With the release of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire last year, an entire group of trainers who grew up with Ruby and Sapphire had their prayers answered. With the numerous innovations and significant landmarks the main series has reached over the years, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable aspects of each Pokemon Generation so far. They’re all so great!
Generation I (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow)
Did you hear about Lavender Town?
The Pokemon franchise was aimed at kids, and with trading and battling as huge parts of the series, it was natural for the social aspects of playing the games to manifest as playground rumors. Did you try to use Strength on the truck near S.S. Anne to claim yourself a Mew? Did Lavender Town’s unnerving music and creepy graveyard section really make kids go insane? Do you still hold Up+B, A+B, Down+B, or any other button combination in hopes of raising your chance of a successful capture?
Many Generation I myths and rumors still persist to this day. With Nintendo games being such treasured parts of many people’s childhood, Pokemon is emblematic of the “I have an uncle that works at Nintendo/Game Freak” rumor starter that added so much to the series’ mystique and appeal.
The Old Man and the Sea
Rumors are one thing, but in a case of “he said she said” that was actually true, the Viridian City “old man trick,” used to encounter the glitched Pokemon called Missingno was an eye-opening experience for many kid trainers. The existence of this glitch not only fueled more rumors, but also gave users some neat benefits. At the cost of a player’s Hall of Fame data being corrupted, encountering Missingno along the shores of Cinnabar Island could give a player 128 copies of the 6th item in their bag, making things like Rare Candies a more common item and creating an easier path to level 100.
Perhaps more surprising than the old man glitch is the worldwide unveiling of the Mew glitch several years after Gen I’s heyday. Unearthed for the public in 2003 (though possibly used in secret until then), this relatively simple glitch involved tricking the game into thinking you were in a battle state through glitched trainer battles, then using specific trainers to encounter and capture virtually any Pokemon you want. The prime target? A Youngster with a Slowpoke in his party that would lead to encountering the elusive Mew.
Generation II (Gold, Silver, Crystal)
Are you a boy? Or are you a girl?
The release of Gold and Silver gave many Pokemon species an assigned gender of male, female, or genderless, which played a big role in the revolutionary feature of breeding. Trainers could now have better control over the development of their Pokemon, as breeding allowed Pokemon of a lower level to be hatched and trained from the start of their Poke-lives with exclusive Egg Moves.
Gen II’s Crystal also introduced a playable female character for players to choose at the onset of their adventure. With a more inclusive representation (that would be expanded upon in future games through trainer customization), Pokemon opened its arms just a bit wider and welcomed even more trainers into the regions of Kanto and Johto.
Night and Day
Gen II not only brought improvements to Gen I’s gameplay, but it also advanced a very well known plot in some interesting ways. Whether you played the games or watched the anime, it was cool to see Koga step up and become a member of Gen II’s Elite Four, with his daughter Janine taking the place of her father as Fuchsia City Gym Leader. Gen I rival Blue (whose anime counterpart is the ever boastful Gary Oak) takes up the mantle of Viridian City Gym Leader, while the mountaintop battle with Red (the game version of the one and only Ash Ketchum) still stands as one of the coolest battles in the series. Future games would tease it in small chunks, but so far only the journey through Johto has rewarded players with a way to travel back into a past region and see what influence their adventure has had on its people, places, and Pokemon.
Not only did time matter in terms of continuity, but Gen II had trainers keep track of the time of day and the days of the week. Want to evolve your Eevee into an Espeon? Then you’d better get to the Goldenrod Haircut Brothers on any day but Monday (as they don’t work that day) to raise its happiness and make sure it levels up at max happiness — but only during the daytime.
Generation III (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Fire Red, Leaf Green)
A Song of Land and Sea
Gen I and II had trainers deal with the machinations of Team Rocket as they attempted to take over Kanto and Johto and steal all the Pokemon they could for their own evil needs. Gen III opted to introduce not one, but two evil teams: Team Magma and Team Aqua. Team Magma sought to expand the landmass of the world and dwarf the sea by awakening the ancient Pokemon Groudon. Team Aqua wanted to cover the world in water and rid the planet of its land shackles by controlling the sea leviathan Kyogre. Naturally, this would lead the two teams to butt heads, and it was cool to see these new organizations not only vying for control of the world but also for the player’s support along the way.
Back to the Beginning
Gen III was a clean slate: Ruby and Sapphire didn’t accommodate Pokemon transfers from Gen I and II games. This is something Game Director Junichi Masuda regrets, as he has stated how he wishes for Pokemon to be passed down to future generations, almost like family heirlooms. They’ve done an admirable job of this since then, as it’s still technically possible to transfer a Gen III Pokemon all the way to the current Gen VI games. But at the onset of Gen III, trainers were left with no way to bring over beloved Pokemon from their Kanto and Johto journeys.
The announcement of full remakes for Gen I games, titled Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green (as the original Japanese release had a Green version instead of Blue), not only allowed the Kanto story to be retold, but also opened a Pandora’s Box of fan anticipation. There was now a precedent for remaking old games on newer, better hardware. Once the time seemed ripe, fans wondered if Gen II remakes would happen — they got them with Heart Gold and Soul Silver.
Generation IV (Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Heart Gold, Soul Silver)
Moves Make Sense
Since the beginning, the strength of a battle move was primarily determined by its type and the user’s corresponding statistic. From Fire to Fighting and Ghost to Grass, each move was assigned a corresponding attack type — Physical or Special. This meant that the Physical-sounding Electric move Thunder Punch was instead considered a Special move and played off of Special Attack and Special Defense, while the Flying type beam attack Aeroblast was a Physical move that was determined by the Attack and Defense stats.
Gen IV brought a much-needed overhaul to the battle system that unshackled moves from their type distinctions. Now, each move’s Physical or Special alignment was determined by the move itself. Thunder Punch was now a Physical move and Aeroblast was a Special move. This was not only a great aesthetic change to the series but also a helpful gameplay improvement, as moves now acted like they sounded.
A Global Trainer
One of the most compelling aspects of Pokemon has always been its encouragement of social interaction between trainers. Whether it’s battling or trading, the series would constantly spur players into seeking others in pursuit of becoming a Pokemon Master. Therefore, it was truly a cause for celebration when Gen IV finally expanded this treasured activity from a local space to a global infrastructure through Wi-Fi battling and trading. The capabilities of the DS finally allowed friends from all over the world to connect with each other no matter where they were — no link cables needed. That friendly rival you played Blue with who moved away? You could finally settle the score in Diamond and Pearl.
Even if you didn’t have a ready trade partner, an entire world of trading possibilities opened up with the Global Trade Station, or GTS. As a Wi-Fi trade terminal, trainers could put up any Pokemon they had and list a desired trade, with options specifying species, gender, and level range. With Wi-Fi trading and the GTS, the original American slogan of “Gotta catch ‘em all!” was now a plausible feat for most, and many a childhood dream could finally be fulfilled.
Generation V (Black, White, Black 2, White 2)
Like a Kid Again
Pokemon Black and White’s road to the Elite Four was punctuated by a very significant caveat: no previous generation Pokemon were available until you get the National Pokedex at the end of the game.
That meant no Pikachu, no Zubat, no Geodude, or any other Pokemon you were accustomed to seeing in a typical journey. Instead, it was all brand new Gen V originals until the post-game. While this left some trainers disheartened, many were elated to have a fresh experience. New bonds were formed as the absence of old standbys gave way for new partners found in the fields of Unova.
Gen V also sought to shake up the status quo with its main story, dealing with the machinations of Team Plasma and the mysterious N. On the surface, Plasma and N sought to question the trainer-Pokemon relationship and break Pokemon away from their trainers. Team Plasma did this through theft, with the goal of leader Ghetsis to be the only person in the world with Pokemon. However, players would come to discover that N had intentions of creating an entirely separate world for Pokemon. N, though slightly warped, truly cared for Pokemon, and players could see that his childhood experiences led him to believe that Pokemon were meant to be free of their trainers.
The plot elements in the Gen V games caught the attention of both series fans and casual observers. That Pokemon, a kids franchise that became a global phenomenon, was finally addressing a foundational tenet that has moral and ethical connotations was an interesting direction for the Generation to take.
Generation VI (X, Y, Omega Ruby, Alpha Sapphire)
Bigger, Badder, and Now with More Fairy Dust
Though Gen II introduced Dark and Steel as new types (with Gen I Pokemon such as Magnemite receiving fitting retcons as dual Electric/Steel types), the franchise was still young enough to where we didn’t see too much change in the battling ecosystem until more Dark and Steel Pokemon and moves were added in later games.
Things were different in Gen VI, as the new Fairy type absolutely rocked the Pokemon world. New Fairy types (including new Eevee-lution Sylveon) and more retcon-ing of some older Pokemon (Clefairy was now an actual fairy!) shook up the type match-ups, as fabled Dragon types now had another enemy to worry about.
But perhaps the most exciting addition of Gen VI is the concept of Mega Evolution. Once per battle, a chosen Pokemon from your team holding an appropriate Mega Stone could temporarily transform into a super powered version of themselves, with higher stats and access to a different Ability. This not only changed battle dynamics, but it once again offered up another chance for players to dream about their favorite Pokemon in Mega forms.
Time After Time
After defeating the Elite Four in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, a brand new story called Delta Episode opens up in the post-game. The plot deals with an impending asteroid heading right for the planet, foretold by a prophecy 3000 years in the past. This plot ties together previous games in a way most never expected, including the towering giant AZ from X and Y and, shockingly, every other Generation.
Following the lead of new character Zinnia, trainers must find a way to stop the asteroid while discovering the possibility of parallel universes possessing almost identical worlds with a few key differences. One of these differences? Mega Evolutions don’t exist, and evolutions took a “slightly different path,” as told by Zinnia.
Does this mean that Gens I-V are now a separate timeline? One devoid of Mega Evolutions? Does this explain why the Mirage Spot legendary encounters like Entei use Game Boy-era sounding music — because you’re actually catching them from the old universe? Are the Pokemon universe and BioShock universe one and the same? What of the lighthouse, the man, and the city?!
Kidding aside, trainers were already excited at the prospect of Gen III remakes, but almost no one expected ORAS to signal a new Zelda-esque timeline for the Pokemon series. Perhaps most important for some is that the childhood worlds of Gen I and II that were left behind in the wake of new hardware may actually still exist as part of the canon, not just overwritten by the remakes. The possibility that every Generation — past, present and future — all tie together in a big multiverse of Pokemon timelines? That sounds pretty awesome.
Article by Darren “Beast Legacy” Castro.