Steven asks:

Hey, love the blog! Apologies if this has been asked before, but overall, looking back with 4 generations of hindsight, what are your feeling about how Gen 4 devoted a ton of space to new evolutions of older pokemon? I say that now because, at the time, it was a trendy idea that instead of new pokemon, they should go back and make cool new evolutions to old pokemon that deserve it. But looking back on Gen 4 which devoted 21 spots to new evolutions (20% of Gen4!) personally, its hard to see it as anything more than “well this was a mistake to never try again”. I personally only really find a couple really appealing (Weavile, Mismagius). What do you think? Was this an attempt better left in the past? Did they just not do a great job with those specific pokemon? Or heck, do you actually like these pokemon? I’m curious to see what you think.

Hmm; I count 22.  And don’t forget 7 baby Pokémon (damn it, Game Freak, did you really have to mock poor Chimecho with a baby form when other, already much better, Pokémon were getting evolutions?).  But… yeah, this is tricky.  I think it’s inherently more difficult to come up with a good addition to what was already a self-contained design than it is to come up with that design in the first place.  You’re constrained by the themes and aesthetics of the original design, but the original design “thought” that it was finished, so it’s going to fight against you.  The trouble is that evolving an old Pokémon is one of the most natural-feeling ways to give it a buff, and a lot of generation I and II Pokémon frankly needed it.  This is why I simultaneously hope Farfetch’d and Dunsparce will one day get evolutions and dread the possibility.  Farfetch’d and Dunsparce are both very self-contained, elegant designs; there’s not a lot of fluid, natural directions to take them because… well, if there were, they would have had evolutions in the first place.  And it’s not always like that; sometimes there is an interesting elaboration that you can make.  Ambipom… lives in my nightmares… but also is an unexpected yet somehow laterally logical step forward from Aipom’s design.  Mamoswine and Yanmega are the most interesting examples of generation IV’s mechanic of “Pokémon that evolve by learning certain moves” because they transform into “prehistoric” versions of themselves by learning Ancientpower.  Gallade and Froslass work because they’re split evolutions and are able to take their base designs in the opposite directions to their counterparts.  Roserade works because Roselia didn’t have that much personality to begin with (fite me IRL) and whatever else you might say about Roserade, it doesn’t suffer from a deficit of personality.  Honchkrow is… bizarre, because Murkrow had a pretty clearly defined aesthetic and Honchkrow just… fµ¢£in’… throws that out the window and is a mob boss instead, but I also kind of love Honchkrow anyway???  Most of the rest… for me lie on a continuum of “this is worse than the original design, but basically fine and I get that this Pokémon needed a buff” to “I know this Pokémon needed a buff, but… why???”  And I think that second reaction is why we don’t really see them anymore.  In the past two or three generations, Game Freak have realised they actually have a lot of different tools for buffing underpowered early-generation Pokémon that don’t force them to design new Pokémon they didn’t want in the first place.  There’s mega evolution, there’s regional forms, there’s movepool additions, there’s valuable new abilities, hell, there’s straight up literal stat increases.  I wouldn’t put money on new evolutions of old Pokémon being gone forever because, again, sometimes they are warranted and do turn out well, and I hope Game Freak recognises that, but I doubt we’ll ever see another generation that includes as many of them as II and IV did.

6 thoughts on “Steven asks:

  1. definitely 100% unbiased opinion: porygon-z was also a solid sinnoh evolution because taking a stable upgrade and turning it glitchy, making it faster and stronger but also more fragile, is a really fun direction for the line. togekiss and tangrowth don’t do anything super novel but togetic and tangela both feel really incomplete without them… but i have to agree on the rest, that they weren’t really necessary outside of the battle utility.

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    1. With you up to a point. Porygon-Z to me always felt like it *ought* to be a split evolution rather than further building onto Porygon2, but I can see your point about doing it this way. I’d also be fine with not having Togetic evolve any further; I think it’s sufficiently “done” and the progression from egg fairy to… jet-plane-shaped bird(?) just baffles me. Tangela needs *something* but Tangrowth isn’t *anything* – just a bigger pile of noodles. To me it’s telling that they basically designed Tangrowth for Gold and Silver, but then threw it out (as we learned here https://pokemaniacal.com/2018/07/29/joe-cool-asks/).

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    2. I agree with Porygon actually, I think a shady homemade upgrade is perfect for pushing Porygon-2 past its limits. I can’t agree on Togekiss though (it just… it doesn’t look anything like where the line was going), and Tangrowth is just making it bigger?

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  2. A majority of later added evolutions don’t sit right with me but I’ve accepted them. I’m not against adding evolutions – especially to Pokémon that didn’t evolve at all or as split evolutions – but they still need to make sense. Like Murkrow I felt could use an evolution but Honchkrow… its a cool design but feels irrelevant to Murkrow. Farfetch’d could use a cool evolution, maybe a bit of samurai inspiration, and while Dunsparce is such a unique concept that anything would take away from that… I still want Dunsparce to be relevant, ya know? But then stuff like Rhyperior, Magmortar, Electivire, Magnezone… they all just look so awkward to me. I think they should add new evolutions again but be thoughtful in how they do it instead of trying to churn out 20+ evolutions in one gen. The bad evolutions are ones that neglect the original design or just try to make beefier versions of the original design. Heck… I don’t love mega evolution but it was a decent way to literally buff weaker Pokémon that deserved attention. I get balancing 9420 Pokémon is impossible but it never hurts to buff ones that are currently just bad. And stat boosts are often enough but some still feel like they could have been more. Like… Stantler is so boring, real reindeer are more interesting than them. Qwilfish deserves an evolution, pufferfish are really cool but Qwilfish is pretty generic. If they were able to help Sneasel, Aipom, and Nosepass (actually scratch that one, there’s no redeeming Nosepass), then surely they can improve some of the more bland Pokémon through evolution!

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  3. I think I prefer a baby/new evolution or regional forms over the mega varients.

    I don’t particularly like the Z-ring thing either. I don’t want to win battles because my Pokemon can do an extra strong move. I want to win because of tactics, poison, paralyse.

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    1. As far as the single-player story goes, I agree; Z-moves and mega evolution feel unfair when so few of the AI opponents use them, and I wish there were more of a cost to using them – something that reflected the need for those effects to draw on the trainer’s own strength. When the playing field is level, between two human players, having to decide which Pokémon gets a Z-move and when is the right moment to use it presents some interesting strategic and tactical decisions. Mega evolution I have more mixed feelings about because not all Pokémon can do it, so you just make sure you have one Pokémon on your team that has a mega form, and for most Pokémon timing isn’t an issue (you mega evolve as soon as you can).

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