Saturday, January 19, 2013

X & Y: The New Pokemon

*sigh* Well, it was inevitable but it's still a disappointment to me all the same. When I heard about
a big worldwide "Pokemon" related announcement earlier in the month, one which would be revealed
on a special Nintendo show by the president of Nintendo himself, I was crossing my fingers that he'd announce the discontinuing of the main "Pokemon" franchise since it's gone as far as it could go, so now there'd only be spin off games and merchandise. Sadly, it wasn't to be. He instead announced the sixth generation of "Pokemon" would be coming in the Fall of this year, after the "Best Wishes" series of the anime ends. So that means two new game versions with a whole new region, new lead characters, a new professor, new rivals, new gym leaders, new Elite Four, a new Champion, a new evil team, and loads of new amateurishly designed Pokemon. Oh joy.

Look, as much as I've loved the "Pokemon" franchise, there has to be a stopping point somewhere.
In my mind, Generation V was that stopping point, since it was the generation that really put out all the stops. That they are moving beyond it is a sure sign that the franchise that had already been on
a downward slope since Generation III has finally sailed over the shark. To understand why I think that, I'll have to get into what looks...wrong about this upcoming generation. But before that, I have
to clarify all that Generation V had that makes me think that it was the pinnacle of "Pokemon":

  •  The "Black" and "White" games were the first games since "Red" and "Blue" to be named after colors. (Unless you count "Gold" and "Silver" as colors as well as metals.)
  • The games were on the same console as the last generation, except they were clearly meant also for the 3DS like these new games will be made for.
  • The quality of said games was the best since Generation II.
  • The names are poignant in that black and white are two opposite colors of the rainbow spectrum: darkest and lightest, beginning and end.
  • Many of the concepts applied to the games were moldbreaking, and once a mold is broken, it's hard to step back without it feeling like a cheat OR to step forward without it feeling redundant and losing it's specialness.
  • This generation broke the "each generation/region/Pokemon" gets weaker trend.
  • The male and female PC protagonists were full grown teenagers for once.
  • Not one, not two, but three rivals in one generation! (Cheren, Bianca, and Hugh)
  • The storyline of the evil team and legendary Pokemon actually took center stage in the first games, being everywhere you went, getting many characters involved, and ultimately overtaking the League quest at the end of the game when Team Plasma actually attacks the Unova League and you have to defeat them for good right there and then!
  • The aviliciously delivered message of tolerance and acceptance of different ideas, beliefs and opinions, whether they be truth or ideals, was probably the deepest thing "Pokemon" has ever taught aside from the conflicts of Team Galactic from the previous generation.
  • The villains, Team Plasma, were initially portrayed as the animal-rights type complainers who saw the bad implications of Pokemon from the start. Their king N is an antagonistic version of your standard Pokemon hero, the boss Ghetsis is the most evil villain in the main series, and Dr. Colress shows fascination in Pokemon taken to a warped extreme. Also, maybe I'm overthinking things, but is Team Plasma's signature letter "P" as in "Pokemon?" And is "N" as in "Nintendo?" "G'cis" (Ghetsis) as in "Gamefreak?"
  • I associate Gen 1 with Spring, Gen 2 with Fall, Gen 3 with Summer, and Gen 4 with Winter. Gen 5 has all four seasons built-in to the games depending on the month!
  • Unova has the epic large vastness of Sinnoh but does it correctly!
  • Even the ugly Pokemon were used to good effect and some were even memorable!
  • Instead of a third version/special edition, "Black" and "White" got a sequel in "Black 2" and "White 2", which has never been done before. This contributed to some poor critical reception and bad ratings. Personally, I think this same sequel ought to have been released as "Pokemon Grey Version". That would've made things easier since making the sequel into two games again feels like a cheap and desperate cash grab. But the point is, the third version was a sequel rather than a special edition.
  • "Black 2 and White 2" finished exploring everything good in this generation and brought it all to a satisfying close. The appeal of the generation and franchise was fading fast.
  • Iris is clearly the ultimate Champion of the whole franchise, having a young age like Blue, Dragon Types like Lance, a former Gym Leader status like Wallace, the same gender as Cynthia, and the position formerly held by Alder.
  • The biggest attraction of the sequels, the World Tournament, just screams "Grand Finale!" It literally brings all five generations together so you can battle trainers and Pokemon from all the past regions of all the previous main games! That is spectacular!
  • The flop of "Black and White 2" following the success of "Black and White" should've discouraged Gamefreak from making any more main "Pokemon" games for quite a while.
  • The anime series based on Generation V, "Best Wishes", was the first season of the "Pokemon" anime since Generation I where the quality was actually consistently GOOD!
  • Said anime season featured Ash and Team Rocket's boss, Giovanni, finally facing off, something that was anticipated by fans since Gen I. It also gave closure to Team Rocket, the recurring villains since Gen I. And it's last act ("Episode N") had a full-on continuous epic storyline of N and the evil Team Plasma fighting for the fate of the legendary Pokemon of the White Ruins, Reshiram, taking center stage. The anime paying this much attention to plot, characters, and continuity had not been seen in a looong time! This has all the signs of a series finale for the anime adventures of Ash and Pikachu. But nooo...
  • By contrast, the main manga series "Pokemon Special" lagged a lot in it's "Black and White" story arc, which aped the games storyline and plot points but with less charm and many hindrances. It's surprising how underwhelming this arc was: I just could not get too invested in it until around the last third. And then just as Gen V was closing, the arc was wrapping up and it's sequel arc just beginning! A sure sign that Kusaka should throw in the towel and wrap up the manga so it concludes along with the franchise. But nooooo...
  • Five already seemed like a good enough number to end generations on anyway.
That fifth point is worth repeating since it's probably my biggest issue. After you've achieved something so mold-breaking and awe-inspiring as Generation V, how do you top it? Where do you
go from there? If you go back to the formula of the previous generations (stopping the villain's plans before winning your last badge, heading to victory road, beating your rival again, facing the Elite Four and the Champion, and getting in the Hall of Fame. The credits roll - The End), that would be taking some major steps backwards, which would disappoint the fans who've been spoiled by the escalation and prominence of the plot in these games. On the other hand, if you keep doing what this generation did (having the evil team's story be prominent all the way to the end, with the baddies attacking the league, a legendary Pokemon faced down, and the main villain as the final boss. The credits roll - The End), it cheapens the Team Plasma story considerably and becomes a new formula in of itself. It will stop surprising and impressing players. (Actually, "Black and White 2" shows this well - in it, you defeat Ghetsis and thwart Team Plasma after you've won your last badge, which is what should have happened with Team Galactic. and then you head for the Unova League to face your rival, the Elite Four, and Champion Iris as the final boss before you get in the Hall of Fame, the credit roll -The End. Sounds like a step back, right? But suppose Ghetsis had been the final boss yet again? That would be TACKY.) The best way to have handled this game would have been packaging it as a "Pokemon Grey Version" where you could choose a "Black" mode or "White" mode depending on what game you last played. That Gamefreak couldn't do that shows the limitations of the games as they are now, and why continuing on instead of full-on revamping the series probably isn't such a good idea at all.

So...what about Generation VI? What are the signs that indicate it might suck ass? Well for starters, there's the titles of the new games. "Pokemon X" and "Pokemon Y".

 The X version and the Y version. They've abandoned naming the installments after colors or gems for naming them after letters. Two
of the last freaking letters of the alphabet. What's the third version going to be, "Pokemon Z?" That'll lead to several DBZ jokes if it's true. It really seems like they're not even trying here anymore.

 Ah, but then it gets worse! The new starter Pokemon don't even look like Pokemon anymore! I mean, they just look so cheap and dumb!

Let's see: the grass-type starter is some sort of chipmunk.

Gee, we've never had that before in "Pokemon!"

The fire-type starter is a fox. A fire fox!

Gee, we've never had THAT before in "Pokemon!"

And the water-type starter is a frog or toad.

  GEE, we've never fucking had THAT before in "Pokemon!"

This shows a huge problem that's plagued the franchise since Gen III. Not only are most of the new Pokemon that get created too numerous, ugly, and cheap, but they're uncreative and unoriginal too. We've seen these Pokemon before, and they were much more appealing and memorable the first time around. We don't need them recycled as "new Pokemon" over and over again. And honestly, the first time I caught glimpse of these new starters, they looked like parodies of Pokemon or fan-created Pokemon rather than the real deal. If the ultimate handling of "Black 2 and White 2" wasn't already an omen of the franchise jumping the shark, after seeing this bullshit there's no mistaking it.

Plus, the whole notion of more and more Pokemon, regions, and whatnot really clutters up the world of Pokemon. It makes a series and a concept that was once so simple to be more convoluted than it needed to be. Come on, are we meant to believe that in this hugantuan world, each and every region is filled with people who dedicate their lives to this race of 600+ creatures that make up the entirety
of animal wildlife of this world? Get a life, people! You're making yourselves look like total DWEEBS!

 Now there are SOME things that look promising about this generation and it's games. It's the first main "Pokemon" game with 3D graphics, and it looks fantastic. The Kalos region itself seems to be heavily inspired by European culture. From the grassy plains and farmland, the village-like towns in the distance, that Eiffel Tower looking structure, the way the tall mansions and bridges look, and just the whole atmosphere is very European. This does look like a fun and interesting place to see. I'm just not sure it's a worthwhile addition to the world of Pokemon, at least not the world they've built up to this point. It's like a whole different world on it's own. Perhaps this is where Fantina came from? And even the 3D graphics have their downside since this is the first generation to not use sprites. Part of the games' original charm was their simplicity. While each generation kept advancing the graphics and gameplay capabilities beyond their simplistic roots, they still maintained the charm by using 2D graphics and sprites for the characters and Pokemon, in and out of battle, with only a touch of 3D getting added in the previous generation. But now everything in this new generation is full 3D: the environments, the characters,
the Pokemon, and even the battles! It looks like a portable "Stadium" or "Colosseum".

 And while I'm not a big fan of the new legendaries being a stag and a bird (gee, never had those before in "Pokemon"...), I do like two things about Xerneas and Yveltal. One is their designs. I love how Xerneas's antlers down to his neck makes the shape of an X, and how Yveltal's wings and tail spread out makes the shape of a Y. And that's.... actually very clever and creative. The other thing is that while they're not original as far as legendaries go, they're the most original MAIN legendaries we've had in years. For the first time since Gen II, they're NOT generic dragon-type creatures. They're just a deer and a condor.

But it all comes back to the sudden announcement of this generation. The trailer was opened up by a shot of CGI Pikachu. And really, the fact that this long-running franchise can never shake off this Generation I Pokemon as their mascot shows there's something off about the whole thing. So while this new generation, these new installments, and all the new products they bring might be interesting in their own right, the series just isn't "Pokemon" for me anymore. Or at least it's not MY "Pokemon." My "Pokemon" lasted for five generations, culminating in the World Tournament of the previous games. This new series of Pokemon stuff, I dub "New Pokemon." (or essentially "Pokemon 2.0"). It might be an okay series, but there's a huge void left behind from Generation V that can never and will never be filled. This rebooted franchise exists in that void now. It doesn't exist in my heart the same way as the old "Pokemon" did. It's a sub-section of one of my all-time favorite canons: "Pokemon."

Update: Here's another big problem I'm seeing with this generation: the designs. Not just the Pokemon anymore, though they are ugly as sin. But the human designs seem lacking this time around, which is actually pretty surprising given how good Ken Sugimori usually is at designs. Has he been taking lessons for Takao Unno here? Is it actaully Takao Unno designing these characters? In any case, only the two player characters and Professor Sycamore have standout designs. Admittedly, the designs for Tierno, Trevor, Shana, and Viola are growing on me, but they all still seem more generic than Sugimori's usual work, and a step down from the designs we were getting out of last generation. There's just a certain style and flair that they lack, odd given how I'd expect it more than ever in the Poke' France that is Kalos. And speaking of...

We have a new evil team based entirely around style and flair, called Team Flare. Get it? It's a double meaning pun for style and fire? Har har! They're like Team Magma's gimmick crossed with Team Rocket's motives, 'cause guess what? They're a bunch of greedy assholes whose sole purpose is to make money. I know that the "self righteous villains who want to use Legendaries power to make a new world" thing was getting old, and I'm glad it's stopped after Team Plasma did a nice twist on it, but really...just money? At least Team Rocket had world domination on top of that goal. There'd better be something less simple than just this, or else Team Flare will be a huge downgrade as far as evil teams are concerned. Also, they look so goofy. I know I shouldn't judge based on that since Teams Aqua and Magma looked goofy too but were actually an improvement over Team Rocket's Johto incarnation, Team Galactic looked goofy but were actually epic, and the Team Plasma knights looked goofy but were even more epic. But if these guys have no interesting motivations or characters among them, then...they're just goofy! And that is so lame.
 So we've gone from Ghetsis to...a Dr. Robotnik expy? 

 Oh, and WHO'S THAT POKEMON? Seriously, who is this Pokemon? Mewthree? A new form of Mewtwo? An evolution of Mewtwo? Whatever it is, it's the "awakened" Mewtwo and a Generation VI legendary. It's not the Pokemon or the design that bothers me, but the purpose behind it. This is still essentially Mewtwo, the original "most powerful, ultimate Pokemon". The genetically created psychic Pokemon with badass abilities and powers that are virtually god-like. The Pokemon cloned from the oldest and rarest Pokemon of all, Mew. The Pokemon who has never been touched since the first Generation. So WHY are they bringing him back into relevance and giving him an upgrade now? Why now, five generations later? I'll tell you why: after introducing so many huge, epic, mythic god-like legendaries, (especially in Gen IV with Arceus and co.!) Gamefreak realized that Mewtwo, the once ultimate Pokemon, had become small potatoes next to these ones. It's concept had been utterly cheapened by all the non-man made legendary Pokemon that exist and apparently have existed since the dawn of time. So Gamefreak is trying to put Mewtwo back in the spotlight and rerail it into the most powerful Pokemon again, by tampering with it's nature and giving it this celestial new form. But in doing so, they're only exposing just how off the rails this franchise has gone. We've seriously gone so far with Legendaries that we've come all the way back to Mewtwo? How about Lugia and Ho-Oh or Celebi while we're at it? 

 And if there was any doubt that this franchise has officially jumped the shark, this eliminated it from my mind. The very nature of jumping the shark requires a series to have exhausted it's initial premise and completely worn out it's welcome, so it resorts to cheap novelty and desperate gimmicks to keep itself alive, but instead only shoots itself in the foot and loses the audience. When Satoshi Tajiri stepped down, Junichi Masueda baited the shark. The fin was spotted ever since the third generation, it was rapidly circling in the fourth, and the franchise put on those water skis and jumped in the fifth. Enter the sixth generation, and we seemed to have landed right over the shark at last. Full 3D, chromosome game names, ugly ripoff Pokemon, generic characters, stupid villains, the resurrection of Mewtwo, and a formula getting beaten to death were already novelty gimmicks enough. But this tops them all: the introduction of "Fairy type Pokemon." We've had no new Pokemon types since Generation II! After three whole generations, Gamefreak finally decides to introduce a new one. Which includes an ugly "Eevelution" of the most whored out Pokemon ever, and pre-existing Pokemon getting retconned to have always been partially this type! Again...WHY NOW? This defines cheap novelty and desperate gimmicks. Gamefreak is clearly running out of good ideas and so desperate for new ones that they pull this crap. Sorry, but I've grown so disillusioned with these creatures that a new type of them does not interest me in the slightest. None of these new features do. They just make me want to watch as the franchise drowns in it's own decay and becomes shark chow. Good luck out there, New Pokemon!

 BUT WAIT! It gets WORSE! If Fairy types weren't enough of a desperate ploy, we get this - the three Kalos starters you get at the start aren't the only starters you get in the game. Professor Sycamore also lets you have...Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle! Yes, there are really going there. They're grasping at every possible way to make these games sell and become a worldwide hit, and one such way is to try and appease gewunners with this. Making the original Gen 1 Kanto starters available in such an overpacked game that's taken the franchise so far away from it's simple roots is actually kind of insulting to me. 

 BUT WAIT! IT GETS WORSE! You don't believe me? YOU DO NOT BELIEVE ME? Well THIS is the final nail in the coffin. Not Fairy types, not the Kanto starters: THIS is what confirms this generation to be one of the most blatant shark jumps I've seen for a franchise in recent years. Mega Evolutions. Special evolutions that evolve Pokemon into their Mega forms. That's what the Mewtwo evolution belongs to, and he actually has two of them! I think you can control how it's done too. So not only are they throwing out uber strong fully evolved forms for many pre-existing Pokemon, including the Kanto starters, but they're ripping off Digimon! Unbelievable. I'm at a loss for words at all the desperate novelty gimmicks they're pulling with this one generation. And I cannot see how anyone can deny a loss of magic here.

 There's also a new XY anime series. Somebody kill me...

 Just look at all those ugly-ass Pokemon! Yeesh! My estimation for when "Pokemon" might REALLY end is in Generation 7 or 8. Why? Because we'll officially have around 1,000 pokemon by then. Do they seriously think the kids won't catch on? And to think, this franchise began with the tagline "Gotta Catch 'Em All....."



  1. So as it turns out Takao Unno is the 3d art director for these games...

    How did you feel about Team Flare now that the games are out?

    1. Doesn't mean he's the character designer. That was still Ken Sugimori. However, Unno seems to be the designer for the Ruby/Sapphire remakes, which explains a bunch about the style.

      Team Flare had THE worst handled evil team subplot in the games EVER. They spend most of the game making sporadic appearances where they just seem like crazy goofballs out to make profit and make a statement about how superior they are, but they want to pour all that money into making a beautiful world, which they plan to do by re-assembling this ultimate weapon which makes NO SENSE whatsoever, and their serious agenda coupled with a darker tone completely blindsides you after all their silliness, since there was so little build-up to it. Their admins are interchangeable (with Xerosic only getting development in a post-game side quest), and Lysandre as their boss was a TERRIBLE decision since not only is he the obvious villain from the moment he shows up, but his demeanor and motivations do not match up with the rest of his team. He's not fixated on being fashionable and no one else in Team Flare seems to care about preserving the planet's beauty, they just want money, science, or glory because they're like snobby Neo-Nazis who see themselves as superior people and they want to kill off all people and Pokemon not in their fruity club. At at the end we meet Malva, who totally SHOULD HAVE BEEN the Flare boss 'cause that would fix so many issues! Gah, what a huge step down from Team Galactic and Team Plasma!

    2. So what do you think of Team flare so far in the anime then ?

    3. I'll be doing a whole blog post with this subject but anime Team Flare, like "Pokemon Adventures" manga Team Flare, have been a TREMENDOUS improvement from their game incarnations. The grunts and scientists are crazy and silly but not so overboard on it that you can't take them seriously when they're getting serious, their plan to capture Zygarde and use it's cells to power their weapon is way less overly grimdark as the Ultimate Weapon plan, Malva got some more characterization and detail of her dealings with Team Flare when she was around, and Lysandre has been nothing short of brilliant as a villain - easily the second best boss character in the entirety of the anime after Giovanni (discounting pseudo-boss executive scientists like Professor Sebastian, Dr. Zager, and Dr. Colress). They've even managed to bring some good out of Team Rocket in this series, which is no easy feat. The only point of contention is the way Alan's been handled, but I'll get to that later.

    4. phew now I really can't wait to hear your take on the team flare arc.The team plasma arc we could've only dreamed of!!

    5. That's both one of it's biggest strengths AND it's biggest drawbacks, actually! It's so much like the BW Team Plasma plot that it's a bit distracting at points. On one hand it was great to see the anime finally get to do the evil team climax start AT the League, immediately after the final League battle, and see all major characters and Gym Leaders come in to save the world from the villains' plot, but on the other hand it doesn't quite fit that it's done with villains who look and dress the way Team Flare does (BOTH of Team Plasma's looks are more suited for epics than Team Flare is!), and foisting Alan into the N role had DISASTROUS results on so many levels. Still, that one hour finale part was especially incredible and Lysandre was an amazing villain to the very end, with his "death" thankfully getting retained rather than having him get arrested like Ghetsis or be anticlimactically removed from existence like Cyrus. It's overall the best non-Rocket evil team finale of the best non-Rocket evil team arc we've had to date.