Phoning it in: A review of Pokemon Generation V

So, now that Gen VI has heaved its bulk into view, and as Gen V is winding down, I thought I’d put up some of my thoughts on V.

Things I like:
• The breeding game is very, very well-supported. Dream World abilities add depth, the mechanics changed subtly but in helpful ways, and the addition of the Nursery, Restaurant, and Salon in Black 2 remove a lot of the drudgery, grinding, and shitty roadblocks in the game.
• Other endgame activities are also well-supported. The tournaments in B/W2 featuring the actual top teams from worlds is an especially nice touch, but it’s just nice to have something to do every day other than grind and breed.
• There are more opportunities to earn experience, and faster. The stadia in particular pull thirty levels of grinding down to a 5-minute proposition instead of a friggin’ day.
• Black and White threw out the “old standards” and completely isolated the Unova region. You had to start from scratch and work your way up. Many of the new pokemon were interesting or at least something original, and you had to explore the capabilities and uses of the new type combos and movepools. My favorite part of Black was not having to deal with the cruft from previous games.
• The new movepools were, by and large, interesting and fun to develop.
• The ancillary games and off-cart support provided by TPC – Dream Radar, the Dream World, the new pokedex apps – are excellent. Full stop.

Things that I don’t like:
• You know how they supported the endgame? It seems to have been completely at the expense of standard, one-player gameplay.
Stop holding my fucking hand, handing out all the “prizes” like candy and forcing me into long irritating expositions that literally lead me by the nose into the gyms or the next fight.
Make at least some of the fights an actual challenge, instead of 99% complete walkovers even on a speedrun. Most of the toughest fights in Gen V were ordinary trainers in the Stadia and on the field, and that’s bullshit. I shouldn’t be able to take a flying gym using only a water starter and a bug/grass pokemon that are both 10 levels under the Gym Leader’s… The Elite Four were particularly egregious here; all of their pokes were weak to either Ghost/Dark or Fighting, and you could easily sweep them with 2 Pokemon.
• Sidequests are basically nonexistent.
• Don’t take away my damned pokemon daycare/breeding until the endgame. It’s a useful tool, and one I miss sorely.
• B/W2 dropped the “isolated region” conceit, making the initial playthrough less fun for me.
• You know all those Dream World pokemon? The ones that make breeding more interesting? How about you release them all instead of dicking with us for three years and then, like all the other generations, abandoning support and any remaining un-released promotions and content as soon as the next gen comes out in Japan? (Yes, I’m still sore about HeartGold/SoulSilver and DPP, how could you tell?)
• Like many Japanese game companies TPC are, and continue to be, self-absorbed dicks (can you tell I played FFXI a lot?). If you release a Wi-Fi/Dream World promotion in Japan (I understand leaving the new pokecenter stuff, &c, in JP-land), release something, preferably at the same time, in the States and Europe; guarantee us support for the lifetime of the gen instead of the Generational Death March. For Arceus’ sake, it’s not like you actually have to write new friggin’ code,  all the releases are just sitting there waiting to go. Also, stop making JP-ONRY tournaments and then forcing all the other unwashed regions to compete only in global tourneys.
• Making “sight” count towards pokedex completion. Bear with me here.. because of this, they limited the Gym Leaders and Trainers to only things available to the player up to that point. It seriously diminished both the difficulty and the mystery of the game; fighting things you don’t have and can’t get until after you defeat the boss gives you an idea of their capabilities and a reason to want them.
• Making the game “all new” presented some problems. Many of the “new” pokemon were – just like in Gen II and III and IV – reskinned and slightly retouched versions of previous lines (Look, it’s a Blaziken only slow and a little beefier; a machop, only tragically ugly; a pidgey with better crits; a Muk only ugly as Hell..). Even some of the genuinely new things seemed like they were just trowing type combos at the wall and seeing what stuck (Chandelure stuck. Mmmm, did it stick).
It also prevented the devs from cleaning up real gaps in the Pokedex, which they haven’t touched since Gen III. I understand why they abandoned Jynx while upgrading Magmar and Electabuzz

jolsonovalPictured: the third evolution of Jynx.

– but a lot of the other holes have no such excuse. Gen VI is showing some promise here. The new Eveelution suggests that they’re finally rounding out those holes a little (or giving Gym Leaders or the Final Four personal unique pokemon, which I’m also cool with). Whether they’ll patch up some of the other type holes that were ignored in Gen II? Up in the air right now. At least we look to be getting three monotype starters again, which makes my Fire-loving heart go pit-a-pat.

I enjoyed many parts of Gen V, but HG/SS remains the best (if not best-supported) game TPC has put out in a long time. Here’s to seeing Gen VI fix a few of those problems; maybe I can even get my wife to start playing again. She abandoned Gen V in the Cold Storage zone and never looked back, for most of the gameplay-related reasons I outlined in the “what I don’t like” section.

[disclaimer: no challenge to trademarks intended, yada yada, all copyrighted materials presented for educational or review purposes under the doctrine of Fair Use. Copyright trolls can suck it and I live for the day the terms are reduced back to <50 years and required commercial exploitation, leaving you parasites to guzzle frantically at the teat of other people’s work instead of hoarding it. Image of Al Jolson in the public domain.]

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