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Best and worst of Pokémon

From red to pearl - the wide world of Nintendo's monster franchise

At around 193 million units versus Pokémon's 155 million, Mario may have sold more games overall, but considering the wide variety of stuff he stars in and the length of time he's been around, Pokémon is arguably the more significant videogame phenomenon.

Pikachu and the gang have enjoyed peaks and endured troughs since the original game's 1996 Japanese debut, but no matter how many times people have tried to write off Pokémon, it remains hugely popular. It's a cultural volcano that can lie semi-dormant for years before erupting to shower a fresh audience with white-hot gobbets of fluffy gaming magma.

Without further ado, here are just a few of our favourite / weirdest / most significant Poké-moments from the last decade-and-a-bit.

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Unlikely unions
The ability to have Pokémon produce offspring in Ruby and Sapphire gave rise to some fairly improbable couplings - not least the union of giant Wailord (14.5m tall, 398kg) with little Diglett (20cm, 0.8kg). No amount of debate has solved the problem of how such a thing would be possible without resulting in the death of one party and the eternal shame of the other.

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Trading cards
At the peak of Pokémon's craze years, the hugely popular trading card games were banned in many schools (and entire countries) after reports of kids being attacked for their stashes of valuable cards. Americans started complaining about imported cards before they were even released in the US, with religious activists ignorant of the Buddhist manji symbol - which looks like an upright, reversed swastika - claiming that Nintendo was about to subvert their children by marketing toys plastered in Nazi regalia. As a result the manji no longer gets used on any Pokémon products.

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Bad anime
The Pokémon anime series has been hugely successful, with more than 500 TV episodes produced and a 10th movie on the way. With that kind of volume, something is bound to go awry from time to time, particularly where translations to countries with differing sensibilities are concerned, and Pokémon has had its share of controversies. One episode from the first series was never shown outside of Japan due to scenes of guns being pointed at children and, erm, Meowth dressed as Hitler. Another was censored in the West thanks to Team Rocket villain James sprouting giant fake breasts in order to win a swimsuit contest. In the same series, a scene of flashing red and blue lights caused hundreds of Japanese children to suffer simultaneous epileptic seizures when it was broadcast. Jynx's (accidental) resemblance to a blackface entertainer also caused offence, and is now redrawn to have purple skin.

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Mew downloads
A killer feature of the original Red and Blue versions of the game, this incredibly rare pokémon could only be obtained by winning it in a real-world competition or downloading it at a Nintendo roadshow. Shopping centres around the country would be packed with eager Pokémon fans, desperate to complete their collection, and even our own Greener queued for hours at Bluewater to fill his cart with Mews. He came away with about 10 of them, so there might have been a few disappointed folk at the end of the line when the Mew machine ran dry. Sorry about that. The advent of Action Replay cheat codes released hordes of ill-gotten Mews into the wild, rendering the roadshows obsolete.

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