Monday, May 4, 2015
The Pokemon Retrospective: Gen V
After a long delay, let's keep on trucking with a fresh Pokemon experience!
After the wreck that was 4th gen, I was burnt out on Pokemon. I really didn't care that much about Pokemon at the time, so I actually skipped Pokemon Black/White when it first came out. I played the game for the first time last year and I actually decided to Nuzlocke it. I blind Nuzlockes this game, which if you know what a Nuzlocke is, then you know exactly how terrifying that prospect is. You may also be laughing because out of all of the gens, Gen V was probably the best gen to do a blind Nuzlocke of. Why is that? Because Gen V attempted to start the series off again with a blank slate. There were no previous Pokemon included in this game, no old characters, and nothing that reflected Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, or Sinnoh.
How was it on the whole? Well, simply put, Black/White was the kick the series needed to spark that passion back in me again. Going into each new route will show completely new Pokemon and contains a huge element of surprise on each route. Because there are no repeating Pokemon, each new route will always contain a surprise and impact the game significantly. It tries to recapture the same magic as playing Red/Blue for the first time and exploring this new world with fresh eyes. Obviously nothing can recapture the same magic and wonder as playing Gen I for the first time, but props for even trying.
As a matter of fact, Black/White takes a lot of strives to make the series fresh again. For the first time in the series, there's an emphasis on story, and it's actually a very compelling and refreshing story. Yes you're still trying to become a Pokemon Master, but now you're also trying to stop Team Plasma from accomplishing their nefarious plans. What separates Plasma from other Pokemon organizations is that their plans actually have some moral and logical understanding to them. Team Plasma is essentially a glorified PETA; they believe in freeing Pokemon from trainers because all trainers do is imprison their Pokemon and force them to fight each other. They want Pokemon liberation. This plan is led by Ghestis and N, both of whom are very well developed characters and are actually powerful trainers. Ghestis is akin to a demented cult leader while N is the man who drank the Kool-Aid and believes himself to be the Messiah. It's fun seeing these characters and the theological undertones that this Gen has over simple crime organizations of the past.
So outside of the fresh new elements of Gen V, what about the more technical aspects of this generation? What about the new Pokemon designs, soundtrack, graphics, and game difficulty? Well, while I'm not crazy about a lot of these designs and the prevalent use of black and white in the Pokemon designs, there are some Pokemon that at least look interesting. Except for Stunfisk. Stunfisk is a crime against humanity. The music itself is fine, but nothing too spectacular, while the graphics are both really good... and a dramatic step back from Gen IV. The overworld and looks amazing and gyms are more dynamic than ever. This game pushes the DS to its breaking point and beyond. I would even say that parts of this game look better than X/Y they're that good. The actual battles themselves though are incredibly pixelated all for the name of movement. Pokemon can now move around and have small animations during battle, but for the sacrifice of good sprite work. I would have honestly preferred good sprite work over slight animation, but we have to judge the game for what it is. Battles are more dynamic to watch, but they're slightly uglier to watch.
The gameplay has undergone very few changes as well. While there are no new types or significant side games, there are two new types of battles; Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. Triple battles are exactly what they sound like; they are battles with three Pokemon at a time. There's not much to say about them except you have to be careful which position you send your Pokemon out in. If a Pokemon is sent out in the middle, every Pokemon and your enemy's team could attack it at the cost of your Pokemon being able to attack all three of their Pokemon. Not only that, but a Pokemon on the far right cannot fight the Pokemon on the far left. Rotation battles are much more interesting battle type. Each Pokemon will get only a single opportunity to attack before being rotated to another Pokemon available. You can have three Pokemon out at a time and you can set the order for who will attack, but you're also at the mercy of what Pokemon your opponent chooses to attack in their order as well. It's interesting and fun overall. However, both of these mechanics don't appear too frequently and rarely affect the core game. I honestly prefer Triple Battles more so than Rotation Battles, but most people usually switch between which one they prefer more.
So on the whole, Black/White has its flaws, but it succeeds more than it fails. It reinvigorated the series for me, even though I technically played it after X/Y. It's held up remarkably well and was the first time I felt that Pokemon could live past the initial Pokemania. Props to the series!
Gen I: Red/Blue
Gen II: Gold/Silver
Gen III: Ruby/Sapphire
Gen IV: Diamond/Pearl