Running out into the luscious long grass to find your first Pokémon is an exciting moment in a trainer’s life. Seven generations have left a wide variety of idiosyncratic creatures, with distinctive lore and fables surrounding their very existence. Generation seven brings new stories to the Pokémon series, and with that, new Pokémon to befriend or assail with on a journey across the Alolan islands.
As with the beginning of any Pokémon journey, choosing your first Pokémon is an obdurately exciting prospect. Two Pokémon will undoubtedly be left heart-broken as you walk off into the sunset with your new partner. This moment is a pivotal moment in any Pokémon game, it helps define the success of the Pokémon designs from that generation.
Generation five was particularly weak for its starter Pokémon designs. Whilst Snivy was a pretty design, Tepig and Oshawott were lackluster. Generation six relied heavily on the ingenious design of Froakie, with Greninja probably surpassing the popularity of Charizard at this stage in the franchise. Whether generation seven can deliver the same success as Froakie is difficult to conclude at this early stage.
However, Rowlet’s design is certainly conducive, and its final evolution Decidueye is an authentic assertion on its secondary typing, Ghost. Litten is a little obvious in its design, but its final evolution Incineroar is terrifyingly beautiful, showcasing the Fire/Dark-typing perfectly. And as for Popplio, well, someone had to fill Chespin’s shoes. Its next evolution into Brionne would be embarrassing if Primarina wasn’t the final evolution. Primarina grows on you every time you use it. The Z-Move Oceanic Operetta exemplifies all of its glory, with a slightly arrogant performance that gorgeously reveals Primarina’s poetic personality.
The less Pokémon they create for a generation, the better they tend to be.
On this analysis, we can probably assume that the three starter Pokémon have been a great success. They certainly surpass the regrettable designs of generation five, but other generations have genuinely been favourable and it remains inconclusive. A strong Grass-type design is welcomed, however, as it’s been the most neglected type visually, with Fire usually prioritised. Treecko from generation three remains the best Grass-type design for a starter, but Rowlet is certainly not far behind.
There’s been a noticeable trend with Pokémon. The less Pokémon they create for a generation, the better they tend to be. Generation five (once again) was notably weak for its prosaic inclusions into the Pokédex, with Vanillite getting much of the abuse. Generation three gave us 135 new Pokémon and was largely hit and miss, with Pelipper still ruining the scenery four generations later. Generation seven has currently added 81 new Pokémon to the franchise; the focus on quality rather than quantity has certainly been noticed.
Mimikyu remains an obvious highlight. The beauty of Mimikyu lies in the idolisation of another Pokémon, Pikachu. Nintendo’s acknowledgement that Pikachu is by far the most recognised Pokémon outside of the fandom has led to a creation based on self-depreciation and covetousness. Its Pokédex entry says no one knows its real appearance, as it hides beneath a costume made from an old rag. The wish for love and attention through the mimicry of another Pokémon is a lugubrious tale of loneliness. What’s fascinating is there’s no reason for the costume to always resemble Pikachu. There’s room for other Mimikyu ‘forms’ to include other cute Pokémon. Mimikyu portrayals of Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander may loom on the horizon.
Notably, the evolution of Rockruff has opened up a chasm between Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. The divergence in its evolution dependent on the game brought new choices to an already difficult decision. The attempts over the generations to differentiate the sibling games is welcomed; opposing content only enhances the gameplay. There’s a natural inclination for Rockruff to evolve into the midday form of Lycanroc. There’s certainly a good vs evil comparison between the midday and the midnight forms of Lycanroc. This would be lazy, but certainly, the werewolf-like appearance of midnight Lycanroc makes it a stark contrast to the expectations first received when you encounter your first Rockruff.
Pokémon continues to reinvent itself, and redefine what it is to be a Pokémon trainer.
The adaptability of Pokémon has been a nice feature in generation seven. Wishiwashi’s Schooling ability allows it to start as one of the most powerful Pokémon in the game, before reverting to one of the weakest after taking enough damage. Minior’s ability Shields Down activates after half of its health has depleted. It sheds its rocky outer layer, revealing a soft core, increasing attack and speed at the cost of defence. Minior’s design for both Meteor and Core form are simple, and yet it works in an oddly adorable way. The aspiration to produce something unusual and different has certainly been achieved, and it shows Nintendo aren’t short of original ideas.
So why the Alolan forms of some of the Kanto Pokémon happened is a mystery. Their designs were lazy, and for the most part, they’ve ruined the reputation of their original form. Alolan Dugtrio looks like a Bananarama tribute band that never found its way out of the 1980s. Alolan Exeggutor doesn’t even fit on the screen, and Alolan Muk ate too many skittles.
The saving grace is Alolan Raichu which needed some devotion having been sidelined by Pikachu for so long. The Z-Move Stoked Sparksurfer has given life back to a long forgotten friend, however, the favouritism towards Pikachu still remains. In this instance, Alolan Raichu should have been Raichu’s mega-evolution. Giving Raichu a mega stone and raising its health, special attack, and speed upon mega-evolving would have been more empowering for its legacy. The secondary typing of Psychic for the mega-evolution would certainly be welcomed, and no changes to the Alolan design would be necessary.
Ignoring the regional variants, the additions in generation seven have been largely positive. Nintendo hasn’t run out of ideas just yet, and focusing on quality rather than quantity is certainly helpful. The addition of Pokémon from another dimension (Ultra Beasts) has certainly opened new doors for creativity. There’s definitely a new realm to explore, although the expansion into new worlds isn’t entirely unique to generation seven. Pokémon continues to reinvent itself, and redefine what it is to be a Pokémon trainer. The anticipation to what Pokémon will appear in generation eight begins already.