Welcome To Celadon City!
Pokèmon has been a great part of my childhood and shaped a lot of my interests such as worldbuilding, nature preservation, trekking/exploring, folklore legends and animals! I've been a huge fan since the late 90s, mainly playing the franchise's videogames or toys, purchasing trading cards or dedicated magazines, and just spending afternoons drawing monsters or fantastic sceneries. I've never been too interested in the anime series, but knew a fair amount of its lore since everyone at school kept talking about it! When the first movie came out it really felt like these monsters were conquering everything and everyone, both in real life and the virtual space that was just starting to form out during those years.
As years went on and my interests developed further and wider, I grew a little distant from the Pokèmon franchise; the fourth generation had been announced but I wasn't thrilled by the new designs. The purchase of Pokèmon Pearl a couple years after its debut left me a little disappointed and since then, I stopped getting new games. Nevertheless, I was still very grateful for the many memories the first and second generations have left me, and I do find Pokemon merch and media pertaining to the late 90s/early 2000s to be especially endearing. That's why I collect it!

I also collect Game Boy games and accessories! I won't delve further into it as I have a dedicated section for that; anyway, one of my first games for Game Boy Color was indeed Pokèmon Blue! My parents purchased it for me after my cousin Francesco (Chicco, for friends) accidentally left his Game Boy with Pokèmon Red at home after staying for the holidays. Unfortunately, while my cartridge was italian Chicco's Pokèmon Red was french and trading between different language versions wasn't allowed yet during those years. We weren't able to use the Link Cable but still managed to play together, starting new adventures at the same time to see which would get all eight badges first or giving eachother tips on how to evolve certain monsters. After reading tips and tricks on magazines, we would also often mess up with Missingno and Glitch City, or try to see if Mew was really under that mysterious truck. I would always choose Squirtle as starter and try to always make room in the party for a Dragonite, as it has always been my favourite Pokèmon!
How my typical party looked like in Pokèmon Blue.

My cousin had much more games than me; while I had just started playing on consoles with the GBC after my first ever games being on DOS, Chicco already had access to several other GB cartridges and the Nintendo 64, on which we could play Pokèmon Stadium. In french, of course. Did you know that french names for Pokèmon are different from english ones? Due to the usual language barrier, only his Pokèmon Red and Yellow cartridges could be connected to the Stadium, but that didn't matter much: it was a marvel to see these monsters transform from tiny pixel sprites to solid 3D models. I distinctly remember describing the game mechanics to my aunt as "see, on the Game Boy our monsters are just data, but on the TV screen they become real!"
We never managed to transfer any Surfing Pikachu on his Yellow cart, but we did use the Game Boy Tower option a lot to play on the big screen. We took turns and I caught a Tauros in the Safari Zone which had been fleeing from us for days!
Chicco unimaginatively called it Toro.

Magazines and the rare surfs on the Net of the time got us two totally hyped up about second gen! We were looking at the colorful screenshots of upcoming versions Gold and Silver and knew we had to get the new games. Other than a whole new world and interesting undiscovered monsters, there were so many new mechanics to explore! Real-time clock and day and night changing graphics, timed events, special roaming legendaries, egg hatching (one particular magazine presented Egg Moves as "an occasion to create your own Pokèmon hybrids"!), rebattling with past trainers! We both ended up purchasing Pokèmon Gold but this time I upped the ante by also recieving Pokèmon Crystal. As much as I liked Pokèmon Blue, I have to admit both Gold and Crystal ended up becoming the mainline games in which I spent most time. They were just so beautiful and really did feel like the ultimate Pokèmon games. I would purchase Pokèmon World monthly during that time and it became my main source of information for not only upcoming novelties, but also useful guides for the games I was currently playing: shiny hunt locations, trainer guides, moves and evolution lists, tips and tricks... so, so many urban legends to try (so, so many monsters cloned with the Box glitch!). Reading its letters, partecipating in the discourse by sending fanmail and fanart (I even have an issue with my own published drawings!) made me feel an active part of a wholesome community.
Finally, my friends back at school also started playing mainline Pokèmon games after having focused only on third party toys, cards and cartoons for so much. Pokèmon Crystal was the first game in which I started actually trading monsters through the Link Cable! A classmate of mine also had access to the Game Shark and hacked himself a Celebi, something that I could only see among pages of Pokemon World whenever the Japanese version of Crystal got featured.
You can bet my Gold and Crystal teams featured a Dragonite! I also often acquired Tyranitar, they're very friend shaped. :3

Being so fixated on the mainline adventures, I would very rarely stray afar and purchase other games; however as the Game Boy Advance rolled out shops started selling previous games at a discount and I could randomly snatch Pokèmon Puzzle Challenge one breezy afternoon. I've always been a fan of puzzlers and ended up playing this title through and through, becoming a real master at it and often challenging the computer on its most difficult levels! I was also in awe at the beautiful graphics and the music, whose tracks still give me goosebumps after so many years. The Ending theme is my favourite, so dreamy and full of both pride and wonder!
Did I mention the artwork is superb in this game?

Pokèmon Sapphire and just a few years later, Pokèmon Emerald were the last two mainline games I purchased with great expectations about them. Once again, Pokèmon World magazine had been documenting their development and release with both detail and emotion, lacing news with a few exciting rumors. As some of the first announced new monsters were Poochyena, Shroomish and Wynaut, articles could swear on the fact that the new generation would have featured Dark, Fighting and Psychic typed starters instead of the usual Fire, Water and Grass. Also, who can forget the mysterious beta design of a Blaziken/Latias hybrid, carrying a trainer on their back while flying away?
Dragonite was not available to catch in neither Sapphire nor Emerald. :(

I was already starting high school by the time I was done playing with Pokèmon Emerald and many other interests surfaced; punkrock music and culture (which later evolved into emo/scene), website development, many other games, the early internet and its forums, the idea of drawing as a career. While the collectible monsters stayed as a constant source of inspiration and some sort of "childhood memory" to return to from time to time, I knew that the further generations were growing away from me. At first (especially with the fourth gen starters announcement) this detatchment made me feel disappointed, somewhat upset; growing up, I learned to finally understand that sentiment and realize it was a natural response; the subsequent generations of monsters were adapting for the future generations of gamers, and that is perfectly okay. Everyone has got their favourites, and thanks to the past games always being available, everyone can come back to their own favourite Pokèmon region!

Only after starting attending comic and gaming conventions (both on local and on national scale) during the last year of high school I decided to get back into proper physical game collecting, especially for consoles that at the time were already becoming "retro". The AVGN (of all people!) and the 2007 post on his personal website regarding his huge list of collected retro games galvanized many into making their own organized hoard. I chose to focus on the Game Boy and Game Boy Color as, obviously, they had already been a huge part of my childhood; first and foremost, I decided to acquire every other Pokèmon title ever released for the colorful handheld bricks! A choice I'm still very happy of today, considering their tremendous price increase in recent years!
Group pic of the babies! Along with some of my GBCs and two Pokèmon themed Link Cables.

The first thing I wanted to check off my bucket list was finally being able to complete Pokèdexes by trading missing monsters between versions. I acquired the monster catching diploma on Blue, Yellow and Silver, the last two of which I could even print out with the Game Boy Printer!
Then I had plenty of fun with the spin-off I had originally missed out, especially Pinball: it ignited a special love for pinball games and I've spent many many hours working to complete its Dex- and succeding! It's true that the odd physics of the game left me frustrated many times, but looking back it was actually pretty fun- and the reason why I still in fact come back to it.
Trading Card Game and its sequel were another two titles I played and replayed to bits, giving a perfect virtual alternative to the actual card game and decorating everything with breathtaking pixel art, wonderfully recreating actual card art. Just look at these marvels I had fun printing out!
Ebay and other internet markets connecting sellers and buyers from all over the world gave me easy access to japanese imports, from which I ordered two copies of Green, one of which I personally had fun modifying to emulate a western release of that particular version. Green's my favourite colour, so I've always been a tad disappointed this version was exclusive to Japan and never had its signature coloured shell. Pokemon games of the first and second generation are the most fun carts to collect if you're a Game Boy enthusiast: their different coloured shells are just a marvel to look at! There are a few more specially coloured shells for other games, but are relatively rare compared to the usual shades of grey, black and tranparent employed for the majority of titles. I really wish there were more!
Finally, the many communities of retrogaming research and conservation have made great progress in documenting past unreleased games, at one point even unearthing a fully playable version of a Pokèmon puzzle cancelled a mere moments before its release! Pokèmon Picross has been my most recent franchise addition to my collection (its cartridge once again edited by me so it would look more like a proper release) and something I've thoroughly enjoyed playing, leaving me very surprised imagining it forever lost in the cutting room floor.

Ventures and projects with these games aren't over yet! I'm currently acquiring pieces to upgrade the board of mainline games and give them a replaceable battery unit so to grant them even newer life and avoid degradation. I'd also love to find a nice quality printed repro board of a translated Pokèmon Green to place into my custom shell; acquire an N64 and italian Pokèmon Stadium so to play with my transferred party on the big screen (and maybe this time, be able to unlock Surfing Pikachu!) and, if I'm really really lucky, finally realize my dream of tinkering enough with electronics to place an italian translation of Crystal into a japanese board. Did you know that japanese Crystal's game board has a Suicune headpiece engraved in emerald amongst the circuits? It's simply wonderful!

It was October 31st, 2000 when I recieved the one Pokèmon card that would bring me closer to this TCG franchise. Why do I know the date so well? Because it was thanks to a very beloved italian comic magazine! The weekly Topolino issue of that day would come along with a special Jungle Set Pikachu promo card, on which the Wizard Of The Coast logo is printed in gold foil. It's an amazingly beautiful card that can surely lure collectors to gain more of these tiny marvels. Quite infact, I started buying quite some booster packs and starter decks after it.
Undeniably, Pokèmon cards had wonderful illustrations and definitely captured the attention of an art appreciator such as myself (to be honest, even my parents liked the different artwork- so much that my mother learned the game rules with me and we built some decks together!). A lot of other kids at school were also collecting cards, but unfortunately none of them even cared to actually learn how to properly play or build decks! Since other "trainers" were unavailable for battle, most of my matches took place in the virtual world with Pokèmon Play-It!, a CD based PC game published in 1999 by Wizard Of The Coast. Despite the horrifying early CGI humans (yes, they were awful even at the time of release) I have major nostalgia for this game, its early Y2K aesthetics of menus or screens, and the plethora of content it offered such as checklist for a lot of current expansion sets and the ability to virtually test out your own decks. I spent many afternoon clicking on cards and listening to the non-canon, but nonetheless very creative battle cries every monster yelled out!

I stopped setting up matches or building decks after the Neo expansion came out (pretty early, eh?) but I kept buying cards when I could because the pictures were just so pretty. Pokèmon World once again comes into the picture, as every issue also had a good section dedicated to the TCG; it always started either giving out news and previews on upcoming sets or detailing out interesting strategies with rarely used cards, then followed with at least five spread pages of fantastic japanese cards, either exclusives or imports, translated for viewers! It was one of the highlights of the magazine for me and I would stare in awe at those pages hoping to one day own some of the cards displayed!
Even if I didn't have any ultra rare exclusive card (exception goes for my gold-foiled Jungle Pikachu, I guess) there were many of them I grew very attached to. The first one that comes to mind is a Jungle Set Kangaskhan, my first holo card! It was pretty much used in every single deck I'd make and due to this, time hasn't been kind to it... but it's still there in my collection! in some way, I find it even more valuable as all the unglued edges repaired with transparent tape can remind me of every single battle this fierce monster has faced. Memories and stories really make an item more precious.
Another peculiar card was a Jungle Set Persian pulled from a booster pack during a school trip that faced a subsequent rainy day and even birefly fell into a stream! You wouldn't ever tell nowadays this card got a little bit wet; however it inspired me for a drawing with a swimming Persian that became quite a hit during my convention appeareances.

To me, the original layout chosen for the first and second gen cards felt like peak design; clean but still fun, easy to read and with enough space to put all information possible. When E-Reader sets like Aquapolis and Skyridge, interesting letters started to pop out in the mail corner of Pokèmon World lamenting the changing design. Surprisingly, I was... pretty happy with the change! The cards looked even more peculiar and even though I didn't have an E-Reader to access the extra information, it was still so interesting to think a simple barcode could hide a whole minigame behind its lines. The layout felt so organic, round and pleasing: one of my absolute favourites from this era was a beautiful Aquapolis Set Tyranitar I somehow managed to pull from a booster pack: the yellow and black combination, the incredible illustration, its power... just wow!
My love for the E-Reader set design was so strong that when card layout changed once again for third generation monsters, becoming sharp, thin and metallic, I was so put off by it that I stopped buying new cards on the spot! The last TGC related thing I ever bought was a silver tin box featuring the Hoenn starters and several monsters... because it's hard to say no to a nice tin. It came with two holo promos, a Pikachu and a Meowth.

Noawadays the world of TCGs (in general, but obviously also applies to the Pokèmon franchise) is largely based on aftermarket value of the single cards, which is not a collecting aspect I'm interested in. However, it also means conventions are filled up with card sale booths showing off binders chock full with rarities, be them vintage or new. Whenever I see one of those, I can't help but flip its pages- admiring beautiful miniature illustrations will always be fun. Plus, I can amuse myself and see how many Dragonite cards I can spot! XD

The elementary school I attended has a newspaper kiosk just next to its building, so many classes would naturally reunite there while waiting for parents, spending away weekly allowances in anything that had collectible monsters plastered on it. Along with the aforementioned trading cards, the most popular item was Merlin's Sticker Album which I did manage to complete! My most seeked out sticker was obviously Dragonite's, which no matter how many packs I bought, would never come out! I ended up having to mail Merlin's missing stickers service so I could order it directly from them.
Elusive motherfucker.

The kiosk also offered more merch that permanently entered my memories: the awesome Pokèmon World monthly magazine, a godsend of information and a real view on how the rest of the world was living the Pokèmania, as Internet was still in its infancy, unavailable to the vast majority of us and no other media would give out news on what was happening in Japan; the second issue, whose neon green cover immediately caught my attention, had a special reportage on the very first glimpses of Gold and Silver, at that point in time only shown at the Space World 1997 convention! But the mag wasn't only news and previews: it featured detailed guides on any available Pokèmon game, be it spinoff or mainline, offered tips, tricks and cheats for anyone who wanted to mess around with the GameShark or ActionReplay, had a section dedicated to TCGs in which strategies were studied, japanese cards translated and readers could even send out their decks for review! The mailbag pages were extremely fun to read, in which mail senders could interact either with the staff or the fellow Pokèmon World fans! There was a list of names of people who sent letters that couldn't get published due to available room (the Trainers' Club... supporter list way before Patreon would popularize it!) and the best fanart also ended up getting published. Kids could even send out their own Fakemon to get reviewed! There was another section on tips on how to draw monsters (I admit... my first venture on the world of simple anatomy and guidelines classes xD) and one where Fansites (mainly the italian ones) were featured with many screenshots and fair reviews ontheir content and visuals, often enriched with suggestions to make them even better. Italian webmasters were thrilled to be featured among the pages of Pokèmon World as it meant their small pages could reach an even bigger audience this way. In the era where the net wasn't that much known, the collaboration between small sites and bigger magazines was very important!
Though I stopped buying Pokèmon World as the fourth gen rolled out, the magazine didn't live that much longer with the last issue getting published something like a few months later. What really surprised me is that the four guys and girls forming the editing team of this italian magazine were genuine Pokèmon fans, as opposed to what's usually expected from publications targeted to a younger audience in which staff sometimes feels completely detatched from the subject matter. One of the editors who went by the nickname Franny kept the moving community alive by forming a Pokèmon World-dedicated page on social media, publishing a few more issues in PDF format (distributed directly by the group page!) and then even going back to print with a different, more indipendent magazine called Pika-Mania whose articles and colums pretty much emulated the classic Pokèmon World format with the addition of more contributions from fans, like fanfictions and user-submitted guides. I've seen some more issues of it during the last years, so I'm happy to see it still around!

One last small mention of newspaper-kiosk goodness related to Pokèmon: manga, fanzines, temporary tattoos and snacks!
Pokèmon World felt official and professional compared to other publications. Probably the second most famous was Pokèmon Fanbook which true to its name really felt like a bunch of articles written by a staff with no way of retrieving legit news and previews from japanese sites. Don't see this as a negative comment, though: even at the time, I considered Fanbook as a much more “underground”, “niche” and “intimate” magazine, as it was written by kids of our own age or just a few years older: it's actually pretty cozy!
The magazine’s contents centered mostly on the anime: quite in fact, every issue featured a lenghty and detailed episode summary, each page filled with many cartoon frames. This would sound useless now, but at the time it made sense: there was no way to rewatch broadcasted episodes if not by buying VHSs afterwards or having a friend taping them for you, so if they happened to miss an episode or two, Pokèmon Fanbook would keep them up to date. The rest was dedicated to simple puzzles and crosswords, some minor videogame info (mostly related to urban legends that were of course not true, so not sure how useful those pages were to gamers), or fun Pokèmon-related colums: one of the issues I owned had a section regarding real life trivia that could be linked back to each Pokèmon type. Lastly, the ever-present fanmail section. Fanbook’s last pages were filled with readers’ letters, drawings, top 10 favourite monsters, and so on.
Another nice knick-knack this magazine gave out to its readers were detatchable cardboard “file-cards” with monster cliparts and basic information. I remember school diaries of me and my friends getting thoroughly decorated with these!

I didn't come across many printed mangas at the time but I remember buying one issue of Gotta Catch 'Em All (which I've never seen anymore since... what happened to it?); it was a different drawing style from what we were used to see on TV or on official merch. Obviously every mangaka had their own style, but as a kid that expected Pokèmon to be only drawn in a certain way, this was something new and actually appreciated! Seeing Pikachu and the trainers in a different form somehow looking even more dynamic than their animated counterparts was a breath of fresh air, not to mention the alternative storylines and silly canons and theories. My volume had a little episode in which Ash and Pikachu would take part to a cooking contest, in which the winner would cook Chansey egg ramen... would have loved to try that out xD

Speaking of food! After Merlin's album, sticker fans could turn to Dunkin for more Pokèmon themed gadgets of this kind. Their stickers came in two formats, one bigger than trading cards with the monsters depicted in front of textured backgrounds, the other one smaller and transparent, so tiny they came wrapped around strawberry-flavoured chewing gums. To be honest, Dunkin didn't distribute this kind of candy only encased in Pokèmon merch: there were stickers depicting several anime characters, TV show actors and even some catering to music fans! The merch was always the same, strawberry gum and this wrapping turning into a rectangular stickies. I'll be honest, I hated that gum. xD Even if I bought many of them I simply left the candy to my friends so I could have the sticker instead.
But there was more! Chupa Chups released a special lollipop during those years called the Fantasy Ball. This monster of a candy presented itself encased in a rectangular tinfoil wrapper and was a red and white semi-transparent lollipop, looking exactly like a Pokèball, in which the candy's center could easily be seen: inside, there was actually a white chewing gum with the lineart of a random monster printed with black edible ink. Though visually impressive, I have absolutely no memory of the taste itself but I can imagine it being sugar, if lucky, or more probably sickening chemical. No, I'm not a fan of sweets at all. xD I was much more interested in the stickers that came with the lollipop: rounded and way glossier than regular stickers, they depicted a Pokèball and once again a random Pokèmon. There was even a round-shaped album to collect all of the 151 stickers, as there really was one for each monster of the first gen.

Lastly, the newspaper kiosk was also often offering entire sheets of temporary tattoos. Despite them being the same usual monster designs we were seeing over and over on stickers and other merch, temp tats were somehow considered, among us kids, much more valuable than any other gadget; I can't exactly explain why, but it may had to do with the fact that they were indeed much more perishable compared to regular stickers and difficult to store away. Use them as intended and the picture would vanish as soon as you'd take a shower or scratch the surface it was stuck on; try to stick them on your diary and you had to be extra careful not to water your page too much, else you'd end up with a drenched notebook... not to mention, the tattoo's surface would still be sticky even after drying up and people who attempted to preserve temp tats on paper ended up with a bunch of sheets sticking together. Somewhere among the pages of my elementary school diary (which I still have!) there's a Nidoking temp tat sandwiched among Monday, October 19 and Tuesday, October 20. Never did the homework of those two days.

Videogames were expensive and rarer among kids of my age in my town, but this didn't stop anyone from becoming a Pokèfan as we also had access to cheaper toys, plushies, merch and various ephemera, be it official or bootleg... speaking of, wow bootlegs really dominated the scene with the early first gen era!
Every house you went to you could find at least one bootleg Pikachu plush and if you were alive during the 90s you just know what I'm talking about. Trebling plushes activated by string pulls were already a mania during those years but as soon as Pikachu came out bootleggers went crazy for this monster as its round, "fat" appeareance was just perfect to sneak a trembling motor inside. My best friend in middle school had five. I had one which underwent an operation (read this as, "I cut along its seams and then sew it back") to remove the motor as I prefer hugging plushies rather then seeing them vibrate xD I even added more cotton filling in place of the motor so this chonky yellow rat was round as a ball; poor guy was even actually employed as a ball during some indoor volley matches!
You can tell by how little I had that I really didn't like unofficial merch; my firends didn't care, though. I saw plushies, figures, t-shirts, accessories ranging from backpacks to school stationery, even blankets! If we want to go even further, even computer games. No one remembers Battlepets, but I do... because one of my friends would write fanfictions about it. Yeah. Even way before we would gain access to the Internet and understand what she was writing was indeed a fanfiction.

Another toy I loved to bits was the Pokèdex by Tiger Electronics, made in 1999. Tiger is known for its low budget LCD games and even though their Pokèdex still was an LCD game at heart, they really upped the ante with this one! It featured a search function, animated redrawn sprites, info on any monster of the first gen and even, if I remember correctly, a few ordering options such as grouping monsters by type, marking them as caught (or favourites) or even selecting your dream team. Oh yeah, and it had a calculator! For when you have to battle those pesky math nerds. xD
All of this amazing circuitry was encased in a beautiful clamshell that perfectly copied the Kanto dex device we were so used to see in the anime and the concept art for Red and Blue, complete with striking red plastic and gummy buttons that were so nice to feel under fingertips. If only the bulb at its top left corner would actually light up with a blue LED this would have been the absolute best prop ever. But still very very nice! Somehow, I managed to get ahold of it for some time! I remember though the little door hinge broke and I was left with a coverless Pokèdex. I still regret it! Maybe if I see this "in the wild" for cheap I'll be able to relive those memories.
I remember seeing an article on Pokèmon World talking about Tiger launching a sequel of such device, one encased in gold clamshell plastic for the second generation of monsters. I can't find much about it online, so it's clear that the first model stayed the most beloved one among fans.
Masterful toy artistry here.

Frankly, who needed bootlegs when the official Pokèmon merch was so amazing on its own: have you ever seen the first gen figures? The coin banks? The inflatable chairs? The other electronic toys? The wrist watches? The glass marbles (I had these!)? The walkie talkies? I'll stop here because otherwise I would simply enlist the entirety of either Hasbro or Tiger catalog (omg, remember the monster factory? I distinctly remember there was a Pokèmon themed monster factory toy at some point!) but you get my point. Toy shelves were invaded and probably our parents stopped taking us there in fear that we would ask for the whole aisle. Most of these things, once again, I would come across among the pages of Pokèmon World; doing imaginary window shopping and musing about every beautiful merch there was is one of my most vivid memories! So, sometimes when the occasion arose and I actually managed to get ahold of some of the listed merch, either via gift or by personal purchase, it was an even more special event for me as I could compare Pokèmon World's staff review with my own experiences.

It's no surprise that since Pokèmon invaded our real life, the newborn Internet fascinated us kids as it definitely meant there was more Pokèmon also in the virtual wide web. As already mentioned though, not many had access to it; the first years marked an era in which Internet connection was still very expensive, hard to implement on your Win 98s (if you had Me, you were a rich nerd) and most importantly, slow. Have you ever heard of 56k modem connections? I was there! Yes, just as anyone else, I still love that sound.
Our first home connection was installed in the mid 90's for a little while (having a dad who works in programming means that we just had to try all the novelties out there!), then we stayed without it for a couple more years and finally it came back while I was attending middle school, although sporadically. In the years without Internet connection, dad would often be my only window to the World Wide Web as he'd go to the office and surf on the Pokèmon sites I would reccomend from my beloved magazine, then come back with printed articles and images. It was like recieving a physical newsletter. xD A couple times he even followed his creative vein and came up with some Fakemon of himself, too; he'd come home saying a new monster had been discovered and show me "Pokèdex" entries complete with pictures drawn by him, type and description. Even at the time I knew they were jokes but in hindsight... wow dad, that was some dedication. Kudos! (Also did you ever find the time to actually work in the office?)

Finally, when I could surf the net all on my own, I would also push myself further from suggested sites and find more of my own. The most important one of course became Suta Raito which clicked all my buttons in terms of interest: Pokèmon, beautiful art, a lovely designed webcorner and a menu so full of pages to spend many afternoons playing! The webmaster Kuitsuku not only introduced me to Neopets as well, but she inspired me to build my own site, to have a tiny room for myself on the net! Afterall, a lot of other people were doing just the same; the other Pokèmon fanpages I was visiting were being created and updated by kids of my own age. So why couldn't I?
The reality is that in order to do that you still needed to acquire webspace (there were free options, but still) and then understand how a page would load on the net, things that I did not know yet. But I did know how to use Microsoft Frontpage! I would spend many afternoons playing with that program and making offline webpages, homes, menus, about me, articles... which at the time were mostly Pokèmon themed: the most memorable of these was a HUGE section dedicated to the Pokèmon horoscope in which I assigned a different monster to each day of the year: we only had two generations at the time, so some of them got repeated! xD

Apart from that, I would also often check fellow italian fansites concerning my beloved interests. From many of these I remember having gathered a plethora of pictures, mostly animated, like pixel sprites or tiny drawings, that I would generally use on my own page mockups or just collect because they were cute. There was a particular series of adorable Pikachu GIFs apparently made by the same author and then spread around among sites. All of what I gathered has been long lost between several file moves from old computers to new ones, but I still see them on the net!
You know which I'm talking about.

A few times I would also come across small downloadable games, obviously made by fans. I distinctly remember three of them: a Tetris clone, a volleyball simulator and one of my very first romhacks! Of these, only the volleyball game is still easily found online; the Tetris clone has most likely been buried by the much more relevant Pokèmon Mini official game and the romhack (which wasn't even a romhack, it ran on Flash and played more like an action RPG) might have even taken down by the author itself as it wasn't that good.
But yeah, Pikachu Volleyball! When I had a minute to spare and the other games on PC didn't cut it for the mood, this was my go to timekiller. The artwork was actually pretty competent with nice pixel art for both the background and the playing characters. If anything, it was easy and it showed its "fanmade-ness" but I appreciated it nonetheless. What drove me up the wall where the controls as I felt it was too basic and it needed more in order to make the game really playable! Sometimes, the ball would move too fast and while the computer would seem to have at least more ways to reach the ball (such as diving forward) your player Pikachu would be stuck with the usual directional keys and ball hitting button. It felt unfair at times! But I excused it because it has always been clear it was a fangame through and through.
Apparently, this little game became so popular updated version with newer graphics can be found online as well! But my favourite will still be the original one, for nostalgia's sake.
Go for it, Pika!

WebArchive hasn't been kind to the italian Internet; quite infact, none of the sites hosted on Digilander (in some ways, our version of Geocities) have been preserved. Still, there are a few salvaged italian sites that I remember visiting back then. One of these is PokèmonMania, of which most pages survive... but without the images. What I liked most about the sites of that era is that even though they presented themselves as news or other utility sites, webmasters still ran the place making it very clear it was their own: mixed along with previews about upcoming games or TGC sets were life updates mostly related to school or vacations, with many "Hey, sorry I haven't been online last week, I have a test coming this Friday!" kind of posts. I found it quite endearing and it made these far away people feel closer to us. Sometimes I happen to stumble through archived sites whose last snapshot reports the webmaster going away for vacations or having to stop the website due to graduation incoming; I often wonder where they are now, if they still remember the webcorners they made on their own; many of them felt like there had been online for decades but when I go to see their snapshot chronology, they were actually online only for a few years. Four, if they were lucky!
Arcywof and Pokèmon Museum, two italian sites that haven't been saved by WebArchive but whose traces still exist among the pages of Pokèmon World.

It's hard to define my Pokèmon fan-ness nowadays, as I only marginally follow their news and haven't played a mainline nor spinoff game since the dawn of the DS era. Most would say I've just fallen out of the fandom, but the neverending writing on this page proves otherwise! I still fondly cherish the memories in which I was the right age to appreciate this franchise and I'm very glad it all started in the mid to late 90s, the absolutely perfect era to get the best toys, games, cards, and fully embrace its hype. Nowadays my attention is focused almost exclusively on content that concerns the first and the second generations of monsters, following new discovers on old data, betas or prototypes, and researching, documenting and restoring toys and games of two decades past. Some might say I'm a genwunner due to the fact that I'm not fond of the new monster designs, but in reality I don't feel any bitterness to any of the new mons, gaming mechanics nor the new fans: they just don't concern me and I feel the novelties are obviously catering to the new generations of fans... which should be the actual target for this franchise.
To the old fans who keep saying Pokèmon "aren't Pokèmon anymore" and they can't enjoy it anymore because it's too different from what they grew up with, I say... well, of course: we naturally grew up. Our interests have matured, changed and amplified so it's time to leave the future to the ones who should really enjoy it. Instead of directing our energy into actively hating the new generation's favs, we should look to what was made for us way back, and instead fill the Internet with positive memories, retrospectives and interesting trivia about our own era of Pokèmon; we can create an harmony in which every generation of fan can talk about their favourite generation of Pokèmon without hating the others!

I have a lot more retrospectives and reviews on my Tumblr blog, BlastoiseMonster. Feel free to check that out if... this wall of text ain't enough for you!