If you want to catch up on this list from the beginning: here’s the link to part 1. Within which I get into my personal favourite things about the first three generations of Pokemon games. Going back and looking at these more recent four Pokemon games helped me double down on my feeling that the Pokemon games were never actually on a slow decline.
Recently, there’s a lot of negativity online surrounding the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield. But looking at these games, they’ve mostly been on an upward trajectory to me, with Sun/Moon being the only real misstep. But I don’t mean to tip my hand too early. I’ll get into this list now and hopefully get across how I feel.
4th Generation – Diamond and Pearl:
The Best: Introduction of online
Gen 4 were the first set of games to not only introduce proper online into the series, but made it feel accessible to me: a tech stupid, stupid kid. Trading online with friends made the necessity of huddling over two gaming devices that you’d stolen from a sibling completely unnecessary.
Not only that, the Global trade station made event Pokemon (cloned/hacked Pokemon) accessible to those of us who lived in the ass end of nowhere. I was never going to get a legit Mew or Celebi, well not before they started distributing those online too.
The Worst: Too many Legendaries
Legendary Pokemon really started to lose all meaning by the time we got to Gen 4. There were so many of them, and their concepts had really started to get a little silly. This was the generation that gave us the literal Pokemon God remember. Not to mention the amount of event Pokemon starting to increase, which as I mentioned previously, were Pokemon I was unlikely to get my hands on.
Whoever thought Heatran or Regigigas were necessary as legendary Pokemon really let the point of them get away from them. For me personally, I feel like Gen 4 was a step down from Ruby and Sapphire overall, but it’s still difficult for me to think of another genuine complaint about it other than this.
5th Generation: Black and White:
The Best: The gall of it all
I am a not so secret lover of the 5th Pokemon generation. I think it’s the most misunderstood and under-appreciated Pokemon generation. And there are a few reasons for that, but personally I am just impressed by the audaciousness of it all.
This is a game where, aside from having the best story in any game, at least in execution and how it’s woven into the game. It’s also a game that contained no old Pokemon until after finishing the story. Players were limited to only using newly introduced Pokemon from this generation throughout the game.
Interestingly, this is the generation that has added the most new Pokemon in a single game, more than even the original games. Which is why a lot of people were turned off it. Which feels all the more appropriate given the #bringbacknationaldex drama surrounding the franchise currently.
But my love for gen 5 might also explain why I couldn’t care less about Sword and Shield not containing every Pokemon in existence. Those old games still exist, and there will be newer games in the future…
The Worst: The way it looks
I’ll put my hands up and admit that Black and White are not the prettiest Pokemon games ever made. I don’t hate the animated sprites, but the game has a strange habit of blowing sprites up to sizes pixels were never meant to reach. It means nearly every back sprite for a Pokemon has this weird, mosaic look to it.
It just adds to the misunderstood nature to these games. But honestly, I can forgive a lot considering the aspects of this game I really enjoy. Despite the weird as Pokemon designs in this game. And I’m not even talking about the ice cream or the bin bag Pokemon, people don’t seem to get hung up on Musharna.
6th Generation: X and Y:
The Best: friendlier EV and IV development
I’ve never been into the competitive battling scene, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t spend far too many hours breeding and training for as perfect IVs and EVs in my team. If you don’t know what these are; I wouldn’t worry about it. But basically, It was a way of manipulating the random number generator to get the most optimal stats for a Pokemon possible.
The makers of the game finally decided to throw their competitive audience a bone and add a bunch of mechanics to breeding in order to guarantee individual values be passed down through breeding, as well as locking natures and hidden abilities. Which cut the length of the process down significantly.
Not to mention the Friend safari which guaranteed a certain number of perfect IVs. There’s also Super training, which replaced the need to grind a hundred Poliwags and replaced it with a touch screen mini game. Making the perfect Pokemon had never been easier, and less grindy. It was nice to see Game Freak throw their more self serious fanbase a bone in this regard.
The Worst: No Extra version
X and Y were the only Pokemon games that never got an additional version. No Crystal, no Emerald and no Black/white 2. Even Ultra Sun/Moon was a thing. Which is a crying shame considering X and Y are probably the best Pokemon games in the franchise next to Ruby and Sapphire. The mega evolution mechanic was amazing and the franchises jump to polygonal graphics worked great.
We at least got Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, which were the perfect combination of the two best games in the franchise. Honestly though, there isn’t much else to complain about. X and Y are so good. It’s a shame Team Flare are such a step down from Team Plasma.
7th Generation: Sun and Moon:
The Best: Regional Forms
Adding new twists to old favourite’s has been one of my favourite things about new Pokemon games as they come out. I could have easily put “new Evolutions” as my best things from gens 2 and 4 or mega evolution as my favourite thing from gen 6. But there were things about those games I just wanted to highlight more.
Sun and moon have always felt a little flat for me. But the regional forms are certainly my favourite thing they added to the games. I’m glad they’re a mechanic they chose to continue into Sword and Shield too. While I would have liked an evolved form for Weezing or a mega evolution for the gen 2 starters, more regional forms are the next best thing.
The Worst: Misguided changes to formula
I was hankering for Pokemon to mix up it’s well trodden formula for the longest time. Which is why I love the ending to Black and White so much. I was happy to hear Sun and Moon were changing things for their game. But sadly, they changes they do end up making are mostly superficial and don’t really end up changing anything at all.
While the trials are a good idea to replace gyms, they don’t feel distinct enough from gyms to make the change worth while, while also lacking the buildup and tension that comes from working your way through the puzzles of a gym, battling the trainers along the way. They’re very hit and miss.
Additionally, the fact that it makes such a big deal about changing things up, and then end it with an elite four challenge anyway kind of makes the announced changes feel disingenuous.
Also, no new mega evolutions makes me real sad.
No game in the franchise is perfect. Each have their good points and bad points. I am trying my best not to take shots at the people who are complaining about the upcoming Pokemon games before they’ve even played them. But I feel like a lot of the negativity comes from a place of not understanding the limitations and difficulties of making video games, especially considering the increased difficulties and expectations of the franchise as it grows and finds itself on more advanced hardware.
I am looking forward to the new Pokemon games. If they let me down like I felt Sun and Moon did, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but for the time being, can we just wait and see what the game ends up being before we create an angry mob around it.