Bradley_P15 [Patreon cultist] asks:

Read a thing on twitter recently that hypothesises that Gen V were the last mainline games that felt quote “Comfortable in their own skin”, since VI, VII and VIII all have big showy gimmicks whilst feeling the need to keep oldschool fans happy. What’re your thoughts on this as one of the internet’s prime Pokemon overthinkers?

Hmm.  It doesn’t especially square with my intuitions or experiences about those games – I didn’t enjoy V as much as VI or VII, in spite of it having what I still feel is the best story of the Pokémon games so far. I think I just disagree outright with the characterisation of Mega Evolution and Z-moves (I mean, I assume that’s what this is referring to; I don’t know what else it could mean) as showy gimmicks.  They never felt intrusive to me, and I always got the impression that most Pokémon players really liked Mega Evolution?  Certainly a lot of people are upset that it’s apparently not coming back.  They’re also fairly major additions to the battle system that come with a fair degree of strategic depth, and they’re part of the culture of each region in which they appear.  I don’t know whether all that’s going to be true of Dynamaxing, and frankly neither does anyone else, despite all the people lining up to declare otherwise. 

I think there is… let’s say a certain amount right now of people trying to fit their anger over the recent National Pokédex (ahem) “issue” into an overarching narrative of why Pokémon has been in decline ever since… since whichever generation they thought was best.  That’s not necessarily a wrong thing to try to do, but it rarely comes with arguments that I find convincing on the basis of my own experience of the games, and at the moment it seems like it’s tied to a desire to pre-judge Sword and Shield, which I just think is silly.  I mean, for heaven’s sake, even after a Pokémon game comes out, it takes me months to decide whether I liked it (and only some of that is because I don’t usually pick up the game on launch day).

3 thoughts on “Bradley_P15 [Patreon cultist] asks:

  1. I never really saw Mega Evolution or Z-Moves as “gimmicky”. At least not any more than the changes every gen has brought. Ignoring new typings:

    -Gen II added friendship (outside of Pikachu), breeding, held items, apricorn crafting, a day/night cycle, and a week cycle
    -Gen III added nature, abilities, contests, and double battles
    -Gen IV added the physical/special split, the underground, and the pokeathlon
    -Gen V added the dream world, hidden abilities, triple battles, rotation battles, seasons, Pokémon musical, and pokestar studios
    -Gen VI added mega evolution, sky battles, horde battles, inverse battles, super training, and outfits
    Gen VII added Z-moves, the trial system, Battle Royale, SOS battles, Poke Rides, hyper training, festival plaza, poke pelago, and ultra beasts

    I’d argue that the gen with the most gimmicks IS Gen V (not saying that’s bad). Even among in battle “gimmicks”, Mega Evolution and Z-Moves arguably affect the mechanics less than abilities, held items, and the physical/special split, while still changing the meta, so whether gimmicky means “it doesn’t actually affect the meta” or “it changes the meta too drastically”, I’d say they do neither.

    Now it seems that those features might not be coming back, but triple battle didn’t after VI. Contests didn’t after IV. Mechanics come and go constantly. I’d hazard a guess that we will, at some point, have mega evolution again. Maybe not this gen, but eventually.

    I don’t know, I think I lost my point somewhere, but I agree in that these features weren’t really “showy gimmicks”. Things like evolution were always present, I see mega evolution as no more showy gimmicks than, “I sent my giant turtle out and it CHANGED THE WEATHER!” or even “I sent out the supposed creator of space and IT TORE SPACE ITSELF!”

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    1. I feel like there *is* a ramping up in spectacle, and things like Mega Evolution and Z-moves are clearly part of that, but that’s sort of true of most long-lived video game series that update their graphics over time. Generations I through IV arguably had a corresponding ramping-up in what was at stake in each plot (a company – the region – the world – the universe) but V and VI don’t continue trying to one-up that, and then in Sun and Moon (not counting Ultra Smoon) the thing we’re really fighting for by the end is actually Lillie’s relationship with her mother, which I rather thought was admirably restrained.

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      1. I mean to be fair, it was hard to ramp up stakes after IV, you can’t get much bigger than “universal destruction” and “(supposed) creator of the universe”. V managed to outdo it by focusing on arguably the biggest moral dilemma in the franchise, but then what? Well we have 3D so let’s work on making it visually grander. It’s logical with most modern media (especially video games), but I still wouldn’t say it’s gimmicky. Heck, things like Mega Evolution could’ve easily been considered in earlier gens but due to the limitations with sprites it just would not have had much oomph. Changing a static image into a slightly cooler static image mid-battle wouldn’t have felt as “cool”, and even the gen V animated sprites would’ve left a lot to be desired.

        In short, I guess my rambling amounts to, “sure it looks cool but it’s not really gimmicky”. Which is arguably completely subjective but… meh this is the internet, where we spew our opinions whether we’re asked them or not (and then proceed to stubbornly try to pass them off as facts, which I’ll attempt to avoid).

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