Sunday 17 February 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 1 Part 1 - Bulbasaur Line to Squirtle Line

So Bogleech has reviewed every Pokémon from all (currently) 7 Generations of the franchise? Challenge accepted
First up, Generation 1 – encompassing Pokémon Blue & Green and Pokémon Blue, their international versions Pokémon Red & Blue and Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition. This is the era of Pokémania, of kids stabbing each other over trading cards, of accusations of satanism, of more merchandise than you can shake a Sudowoodo at, of seizures and racism and hit movies and mothers against groups and Time Magazine covers. This is the era of the original 151.

And I was there for it all, well all of it in the UK, we got it a bit later than America. My first Pokémon game was a shitty second-hand copy of Pokémon Blue, I got it the year it was released in the UK (1999) and then got my own brand-new Pokémon Red for Christmas that year, I vividly remember playing Red in the car to my Aunt and Uncles and my Dad (driving me there) being completely unimpressed with my excitement over Rattata and Pidgey. Reviewing Generation 1’s ‘mons is going to be very difficult for me, simply because I’m so used to them, these things have been in my life for around getting on for 20 years and a lot of ‘em have been catchable in every Generation. Further Gen 1 and 2 had a very simple, naturalistic design for their Pokémon, many of them are simply nice cartoon critters so I do wonder how boring this may get.

So how am I going to do it?
I’m going to steal Bogleech’s format but expand it a little: each segment will be about the entire evolutionary line, including Pokémon that were added to it in later Generations (known as ‘Cross-Generation Evolutions’ to us cool kids) and all forms, which will include the Mega Evolutions added in Generation 6 and any regional forms (or Alolan forms) added in Generation 7. For Generation 1 here I’ll also add a special paragraph about the planned but ultimately cut additions to the evolutionary lines from the recently discovered ‘Space World Demo’ of Pokémon Gold & Silver (a very early version of the Generation 2 games from a Nintendo event called Space World ‘97) because Bogleech reviewed all of these too. I’ll do the completely unconnected cut Pokémon from that demo… sometime later, probably after Gen 2.

Each Pokémon will be individually ranked with the Pokéball System, though I’ll be using Master Balls because they’re my favourite ball (of course I have a favourite type of Pokéball) and an overall score for the whole evolutionary line as well. With zero Poke balls (all grey) for the worst and Special ‘gold’ scores for the best, Gold 5 (five gold GS Balls) and Gold 6 (six Gold GS Balls) for my absolute tippy-top favourites.

So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Fun fact: Ivysaur was designed first and based on – I believe – an Ultra Kaiju (probably from Ultraseven) though it was basically Vensuar:

This was before there was the concept of evolution in the game (and indeed the concept of elemental types) dating all the way back to the game’s origin as Capsule Monsters (or ‘Capumon’) in 1991ish, Bulbasaur and Venusaur weren’t added until years later during a drive to add evolutions to the earliest Pokémon like Grimer and Voltorb. I bring this up because it answers the commonly answered question of ‘what IS Bulbasaur and its mates?’ – the answer is simple, they’re not frogs, they’re not dinosaurs, they’re a kaiju and two other kaiju designed specifically to give it younger forms. This also explains why the line doesn’t really change that much  - most of these ‘quick we need an evolution for X’ Pokémon from this time don’t – the likes of Muk, Persian, Abra and Alakazam, Pidgeotto and Pidgeot, Marowack, Clefable, Electrode, Cubone, Weezing, Kingler and  Starmie are all from this period, all of them just ‘bigger, badder’ or ‘smaller, cuter’ versions of the earlier ‘mon being worked from, I don’t think originality or creativity was really being prioritized here. The exceptions being Magikarp (though Gyarados was already based on the legend so a goldfish prevolution wasn’t a herculean feat of creativity).
ANYway: You see those markings on Bulbasaur and Ivysaur? Those are the exact opposite of the ‘undesigned markings’ I will be moaning about a LOT, those markings look like they were designed, like effort was put into their shape and their placing, Purrloin and Cranidos should have markings that feel like that. 
ANYway II: Bulbasaur is a SUPER adorable little critter who becomes a bigger, stronger, tougher middle stage that feels very much like the mid-point between adorable and powerful and then it ends up as a huge flower beast. The change between one ‘mon and another isn’t so big but balanced out by the bud on its back blooming, giving each stage its own unique element and the whole evolutionary line a nice, easy to understand and easy to appreciate progression. If pushed I’d say that the Bulbasaur line was my least favourite of the Gen 1 Starters, but only because a jowly, fat tree thing is slightly less awesome than a dragon or a turtle-tank, and because Mega Venusaur has that flower on its head, it looks a little goofy Venu’ me old mate, sorry.

I’m one of THOSE Pokéfans, one of THOSE fans who think Charizard is amazing despite the fact that it’s not a Dragon Type normally, fucked by something as pitiful as Stealth Rock and its Base Set card isn’t even that expensive anymore. The reason I worship at the altar of Charizard is entirely down to design, because Charizard is the perfect western drag , it’s THE western dragon design, it’s everything people think of when they think of a western dragon – plus a fiery tail – it’s somehow just exactly right. The Megas I’m a bit more devided on, see I totally agree that Charizard needed a Mega to allow him to catch up to slightly less popular but far more useful dragons like Garchomp or Haxorus and that giving it a Dragon Type was a must and I actually agree that it’s popular enough to be a shoe-in for two Mega Evolutions. But the difference between the two it got is just…huge: Mega Charizard X is amazing, an over the top black dragon that adds the Dragon Type and really shows off the ‘ridiculously mental cool’ idea of Mega Evolutions, Mega Charizard Y is…just a Charizard with extra bits on it that it didn’t need, sure it gets a stat boost and it’s fine in competitive play but the sheer difference…
Elsewhere Charmander is just right, adorable to the point that really you’d be an utter horrible bastard if you didn’t go ‘awww’ when you saw it, and you’re not an utter horrible bastard now are you? As for Charmeleon, just like Ivysaur it works perfectly as a mid-point when it comes to design, I do wonder why all the midvolutions in the Gen 1 starters are randomly darker colours but it just makes them look that much more different from their previous forms (because they’re not THAT much different are they, really?) so I’m not complaining.

Yes I did type that. The Squirtle family is my favourite Starter line and one of my favourite Pokémon evolutionary lines period, all three members of it would be on my top 50 Pokémon, I just love it to death. Squirtle is an adorable turtle with a squirrel tail, Blastoise is a huge tank tortoise with TWO cannons that Mega Evolves into the animal equivalent of the BFG but it’s actually Wartortle that I rate the highest. Why? Probably because it looks like a cute turtle version of The Mighty Thor, I mean I’m not that deep a person really so it could simply be that but if you want more words: it retains everything that makes Squirtle cute and great, but badasses it up a little bit – while both Ivysaur and Charmeleon do the latter they don’t do the former, I mean they’re not un-cute but they’re not AS cute as Bulbasaur and Charmander, Wartortle IS as cute as Squirtle if you ask me. Wartortle would be my first choice for ‘Pokémon I’d have in real life’ too, not only is it cute and cool and small enough to not be a hazard in the home but it’s elemental abilities are actually useful, instead of worrying that the ‘mon will set fire to the grass or poison next door’s cat or steal my soul (or the kids who live down the road), me and Wartortle can clean the patio together.
Fun Fact: there’s enough evidence to suggest that Blastoise wasn’t originally supposed to be the evolution or Wartortle and that’s why it completely abandons everything from the previous two designs except ‘has shell’. It’s a very complicated bit of detective work from the geniuses at including cries, when the three ‘mons were created and who was created around them and the internal list of Pokémon in Red and Green and summarizing it here would be difficult and time consuming so I’m just gonna link you to them and you can read it for yourself.

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