Pokémon fans know to look forward to the franchise’s anniversary years, not only because it’s a wonderful time to celebrate the continuing evolution of the beloved series, but because the anniversaries always bring with them a slew of reveals and surprises. 2021 marks the 25th anniversary, and while this year’s festivities have been understandably muted, let’s look back at the celebration that marked the 10th anniversary: the Journey Across America.
The Pokémon 10th Anniversary Journey Across America was exactly as it sounds: a 24-stop tour at different American malls. It started on February 25th in Miami, Florida, then moved westward across the country, then wrapped back around through the Mid-West, finally culminating in New York City on July 22nd.
The mall pop-ups were a bonafide dream for any young Pokémon fan. They consisted of a video game section to play Generation 3 Pokémon on Game Boy Advance, as well as Pokémon Trozei on the Nintendo DS, and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness on the GameCube. There was also a TV lounge to watch episodes of the show and a preview of the upcoming Lucario, and the Mystery of Mew movie. There were mascots to take photos with, a drawing and colouring booth, a TCG battle segment, and, of course, a merch shop.
Not only was there a giveaway to attendees (an exclusive black star promo Pikachu card with the 10th Anniversary logo emblazoned on it), but video game fans could also receive any of 20 Pokémon distributions. They mostly consisted of legendaries and starters, but what’s a Pokémon anniversary without yet another Charizard? Alongside those 20, this was also the first opportunity for American players to receive the Mythical Pokémon Celebi for their games.
The piece de resistance of the tour were the competitive video game tournaments held in each city. Additional tournaments were held at Nintendo’s Rockefeller Plaza location, as well as the Houston Space Center, which featured a special Deoxys distribution, and a 10th anniversary branded Space Center TCG card. One winner would move on to compete in the national tournament in New York at the tail end of the tour.
On August 8th, 2006, Pokémon launched its biggest in-person celebration on American soil: The Party of the Decade.
The event was hosted at New York City’s Bryant Park. The party contained everything the individual tour stops did but turned up to 10: bigger spaces, more costumed mascots, pre-release demos of the upcoming Pokémon Ranger and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, and a slightly modified selection of the 20 fan-voted distribution Pokémon.
WWE star Hulk Hogan was the party’s host, who claimed he was a big Pokémon fan (or at least was paid to say he was), and the massive Pikachu balloon featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade soared atop the park in its final appearance before being retired for an updated design. There was even a special Pikachu distribution that featured the move fly to commemorate the event.
You can see a lot of the event commemorated in this classic news report from The Associated Press:
The video game tournament national finals took place on the main stage in front of a huge crowd, with the two victors winning a trip to Tokyo. This was not only the most exciting presence Pokémon has ever had in the West, but a fitting celebration of the franchise’s first decade.
The Anniversary Legacy
Sadly, Pokémon has never had a presence like this across North America ever since. None of the subsequent anniversaries have had such an elaborate event, and Pokémon’s one major American footprint – Pokémon Center New York – remodeled into the more generally focused Nintendo World in 2005.
One bright shimmer of days gone by has been the rise of Pokémon Go, which has kept the spirit of the Journey Across America alive by hosting a slew of in person Safari Zone and Go Fest events across the world. Our very own Montreal was even the host city to Canada’s first and only Safari Zone at Parc Jean-Drapeau back in September 2019.
Even without physical events to celebrate the occasion, this year is proving to be a phenomenal celebration of the series. We will be seeing a brand new Pokémon Snap game, not one but two exciting Pokémon role-playing games at the end of the year and the beginning of 2022, and some phenomenal card sets such as Shining Fates, Chilling Reign, and the upcoming aptly titled Celebrations set.
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