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Friday, February 10, 2017

Many New Pokémon, or Mixing New & Old?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Which is the better approach that Game Freak should take?

The Alola region: Four islands that are filled with influences from other cultures, coming together to form its own, very unique culture.

Alola has a lot of influence from people who came from Kanto & Johto: Heahea City of the Akala Island is specifically stated to be founded by trainers from Kanto and Johto, while Malie City of Ula'Ula Island has its designs and Garden modeled from Kanto and Johto as well, even including its own Nugget Bridge.

Many of Alola's Pokémon are native and exclusive to that region, while many others have been imported in (such as Yungoos... but we don't know where he's originally from) and have adapted over time to the Alolan region, changing their characteristics, looks, moves, and typing. Clearly, settlers from Kanto and Johto have had a huge impact on Alola's ecology — it's no coincidence that all of the so-called Alolan formes are Pokémon native to the Kanto region.

That said, there are plenty of Pokémon from the other regions also in Alola, yet only Kanto Pokémon get Alolan formes. Maybe it is commentary on how weird and gross the Kanto region is (featuring Grimer in the water, along with a massive percentage of Poison types) compared to how... natural and pristine the Alolan islands are, so Pokémon from Kanto in particular need to shift.

However, this article is supposed to be about the “plenty of Pokémon from the other regions also in Alola” part. The actual number of new Alolan Pokémon is at an anemic 80; with only 62 non-legendary Pokémon/not-a-non-Pokémon. The number of Pokémon encounterable in the wild is an even smaller number. By comparison, I apologised to the whole KoopaTV audience when Kalos only had 70 new Pokémon.

KoopaTV staffers agree on this point: Facing the unknown is a lot more exciting than dealing with Pokémon you're already very familiar with. Of course, if you're new to the series (like the 17% of people who have played Pokémon Sun or Pokémon Moon who have not played a prior Pokémon game on the 3DS before), the amount of what's unknown increases quite a bit.

One negative side-effect of covering every new Pokémon announcement from The Pokémon Company International is that you're familiar with those Pokémon on an informational level, so it's not unknown to you when you encounter them for the first time in the game. For example, I was materially helped when I knew ahead of time that Bewear was a Normal/Fighting type Pokémon when facing it in a tough trainer battle (that I won't spoil) for the first time in the game, thanks to me covering it for KoopaTV. That's not something you can tell at first glance.

Pokémon Sun Moon anime Bewear water
I know all of your tricks, Bewear.

It also turns out that all of the pre-release coverage KoopaTV did of new Pokémon happened to cover almost ALL of the new Pokémon, leaving very little surprises left. That takes a long of the experience of new discovery away.

It also does not help that, while there are actually a lot of new moves and Abilities in the game, most of them seem to be signature moves and exclusive to one evolutionary family. There seem to be very few new widely-distributed moves, with the only one coming to my mind being Smart Strike, since that's an early TM I actually used. While signature moves are cool, it means that in the majority of situations, it's the same gameplay systems as the previous games, making the additional depth you'd expect with every new generation a bit... less-than-expected.

The greatest concentration of new gameplay innovations come with the competitive metagame, centred around the Tapu Pokémon and their Terrain effects, and the Ultra Beasts and their mechanics. That metagame isn't one the majority of players will ever experience in-game, leaving all that's left for gameplay innovations for story mode are the proliferation of Z-Crystals, which are very glorified (in most instances) versions of the Gem items from Unova. (Shout-out to Z-Sleep Talk for being an exception.)

What about Unova, which introduced over 150 new Pokémon and just had those Pokémon in its main story mode? It was great in terms of discovery and exploration. However, many of those new Pokémon were... familiar.

Pokémon Black White Timburr battle Pinwheel Forest
Timburr vs. Timburr.
...AKA Machop vs. Machop?

Now, to be clear, familiar doesn't mean equivalent. There are many subtle and even overt differences between the likes of Machop and Timburr, or Geodude and Roggenrola. I just think Game Freak knew exactly what they were doing when Machoke, Graveler, Gurdurr, and Boldore all require a player-to-player Trade in order to evolve to Machamp, Golem, Conkeldurr, and Gigalith respectively, and the Kanto to Unova Pokémon share similar roles and archetypes.

It's not as fun when you're dealing with expys. Not that all or even most of Unova were expys, but Game Freak probably had more creativity working with making less Pokémon than making over 150 new ones.

It brings back the quality vs. quantity debate.

In this case, once a Pokémon is introduced or... discovered, it's part of Pokémon canon forever. It's not just a one game setback to have poor or bland Pokémon, but a permanent franchise fixture that may have decades of repercussions. You may be able to hide your bad design amidst the hundreds of other Pokémon to your left and right, but you'll get your moment some time when people attempt to... CATCH ‘EM ALL. Especially in spin-off games like Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, where every Pokémon does get some kind of acknowledgement and mission.

Given that view, whatever it takes to ensure high quality is fine by me, and I'm pleased with most of Alola's new offerings, however sparse they may be. Even if it means that most of the wild Pokémon I see are familiar faces from older generations.

By the way, the underlying concern behind this article's question is the worry that there will be so many Pokémon, that you can't possibly keep memory of all of them in your head. Personally, I'm not at that point yet. If you name any Pokémon, I'll be able to intelligently talk about it without looking it up. Try me.

This article was brought to you by a request made almost four months ago. Ludwig just wanted to make sure that he had a very complete picture of what Alola was like before writing about it, so he spent many months out in the field researching it. You can and ought to submit your own Requests, too, at the official Requests page.


  1. I would always prefer the older versions of the series then the newer ones, simply out of nostalgic reasonings!
    The newer versions aren't very innovative either which is very disappointing! (Besides Pokemon go, but honestly who would enjoy that any longer then a couple of days?!)

    1. Well, your name is terrifying.
      Obviously you're a Team Rocket fan.

      So I'm assuming "older versions" = "anything before 2003"?

  2. It's like I stated in the last guest post: I like seeing something new build upon the old!
    The Alolan Pokémon fulfill just that: a satisfying twist on former Pokémon, but just enough alterations to bring in new life to them!

    BUT that's not to say completely new content isn't allowed (although, if done wrong, it can leave scars; look at Trubbish), just look at Splatoon and the up-and-coming ARMS! Great, NEW games that start on one thing: an idea, and build with their assets.

    Y'a know, the building blocks I mentioned in that one comment.

    1. Just so anyone looking can know wot he's referring to, it's his comment here.

      Not all of the Alolan Pokémon are satisfying twists... y'know... like Alolan Persian.

      (Trubbish is better than Grimer. Just saying.)

      So wot nostalgic building blocks do you think ARMS is building off of? :o


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