Welcome to Generation III. The third generation was the first to be released following the end of the initial Pokémania and the first to be released on the new Game Boy Advance and few outside of Nintendo (and presumably some in it) were expecting it to be anything resembling a success. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the first games in the generation, sold a combined 16,220,000, became the best-selling games on the GBA and created a whole new generation of Pokémon fans – dubbed Hoenn Babies. Oh and the second and third best selling Game Boy Advance games? The rest of the ‘core’ Pokémon RPGs of this generation – Pokémon Emerald and the first two remakes in the Pokémon franchise: Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, remakes of Generation 1’s Pokémon Red and Green made out of necessity due to the first two Generations being incompatible with this new era (wasn’t Game Freaks fault, it was the GBA’s).
I wasn’t a fan of this era.
Because art style wise Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire were a bit of a shock and it’s Pokémon were the most shockingly different: the ‘mons from Gens I and II had primarily been rounder, simpler, plainer and naturalistic unless segmented bodies or armour was called for and markings were kept to a minimum and had a very ‘designed’ feel to those markings, a feeling that they were put there with purpose and thought and hadn’t just been drawn on willy-nilly while wackier, goofier and gonkier designs were at a minimum. Gen III went in the complete opposite direction, the designs got angular, markings and ‘extra bits’ (not quite armour but looking like it) looked like they were thrown on any old way and in any old place as if the design team were afraid that if they left too much empty space on any animal then their new Game Boy Advance market would get bored an go play the X-Box or something, faces got gonkier or doofier, the whole style of Pokémon got wackier (yes, wackier looking than Wobuffet, who actually could be seen as an omen of doom, it’s so Gen 3-like I often forget it was Gen 2) and the art style as a whole seemed to shift away from one that recalled the likes of Dragonball Z, Osamu Tezuka and, well, Ken Sugimori and to one that was closer to Digimon, Kinnikuman and Klasky Csupo, in fact ‘Aaahh!! Real Monsters’ background characters are closer to much of Generation 3’s beasts than Gens 1 or 2. ‘Naturalistic’ is also for the most part out of the window, I’ve seen them compared to plastic toys – complete with seams and joints - but honestly most of them look more like they’re made out of Play-Doh to me – except the Legendaries.
The reason for this is quite simple: more artists were designing Pokémon in a lot shorter time, all with their own different styles. The original 151 had been designed by four people (but primarily two – Ken Sugimori and Atsuko Nishida) over the course of about 6 years, in comparison 13 designers came up with Generation 3’s new Pokémon and Ruby & Sapphire came out six years after Red & Green and there’d been another new set of Pokémon in-between them. As such a completely different overall style and feeling that they were slightly less refined was unavoidable, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to moan about it though. These days there are so many Pokémon in such a variety of styles that I personally feel that very little feels out of place as a whole, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to moan about it though.
Gen 3’s style is there from the start but it’s certainly far less apparent on the Treecko family than elsewhere, so that’s probably why I don’t mind these three. Treecko reminds me a lot of Charmander with some Gen 3 flair like his odd shaped head and that unnecessary line across his belly and Sceptile’s a cool enough big tree lizard, he does feel like he could do with some less things – like the arm leaves and body markings but the arm leaves do recall Batman and if you were a big tree lizard wouldn’t YOU want to recall Batman? Grovle and Mega Sceptile though I’m far more enthusiastic about. Grovyle just works; it reminds me a lot of a feathered Compsognathus and leaves as feathers is just something that, again, just really works and overall it has that ‘cool teenage years’ feel and that nice mid-point between cute and tough that Ivysaur, Charmeleon and Wartortle all had, I mean it’s not as amazing as Wartortle but it’s easily a cool as the other two, Mega Sceptile? It’s a battle damaged, battle hardened Christmas Tree that can fire it’s tale like a Christmas Tree nail bomb (only the nails are pine needles), I really think that should convince you all, I hope so because my next sentence is going to alienate the whole world: and it has the design aesthetic of an abandoned theme park, no I will not elaborate on that and anyway I don’t need too, everyone’s gone ‘bullshit’ and moved on.
So yeah, two oks, two greats
Generation 3 brought with it and/or concreted a lot of traditions that still remain in Pokémon today, sadly one of them was ‘Starter Shit Middle Evolution Syndrome’ whereupon at least two out of every three Starters must have a middle evolution that’s at best forgettable and at worst downright ugly or ridiculous looking, Croconaw pioneered the trend last generation, Schlongbird here kicks it into full gear. Seriously, someone must have noticed, even if they didn’t hold a popularity poll for Gen 3 many, MANY people in Game Freak see these designs, someone must have taken Ken Sugimori (for it was he who designed this one) to one side and gone “Ken, Mate, Combusken… I looks like a cock and balls”. Because of this I can only deduce that they did and thus the whole of Game Freak is in on the joke. I don’t’ dislike Combusken because it looks like man meat by the way, I actually think it’s pretty funny (because I’m mentally 12) I just think it’s one of those ‘just awkward’ designs where another redesign or two would have benefitted it, I think my issues are the face and the chest Tomblerone gap thing in the yellow feathers.
Fittingly Combusken evolves into a Pokémon with fur that draws undue attention to its crotch and that a lot of fans want to shag. I like Blaziken, I love using it in battle – I chose Torchic for my first Ruby & Sapphire playthrough because it was just so fucking cute, which is my whole review of Torchi by the way: ‘so fucking cute’ – and as a Fighting Type monster (ala Hitmonchan or Machamp) I like it very much but it does need to be said that as a chicken it’s a very good Ken Masters. So I guess it technically is a failure of a design (as it doesn’t capture ‘bidepal fighting chicken’) but at making me like it, it’s a complete success. Also this is so fucking Gen 3, with all the triangular fur, yellow markings and weird-arse face – and this was one Sugimori DID design, it must have infected him. Mega Blaziken? EH, I like it from the torso upwards, but from the tits down it’s awful, I don’t critique a lot of Megas too much because they’re supposed to be over the top and too much but the patterning on its body and legs just looks completely wonk to me, like none of them go together, we have fire, then curved triangles then the standard ring o’ straight triangles and it just looks a complete mess.
I Liek Mudkips. Seriously. I think it’s an adorable little bastard in every single way, there’s not a thing about the lil’ Mudskipper I’d change. Until Gen 6 I had no reason to evolve it and never did, I just traded for or ‘Sharked one and used it whenever I needed a particularly potent cute fix. Work on Swampert should have stopped earlier, about five minutes before they thought to add those completely extraneous orange dome things to its arms and legs because they are completely unnecessary, stick out and taint what is otherwise a fine little final evolution, not enough to HATE it or anything, but they really could have done with not being there or if they really must have random extra bits on their Pokémon, coloured something other than medicine orange:
I do like Swampert’s butt though. Not something I thought I’d say in these reviews but the way it’s arse becomes a fin just flows lovely.
Mega Swampert is the most masculine macho Pokémon that ever manlied, every time I use him I grow a beard, Chuck Norris personally approves of this evolution, NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM personally approves of this evolution, am I getting this across well enough? it’s exactly the sort of over the top that Mega Evolutions should be, it’s faintly comical yet completely cool, it’s so ridiculously beefy without looking awkward (Buzzwole should have taken note) and by god the whole thing looks better when they use a darker orange doesn’t it? It still has a flowing butt too and the darker orange sticks out way, way less.
I’m not bothering with Marshtomp, it’s doesn’t feel in anyway like its designer cared so why should I? At least it’s cute (and delighted).