Pokemon Generational Analysis Part 3
All right, for those you wanting a recap, here it is: This is a region-by-region blog series where I discuss various topics from each of the six Pokemon generation of games. I compare, on a scale of 1-to-6 (where a ranking of 6 means the games get 6 points as the BEST out of the six generations and a ranking 1 of means the games get 1 point as the worst in that particular regard), several categories where I’ve matched the generations up against each other. For a quick review:
Generation 1/Kanto got a score of 30 out of 42.
Generation 2/Johto got a score of 22 out of 42.
So moving on, this brings up:
3. Hoenn, Generation 3 – Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald (and, in remakes, Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby)
You know what I’ll always remember about Hoenn? It was the region that first KIND-OF disenchanted me from Pokemon. It just introduced a LOT of new aspects that, while in retrospect are fantastic additions to the game, I was not a huge fan of at the time. I remember getting bored with Ruby fairly quickly and going back to the Johto games… at least until generation three remade the original games as LeafGreen and FireRed, and then I was back on board, baby! So, heh, I was kind of an early genwunner. Darn, that is depressing.
Like I said above, generation 3 really messed with the formula in a few regards, and mostly in ways that were a great boon to the series. Honestly, it’s hard to remember a time BEFORE Pokemon had innate abilities, but those were not introduced until generation 3. They’ve become an ingrained staple of the series. Pokemon just have innate abilities that affect how they battle and what they do. Duh, of course. But not in Gen 1 or Gen 2…. so weird. Oh, and big ups to abilities at that, because they made my favorite Pokemon ever–Butterfree–a Pokemon worth using. Compound Eyes! Nearly 100% accurate Sleep Powder, bitches! That’s good gravy. Hoenn also first showed us battles involving multiple Pokemon, in the form of Double Battles. I LOVED Double Battles (and would subsequently love another Battle type even more, but I’ll get there when I get there), because, pffft, who just wants to use one Pokemon? Not me! I want to use as many Pokemon as possible! And, at the time, that was TWO. And it was AWESOME.
Hoenn also introduced another neat concept in Pokemon Contests. While the main thrust of Pokemon games is growing your team, defeating gym leaders, and becoming the Pokemon champion of battling, contests introduced a new idea: you could become the champion of dressing up your Pokemon and performing for judges. I don’t… I don’t KNOW anyone who ever took the Contests super seriously, but it was an IDEA, and I appreciate that. It was like they thought “This might be getting a bit monotonous. Let’s throw some new mechanics and ideas in”. And that’s rarely a bad idea.
Most Pokemon fans would assail me on this matter, but I was never enamored of the starters of the Hoenn region. For my money, and I’m spoilering the score here, there’s only one generation that did starters worse than Hoenn. I know, I know… competitively, they’re a decent bunch. Swampert has a good secondary Ground typing; Sceptile is fast and has good Special Attack, and Blaziken is an Uber because of its Hidden Ability (I… uh… I’m not going to get into Smogon and competitive tiers. So I’ll let you just use your own reading comprehension to figure out that Uber means really damn good). But, for my flavor? They just don’t do it for me. I mean, let’s look at them aesthetically: Sceptile has a big, spazzy fan-tail-thing. What IS that? Swampert is SUPER derpy looking. And Blaziken is the most ridiculous thing on two legs. It’s a lanky, gangly, fighty chicken with its wrists taped? Get the hell out of, Blaziken. You look awful. “Oh, they gave me Speed Boost as a Hidden Ability; I’m an Uber now. WoooOOooo”. You’re a stupid looking chicken. I never liked you. This is why I’m glad I don’t play Ubers; so I never have to see you. Even in their first evos, they’re silly. Torchic has no arms; Treecko looks like a hooligan, and Mudkip… okay, Mudkip’s cool. Everybody lieks Mudkips, I hear.
Hoenn, at 135 new Pokemon introduced, clocks in at the third most Pokemon who first appeared in one generation. What’s more, Hoenn is the region with the MOST new Pokemon in which old Pokemon also appear (which obviously would not be the case for Kanto, but is also not the case for the region that introduced the MOST new Pokemon in one generation, which I’ll get to later). That’s pretty snazzy because it means that the games have a metric butt-ton of replayability. You have so many options for team-building! So based on sheer numbers, Hoenn’s Pokemon do well, but was it a case of quantity over quality? Well, like all regions, Hoenn has its ups and its downs. I mean… Luvdisc and Castform, you know? Those are pretty much always junk (though you can somewhat excuse Luvdisc because at least they are likely to be holding Heart Scales if you catch them). And Sableye, Illumise and Volbeat were beyond worthless until they all received Prankster as a Hidden Ability, and that was generations later. On the upside? Hoenn brought forth TWO massive monsters in the form of Metagross and Salamence. They also came up with a lot more Steel and Dark types to finish what Johto started, as well as FINALLY introducing several dragons into existence, with the Salamence, Flygon, and Altaria lines. This helped bring more balance to the games, and that’s appreciable.
Hoenn is the generation where GameFreak just said “Screw it”, and went balls-out on legendaries. Kanto had 5 legendary Pokemon; Johto introduced 6. Hoenn upped the stakes into DOUBLE-FRIGGIN’-DIGITS by introducing TEN new legendary Pokemon! But I can’t be mad at that, because I actually really dig them. The region’s roaming Pokemon (a concept introduced in Johto, by people who hate us, that there are legendary Pokemon who don’t hang out in one spot and try to kill you, but actually roam all over the map and you have to painstakingly search them out even though they always change locations when you try to get where they are so you backtrack but DAMN IT they left again and now they’re over THERE so you fly to get them but GOD FRICKING DAMN IT THEY LEFT AGAIN THOSE ASSHOLES) are the twin Psychic/Dragons (making them the first fully-evolved Dragon-types without a 4x weakness), Latias and Latios. Hoenn also introduced the idea that legendaries could be integral to the storyline with Groudon (Ruby) and Kyogre (Sapphire), and later (in Emerald), Rayquaza being important plot points in the games. Then, just because why-the-hell-not, they introduced TWO event-only exclusives not found in-game, Jirachi and Deoxys. And THEN-then, they gave us the original Regi-trio (because every game needs a themed trio of legendaries… not sure why that is), Regirock, Registeel, and Regice. I’ll let you work out what types each of those might be. Anyway, it seems like they overdid it, but all of these guys (and gal, Latias) have unique, interesting designs, and are good additions to the burgeoning Poke-roster.
For the first time, Pokemon switched up the villains on you. You actually face a different enemy team based on whether you get Pokemon Ruby or Pokemon Sapphire or Pokemon Emerald. In Ruby, you face the threat of Team Magma, an organization out to eradicate all water on the planet so that land-based life-forms have more room to dominate! In Sapphire, you thwart the plans of Team Aqua, a unit dedicated to flooding the globe so that water-oriented organisms can thrive (you know… water-oriented organisms. Like NOT HUMANS. Good job, idiots!). In Emerald, you square off against both. It’s a unique concept, and it’s a certainly a step up from Johto’s blah villain department. If there’s a problem with Hoenn’s foes, it’s that they’re a bit comically overreaching. I mean… both those plans are pretty silly (and based around the fact that the creators REALLY just wanted to ramp up the weather system generation 2 introduced). But they shot for the moon this gen, so I give them credit for that. You know what’s the worst part, though? They don’t use themed-Pokemon! Magma doesn’t favor Ground-types any more than Aqua uses Water-types. Mostly they just use generic “bad guy” Pokemon like Golbat and Mightyena. Real missed opportunity there.
Rival? Rival?! Hoenn don’t need no stinkin’ rival! True, sad story; you don’t have a real, consistent rival in Hoenn. You start off with a few battles against Professor Birch’s kid (who takes on the role of Kid Who Takes The Starter That Yours Is Weak To), but midway through the game, they just drop off the map. They’re kind-of replaced by Wally, a brat you help catch his first ever Pokemon, a Ralts, so he’ll have a friend after he moves away. But you only battle Wally, what, twice the whole game? If that. Hoenn finishes a distant, distant last in this race.
CHAMPION: Not unlike what the game does with its villains, the champion changes based on the third game in the set. In Ruby and Sapphire, you do battle with Stephen, a tough champion with a team of varied types of Pokemon; in Emerald, the league champion is Wallace, who is actually the 8th gym leader in R/S, and is a Water-type trainer. Steven is a notoriously difficult champ, whereas Wallace… eh. Just bring an Electric and a Grass type and you’ll whomp him. Steven does a better job covering his weaknesses than Wallace. Both these guys place Hoenn as middle-of-the-road as far as champs go, though.
In summary, I do actually enjoy Hoenn more now than I ever did when it was released, so I feel bad I was so down on this generation for years. And I played a LOT of Alpha Sapphire, even if 95% of that was spent either breeding, training, or battling online. My problem with Hoenn is that it’s mostly a middling gen. It falls right in the middle for me as far as Pokemon games go. It’s a lot of fun, but not as much as some others. It’s a good story, but other gens have better ones. It has a lot of pokeys that are neither memorably awesome or lame. To me, it is the “just there” generation.