Written By: Johnny
Pokémon is celebrating its 20 year anniversary this year. Since its intial release in Japan in 1996, the franchise has made over 42 video games, two anime series, and 19 theatrically released movies, spanning six generations of Pokémon. In celebration of their 20th year, Pokémon has been blowing their fans’ minds with SuperB owl commercials and new game announcements. Currently, there are 721 known Pokémon in current generation and we are expecting more to be on the way with the new announcement of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon being announced in the end of February.
I first met Pokémon at age seven. I became fully immersed in that first wave, full craze era of late 90’s. I had all three of generation one’s primary games, as well as the game Pokémon Pinball, Pokémon Stadium, and Pokémon Snap. Shit, I even owned Pokémon Bed Sheets. I watched the anime up until the Orange Islands and I played the games up until the announcement of Pokémon Crystal. But I was like most kids my age, I grew up. It wasn’t until after high school, eight years later, that I began playing in the Pokémon World again. I attribute my return to the franchise to a website called PokéMemes. Since then, I have been catching up, very slowly, on the Pokémon Adventures Manga (which, according to Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri, is the most resembles the world of Pokémon he was trying to convey) and latest generation of video games.
I fully recommend getting back into the franchise for anyone who has ever played a Pokémon game. At $40 USD for the most current Pokémon games, it will provide you with over 40 hours of playable story and additional content. The biggest question is where to start, and that is where we at Dork of All Trades come in, we will break down the games by Generation, and give insight on great starting points if you are returning to the series.
Disclaimer: I only reviewed the first games of each generation. I chose to disregard later installments (Pokémon Sapphire, Emerald, Platinum) and sequels in the generations, as well as remakes like Pokémon FireRed, HeartGold, and Omega Ruby were omitted for length.
The original Pokémon games had 151 Pokémon that were able to be caught in Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow. You begin by naming your trainer (ala Legend of Zelda) and then naming your rival, and it was a very popular trope to name your rival funny names like Butt, or Poop. Your journey begins by choosing your primary Pokémon (Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle) and traveling the Kanto Region catching wild Pokémon and training them to challenge all eight gym leaders and the Elite Four. An evil group called Team Rocket arises and tries to steal all Pokémon and rule the world, but you must battle hordes of Rocket members and their leader before dismantling them and saving the world. The Kanto region is modeled after the real Kanto Region of Japan in the real world. This generation introduced 15 different Pokémon types that created advantages and disadvantages against other Pokémon in battle. Catching the three legendary birds (Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos) and Mewtwo are side quests that define the awesomeness of legendary Pokémon.
Game Difficulty: 8/10 – This being the first Pokémon generation I’ve ever played gives it a high standard of difficulty. I spent forever trying to beat the elite four in my first run. Nostalgia plays a minute factor in the difficulty rating however, because after many, many replays of the game I’ve found that the encounters of legendary Pokémon and difficulty of leveling up your Pokémon party to face the Elite Four is tougher than any sequel.
Storyline: 7/10 – The Kanto storyline does a great job of introducing you to the world of Pokémon. The thrill to “catch ‘em all” and complete the game can become addicting, and Team Rocket is not as threatening as later villians. The primary driver to succeed is your Rival who, in a final twist, becomes Pokémon League Champion only minutes before you.
Gen 2 introduces the 100 ‘new’ Pokémon of the Johto Region in Pokémon Gold, Silver and Sequel. With the new Pokémon, a time mechanic in game was introduced where you could catch only certain Pokémon during the day and other Pokémon at night. Two more Pokémon types were introduced, Steel and Dark. Eight new gym leaders and the Elite four create a challenge even harder than Gen 1. This generation also introduces Pokémon that have female or male genders as well as Pokémon breeding and Shiny Pokémon. The primary villians are your Rival who steals a Pokémon starter and a new faction of Team Rocket invading the Johto region. After the main story, you can head east and revisit the Kanto region and battle the original gym leaders. After catching the legendary Dogs (Entei, Suicune, and Raikou) and Bird Pokémon (Lugia or Ho-Oh, depending on which game you get), You can climb Mt. Silver and face Red, the original champion from Generation One; thus, climactically ending your journey with one of the best battles in Pokémon history.
Game Difficulty: 9 /10 – The introduction of new types dynamically changes the game from Gen 1. Gym leaders use more advance techniques and AI becomes smarter. If you can make it through Johto’s 8 badges, the Elite Four, the Pokémon league Champion and all 8 Kanto Gym leaders who have leveled up significantly, you will be allowed access to Mount Silver. You will face the highest level trainer found in any Pokémon game. Red’s Pokémon levels ranging 73-81, and he has the Three Kanto starter’s final evolutions, a Raichu, Espeon, and Snorlax.
Storyline: 6/10 – The Johto arc is full of mythical lore but is held up by a lot of nostalgic elements from Gen 1. Like Empire Strikes Back, it is a superior installment to its predecessor, but its story could not stand alone. The storyline weighs so heavily on the Kanto story, that if you removed all of the Kanto characters it would take away 70% of the game.
The Hoenn region, which is based off of the Japanese main Island of Kyushu, introduces another 136 new Pokémon (now totaling 386) to the universe. The legendary Pokémon play a critical role in these games, Groudon (in Pokémon Ruby) or Kyogre (in Pokémon Sapphire) are a direct influence in the storyline, progress of the game. This generation introduces two new villian groups, Team Aqua and Team Magma who are in a struggle in control of the land and the sea. The legendary Golems (Regirock, Regice, and Registeel) and the third installment (Pokémon Emerald) introduced the legendary dragon Rayquaza. This region introduces a New Elite Four and New Champion. From this generation onwards, you can name your own trainer and gender, but your “Rival’s” name is predetermined and your interaction with them becomes friendlier and less intense.
Game Difficulty: 6/10 – Gen 3 takes a backseat in terms of difficulty. The multiplicity of Pokémon that are introduced having Dual-Types, create a distinct advantage for any trainer who can follow simple Advantage/Disadvantage rules. Leveling up becomes easier in this generation and onwards, the main storyline loses its edge when it comes to training.
Storyline: 8/10 – This generation has two evil organizations working against each other and dynamically changes the relationship between you and your rival. The risk of danger is present in this generation more so than any of its predecessors and the legendary Pokémon have an active role in the progress of the storyline. Introduction of side quests based on Beauty contests that rival gyms in terms of difficulty and entertainment increases the playability of prior generations.
The mountainous region of Sinnoh, based off the Japanese Island of Hokkaido, is recognized as south of Hoenn in the Pokémon world. Generation Four began with Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, and introduces 101 new Pokémon (new total 487). This generation starts off with two friends, not rivals, beginning their journey with you. Team Galactic is the big bad in this region, and they are after the power to contol time and space with the legendary Pokémon Dialga (Diamond) and Palkia (Pearl). The legendary trios this time are pyschic types. This generation introduces and emphasizes on Pokémon variations.
Game Difficulty: 6/10 – like generation 3, for any experienced player this game is too easy. There are many encounters with Team Galactic that create a minor challenge when dealing with leveling your party. By the time you reach the Elite four however, your party’s level is equal or higher with no need for grinding.
Storyline: 5/10 – I think I may be a bit harsh, considering that I played this five years ago but my experience was not memorable. I can’t say I enjoyed the story line very much at all, or what I remember of it at least. However, I played Pokémon Ruby at the same time and enjoyed, as well as remembered that story more.
Pokémon Black and White are set in the Unova region, based off New York City. This generation is a bit different in that there is 150 new Pokémon (new total 637), but Pokémon from previous games cannot be seen or caught until after completing the game. Your friends, one smart and aggressive, the other docile and caring, push you forward to succeed. You have many interactions with Gym leaders, this strange boy named N, and Team Plasma. Legendary Dragon Pokémon Reshiram and Zekrom play pivotal roles in the plot. The Pokémon trio are the weather masters Thundurus (only caught in White), Tornadus (Only in Black) and Landorus (does not appear until you have Thundurus and Tornadus.
Game Difficulty: 6/10 – The game is easy, except for the final battle against the Pokémon league champion, which is difficult because it requires you to adjust your lineup unexpectedly after catching a legendary. The post game side quests are fun and long and almost match the main story in length.
Storyline 9.5/10 – This story is awesome. From the moment your journey begins, your two friends constantly push you forward. The Gym leaders play an active role in fighting against Team Plasma with you and there is so much to do. The game is designed well to keep you playing, even after beating a gym you are asked to help fight Team Plasma and the plot progresses. Most intriguingly, Pokémon Black and Pokémon White don’t complete the story. They are the first Pokémon generation to introduce sequels to the primary storyline. I have yet to play Black 2 or White 2, but knowing that they are out there and I have more stories to play is very interesting!
The Kalos (Pokémon X and Y) region is based of of Paris and Northern France. This idea is supported because the person in this region focuses on fashion, culture, cafes and fine dining. Kalos has Lumiose City, which is the largest city in the Pokémon universe, and has an Eiffel tower looking monolith in the center that has a Pokémon gym at the top. 69 new Pokémon were introduced in this generation (current total 721) and Pokémon from every generation can be caught. You travel the region with 4 friends, one who is very caring, one who wants to be the best, one who wants to research Pokémon, and one who wants to dance (literally he just wants to dance). The villians are Team Flare, and aside from their mysterious leader and sense of fashion, they are pretty useless. Team Flare’s leader hides in the shadows but in plain sight, and unfortunately I guessed who he was before the reveal. The legendary Pokémon, Xerneas (Pokémon X) and Yvetal (Pokémon Y) are not revealed until the conclusion of Team Flare’s plan. The legendary trio is the Kanto trio and you can catch them post game. This generation has two new features; a new Pokémon type and mega evolutions. The Fairy type is introduced and it changes a lot in type effectiveness. Mega Evolutions are in battle moves that greatly increase the stats of certain Pokémon.
Game Difficulty: 6/10 – The introduction of fairy type Pokémon drastically changes things but once you get accustomed to the effectiveness and weaknesses of each type, the game holds no challenge. You are given every opportunity to mega evolve Pokémon as well as given a Kanto starter of your choosing, to raise along with your Kalos starter. Leveling up your party is ridiculously simple; in fact my team was 8 to 9 levels higher than the champion.
Storyline: 9/10 – This game plays the nostalgia factor heavy. Story progresses quickly and you can get caught up in the exciting scenery and images. Team Flare, although being a fairly weak villian team, comes closer to any team to achieving their objective. The lore behind there objective has a ‘Giant’ presence and your character can experience this in game. The presence of Gen 1 Pokémon is borderline ‘Black Tar Nostalgia’ because you can raise a Charizard or Blastoise and then Mega Evolve them to levels your 10 year old self never could dream of. This game pushes nostalgia down the throat of genwunners even more by letting you catch the three legendary birds Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres; as well as Mewtwo in the primary postgame storyline.
Recommendations: Wow, we sure talked a lot. If you’re scrolling through these, looking at pretty pictures of Pokémon and were interested in getting back into playing Pokémon, please let me suggest the following.
- IF you stopped playing the Pokémon games and miss playing with Pikachu or Charmander; THEN begin playing Pokémon X or Y, the amount of nostalgia present in Generation 6 is a game in itself.
- IF you wanted to get back into playing Pokémon but want a fresh take and experience a new world and new take on the Pokémon world; THEN Start by playing Pokémon Black or White. There is plenty to do, and you do not see a Pokémon from previous generations until you receive the National Pokédex after you beat the main game.
- Wait until Pokémon Go! Comes out later in 2016 and play Pokémon all over the world on your mobile app with your friends in real time.
- Do like I did and do all of the above, because of course; You Gotta Catch ‘Em All.