Monday, June 21, 2010

Are Pokemon designs getting worse?

Recently, seven new Pokemon were revealed for the latest games in the series, Black and White. I’ve been on Pokemon forums lately, and noticed that some people are claiming that these new designs are less inspired or simply not as good as the old designs. Now, I’ve noticed people have been saying this ever since Ruby and Sapphire were first revealed, implying that the first 251 Pokemon were the best designed Pokemon. It appears to be a popular opinion, shared not by a small group of haters, but by a large group of fans. Are they just wearing nostalgia goggles, as some people would put it, or are the designs truly getting worse as time goes on?

In my opinion, no, they aren’t getting worse. Sure, the first two generations of Pokemon had their great designs. Lapras, for example, is one of my favorite Pokemon. Partially because it’s my favorite type, Ice, but also because its design is extremely appealing to me. However, the original 151 also has its duds. Voltorb, for example, isn’t that creative of a Pokemon. It’s essentially a Pokeball with eyes and a mouth, and then it evolves into an upside down Pokeball with eyes and mouth. The next 100 are the same way for me. Espeon is a great Pokemon through and through in my eyes, but Quagsire isn’t the most exciting Pokemon ever.

The first 151 Pokemon had a large group of unoriginal Pokemon, especially in the evolutions department. Magnemite might be a great design, but Magneton is just three Magnemite stuck together. Doduo is the same way, but it evolves into a three headed Doduo. Diglett evolves into three Diglett. Poliwhirl evolves into an angry Poliwhirl. Grimer evolves into a bigger blob of gunk. Staryu evolves into a Staryu with another Staryu glued onto its back. The list goes on and on. Throw in some other Pokemon, like Ditto, which is just a blob, and Geodude, and you can see the first 151 weren’t the most original group of Pokemon.

While the Pokemon introduced in Gold and Silver didn’t have the “I evolve into an even bigger version of me” syndrome, they just weren’t that memorable to me. At first I thought it was because I hadn’t played Gold or Silver in a while, but after beating SoulSilver, I found myself thinking the same thing. Generation II just didn’t introduce very many memorable Pokemon. I attribute it to their designs, because none of them stand out when put next to Pokemon from other generations. While the Pokemon from Red and Blue evolved into larger versions of themselves, and weren’t that original, they were still pretty memorable. The Pokemon from Gold and Silver just felt bland and generic.

Then came along Ruby and Sapphire, the first game in the series to be viewed as having uninspired Pokemon by the fanbase. It also happens to considered the worst in the series by most fans. It’s true, quite a few Pokemon from Ruby and Sapphire weren’t that strong in battle, and they looked different from the previous 251 Pokemon. But, to me, them looking different from the previous 251 is what makes them stand out more. Most weren’t bland and forgettable like Gold and Silver’s Pokemon were, and majority of them didn’t evolve into bigger versions of themselves like quite a few the first 151 did.

I personally think the reason why these Pokemon were originally bashed was because a lot of them replaced fan favorites from the last two generations. Beautifly, for example, replaced Butterfree, while Walrein replaced Dewgong. And it’s true. Ruby and Sapphire’s Pokemon did replace a lot of the first 251 Pokemon, and on paper, it should sound like they’d fall into obscurity in our minds because they were just new versions of the Pokemon we already knew. However, it didn’t work out that way for me. Their designs were so different that they managed to stick out despite basically being Persian 2.0 or Pikachu 2.0.

Ruby and Sapphire did have its duds though. Every generation has its greats and its not so greats. Pokemon like Luvdisc have been forgotten by majority of players for having bad designs and being worthless in battle.  However, for every Luvdisc Ruby and Sapphire introduced, there were five Tropius, one of the best designed Pokemon in my eyes.

Next came Diamond and Pearl, and while its Pokemon didn’t stick out in my head as much as Ruby and Sapphire’s, they were still unique enough for me to remember them. Part of the reason they didn’t stick out as much was because a lot of new Pokemon’s designs were based off old Pokemon’s designs, mainly because Diamond and Pearl seemed to focus on making the weak Pokemon from previous generations, stronger. While the new Pokemon felt familiar, they also felt new and fresh. An example is Togekiss. It used the same color palette as Togetic, and had similar features, but it was different enough from Togetic to stand out in my mind as a new Pokemon, unlike Azurill, which was completely forgettable and bland.

As I said before, every generation has its duds. In the case of Diamond and Pearl, Lumineon sticks out the most as a dud. It wasn’t designed well enough to stand out against the infinite amount of Water-types Pokemon already has, and therefore, it’s hard for me to remember it and appreciate it for what it is (I had to look up Diamond and Pearl’s Pokemon to remember Lumineon).

Now, we know of 14 Pokemon from Black and White, and people are saying they aren’t good designs again. So far, I’ve only seen one lackluster design, and that’s Munna. The other 13 we’ve seen look great and stand out amongst the other 493 previous Pokemon. If the 14 Pokemon we know of now are any sign of what we’re going to see in Black and White, I think we’re in for another great group of Pokemon that are going to stand out for all the right reasons.

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