met when he came back from Kanto, so being already married before he went to Kanto/Johto to join Team Rocket is out of the question, therefore, the time they spent as sweethearts has to be added to the count. So, for those who say that there's only 5 years between Generations IV and V, it is impossible to travel to another country, meet somebody, court them, engage, get married and have a child in elementary school in only 5 years. Even a preschooler might be a bit of a strech. So I assume that, all in all, around 10-12 years passed between generations. That gives the couple enough time to properly meet each other, fall in love, marry and have a kid in elementary school.
Now, you might recall that at the start of this work I enthusiastly insisted that the Pokémon world recognizes real world dates, but then I abandoned that topic. Until now that it becomes relevant to my timeline theory:
If you pay attention, you'd find that in-universe, all the explicitly stated time gaps between games, correspond to the gaps between the corresponding games' releases (I mean, by first release date): Red and Green were first released in February 1996, while Gold and Silver were released in November 1999, three and a half years between them; in the Johto games, it is acknowleged that 3 years have passed since Red disbanded Team Rocket (which occurs late in the story, thus justifying the extra months). Then we have Black and White, released in 2010 and Black2 and White 2, released 2 years later in 2012, and again, in-game it's stated that the two stories are separated by 2 years.
Clearly there's a pattern of in-story events coinciding with real world time. If we recall that early on I proved that the Pokémon world not only acknowledges real world dates of previous events (the moon landing), but also corresponds to real life date (the man in Pewter Museum being the age he should be at the time of RB's release). Now if we put all these together, it could be assumed that the Pokémon main series follows real time to the point that they take place at the date they are released. Therefore, Gen I happens in Poké-1996, Gen II falls in Poké-1999 and so on.
However, this might be a bit of a problem, since Gen III debuted a whole 6 years after Gen I, yet they're supposed in-game to happen at around the same time, right? And the same goes for Gen IV in relation to Gen II, so, what happens here? Are the in-game references wrong and those games aren't contemporary to Gens I and II? That would make no sense! So... Are Gens III and IV exceptions to the "happens at the real life date of release" rule? Are Gens I and II the exception? If yes, should we pull back Generations III and IV to the earlier Generations timeframes, or should we pull forward the original Generations to the time period of the recent Generations? Well, doing the latter would mean moving the early games forward to Poké-2002 and 2006, which doesn't correspond to the traditional and well established 3 year gap, so instead let's move Gens III and IV to Poké-1996 and 1999 respectively. That's why, when I introduced this theory, I said that each time period corresponds to the "first release date"; therefore, I ignore third versions and remakes (which would make the timeline a mess that had to be retconned yearly, another reason why I used first relase rather than latest release as the basis for my theory) and stick strictly to the Generations/games earliest debuts.
This only acts in favor of my theory about the amount of time between Gens II/IV and V. If we stick to real world dates of each game and apply my rules from the previous paragraph, we'd have that Gens II and IV happen in the Pokémon world's version of 1999, whereas Black and White would fall in Poké-2010, which is... 11 years apart, just like the in-game evidence (the schoolboy son) suggests. Now, with the only unclarified time gap explained this way, both of my theories ("the Pokéworld follows real world dates" and "the gap between games is around 10 years, Rocket's son is 8 years old") hold pretty tight, don't they?
Of course, with this in mind, I predict that, if any reference is given in XY to previous titles, it most probably would suggest (if not outright state) that Gen VI's main games will take place around 1 year after B2W2, 3 years after BW and so on.
In conclusion, here is my proposed Pokémon timeline:
Early 1996* - Red starts his journey.**
Mid 1996** - Brendan/May starts his journey.
Late 1996 - Red conquers the Pokémon League at Indigo Plateau. He then proceeds to visit the Sevii Islands.
Early 1997 - Brendan/May defeats the Pokémon League at Evergrande City. During his travel through the Sevii Islands, Red retrieves the Ruby and Sapphire which allows him to trade Pokémon with Brendan/May.
Late 1999 - Ethan/Lyra starts their Pokémon Journey.
Early 2000 - Ethan/Lyra encounters the Red Gyarados at the Lake of Rage. Lucas/Dawn and Barry start their journey through the Sinnoh region. Jasmine visits Sinnoh.
Mid 2000 - Ethan/Lyra defeats the Pokémon Leage and prepares to head to Kanto. At Sunnyshore City, Lucas/Dawn meets Jasmine, who is participating in Sinnoh's Super Contests. Lucas/Dawn defeat Cynthia at the Sinnoh Pokémon League. Afterwards, Cynthia travels to Johto to investigate the Ruins of Alph, where she meets Ethan/Lyra. Jasmine returns to Johto as well.
Late 2000 - During their travel in Kanto, Ethan/Lyra encounter a solitary Rocket Grunt who, after being beaten, announces he'll reform Team Rocket in his homeland. Later on, Ethan/Lyra defeat the 8 Kanto leaders and travel to Mt. Silver, where they encounter Red.
Early 2001 - The Rocket grunt is back in Unova, in his home country. Upon arrival, he meets a woman and falls in love with her.
Late 2001 - The Rocket grunt and his sweetheart get married. She becomes pregnant.
Mid 2002 - The grunt's wife gives birth to a boy.
Mid 2010 - Hilbert/Hilda, Bianca and Cheren start their Pokémon journey through the Unova region.
Late 2010 - It is winter. Hilbert/Hilda arrives in Icirrus City where they meet the Rocket grunt's family; he has now a wife and an 8-year old son.
Early 2011 - Hilbert/Hilda defeats N and Ghetsis, apparently disbanding Team Plasma. Then, after defeating Alder at the Pokémon League, leaves Unova in search of N.
Mid 2012 - Nate/Rosa starts their Pokémon journey.
Early 2013 - Nate/Rosa defeats Ghetsis and Colress. Team Plasma is (as of now) done for good.
Late 2013 - Pokémon XY starts.
* Early: January-April. Mid: May-September. Late: October-December.
** I set that Red started his journey before Brendan/May's due to respect of him being the first Pokémon protagonist, but also because in FRLG you have to beat the Elite Four before being able to trade with RSE, whereas in the Hoenn games you can trade to Kanto without story requirements, so it would make better sense if I let Red start ahead, so that he could effectively trade with Brendan/May during RSE's main story.
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