Welcome to Generation V an… this took so long to write, I’m sorry, a busy and then bad month plus the sheer volume of Pokémon introduced in this generation slowed things to a fucking crawl.
Anyway Welcome to Generation V, the second generation for the Nintendo DS and the first Pokémon region to not be based on a part of Japan, Unnova is based on New York and yes that ruined desert does seem to represent ground zero for 9/11. It encompasses Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version and for the first time since Yellow, direct sequels in the form of Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2 which should show you how popular and successful Black and White were at the time – with some people. Black and White were vey well written games, with a great story, great characters and easily the best villains in the series and the games included a number of upgrades to gameplay, least of all the ability to use TMs indefinitely. But it also relied heavily on now-defunct online features, broke the competitive scene by turning it into the ‘weather wars’ (where most competitive battling relied on weather-based Abilities) and it included the gimmick of having a whole new Pokedex, a whole new 151 little critters and for the pre-credits game (which is most of it) players would only be able to use those new 151 new ‘mons. What causes further breaking was that fans of Gen 5 had a habit of saying they liked it, and defending it, to the point that it upset older and nostalgic fans who were commonly the people criticizing the generation (especially it’s Pokémon) because god forbid groups of people can like different things and say so without it all getting nasty.
I liked the two sets of games this generation, and replaying Black 2 and White 2 recently I realised I still like them, but I tend to think of the new Pokémon they introduced as one big homogenous lump of good but not exceptional, I was sort of right.
Victini’s a pretty good way to start this off, because it’s a nice overview of the positives and negatives of the whole ‘dex as far as I’m concerned. Victini’s a solid Pokémon design and a delightful move away from the Gen 3 and 4 art style to this new style that’s kind of a modernized version of Gen 1-2’s, it’ll only really stick around for this generation but that makes perfect sense; this is a very… calling back generation, so the art style calling back is only fitting. Honestly the thing I like about it the most is that it’s based on usage-ringo, or ‘apple bunnies’:
How cute are they and how cute is that? ‘We want a bunny but not an obvious bunny, cos we’ve done that” “Dude – APPLE bunnies, they even look like v’s” “Brilliant!”. Actually the V motif is nice and clever (though Grant Morrison did it first with Weapon X) with V for Victory and V being the Roman numeral for 5 (as in Generation Five) and this being the Victory Pokémon in Generation V, neat stuff.
The negatives though? Well like a lot of Gen 5 mons, despite being completely fine, it leaves me rather cold and it pales in comparison to the Gen 1 Pokémon it’s an equivalent of. Maybe. I’ll explain:
Victini is this Generation’s Mew, Gen 5 has a lot of equivalents in it’s ‘Dex (we’ll get to that) but here things are far less egregious as every generation has at least one ‘New Mew’ and Victini is like the sixth one, each region having it’s own Mew is no different from having it’s own birds, fish or fossils. Still the point applies as no ‘New Mew’ has had that sense of mystery and excitement that Mew had, nor have they managed to replicate it’s simple yet appealing design, though Victini is certainly mega cute and, if you’ve seen it’s film(s), pretty damn cool. HOWEVER Victini’s little gimmick was that it was number 00 in the Unnova ‘Dex, the first official Pokémon to be number zero, but not the first Pokémon in general: that was the infamous MissingNo and in case you forgot: I REALLY like the infamous MissingNo (I’m calling it that from now on) and I’ve heard claims that it was inspired by and an attempt to legitimize The Infamous MissingNo, kind of like how Gouken in Street Fighter V was inspired by and Capcom’s attempt to legitimize Shen-Long. BUT I can’t actually find any proof of that, and design wise and function wise it’s not comparable but it IS a powerful, ‘secret’ Pokémon that’s number 00 so unfortunate comparisons happen allthe same and the victory apple bunny is nowhere near as awesome as The Infamous MissingNo, I know it’s not really a fair comparison but I didn’t make it number 0.
Snivy looks SO MUCH like Snively from Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s even Snively’s signature colour (green), this can’t be a co-incidence, I refuse to believe it, Pokémon comes to an American-inspired region for the first time and it has a Pokémon that looks like a character created for an American version of a Japanese franchise, owned by Nintendo’s once-biggest rival and then-good buddy? ALL THE PIECES FIT!
Lemme just…there; tin-foil hat safely stored away.
Anyway we follow the real-world evolution of snakes of from small limbs to no limbs (Snivy > Servine > Seperior) which feels like it took far too long to happen, especially when it produces these three. I’m good with the Snivy line, I mean I think they’re all only just above average but they’re consistently all just above average. With so many starters suffering from shit midvolutions it’s nice to get have a Starter line that’s all as good as each other, even if there are only 4 ball ‘mons. In fact Servine is pretty damn cool, I especially enjoy the use of leaves to recall Godzilla’s back spines. Speaking of nice little details: the super-fancy super-snotty Grass Pokémon has gold LEAF on it?!? That’s genius! It’s a perfect fit for everything about Serperior!
I didn’t pick Snivy first play-through though; because 1) I was fed up with the fandom hype around ‘Smugleaf’ here and 2) I like pigs
I often feel like I’m the Tepig’s line’s only fan - this upsets me L L L. It upsets me enough to use emoticons.
Most of the fandom however continue to resent this darling little oink-oink and it’s two badass evolutions, still, after all this time. Why? Well, you ready? The Tepig line was the third Fire Starter (a twisted Fire Starter) to evolve into a Fire/Fighting type (in this case, Emboar). That’s a crap reason to resent something, how many Normal/Flying and Bug/Poison ‘mons have we had without a break, all fulfilling the same roles (common bird, common bugs)? I will concede that it is a fine reason to be disappointed, certainly initially, but the fandom remains so cross with it STILL that TV Tropes can have an accurate summary that reads:
“Emboar remains one of the most disliked starters in the series, even well into Gen VII, and is often used as a punchline for Fire-type starters from later generations evolving into Fire/Fighting types. Some people argue that Emboar's typing is so blatantly lazy that it ruined the reputations of the Unova starters, or even the Unova Pokédex, as a whole.”
I rarely say this but: get over it, already.
My reaction to Emboar was not disappointment, in case you hadn’t guessed, in fact my reaction was utter joy because it gave us a pig Pokémon line that wasn’t ruined the second evolution happened! It felt like a three-stage sumo-wrestling apology for Grumpig and the make-up sex was fantastic; we got a cute lil’ piggy in Tepig, a feisty ‘classic wrestler’ piggy in Pignite and fucking monster in Emboar and all of them have this lovely pottery colour-scheme, I’m a big fan of the pottery thing by the way, the mixing of pigs, statues, pottery and the Fire Type, statues of pigs are a big thing in Asia and FIRED pottery is a nice twist on the ‘elemental elements’ design aesthetic – hell I don’t even really need Emboar’s fire beard, I don’t mind it (who would mind the awesomeness of a fire beard?) but I’m getting the fire thang just fine without the need for an actual fire bit, still it is a Fire Starter (a twisted fire starter) and Game Freak do like their real fire on their Fire Starters (twisted fire starters) - it’s also just a really pleasing colour scheme for me, these look warm.
I am very cross at Dewott, because it’s going to bring down the overall score of this line when I think Oshawott is both cute and armed and Samurott is just badass but Dewott is…just crap. Everything about it fails for me except it’s cute anger, none of it gels, none of it fits together, it’s the design equivalent of getting dressed in the dark, the spike of hair, the blue belt-fur-thing (I think it’s actually based on a real thing, maybe something a type of Tessenjutsu practitioner wore?) that looks stuck on, the higher contrast light blue and the low contrast charcoal next to each other, nothing works and it irritates me because it brings a good line down and yet it was Oshawott that got the bad and Samurott that got the bad reactions! (Ok at the time of Oshawott’s negative response we hasn’t been shown Dewott yet but I need a segue so shut it).
Oshawott got the worst reaction of the three when they were revealed (if you don’t follow Pokémon as horribly closely as I do, Starters are generally shown off very early, either at the same time as the games being revealed or very close after), this magnificently cute little otter with a little seashell it can take off it’s body and use as both a knife and killer frisbee was rejected, people are wwweeeiiird. I’d’ve thought that turning into a shell armoured sea unicorn with retractable swords on its limbs would have made up for wahever perceived design wrongs a beach hut coloured otter had perpetrated but NOPE people were still cross. The general thinking (which Bogleech also puts forward) is that at lot of this was due to the ‘Dragonite factor’ of Dewott looking a lot like Oshawott and thus fans expecting Samurott to do the same but instead we got a bipedal tank that looks more like a sealion or dog. I think for me the drastic change was dampened by keeping the same colour scheme (remember I went on about that in Dragonite’s section?) and by Samurott being so, damn, coooool. That said, I do have one issue with Samurott as a design: