It’s been almost one year since Nintendo released their gorgeously produced Pokémon music video “Gotcha!” Even now, I find myself thinking about how amazing and emotional the short video is.
The song in the video, “Acacia” by Bump of Chicken, communicates a sense of both nostalgia and discovery; even on its own, its gentle and soulful sound makes it linger in my mind. When combined with the accompanying animation, however, it becomes something magical to those of us who have grown alongside Pokémon.
“Gotcha!” features virtually every major and minor character from across eight generations of games, but I think it’s not merely the sheer amount of familiar faces that make the music video so impactful Rather, what it pulls off (with a sense of both elegance and down-to-Earth grit) is a celebration of what it’s like to make your way through one or more of the games—to capture those memories of triumph, accomplishment, and exploration.
With a big franchise like Pokémon, content is often traditionally made to celebrate what’s to come, as opposed to what has passed. There will always be new players, and while Pikachu and Charizard would remain popular even if you gave all existing fans amnesia, there’s a general aim towards a presentation that doesn’t delve too deeply into the lore and history of its world. “Gotcha!” defies that throughout its short timespan.
At one point, silhouettes of virtually every legendary Pokémon can be seen moving around the background, i.e. elements of the Pokémon single-player late game that are meant to communicate how far you’ve come in an adventure. These images then recede, and in their place are shadows of all the major antagonists from throughout the series—again, characters who are indicative of not the beginning but the end of these stories. The video then transitions to a gorgeously animated showcase of most of the league champions, whereas normally such characters would not be displayed in such close succession in advertising or merchandising.
Later in the video, the remaining champions appear. Blue, the rival from the first generation, summons his six Pokémon while standing in front of a door and a couple of statues—portraying the moment after you defeat the Elite Four’s Lance and have to defeat Blue to take the title away from him. The attention to detail is notable, as all of Blue’s Pokémon are exactly the ones he would have if you picked Charizard as your starter: Pigeot, Alakazam, Rhydon, Gyarados, Arcanine, and Venusaur. The video then transitions to showing the battle on Mt. Silver between the player character from the second generation and the final boss of those games: Red, the player character from generation 1. In other words, this shift from fighting Blue to fighting Red conveys the passage of time through Red’s growth from player insert to final boss.
For those who don’t know anything about Pokémon, “Gotcha!” is plenty impressive, but what astounds me about the whole thing is that it just does an unbelievably good job of communicating and celebrating the nostalgia of Pokémon. It’s as if the music video captures not so much what happens in the games, but rather the memories that have been created through our experiences as players. It’s the sort of thing that can only happen with a series that has such a robust history and connection to its audience.