Pokemon Generational Analysis, Part 1

I have never played Pokemon Sun or Pokemon Moon.

That is really weird to consider because for about a period of about FIFTEEN YEARS, I was perpetually playing Pokemon in some form or another. Generations came and went, and I kept playing. At my most involved moments, I would have several plays LINED UP and ready to go (as in “Well, I’ll do a basic play through on HeartGold. After that, I’ll do a monotype challenge on Emerald. Then I’ll do a Wonderlocke and Y. And probably after that, I’ll do a regular Nuzlocke challenge on LeafGreen…”). I loved these games, and the fact that I basically just abandoned the franchise at their most recent generation makes me a bit sad.

I think the problem was that starting with Generation 5 (Black/White), I started getting into playing somewhat competitively, and by Generation 6, I had gone wild on that front. The games were less about THE GAMES to me, and were more about breeding and training and playing online against other, actual people. And while that is absolutely enjoyable (don’t get me wrong), it also makes the games feel less… innocent and fun. Now they are work and pressure and I have to have optimal, useful Pokemon at all times and I have to be the best and THERE IS NO WAY HIS CHARIZARD CAN OHK MY MEOWSTIK LIKE THAT FUCK YOU GOD DAMN GAME CHEATS SO HARD.

That said, I recently dusted off the ol’ DS Lite (my 3DS XL has a cracked touch screen and most of said screen is black, though the touch still functions… it’s just hard to see what’s there and depressed me) and started playing a Nuzlocke Challenge on Pokemon Platinum (it’s going well, thank you, I have 3 badges and haven’t lost any Pokemon). And man, when I am just playing to play, these games are fun. So I thought I’d do a little series of articles where I breakdown each generation and rank various aspects of them until I can decide the best generation of Pokemon. This isn’t grounded in competitive play; it’s more the judging the basic, formulaic aspects of the game against each other.

Ready?

Okay so… classic Kanto. It was not even named originally in Red/Blue/Yellow (the first Pokémon games released in North America), and the area wouldn’t come to be called Kanto until Generation two. It was just… the place where everything happened. Kanto was the home of the original 151 Pokémon.

Gameplay: Shit, Generation 1 was glitchy and O.P. as fuck. Don’t get me wrong… the games were awesome, and there’s a reason they’ve spawned nearly 20 years of sequels, cartoons, and product with enough GDP to qualify as an independent country. But damn were the original games messed up. Who among us that has played the games can forget binding moves (like Wrap) that kept the opposing Pokémon from being able to do ANYTHING for 2-5 turns? And what about how just WAKING UP FROM SLEEP was an entire move for a turn, so if you were facing anything faster than you that could put you back to sleep, you were toast? Oh yeah, and who can forget how Psychic types ran roughshod over everything because there was nothing to stop them? To this day, I still think the move Psychic is one of the best in the game just because I’ve STILL not gotten over how destructive it was in Gen 1. And those examples are just the tip of the iceberg (remember MISSING thrown Pokeballs? Resetting your stats if you boosted too high? Terrible computer A.I. that spammed Agility against Fighting types because Agility was a Psychic-type move? No inherent abilities? No real side adventures to partake in?). OVERALL: 1/6 (SCORING: Scoring is done as a ranking of the regions/generations. This score means that Kanto is the worst of the 6. The best would be 6/6)

Starters: Oh, here’s where you don’t mess with success. Chalk it up to nostalgia, but the Generation 1 starters are rightfully revered for being classic. A water-based turtle who eventually sprouts cannons from his shell? A plant-based dinosaur with a useful secondary typing of Poison and growing a big ol’ tree on its back? FUCKING CHARIZARD? Yeah, these guys are all great, and they’ve lasted in quality for years, even as Generation 6 has breathed new life into each of them. There actually is one generation whose starters I like as a whole more than these three, but they’re still so great that they deserve… OVERALL: 5/6

Other Pokémon: It’s hard to discuss Kantoan Pokémon without touching at least a bit on the whole “Genwunner” thing. It’s the idea of a small minority of Pokémon fans that only Generation 1 Pokémon count, and anything introduced after them are pale imitations. The thing is, every generation has winners and losers. Generation 1, for example, had my absolute favorite Pokémon ever (Butterfree), as well as some great designs like Dragonite (friendly, cuddly, giant, destructive dragon!), Gyarados (the power of potential when a crappy, useless Magikarp evolves into a powerful water dragon!), Ninetales (mystical fox!), and Gengar (evil ghost doppelganger invading our dimension!). The downside is that Kanto also introduced Magneton (three Magnemites stuck together!), Voltorb (evil Pokeball!), Jynx (black-face! Seriously. It’s friggin’ black-face), and Mr. Mime (so it’s just a mime? Like a guy? And a mime?). Overall, I give Generation 1 a lot of credit, though. They created 151 Pokémon right off the bat, giving it the second most ever released in a single generation, and enough to fill a brand new universe and allow players the ability to create whole new teams for several replays. OVERALL: 6/6 (and now I feel like a Genwunner myself)

Legendaries: The legendaries of Generation 1 are, in my opinion, a bit lacking. Let’s start off with the legendary birds, Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno… there’s really no story to them. They’re just powerful bird types that are in the game with no history or reason at all. They’re just there. Subsequent generations would do a better job fleshing the legends out, but for these three? They just are, and that’s it. Mewtwo, though, actually does get a nice story if you follow the game. At various points in the game, most notably in the Cinnabar Mansion, the player can find journals and data relaying the history of Mewtwo, the genetically-altered offspring of Mew. He was created by humanity, most likely as a weapon, until he grew too violent and escaped to live in the wild, away from humans. You know, until you catch it and cram it in a ball and make it fight rhinocerouses for you, but until then, there is a nifty bit of creepy backstory the game gives you in little spoonfuls. Also, there’s Mew who is the first Pokémon ever (except for maybe Arceus later on? One is considered the first pokemon from whom all others are made… the other is considered God who created the Pokémon universe. So that’s not conflicting at all, GameFreak. Good job). Also, Mew doesn’t live under a truck in Vermillion City. OVERALL: 4/6 (due to the laziness of the Spanish number birds).

Villains: Team Rocket is the first villain team you face in the Pokémon games, and their desire is pretty simple: use Pokémon as a means to make a lot of money. Team Rocket, as originally conceived in Generation 1, is a neat idea because they are very much like a gangster mafia operation. They run a casino, and they poach and sell rare, exotic creatures. Also, their leader is clearly Italian (I mean, “Giovanni”. Really?). There’s a neat little bit of mythos you can find in the modern era that explains that maybe Team Rocket were secretly good all along (a lot of their activity in Generation 1 can be explained as trying to find a way to defeat Mewtwo), but that’s not really canon. It’s fun to consider, though! As a bonus, in Pokémon Yellow, based on the Pokémon TV show, you actually get to battle Jesse, James, and Meowth, the comically awesome villains of the cartoon. OVERALL: 4/6

Rival: An underrated aspect of most Pokémon games is the rival[s] the game gives you when you start your journey. Generally, your rival is a fellow young Pokémon trainer who starts the same time as you, takes the starter that is strong against your own, and battles you several times throughout the game in a “let’s-measure-how-far-we’ve-come” kind of way. Some rivals are quite friendly, and others are more malicious, and the Kanto rival, Blue, fits nicely right in between there. He’s allegedly a childhood friend of yours, but while he’s not villainous, he’s every bit a smug asshole. He’s constantly telling you how far ahead of you he is and telling you to try not to suck so much. Blue is fun, though, because really… that’s totally how kids would act towards each other. “OH YEAH, I TOTALLY CAUGHT 800 POKÉMON. WHY ARE YOU STILL USING THAT STUPID WORM? YOU SUCK! SMELL YA LATER!” OVERALL: 4/6

Champion: In a nice turn, and one I’m surprised NONE of the subsequent games have replicated, it turns out that your rival, Blue, ends up being the league champion. He beats the Elite Four apparently moments before you do, so to be the champ, you have to whoop him one last time. His team is diverse—he packs several different types of Pokémon—and he is at a decently high level. Also, there’s instant feelings there, because it’s the same smug jerk you’ve battled half-a-dozen times while he keeps telling you how bad you are. Beating him isn’t just an achievement, it’s a pleasure. Also, after you beat him, his grandfather shows up and tells him what a disappointment he is. SCORE. No, Blue; I’ll smell YOU later. OVERALL: 6/6

TOTAL: So generation has a lot of faults, but most of those lie in the glitchy, not-yet-perfected gameplay. Almost everything else, it did right (if not downright excelled at). It’s really no surprise to me that Pokémon took off like it did because Kanto is a vibrant, fun, creative world with IMMENSE replay value, and tons of charming, cute, threatening, weird, and just plain flavorful creatures at your disposal. If there is a problem with Kanto that extends beyond the gameplay, it would be that the story doesn’t feel as grand as other generations would incorporate. It’s a very basic RPG in the sense of “Here’s what you do, now go do it”. There’s not a lot of mystery or intrigue or emotion involved. But it’s still classic and fun! TOTAL SCORE: 30/42

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