Pokémon 4th Generation: A Retrospect.
by, 27th February 2011 at 10:50 PM (577 Views)
Well, this is the final week before the worldwide release of Pokémon Black and White. As I've done before elsewhere, I feel like looking back to the Generation we're leaving behind.
I have to say, the fourth Generation of Pokémon was similar to a three-course meal. It had a very tasty soup, but it wasn't that good as you kept sipping on it, and the flavor lost its initial thunder really quickly. Then we were presented with a familiar main course, which, even though already known, it had a new, tasty flavor to it, and was the most satisfying part. Finally, we had a long anticipated dessert everyone was clamoring for, but it ended up being insipid and lacking.
That's how I would classify all the main series games in this Generation. Diamond and Pearl looked great at first, but they eventually got dull, due to all the features we had in Emerald, but didn't have anymore. To add salt to the wound, they were horribly slow games due to the drop in frame rate, but that's no excuse when later games became much faster. Slow interfaces, slow movement, the return of archaic limitations no one thought would be seen again at this point (Dismounting your Bike for going in gates... seriously?) managed to adulterate what was an otherwise solid entry in the series.
Diamond and Pearl brought Sinnoh, and a pretty deep mythos revolving around the Region. It also introduced Team Galactic, which I consider the best evil Team in the main series so far (I'm yet to see how will Plasma measure up), as well as the best villain, Cyrus. The plot was solid, and so were the antagonists... but all else was poorly integrated. We had a largely annoying supporting cast, Gym Leaders were too boring, and even the Region itself failed to deliver inspiring scenery.
Even worse was the terrible Regional Pokédex. Why not feature all Pokémon with new Evolutions? That cut down the Team possibilities so much, it isn't funny. When you have a new Generation with not enough actually new, standalone Pokémon, this is the worst move that can be done. Even with 2nd Gen's horrible management, they at least had the old Pokémon with new Evolutions available in the first half. At least Diamond and Pearl didn't shaft the brand new Pokémon... sort of. I wonder, however... how many times will they have to blow their chances like this?
Having such weak games as Diamond and Pearl sustain the main series games of this Generation for half of its life span was so short-sighted, and probably the worst move in the history of the franchise. I nearly dropped this Generation halfway. All that was keeping me in was a spin-off: Pokémon Ranger 2. In terms of side games, this Generation did a better job. We had the aforementioned Ranger sequel, and we also had Battle Revolution. Haters gonna hate, but fact stands that this game provided what the main games failed to deliver throughout the entire Generation: Random Wi-Fi Battles. Seeing how 5th Generation games support such a thing, I wouldn't be surprised this was yet another withheld feature. :/ Either way, Random Wi-Fi single-handedly made a mediocre game as Battle Revolution, one of very few ways to enjoy the dragged on experience of the 4th Generation.
Nevertheless, with this bleak start, and with spin-off games trying to carry the weight of the series after the paired games completely blew it, the forecast wasn't favorable for the 4th Generation. I have to admit, I also was skeptic about Platinum. It didn't really offer anything new, and cashed in on Emerald's greatness. Of course, it had a most inevitable hook: buy this or endure playing the wreck that was Diamond/Pearl.
I bought Platinum eventually, because I didn't want to endure the sluggish pain of my Diamond anymore. I have to say, after playing it... I changed my mind. Platinum was truly an astounding game, not just with the features and the fixing of absolutely everything that was wrong with the pair Versions, but it also presented a much better plot than its predecessors. It had, by and far, the best plot in the series, with only the next Generation having a chance of topping it. It vastly improved the dry characterization in Diamond/Pearl, and even picked the few things it had done right in that regard, and enhanced them. Truly the definitive game of this Generation, and comparable with the game that I still think is the absolutely best main series game yet: Emerald.
Unfortunately... I have to stress this. I had to buy Platinum to even enjoy the 4th Generation at all. Diamond/Pearl left a severely bitter taste in my view of both the series and the developers. A taste that's just dying off after experiencing Platinum and seeing all the good Black and White are bringing to the series. A taste that was reinforced after the games that succeeded Platinum came about. I won't dwell on how much HeartGold and SoulSilver fail again. You can read my opinion here.
I haven't tried Guardian Signs yet, but it should be good as the Ranger games before it. But even then, the 4th Generation was overall a pretty lackluster Generation in terms of games and settings. Remaking a terrible setting without actually making critical changes on its shortcomings was another pathetic move on GameFreak's part. HGSS were basically a quick cash-in for a lukewarm job that most fans would eat up in a heartbeat. As for Sinnoh, the new setting... they should have made Diamond and Pearl play as quickly as Platinum at the very least. Unfortunately, they thought they needed a cheap purchase bait...
In terms of Pokémon, the 4th Generation picked up the layout of the 2nd Generation, much to my dismay: a smaller pool of new Pokémon, with about a quarter of them being Pokémon related to old ones. This was definitely handled better than the 2nd Generation overall, because even in Diamond/Pearl, the actually brand new Pokémon got proper focus. Unfortunately, even then, this Generation suffered for the same reasons: There wasn't a solid pool of choices available throughout the game. Confining a handful of new Pokémon into such a terrible Pokémon fetching mechanic, as was Honey Trees, didn't help matters, either. Still, even with these mistakes, the 4th Generation Pokémon managed to provide a decent pool of great creatures to try out. It could have been better, but it was pretty enjoyable overall. I won some favorites this time around. Much more than in 2nd Generation, which is overall a point for the 4th Generation.
Character wise... it was a mixed bag. I found most Gym Leaders in Sinnoh to be somewhat bland before Platinum, which did a much-needed fleshing for all of them. Still, I can name at least three that never quite managed to impress me, but we did have Maylene, Candice, and fluff between them, which made up for all the shortcomings in here. The return of the Johto Gym Leaders, and a slight fleshing of the Kanto Gym Leaders was also cool, and one of very few remarkable points of HGSS. The Elite Four was pretty cool for a change, and Cynthia was damn awesome too. The Frontier Brains were nowhere near as memorable as Hoenn's, and we didn't have a cool Frontier owner like Scott, either, but we did have Dahlia and her amazing ass. I never cared about the rest of them, though Caitlin was cute, and her surprise return in the 5th Generation adds much depth to her character, which is awesome and makes me look forward to what she has to say...
The Tag-along Trainers was an interesting concept that provided pretty nice characters as well. I really liked Cheryl, Mira, Riley and Marley. The villains were truly amazing! Especially Cyrus and Mars. Petrel also provided lulz. For the rest... Barry was fucking horrible, Lucas and Dawn were bland before Platinum, your mom finally had some character, Rowan was alright, Looker was out of this world astounding, Charon was generic, and most other minor characters were pretty cool. HGSS ruined a lot of the old faces, and did nothing with the absent ones...
Region-wise, Kanto got some much-needed expansion, but Johto was barely touched besides the few new areas, which sucked horribly. Sinnoh was bland before Platinum, but after Platinum, it became a Region as rich and nice looking as Hoenn was. In the spin-offs we had mostly generic trends, but Almia presented an interesting layout and awesome characters. I am yet to try Oblivia. The myths in the 4th Generation were a highlight, definitely. The richest mythology of Johto and Sinnoh, and an integration of all of it alongside Hoenn's mythology as well... again, was one of very few salvageable aspects of HGSS.
One thing I can give to the 4th Generation was its sheer revolution in the battle system. The Physical/Special Moves was an excellent change that made pretty much every Pokémon useful, and its addition of high power and very useful Moves was also a very good aspect of the 4th Generation. It might not have been such an integral change as it happened in 3rd Gen, but it was revolutionary nonetheless, and it ultimately helped every Pokémon stand out in their particular field. This was definitely the best thing the 4th Generation brought to the table.
Though it ultimately failed to deliver, the 4th Generation had its ups and downs. As a conclusion, I can say it's still my 2nd favorite Generation overall, at this point. I can assure 5th Generation will take it over very quickly, but I still have to say, the 4th Generation leaves a bittersweet trail behind it. Still, I gotta say, the sweet parts were just astoundingly good. They might not have been abundant, but they were excellent enough to help me ignore and let go of all the bitter parts throughout these four years. It was definitely a Generation of extremes. What it did bad, was highly terrible, but what it did good, was truly excellent.
I wave good-bye, with hopes that the 5th Generation will provide much more thrills and satisfaction than the 4th Generation. Even as a fan since the beginning, I can say without a doubt that Black and White look amazing, and I really can't wait for March 6th anymore! Only one week remains. Whatever happens after that day, will go down in my memories with this series, and I anticipate it will be grand. I just know it.
Total Trackbacks 0