Ode to Gen V
by, 7th October 2013 at 02:00 PM (1245 Views)
Gen V is ending already?! It feels like yesterday when BW info started coming out. That was some round of speculation. I actually blame Gen V for bringing me back into the Pokemon fandom. Before Gen III came out, I was a sophomore in high school, thought I had "grown out" of Pokemon, didn't want to invest in a GBA with the meager income I got at the time, and felt that I had bigger things to get involved. (And I was mad about not being able to transfer my beloved Gen II Pokemon forward... who wasn't?) I still checked back on Pokemon sites occasionally during my almost 10-year absence to look for what was added. I never disliked the franchise, but when I had a little more money to spend on a system and game, I felt like if I would be so far behind with all the events and new mechanics if I came back.
I remember where I was when I first found out about Gen V. I was sitting on the couch in my rented basement room at my first grad school, scrolling through a high school mate's Facebook page. Another high school friend posted the reveal of Zorua and Zoroark on his wall. First, I raged and thought Pokemon was just selling out by adding more. (I thought Arceus would make a nice final Pokemon in the National Dex, all things considered.) Then I decided to rubberneck on Pokemon sites to see what else was being added, like a driver passing a smoldering wreck on a highway.
Then as I read more and more, I got really impressed by the supposed effort Game Freak was making. Somewhere, I found out the games were going to be more story-intensive and that they would be a fresh start. Fresh start? You mean I wouldn't have to read up on the previous two generations' worth of stuff to get an understanding of what these games were in for? And a better story? Why read summaries of this story when I can PLAY it myself! I then decided that I would buy a used DS just in time for BW to come out in the US. (I decided on Black as soon as the mascots were unveiled because Reshiram looked gorgeous.)
When I first read the names "Black and White," I immediately thought it was a Michael Jackson tribute (because of the song Black or White). These were the first main games released after his death, anyway.
Then I read about HGSS and all the stuff that was added to the first Pokemon games I played. I bought my used DS Lite much earlier than expected just in time for that Mew event. HG was the first Pokemon game I played since Crystal, but if it weren't for BW I might have never considered it. It took me a little while to learn about the new mechanics added since Gen III. But I digress.
The BW prerelease period was a roller coaster, if you will. We were awed at the improved overworld graphics they showed us, surprised by the fully animated sprites, and raged when we figured that Tepig would evolve into another Fire/ Fighting. The speculation about the starters' English names was fun. (Smugleaf? Wotter? I admit I was in the Smugleaf camp because it sounded cute, and Oshawott sounded similar to the speculated name anyway... At least Pignite was used somewhere.) All the English name speculation was a game, especially because we always had to use the Japanese names for months before we got the English stuff. (Now we only have to wait up to a couple days for them... )
I remember listening to the soundtrack and being impressed by what I heard, and watched LPs of the Japanese games where neither I nor the player knew what the text said. (I managed not to spoil the context of the main story by doing that.)
Then the mall tour was announced for the US. Being in NJ, I made it to two, in Philly and Paramus. I saw the Zoroark movie in the morning (my first time there) and demoed the games and schmoozed with fellow fans in the afternoon. I knew it was good to be there with other Pokenerds, because I got to trade for some rare ones and help other people complete their Dexes.
I bought Black from my local Best Buy, played it, beat the main story in a month and a half because I can never speedrun, and was mindblown by the ending.
Fast forward to February 2012. I was skimming Facebook on my iPad while sitting through a dull panel at an anime convention when I found out about BW2. I freaked out in a positive way about the story being continued instead of a rehash and I guessed that there would be new player characters. (The new PCs were leaked late at night on a morning when I had a cross-country flight... Of course I was too excited to fall asleep after that.)
I thought the 3-month difference between Japanese and international releases was a good thing. Less time to be spoiled! For the release, I decided to go to Nintendo World in NY for my copy. I got to the sidewalk at 11:30 p.m. on my 25th birthday. (the buses out of my town didn't start up again until 6:30 or so in the morning, which would have been too late to get a good spot in line for the 9:00 opening) Because I was one of the first 50 people in line, I got to sit in the VIP lounge at the second Nintendo-sponsored event the following week at NYCC, where I was going anyway. (I got to charge my electronics, rest my legs, and get enough C-Gear tags for that 1,000 passersby medal!)
BW2 had some great postgame content. In the week before XY, I'm still trying to figure out what I should do in that game.
Anyway, some comments...
Transitioning from Gen IV to V was easy. Gen V handled much easier and faster than Gen IV's clunky controls. It was like changing from an under-responsive car to one that drove smoothly.
Gen V had to be the most relatable generation for me. Ever. While the first 4 regions were based on parts of Japan, they actually made a region after my stomping grounds! I can pretty much say I'm from IRL Aspertia City/ Central NJ.
While Game Freak used lots of artistic license designing Unova (snow-capped mountains, deserts, the NJ side is very compressed because their real-life counterparts aren't that close to manhattan if you superimpose the map of Unova over it), they did nail some places very accurately. Nacrene City is DUMBO next to the Brooklyn Bridge with warehouses, old rail tracks, and hipsters. The Moor of Icirrus is pretty much the Meadowlands swamps. Mistralton City gets the idea that Newark and Teterboro airports are in that area. Driftveil got the container port thing very accurately. Aspertia and Flocessy are in suburban areas with some farms and forests, just like central and western NJ. Undella Town sort of references the rich seaside places on Long Island. Castelia's waterfront is a carbon copy of Lower Manhattan. Virbank City and its refineries are just like the stretch along the NJ Turnpike between Linden and Newark. The scientist who does nothing but explain parts of an oil refinery actually taught me something, and I could recognize the things he described on my next trip up the Turnpike. And I read that the Deerling line is only found on the NJ side of Unova... which is realistic if you know where to look.
My username references the fact that I'm from IRL Unova and that I was a "castaway" for 10 years away from the fandom. I joined these forums on the day BW came out in the US, but didn't make my first post until a while later because the servers were overloaded due to a "Team Plasma attack."
Along with the relatable geography, this gen brought the most relatable characters for me, especially my all-time favorite, N. When I realized that there was a Pokemon character who was socially awkward around people but adored pets just like me, I was mindblown. I'm still a little mindblown. Although I had a "normal" childhood and suck at math, I still strongly identify with N. Just like him, I also want to stand up for companion pets in certain situations, and treat them as friends. (I called my dog my best friend long before I played Gen V.) If I meet someone who has their pet with them, I say hi to the pet first. What's also impressive about N is how he's probably the most well-developed game character introduced so far. The intensive story made a bunch of characters very realistically developed, which I loved. Gone were the days where everybody was one dimentional and all you knew about them was "I'm the master of this type, you can't beat me."
I think that Bianca is my second-most relatable character. She's a little clumsy, has an overprotective parent, and takes a while to figure out what she wants to do in life (and still doesn't know). A lot of people discount her for being ditzy, but looking at her development makes you realize how she's well-written. Cheren was also a great character, also realistic with his overambitious goals brought down to earth. He's currently my favorite Gym Leader. (although I'm holding out for what XY brings) Both BW rivals were awesome with their important roles in BW2. Hugh had a nice side story himself. Hilbert and Hilda were great player characters, and I was a little disappointed that they didn't show up Red-like in BW2.
I absolutely loved the World Tournament. Most of the Gym Leaders and Champions cameoing in the same spot was amazing. It made every trip through those tournaments exciting and very nostalgic. I hope they bring something like that back in future games. (not necessarily every game, but certainly sequels and remakes) Cynthia also Took a Level in Badass by being a bonus boss. And Red being back? Yes please.
A lot of the Pokemon were awesome too. The Swords of Justice are my second-favorite legendary trio/ quartet ever, after the Kanto birds. I loved how the game designers made a reference to the Three Musketeers, plus their designs are great. Braviary is awesome too, and I love how a Japanese company would make an affectionate tribute to the US (but is the fact that the female version is a vulture some sort of commentary? ). As I said, Reshiram is a gorgeous mascot. Swanna ranked somewhat high on my lists for its Ugly Duckling reference (and bringing me back to being in the musical Honk my sophomore year in high school). Litwick is adorable and my favorite Ghost type. I used a Chandelure in Black and it was a great sweeper. Samurott looked like a legendary instead of a fully-evolved starter at first glance, and the Snivy line looks great all the way through. Archeops was better than I expected, and my Adamant one was my Black MVP. The common complaint that genwunners hated all of Gen V for a tiny amound of duds among some great Pokemon rings true.
BW2's availability of wild Eevee made the Eeveelutions grow on me. I figured out that Vaporeon was my favorite Eeveelution after using one on my B2 team. She was a TANK.
How about the anime? Most of the BW anime wasn't terribly impressive, barring a few standout episodes and the majority of Episode N. I like the Kyurem movie for not following the cookie cutter formula, and the Victini movies were an ambitious experiment.
The Dream World was a different concept, but it felt a little unwieldy to tuck someone in if you had slow wifi. Sometimes my 3DS wouldn't connect, but other times it would work fast. I actually had to go to a nearby library to connect to any wifi before I got a new router that was compatible with Nintendo Wifi, and then I was able to use the Dream World at home. I hope that Gen VI improves connectivity.
The low HP music was a clever concept, but it drowned out some epic boss themes and only fit regular trainers and wild battles. I hoped BW2 would add remixes for bigger battles, especially after i found a fanmade Ghetsis low HP theme that the game should have used. I was surprised that Gen VI gets rid of changing the song entirely and only beeps a few times while saying that your Pokemon's in a pinch, then goes away.
The animated Pokemon sprites were too pixelated in the back, as the designers only made them to look good when they were first sent out, not zoomed in. (very poor choice) Plus, most of the older Pokemon's sprites were their Gen IV versions, and some were in very awkward poses. (Moltres, my #1 favorite, uses its DPPt swooping pose instead of its HGSS standing pose, which makes it look like it's hovering unrealistically) I'm glad Gen VI's 3D models are much more realistic than that.
Gen V DID feel short, but only because the first Gen IV Pokemon was unvelied 2 1/2 years before the games came out in Japan, but Gen V wasn't announced until the year of. We were so used to Gen IV for so long.
Overall, Gen V made me look at the Pokemon franchise in a different way for the better. Fantastic human characters, some great Pokemon, and an awesome soundtrack made up all that. BW had a fantastic story that had its "umph" at the perfect time. BW2 had an entertaining story, although the climax was a little earlier, but had some phenomenal postgame content. I'm really glad I got back into Pokemon in time for this, Game Freak and Nintendo really did succeed in recruiting back old fans and reinvigorating this franchise.
Thank you, Gen V.
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