Sunday, 10 March 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 2 Part 1 - Chikorita line to Totodile line

Generation 2 is here! That was my thoughts back then too, I was so excited for Gen 2.
So far the only Generation to be a direct sequel to it’s predecessor, the generation is made up of Pokémon: Gold Version & Pokémon: Silver Version plus Pokémon: Crystal Version and moved the action to the new region of Johto, at least for the first half of the game. See Johto was right smack bang next to the location of the Gen 1 games (Kanto) so much so that they shared the same Elite Four and the same Pokédex, so far the only two regions to have such a relationship, and you could go back to Kanto once you’d completed the Johto half of the game, this was very well received. Generation 2 introduced a lot of things that have stuck around today – not least of which was breeding and two new types for Pokémon to be – Steel Type and Dark Type – but a number of conventions wouldn’t be set until Generation (such as Abilities). Generation 2 is very popular with fans, forget this at your own peril.

I’d like to think I’ve made it clear that during Generation 1 I was WELL into Pokémon, if I haven’t then during Generation 1 I was WELL into Pokémon. I was maybe a year or two too old for it but who cares? I spent half my time online looking up Pokémon and the other half on KaaZaa, if you don’t know what that is – good, you won’t be dobbing me into the police - and all the time on MSN Messenger (ah wistful memories of being a shut-in) and I followed both rumours and news closely, of course at this point the difference was minimal.

I was thoroughly excited about Gold and Silver, I have delightfully vivid memories of spending a week at Centre Parcs pouring over Wizard’s “In” Power magazine (which claimed to be the first publication in the west to have the complete Gen 2 ‘mons) and the Pokémon Trading Card Game Fossil Expansion Player’s Guide (which had the Neo sets and South Island set in it, showing off the new ‘mons) imaging what these new creatures would be like, in fact I still have a habit of referring to certain Pokémon (like Sentret and Snubbull) but their Japanese names (Otochi and Buru in these cases) because of this holiday. In the end I didn’t wait until release - I bought Silver on a Japanese cart from a Bootsale and played through most of it without understanding a word of what happening. I did of course get an English language version the minute it came out and things made much more sense when you knew what the words said.      

So I’m very attached to Gen 2, and the Gold & Silver remakes Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver are my favourite Pokémon games and indeed amongst my top 30 video games of all time. But I don’t know how much I adore the Gen 2 Pokémon, Gen 2 introduced a lot of single stage evolutionary lines, a lot of plainer designs and a lot of simpler (and way less nutty) concepts – at least that’s how I remember it and think of it, but they also got a fair amount of attention in Generation 4 with new evolutions and prevolutions and being less nutty doesn’t mean ‘sucks’ – Haunter is just a ghost after all - so I have no idea how this is going to go, it’ll be interesting to me but I can’t promise it wont be boring for you lot. Oh well, no one reads this shit anyway.

As much as I love Gen 2 and its remakes, for me it has always had the blandest of Starters (cute, but bland) with Chikorita and its evolutions being the blandest of the bunch. I don’t think the pastel shades help, the designs are already pretty simple and basic (no bad thing, and no more basic than, say the Charmander line I don’t think) and colouring them in such an unexciting way only accentuates things. The concept here is similar to Bulbasaur’s and Oddish’ but instead of being a creature with a flower that blooms it’s a creature that blooms like a flower as it evolves, which is a pretty neat idea and I can’t say that it’s terribly executed – with necks growing longer and seeds becoming leaves becoming large flowers. If I had to pick a favourite of the three I’ll go with Meganium, it’s the most dinosaur-like and I like the antennae that look like stamen, that’s surprisingly subtle for elemental theming on a Pokémon and looks as much like an organic element on a creature as it does a plant thing on a plant themed thing.
Also I’m not alone in this right: Chikorita you and I knoooow how the heartaches come and they go and the scars they're leaving! Every time, I don’t even like Abba.

So the Space World Demo has Chikorita and Meganium but in place of Bayleaf is…that thing up there. Hanamogura (roughly translated to ‘Flower Mole’) and…I don’t get it. Ok, I get it, it’s a little weird mole thing bursting out of a flower, it’s a blooming mole, I get that, good, good - but why the fuck is it between two dinosaurs in an evolutionary line? Even if you want to argue that Chikorita is less a ‘dinosaur’ and more a ‘thing’ Hanamole still sticks out like…well like a weird mole between two dinosaurs. My theory is this: originally Gen 2 had all different starters and the Space World Demo was shown off during a period when they were mid-way through replacing whatever the original Grass Starter was (presumably moles from seeds) with the Chikorita line but before they’d thought up something to replace Hanamole with. That Hanamole is the remnant of a previous evolutionary line and never meant to evolve from Chikorita and into Meganium. We know that Pokémon were programmed in without the rest of their family (Quagsire, Ledyba, Sneasel, Snubbul to name a few), family that was added sometimes years later and it’s not like anyone playing at Space World was going to see the second stage evos for the Starters anyway. That’s my theory, my other is that someone at Game Freak at the time was just a mad person with no concept of how Pokémon Evolution worked and a massive boner for moles.
As a stand-alone design Hana’s fun though, kooky and a little more Gen 3 than Gen 2 but fun. I’d like to see it brought back as a grass/fairy type, it would provide a nice ‘masculine’ counterpart to the likes of Flabebe or (given that it doesn’t evolve) Comfey - the way Tauros and Miltank or Cacnea and Maractacus compliment each other.

I picked Cyndaquil on my first playthrough when I couldn’t understand a damn thing about what was going on based solely on my preference for the three visually and conceptually and I stand by my original judgement call that Cyndaquil is the best of a bad bunch. Like Rapidash and Onyx, Cyndaquil is such an obvious idea for element + animal you’re surprised no-one (including yourself) thought of it earlier: a hedgehog whose quills are an explosion! Of course! And it’s cute but more so uniquely shaped little head gives it something to latch onto as a design and elevates it above the blandness of, well, it’s evolution. THAT SAID, as Gen 2 is the beginning of the ‘Starter Midvolution Issue’ (we’ll get to that in a minute) I’d much prefer a boring evolution to that and yeah I can’t say that Quilava is much different from Ivysaur or Charmeleon but it just lacks a certain charm and personality, I’m not doing a very good job here am I? Typhlosion’s one of those cases where as an evolution of its immediate predecessor (I this case Quilava) it’s more than satisfying but as a final stage for the what came first you can see the argument at it isn’t as satisfying. However I think this is masked better than some evolutionary lines by keeping a continual colour scheme scheme throughout – if you have no idea what the fuck I’m on about (probably because I’ve worded it horribly): Imagine if Dragonite was blue and white:

Wouldn’t it seem far less jarring as coming from Dratini? Even thought as a design it would still have all the issues that make people dislike it as a Dragonair evolution bar the colour. It’s a good way to cheat the brain and Typhlosion does it just fine. We started out with a stubby hedgehog and end up with a ferocious long bodied thing of indeterminate specials with a fire collar, the two look nothing alike but their colour scheme hides it so well and ultimately I can’t complain because it still feels like it came from Quilava - tricksy Game Freak!

People really seem to like the Totodiles (including Bogleech) but I’m not in this crowd, sorry everyone.  For me the Totodile Line is overshadowed by its midvolution and in turn a trend with middle stage evolutions (especially in Starters) that it started, what is this trend? The midvolutions stiiiink! Specifically the midvolutions are very awkwardly designed, each sporting some weird design choice that makes them look shite, for Croconaw it’s that beige markings that are supposed to be, I believe a mix of an egg and the stereotypical outfits of cartoon cave men like Ally Oop that fail all over the place and that just stuck on red diamond on it’s tail. Neither have any reason to exist either – Totodile and Feraligatr both have the same markings, it just moves down, so why not just have that beige ‘arrow head’ in the middle? Well because it wouldn’t look cave-man-y I suppose is the answer, but my counter-argument is why the fuck does Croconaw look caveman-y at all? Because crocodiles are one of the most ancient of all creatures still living today is the counter-counter-argument. ‘Yes I know that’ begins my counter-counter-counter argument ‘but neither ‘mon either side of it shows any hint of a caveman element, one is just a precious little baby crocodile and the other is an – admittedly badass – big crocodile that always looks pleased with itself’. And then I win the argument, because I’m scripting it.
This issue bugs me no end because it brings down my opinion of a line overall and SO MANY starters have this issue. Why has no-one noticed and rectified this in 5 generations of games?
Feraligatr has an exceptionally appealing shape to its body don’t you think? I tried to find a way of saying that where it doesn’t sound like I’m going ‘dem curves’ and that I want to bang a 7-foot crocodile thing but apparently one doesn’t exist. This twisted, hunched over and very monstrous looking shape to it, it’s quite pleasing, and I like the way they ‘Pokémonized’ the bumpy crocodile/alligator by giving it the standard Pokémon ‘armour bits’ in strategic places. Nice that.
Oh and if you’re wondering why Feraligatr’s name is spelt like that, which you may not be given how weird a lot of Pokémon’s names are, the reason is simple; Feraligator is 11 characters long and Gold and Silver had a 10 character limit for names that even the dev team had to obey. So yes, the name didn’t fit. I’m completely serious.


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