Kris Lexia's Magical Neopet Adventure

      Itís hard to believe that 2004 was ten whole years ago. Ten years of laughter, tears, cultural evolution, and cultural upheaval. But at the end of the day, ten years later, there stands an internet-based institution that survived the years. It has truly withstood the test of time for original fans, and has the power to pull in a whole new generation of users. By now Iím sure youíre nodding along with me and smiling, because you know exactly what site Iím talking about: NEOPETS! Oh, and I guess this little corner of the website has been operational that long as well. Itís hard to believe I was just a dorky little fourth grader when this website came to be, and now Iím finally able to contribute in ways that donít involve operating a camera or pretending to be younger than I am for laughs. Hereís to Syd, and hereís to the future of!

      Now, back to the fun retro stuff. For those of you who are not aware, Neopets is the most popular virtual pet website. Launched November 15, 1999, it has chugged along since then. Starting off as modest operation helmed by college students Adam Powell and Donna Williams, it has grown into a corporate monolith of addictive gaming. Neopets was so popular, that at one point it was owned by media giant Viacom. Fifteen years later, Neopets is still a much-loved site for internauts of all ages. Back in the day, all the Lexia children were hooked on this outrageously addictive website, most of all, me. Now that Iím busy with college and other worldly experiences, I have less time for my beloved Neopets, but I still make time when I can to grab a slice of the Giant Omelette to nourish my pets or play a few games of Evil Fuzzles From Outer Space. But ten years ago, the masterminds at Neopets engaged in the most brilliant promotional tie-in of their entire run thus far: Happy Meal toys. As someone who already collected all the real life Neopets merchandise I could get my hands on, the cute little plushies I received every week were more valuable than jewels. This was the first time I could obtain a real, huggable Aisha or Jubjub without having to shell out all of my hard-earned birthday money in the carpeted hell known as Limited Too. Another perk to these cuties is that they were warm when you released them from their plastic bag prisons as a result of being cradled by your burger and fries.

      It is important to note that there were two separate runs of the Neopets plushies for McDonalds, one in 2004 and one in 2005. Series One was comprised of fifteen different species of Neopets in seven different colors, as well as four plushies shaped like well-known Neopian Items: Starry Paintbrush, Speckled Negg, Ultranova, and Magical Nova. Series Two contained twelve previously unoffered species of Neopets, with each again available in seven different colors. Although each Neopet was available in seven colors, they were not the SAME seven colors. A quirk of Neopets (at least back then) was that not every pet was available in each of the numerous custom colors that the site offered. If I can recount correctly, there were twelve different colors available in 2004, and eleven in 2005. Series Two was noticeably smaller than Series One, but what really makes it stand apart from its predecessor was that there were keychains attached to each plush emblazoned with the image of a Petpet. A Petpet, for those who donít know, is a pet for your Neopet. For those with extra Neopoints to spend, nowadays you can even buy a Petpetpet. A goddamn pet for your Petpet, who is the pet of your Neopet. Try saying that five times fast! At any rate, what I have here is a mixture of the two runs of plushies minus the aforementioned keychains. At this point, I donít know if I have any of the Petpet clips, and on top of that, I think Iíll go crazy if each Petpet isnít properly matched to the plush toy it came packaged with. As far as I know, it was packaged randomly, but thatís not the point. Iíll know itís wrong!


      Onward to the first plushie! What weíve got here is a Red Poogle. Poogles are the greyhounds of Neopia. Once upon a time, you could go to the racetrack in Faerieland and bet on one of five Poogles in the hopes of hitting it big. I wasnít much of a gambler as a kid, but I hated to miss out on a good Poogle race. There was even a cute little animation of the Poogles chugging along the racetrack while you awaited the results. Iím not sure if they decided to retire the dutiful Poogles before or after all of the redraws of the pets; nonetheless, Faerieland is now one location smaller. What has become of Poogles 1 through 5? If they werenít adopted out to loving homes, one can only assume theyíve been sent to the glue factory.


      If you havenít already gathered, Neopets is a pretty surreal experience. In addition to the four basic colors you can adopt a pet in (red, blue, yellow, or green), there is a myriad of other options if youíre willing to shell out the dough. How, you may ask? Through the power of a magic paintbrush. Throw down a couple hundred thousand Neopoints, and you can be the proud owner of a single-use item that will change your pet to a newer, ostensibly better color. As you can see, this a Cloud Poogle, painted so with a Cloud Paintbrush. Simple, right? Nobody bothered to tell me that this wouldnít work too well on real animals, and I had a bit of a tiff with my childhood cat, Shadow. Her tail was purple for weeks, and I still have scars to show for it.


      And here, weíve got a Green Penguin! Technically heís a Bruce, but there isnít really much of a difference between the two, except that Bruces come from the icy climes of Terror Mountain, while Penguins come from the chilly land of Pittsburgh. Green Bruces are particularly special because they look just like a Neopian celebrity: Brucey B! Brucey B is acclaimed for his skills with slot machines and card games, his discovery of the Lost Desert, and his crushing defeat of legendary Neopets antagonist Dr. Frank Sloth; he also wears a banginí Hawaiian shirt.


      This sucker is a Red Meerca. Iím not a huge fan of Meercas as a pet themselves. They look like a cross between Howdy from Hamtaro and a rejected Pokemon. Despite my distaste for the Meerca aesthetically, I associate many fond memories with Meercas; my favorite Neopets game is an on-theme version of Snake called Meerca Chase 2. The game features three standard modes of play: Classic, Maze and Freestyle. It also has two secret variants, Gravity Mode and Ferocious Neggs, making it the most dynamic game of Snake youíll likely find. Itís also an easy and highly addictive way to net some fast Neopoints.


      Next up is a strapping Purple Chomby. Chombies are great because theyíre just dopey little brontosauri. It is hard not to smile back at this grinning little guy. His smile says, ďLetís go on some adventures!Ē In terms of Neopian celebrities, we also have the much-loved musical group Chomby and the Fungus Balls. Debuting in 2003 as a riff on a Neopets game of the same name, the band has long currently outlived its namesake by ten years. I highly recommend going to one of their shows if you happen to swing by the Tyrannian Concert Hall on the right day. Included in your ticket price is one of five cool souvenirs: a hat, a jacket, a poster, a cd, or a t-shirt; there are also special seasonal souvenirs if you happen to catch them during the Neopian month of Celebrating. The concert is nothing more than a flash animation of Chomby and his inexplicably afro-sporting fungus compatriots, but itís worth dropping some points on at least once. You will also obtain a secret avatar for attending the concerts, if youíre into that sort of thing.


      Check out this Starry Gelert! I donít feel particularly strongly about Gelerts, to be honest. Theyíve been featured in a few plots in more recent years, but they donít speak to me as a very distinct species. I think itís because theyíre glorified dogs, and I had a crippling fear of dogs until halfway through high school. Thatís one of the nicer things about virtual pets: they donít have razor sharp teeth to bite you with. They also donít require food, constant attention, or someone to clean up their poop. A good deal, all in all.


      This little buddy is a Green Kacheek. I think of all the species of pets on Neopets, Kacheek is the most fun to say. Ka-cheek! Iím not sure what it is about these guys, but Iím a huge fan of their button noses and fluffy tails. The most notable Kacheek is Eliv Thade. He is the titular character in the anagram-solving game The Castle of Eliv Thade. Hereís a fun fact if you didnít pick up on it yourself: his name is an anagram of Vile Death. Or maybe Evil Death, if you prefer. Syd Lexia was an absolute champion at The Castle of Eliv Thade back in his prime days on Neopets. I remember ruining one of his high score list attempts because I wanted to try the game out. Rule of thumb, never leave your computer unattended when you have a kid sister.


      This unusual lady is a Blue Kyrii. I immediately associate Kyriis with craftiness and deception because of Capara, the first character you outwit in the card game Cheat. If you've ever played Bullshit, Cheat is just the EXACT same game with a kid-friendly name. Also notable about Capara is her friendship with Brucey B. I think itís pretty funny that an unskilled gambler would get along so well with a more established money maker. Then again, Brucey is only good at Cheat due to his famed Lucky Coin.


      This is a Yellow Techo. I donít think they tried very hard with this character design or name. Techo, gecko, potato, po-tah-to. The most notable Techo is Dr_Death, the terrifying figure who greets you at the pound if you choose to disown a Neopet. Neopets makes a point of making you feel as horrible as possible about disowning your pets in a clear attempt to teach children that real pets are lifetime commitments and not temporary playthings. Pretty heavy stuff for a kidís site, right?


      Iím just gonna lump these lovely ladies together because they are my all-time favorite Neopet: Aishas! The very first Neopet I made was a blue Aisha whose name I have long since forgotten. I loved that Aisha to death; I purchased my first-ever paintbrush for her, a disco paintbrush. We went on so many fun adventures in Neopia together until the tragic day my account was frozen. You see, Dr. Jeebus, Syd, and our mom all had Neopets accounts. You see, Dr. Jeebus has an addictive personality, and became completely obsessed with trying to get as many secret avatars and trophies as possible. When his account got frozen for suspected cheating, ALL of our accounts got frozen because we shared an IP account. Neopets is very firm about not using multiple accounts in order to gain an unfair advantage over others. But that isnít what was happening here. It was the biggest tragedy of my childhood. That account also had a Christmas Cybunny, a limited edition pet whom I loved immensely. Iím still upset about it. I'm pretty sure Syd is still pretty bitter about it too; at the time, he e-mailed Neopets customer service at least five times trying to get our accounts back to no avail. That said, I made a new account, started anew, and have been going strong ever since. And yes, I have a new Aisha. Sheís purple.


      This is a Red Scorchio. Honestly, I think Scorchios look like something out of the horrifically bad PBS edutainment show Dragon Tales. Which is to say, they look fairly dopey and not at all aesthetically pleasing. I think this one was designed specifically to appeal to little boys, since dragons and knights and all that medieval junk was en vogue again for awhile when I was growing up. I can dig a badass-looking dragon as much as the next gal, and I love when theyíre cute little fire-breathing monsters just as much, but the middle ground kills it for me... and this chubby reptile sure does have a lot of middle ground. Sorry, buddy, you arenít getting adopted today.


      This is a Pink Kiko! Kikos are appealing for the same reason Kirby is appealing: theyíre round and smiley, and sometimes theyíre pink. I myself have a Mutant Kiko who is pretty adorable. When I first mutated her from a Jubjub using a transmogrification potion, I didnít realize she wouldnít come out as a regular Kiko. She was hideous and slimy and unappealing. But over time, I grew an appreciation for her strangeness, and I wouldnít want her any other way.


      ...this is a Sorcerer Donald Duck bath toy. Not really sure why this is here, but itís pretty cute. In terms of Disney souvenirs, itís pretty spectacular. Donald looks ready to fly away on the power of his magic hat. And that grin of his is too funny. Now back to the good part!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Who am I, Professor Science, Lord of All Knowledge? This damn thing sure looks like a Neopet. Are you sure it's not a Pteri?


      This is a Yellow Flotsam. I am indifferent to Flotsams as a species. I do get a kick out of its creepy shark-like counterpart, Jetsam. Again, I think the Neopets team could have come up with a much more creative design for a sea-dwelling pet than this, but it is what it is. They do have a mischievous look in their eyes, which is pretty cute.


      And here we have... Buttercup? Now Syd is just messing with me. Contrary to what he and you, dear reader, might think, I did not own this plushie. I donít think I had any Powerpuff Girls toys, just clothing, sneakers, and an umbrella. Still a pretty good collection for a kid, but not on par with what it should have been. This beat-up plushie belongs to Dr. Jeebus and went with him to college. Iím sure itís seen some stuff nobody should ever have to witness. Bless you, Buttercup.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This plushie was in a box marked Kristen's Stuff. She remembers it wasn't hers; apparently she doesn't remember stealing it.


      So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me, and maybe even learned something about Neopian history and culture along the way. Now that my childhood is finally old enough that I can actively wax nostalgic about it, youíre in for a lot more where this came from. This has been Kris Lexia, signing out. Catch yíall later.


Posted by: Kris Lexia


Editor's Note: And now here's a spooky pen, I guess? Because Halloween?