Pokemon Generational Analysis Part 5
When last we reviewed a Pokemon region, I covered my absolute favorite region of all the times, Sinnoh. As I mentioned, I just loved Generation 4 on every level; Sinnoh was my favorite region because they just did everything so damn well, and then it had the remakes of the Johto era games, and I think HG and SS are my two favorite games in the entire Pokemon series.
So what comes after my FAVORITE region? Cue ominous music for…
5. Unova, Generation Five – Black, White, Black 2, White 2.
What’s that? I didn’t do my recap and scoring system reminder? Oh, oops. Quickly: I am ranking each Pokemon region in 7 categories and scoring them in each category as a “ranking” out of 6. The best a region can do in each category is score 6/6 (the generation that did a category the best gets this), and the worst would be 1/6 (for the region that did it the worst), meaning no two regions can possibly get 6/6 in the same category. Previous scores have been:
Kanto/Gen 1: 30/42
Johto/Gen 2: 22/42
Hoenn/Gen 3: 22/42
Sinnoh/Gen 4: 33/42
GAMEPLAY: What you might notice right away is that Generation 5 is the first generation that had direct sequels (which is not ENTIRELY true… Gold/Silver were direct sequels to Red/Blue, but they aren’t considered to be the same generation, and most of G/S takes place in a different region). Instead of there being Black/White and then Grey, a presumed remake of B/W with updated additions, GameFreak just made a sequel game with an entirely new plot and some new areas, side attractions, and cities. Bonus points for creativity, certainly, but I will admit that I found B2/W2 to be entirely tedious, and it’s the only main series Pokemon games I started but actually never finished.
In previous generations, I mentioned how Hoenn and Sinnoh gave you a little sidequest option with Pokemon Contests. Well Black and White continued that with the absolutely dreadful and pointless Pokemon Musicals. Black 2 and White 2, upped the ante by introducing SEVERAL new options: You could run your own shopping mall (Join Avenue), become a star of the silver screen (PokeStar Studios), or become a champion of a tournament of legendary trainers (Pokemon World Tournament). Whereas the options here alone are amazing, they are actually one of the reasons I despised the Unova sequels. For the first time, instead of merely making you aware of the alternate missions and letting you go on your way, the sequel series FORCED you to participate in all of them, even if at least just once. And I found that to be an annoying waste of time when I just wanted to complete the story.
What I will give Unova all the credit in the world for is introducing the single best aspect of Pokemon battling yet (for my money): Triple Battles! Remember how much I liked Double Battles from Hoenn? Well now you can use THREE POKEMON. Jesus Christ, that’s awesome! The mechanics of Triple Battles, at which I like to think I’ve become somewhat proficient, are so different and so much more fun that Singles and even Doubles. Without Triple Battles AND improved connectivity to Wi-Fi, I wouldn’t have put nearly the (Jesus, is this number right? God, now I feel terrible about my life) SIX-HUNDRED AND FIFTY HOURS that I have on my Pokemon Black save file. So yeah… I spent a lot of time Triple Battling online, mostly while on my elliptical machine. How am I not in better shape yet?
STARTERS: So each region has their own Water, Fire, or Grass type that you can choose to start off with, we all know that; how does Unova compare? Not very well, I’m afraid. The worst part is not only do we get a Fire-type starter whose fully evolved form is a dual Fire/Fighting type (for the third generation in a row!), but Tepig is just so blah compared the Chimchar and Torchic lines. Emboar is nowhere near as good competitively as Infernape or Blaziken, and he’s almost as silly looking as Blaziken (Blaziken is still the worst-designed of all fully-evolved starters, though). And the other two are just negligible–Nothing about the Snivy or Oshawott lines stand out; they both evolve into pure Grass and Water types, and they are inferior in all ways (aesthetically, mostly) to other mono-type starters like Blastoise, Feraligator, Meganium, and Sceptile. To Serperior’s credit, his Hidden Ability–Contrary–was a HUGE boon and turned him into a great Pokemon for competition. But still, Unova was far-and-away the worst region for starter Pokemon, if you ask me. And you did! That’s the contract we agreed to when you started reading this.
OTHER POKEMON: Unova brings it hard on the Pokemon-that-aren’t-starters front, though, and they do it by introducing a whopping 157 new Pokemon–more than any single other generation introduces in one shot. And, like Sinnoh before it, there isn’t a completely worthless Pokemon in the bunch (I’m really happy those days seem to be over). I will say, before getting into the Pokemon that I really dug, there is one downside to Unova, and that is the complete fascination with the damn elemental monkeys. They are EVERYWHERE throughout the game! It seems like every third NPC trainer in the game has at least one, and you get really damn tired of them after a while. Past that, though, there are a lot of gems. For instance, I friggin’ love me some Galvantula. An electric/bug type with Compound Eyes that makes Thunder something like 91% accurate? Yes, please. Mienshao? A… mouse/monk kind of thing? I have no idea what it’s really supposed to be, but I know it was a staple on my Gen 5 Triple Battle teams. New powerhouses in Hydreigon and Volcarona? Great! There are a lot of Pokemon to enjoy this gen, giving it some of the highest replay value (teambuilding-wise) in the whole series. If I had my rankings to do over again, I might actually put Unova at #1 for this category, but I guess I already blew my load there on Kanto. Ah well. I will weigh this carefully and see if that’s why God made the Edit button.
LEGENDARY POKEMON: I’m torn on Unova’s legendary Pokemon, but I’ll get into that momentarily. They still have a fairly large amount of legends, bringing us 13 new ones. Not quite the 13% of the roster that Sinnoh boasted, but that’s still a large amount. Now, where I’m a little down on the legends is that the storyline revolving around them is a bit of a drag after Sinnoh. The only ones that really get a story are the featured cover beasts, Zekrom and Reshiram. And even then, it’s a weird story about how they split from being one Pokemon into two that represent, alternatively, Ideals and Truth. And they have something to do with Kyruem? I am not sure. Then there are the Musketeer quartet, Terrakion, Cobalion, Virizion, and Keldeo; there’s some story about their judging your worth as you progress through the game, but it’s poorly told and irrelevant. Conversely, boring though the stories of Unova’s legends may be, they are absolutely a blast to use, and they’re great competitively. Tornadus, Thundurus, Landorus, and Terrakion have all seen important spots on many Triple Battle teams I’ve created. Hell, Tornadus was a borderline staple for me for a while, and Terrakion was also one of my favorite physical attackers. So a good middle-of-the-road score for an imbalanced region of legends.
VILLAINS: Team Plasma, the villains of Unova. They actually have a high-quality, interesting storyline with some twists, which is more than really any other region’s foes can say. When you first meet Team Plasma, it seems their role is that of the PETA of the Pokemon Universe: they view Pokemon battles as a cruel and Pokemon trainers as oppressive, so they want to free all Pokemon. They are led by a weird young man named N who is able to communicate with Pokemon. As you get into the game, you see that Plasma is being manipulated by a man named Ghetsis who is secretly after world domination–his plan is to convince everyone to release their Pokemon, thereby making Team Plasma the only people in the region with them. N, it turns out, is unaware of this and ends up finding Ghetsis’ plan abhorrent after it is revealed. He leaves at the end of B/W to think about all the lies he’s been fed (he is essentially Ghetsis’ adopted son) and decide what kind of person he wants to be.
After defeating Ghetsis, life goes on… into the sequel series of games where Ghetsis is back with half of the old Team Plasma operatives. The other half, the ones who weren’t there to prop up Ghetsis’ plan and actually believed in Team Plasma’s original ideals, are now working to repair their image and help abandoned and abused Pokemon. N comes back at one point to help you fight Ghetsis near the end of the game (So I did ALMOST complete the sequels… I got bored right before Victory Road) to complete his arc, oh, and there’s a scientist named Colress around for some reason. *shrug* It’s not the deepest story on the planet, but for Pokemon game villainy, it’s quite interesting!
RIVALS: Oh, that’s right. Rivals, plural! In B/W alone, you get two rivals–Bianca and Cheren–and in B2/W2, you get another–Hugh–so that’s three rivals in total. Unfortunately, they aren’t that amazing, however. Hugh, most notably, is the first in-game rival I just wanted to throttle because he’s so damn annoying. All he does is whine and complain and threaten everyone. I distinctly remember as I was playing B2, every time Hugh showed up, I couldn’t help but think “God, THIS loser again”. Cheren and Bianca were a touch better; Cheren was the overly-analytical nerd friend of the protagonist, while Bianca was the clueless girl with a big heart. For some reason I can’t even recall, I remember being convinced–CONVINCED!–while first playing Black that Bianca was going to swerve and join Team Plasma, but the story never goes anywhere near there. Ah well.. it would have been a neat idea. Cheren is the bigger threat than Bianca (at the beginning, he even takes the starter yours is weak against, while Bianca takes the one yours should more easily defeat). So while Cheren and Bianca are both fine rivals without any flaws or high points, I feel that the obnoxiousness that is Hugh just drags Unova down a bit.
CHAMPION: Oh, Alder. The best thing I can say about you is that you aren’t the worst champion of any region. But really, this guy was as boring and worthless as it gets. Not only that, he’s the first champion that you outright see get beaten, but is still treated as the champ (Lance falls to Blue in the original games, but that makes Blue the true Champion). Alder tries to oppose Team Plasma’s plans in B/W, but is soundly defeated by N, so then you go off and beat N and Ghetsis to finish the story before… going back to beat Alder to become the champion? What sense does that make? Why aren’t you the champion after thwarting N? Why do I have to go fight this loser again? He’s a loser; I saw him lose. Eh, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Oh yeah, and if you play B2/W2, I guess the reigning champ is a little girl (who was one of the two gym leaders of the 8th gym in B/W). At least she isn’t a big loser. Considering I never beat B2/W2, it’s hard to judge her. Alder’s team isn’t even that great; I’ve swept his entire team with my Butterfree before. But Butterfree destroys everything, so…
So I had always considered Unova to be my least favorite of all Pokemon generation, but its score wishes to discredit that. Actually, if I’d have gone ahead and swapped out a few scores I was close on (giving it #1 in Other Pokemon, or swapping its spot with Generation 6’s in Rivals by not holding so much against Hugh), it would be ranked higher than Johto or Hoenn. The nice thing about Unova/Gen 5 is that what it did well, it really excelled at (new Pokemon aside from its starters; Triple Battles; improved Wi-Fi connectivity; villain storylines). I just hold a lot of the things it did poorly too hard against it (awful starters; really irritating and tedious sequel games that forced you to do boring things I’d rather have skipped; Hugh). Actually, if they just would have done a Grey remake instead of the B2/W2 sequels, I’d have never had anything real against Unova.
TOTAL SCORE: 22/42 (what is this? The official score of every region that isn’t Kanto or Sinnoh? 22/42 is the Fire/Fighting of my scoring system).