Welcome back! I’m slowly recovering from my post-Christmas burnout, although it’ll still be a little longer until I’m back to my usual schedule. I’ve got a bunch of games for impression reviews coming up for my Indie Corner series, and I’ve been taking some time this weekend to play them. I’m not certain when Episode 26 of the Indie Corner will be live, but I’m hoping for the next couple of weeks!
In the first episode of this best and worst part of each Pokemon generation, we covered the first three generations of Pokemon. In this episode, we’ll go into the Nintendo DS era, finishing off with Pokemon X and Y for the Nintendo 3DS. I still play both consoles to this day; they’re even better with custom firmware.
Here is a link to the first episode:
Generation Four: Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum
We escape the Gameboy Advance era into one of my favorite gaming handhelds of all time, the DS! This was another generation I skipped at launch, due to not owning a DS at the time. However, due to my business dealings while playing the Yugioh trading card game, I picked up a Nintendo DS lite for the first time, picking Pokemon Pearl as my first game of the fourth generation. The upgrade in graphics with the new hardware really sold this generation for me at launch.
Sinnoh is an interesting region in design and visuals; it’s an expansive, varied world with a wide range of biomes, requiring careful exploration to see everything. I also was a fan of the new Pokemon, with several big evolutions for older Pokemon. Porygon Z, Togekiss, Magmortar, and Tangrowth are probably my favorites of those. One of the biggest new mechanics to this generation was the physical/special split, which might be one of the biggest changes to the franchise. With Pokemon moves no longer restrained to their type for their stats, it made many Pokemon more usable.
I quite enjoyed the Starter selection in this generation as well; all three are powerful, but Infernape is in a league of its own. With its insane movepool and balanced offensive stats, it’s probably the best Pokemon to use in this generation period. This comes at a cost though, which I’ll get to in a bit. Torterra and Empoleon were decent as well with unique typings for the time, so it was hard to pick incorrectly. With a decent amount of challenge especially in Platinum, they are solid games overall.
Despite the strengths of this generation, they come with some pretty big flaws. Like Generation 3, I can barely play Diamond and Pearl anymore in favour of the excellent Platinum redesign. These games are slow in mechanics, battle speed, and overall pacing. With several biomes containing terrain that slows progress to a crawl, animations greatly slowed down in comparison to previous generations and an awful over-reliance on HMs (They added some really stupid ones this generation, most of which are useless!), Sinnoh is a slog to play through on repeated runs.
While the story is an improvement over previous generations, I wouldn’t call it great in any way; average overall as well as the characters. League champion Cynthia is a fantastic character and probably the best Champion in the franchise, but I wasn’t too enthralled with many of the characters this generation as well as the evil team. Team Galactic leader Cyrus was interesting, but the rest felt poor.
In Diamond and Pearl, the amount of Pokemon diversity was atrocious, almost as bad as in Gold and Silver. There are only two Fire-type lines in the entire game before Platinum fixed this, and very few Electric types. This brings me back to Infernape: if you didn’t pick Chimchar as your starter, you’re pretty much screwed for fire types, and Infernape can solo most of the game on its own. Despite the large number of decent Pokemon introduced to Sinnoh in Gen 4, finding them was difficult. It’s another game where early encounters determine most of the game for me; a Starly and Shinx in the opening routes made for a trio capable of beating 90% of what these games offered on their own. There just aren’t many great options for team building, although Platinum went a long way to fixing these issues.
The postgame content in the originals is decent, with a good number of legendaries available for capture as well as a large post-game area to explore as well as a Battle Tower. However, Pokemon Platinum does the same thing Emerald did, making for a vastly improved experience over Diamond and Pearl. This includes an upgraded Battle Frontier, Gym leader rematches as well as more Pokemon availability. While I love Platinum, the overall weakness of Diamond and Pearl drags this generation down for me. Despite these issues, it’s a great generation overall.
Slow animation and pacing makes these games tedious
A strong selection of new Pokemon
Awful Pokemon distribution in Diamond and Pearl
New Mechanics and upgraded graphics
Far too many required HMs to progress
Platinum is an amazing upgrade
Average characters and plot
Generation 5: Pokemon Black and White, Black 2 and White 2
It’s amazing to see this generation get the recognition it deserves these days. I remember when Black and White first launched, and people weren’t as enthralled with it back then. It made some significant changes to how Pokemon games were known for. Story and characters took a gigantic leap in quality and focus, and in the original Black and White games, the only Pokemon you could use before the postgame were the natives. No Pikachu, no Zubats plaguing the dungeons, and none of the old faves. It was just the new selection.
I understand why people weren’t keen on that. For one thing, Unova’s lineup of newcomers was a mixed bag of designs. While some were awesome such as Darmanitan, Sigylph, Hydreigon, Bisharp, Volcorona, and Elektross, there were less inspiring designs. Veniluxe was the main one. It’s ice cream. Not quite the pinnacle of game design? It felt the Pokemon designers were running out of ideas for this generation, although we’ve got over a thousand different Pokemon now, so they managed to get some creativity back into making new designs. I personally didn’t mind the change. It was great for learning how to use the new Pokemon, although the sequels added Pokemon from previous regions to the pool. I was glad Black and White 2 changed things up.
These games, particularly Black 2 and White 2, are among my favourites in the entire franchise. They boasted a brand new tileset for boosted visuals, and they focused a great deal on story and characters, with a strong selection of well-written characters to delve into. N’s journey through Unova in the first Team Plasma plotline was a stunning experience, and Ghetsis is my favourite villain in all of Pokemon; he’s brutal and downright insane. Cheren and Bianca were solid rivals in the original games, although you battle them so many times that it can get a little frustrating, and Hugh in the sequels has real ambitions and personality. Gen 7 and 9 are solid with the characters and story too, but I feel these were the strongest.
Just like Emerald and Platinum, Black and White 2 feels like the definitive version for me. What’s different about these games is they are true sequels: set a few years after Black and White 1, with new areas, a new story, and a vast amount of additional content. Black and White 1’s postgame felt a little disjointed with the huge level curve jump after the Champion fight, but the sequels pack so much into their content that it’s almost overwhelming. The Pokemon World Tournament is an amazing event that might even be superior to the Battle Frontier, and with so many legendaries to catch including throwbacks to the original games, Black and White 2 is a joy to play.
While I’m a massive fan of Gen 5, they do have some issues. The mixed Pokemon designs made playing the original games occasionally frustrating. While there are many great Pokemon that evolve at a reasonable rate, Unova has some incredibly late-evolving Pokemon. Hydreigon, Bisharp, Volcarona, and Braviary all evolve well past the level of the main story, and if people are sticking around the levels of the game’s narrative, that can be annoying. Level 64 for my Dark/Dragon boy… sob
There’s a fair amount of linearity to this generation as well. While that’s not a bad thing, there aren’t many places to explore that go off the beaten path. They’re more constrained experiences for the story: go to the location, follow the story, beat the Gym, and continue the story.
Finally, as much as I loved the sequels, they had some really stupid inclusions such as the ridiculous Pokestar Studios. What a waste of time. But you know what? None of these are deal breakers. I loved this generation back then, and out of all the Pokemon games out there, I return to Black and White 2 the most.
A massive step up in the franchise for characters and story
Many of Unova’s best Pokemon evolve too late
Some excellent new Pokemon, new modes of battle like Triple and Rotation
Linear progression could have been designed better
Improved visuals and graphics engine
Black 2 and White 2 are true sequels
Black and White 1’s postgame is a mixed bag
Ghetsis is fucking insane and I love it; best villain!
Generation Six: Pokemon X and Y
The final generation I’m covering in this episode is Pokemon X and Y. The first Pokemon games on the new 3DS had an enormous amount of hype about them; even for Pokemon. Seriously, Game Freak turned these games into the equivalent of drugs. It’s impressive how they pull it off!
Out of all the Pokemon video games, these were the only games I never replayed…until last year, that is. When I first picked up Pokemon Y, I completed the main story and just never played it again after that. I’m not sure why. I guess I just felt something was off about the Kalos region. However, I gave the games a second chance in 2022, and I’m about to take on the Elite Four challenge in my current playthrough.
Contrary to usual Game Freak methods of getting more money out of their fans, we never got a third game for this generation, making them feel somewhat unfinished. X/Y sold incredibly well and they were well received at launch, which baffles me why they didn’t try to make a Pokemon Z. The story left a lot to be desired with many loose ends that weren’t adequately explored. The game’s story and characters… were uninspired. They might be the worst story and characters in the entire franchise, and it’s such a shame.
Professor Sycamore was a great character, and Serana made a decent rival, but there are so many characters that just felt like bland cardboard. I hated the rest of the rival cast for being barren, unlikable nitwits with no personality, and Team Flare made for a disappointing evil team when Team Plasma was so great. Combined with an easy difficulty and a lacking postgame, I come from X/Y with mixed emotions. The game’s pacing was also off; after a long time between the first and second gyms, the rest come one after the other, with few breaks.
Despite these significant issues holding back my love of X/Y, there are several great things about them too. Even though the routes and city designs were short and linear, the game has great visual and sound design, with some unique areas that blew me away. The new Pokemon roster was fairly solid too, with a great local Pokedex. The number of cool Pokemon to catch and the train was impressive, and while the games were easy, they were a great way to experiment with different team members.
The Mega Evolution mechanic is probably the best battle gimmick Pokemon introduced, better than Dynamax anyway. Finally, the way X and Y handled online play is the best we’ve ever seen to date. It’s surprising how they never kept how Gen 6 did things. It’s a shame.
While Generation six is probably my least favourite in the franchise, they still have some charm. If there were any games for new players to begin with, I’d argue X/Y is a great place to start, as well as Fire Red/Leaf Green.
Great visuals and music
Unfinished: no third game left many things floundering
With the diverse Pokedex and simple game design, this is a perfect choice for new and returning players
Characters and story are weak and uninspired
Mega Evolution and the Fairy Type are wonderful additions to the formula
Too easy overall
The best online functionality in the whole franchise
That’s it for today’s episode! I’ve been enjoying my quick journey through the Pokemon series, and I hope you enjoy my rambles as well. I’ll be working on Episode three in the meantime while continuing my playthrough of Pokemon Scarlet. I can’t promise when that episode will be up, but I’m hard at work making new content for you all, and I can’t wait to share when I know more.