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.

Joe Cool asks:

Have you had the chance to take a look at the recently leaked Space World ’97 demo of Pokemon Gold and Silver? I would love to hear what you think about each of the scrapped and heavily altered Pokemon designs. If you haven’t seen them yet, you can find them here: https://tcrf.net/Proto:Pok%C3%A9mon_Gold_and_Silver

Wellll, I saw it, and I kinda went back and forth on whether to say anything about it, and eventually just sort of waffled until it felt like the moment had passed, but here we are, so…

The synopsis for people who haven’t seen any of this yet is as follows: The Cutting Room Floor, a community that studies material from video game development that was cut from commercial release, recently got hold of a very early beta version of Gold and Silver.  This version of the game was available to play at Nintendo’s Space World trade show in November 1997 – almost exactly two years before the games were actually released in Japan.  Only a tiny part of the game was actually accessible in the demo without debug commands, but all the Pokémon and maps of most of the region (though nothing that tells us much about the story) are in the code if you know where to look, and the effects of those two years of development are pretty evident.  It features a region apparently based on the whole of Japan (with Kanto being reduced to a single city – Pallet Town is intact, Pokémon Tower stands in the northeast, and we have the most important buildings from Saffron City and Celadon City, but the rest is almost unrecognisable; the Kanto Gym sits in the location roughly corresponding to the Indigo Plateau), Gold and Silver’s day/night mechanics and Pokégear with radio and cell phone functions, as well as 100 Pokémon that were not in generation I.  Not all of these are the same as the 100 Pokémon that we actually got in the final commercial release of generation II.  Some were already known from concept art that has leaked over the years, such as the scrapped Fire and Water starter Pokémon, or the early version of Girafarig’s design, but several are completely new to us.  Continue reading “Joe Cool asks:”