Sometime in the near future I will write again about Magic: the Gathering and other board games but right now my heart is with Pokemon even if its not in a, “Oh my god! I need to go to my LGS to play” kind of way but more in a, “there’s a new generation coming and its, mostly, all I can think of!”. I will not write about mechanics and their evolution, even though that would be a fun one! No, I will talk about a topic that its always brought to light by the hardcore fan, you know the “I only played Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow because its the better one but I’ve stayed oblivious to the rest of the generations but my opinion is more valuable than the opinion of the person that has played it for the last 20 years” fan.
As November 18th gets closer with it comes the release of Pokemon Sun & Moon, the seventh generation of this franchise. For those oblivious to the fact these are important games to the Pokemon franchise since they will be release this year, the year Pokemon is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A lot of changes are coming to the games from which the biggest one is the drop of the Gym Battles, and subsequently the drop of an Elite Four. Yes, this is a thing but is not what I want to talk about. What I will talk is something that always comes up every time a new generation gets announced and something that for the last few generations has bothered me as a fan of the series, character aesthetics from a “how creative this Pokemon looks” point of view.
As they always do for every generation they started the spoiler season of the seventh generation with the reveal of the new starter Pokemon. Rowlet for grass the type, Litten for the fire type, and Popplio for water. With this reveal people started talking b.s. about how unimaginative Pokemon design has gotten through the ages. What people actually forget is that this IP (intellectual property for those less knowledgeable about this lingo) has never been about how creative the aesthetic design of Pokemon is.
If we compare the Alola region starter trio the one the sixth generation where 2 out of 3 of the starters were obviously a fox, Fennekin, and a frog, Froakie, we can see that the same ratio of Pokemon (2:3) is blatantly obvious in what real life animal they’re based on, an owl for Rowlet and a cat for Litten. If we move back to the fifth generation we had a pig, Tepig. In the fourth generation we had a monkey, Chimchar, and a penguin, Piplup. In the third generation, my favorite, we had a chicken, Torchic, we had a gecko, Treecko, and a axolotl in Mudkip (3:3) . In the second generation we had a crocodile, Totodile. In Yellow Version as part of the first generation, even if its not available to pick by the player, your rival chooses Eevee as the starter which is obviously a fox. Which gets me to my next point.
Assuming that the following Pokemon and their evolutionary lines don’t count Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander, which actual Japanese name is Hitokage (this literally means fire lizard in Japanese), 52 out of the original 150, not counting Mew since it was obtained via event or Game Shark. That’s 35.3% of the first generation. More than a third, by 2%, of the first generation where unimaginative Pokemon based of irl (in real life…Yay! Lingo!) animals and plants. Yes, as part of this exercise I left out Voltorb and Electrode which are based of an inanimate object but since Poke balls are a design and concept first introduced in the first Generation I’m not counting them. I could continue this exercise in futility to demonstrate how since the beginning Pokemon aesthetic has always been based on something that already exists. Granted, as some true “first gen only” fans claim, I will say that the design of some of the new Pokemon is unimaginative, and maybe difficult to accept in the beginning like for example Klefki, Litwick, Vanillite, and Trubbish. Also I have to say that the first Pokemon generation had Farfetch’d which is literally a duck, and Pidgey and Spearrow which are literally birds, and Goldeen and Magikarp are fish. The second generation had Milktank, a cow.
Another recent issue has been the incorporation of the “Alola forms”. It is basically Pokemon’s answer to Darwinian evolution. I mean, at first when I saw the “Alola form” Exeggutor I was a bit skeptical about it. Then I remember that he had always resemble a stubby palm tree, as those found in deserts, and now he has a long neck because Alola is located in the tropic this Pokemon is a Palm tree. For me this was great, what I’m still a bit skeptical is that Exeggutor is now a dragon. I’m using Exeggutor as an example because it has brought forth a barrage of memes but how could it not if its a funny looking Pokemon but with him came a plethora if new “Alola forms” like Vulpix and Sandshrew. Also, it was great to see that more people online shared my opinion on Darwinian evolution.
As I mentioned before, most of the unimaginative Pokemon in the first generation, and even the second, are literally animals that we can spot in out daily lives. Having said is it much to ask not to bash on Pokemon aesthetic because its an inanimate object? Is it so hard to believe that if a bird can be classified as a Pokemon why not a key-chain, or a sword even. Maybe its because most of the fans that are trying to evaluate this franchise are so detached to the concept of “Catch ’em All” that they don’t understand that if the Pokemon franchise would’ve stayed at 151 we would’ve completed this goal in the 90s and the franchise would have died. Or is it a far fetched concept having a greater biology of Pokemon, I mean if the real world can give us a plethora of creatures why not this gaming, fantasy/sci-fi franchise? Why cant we incorporate Darwinian evolution to the game to have a broader variety in the biology of Pokemon?