One day, on Discord, NeroScottKennedy asked what my favorite Generation of Pokemon was. I unfortunately had to give him a minced answer: While my overall favorite game of the entire series is HeartGold/SoulSilver, I can't say that Gen IV was my favorite because I hated Diamond as a game and wasn't fond of a lot of the Gen IV Pokemon designs (it's really worse that a lot of the new Pokemon were relegated to post-game content). I started with Gen I, and the original Red/Blue games, but I don't say that that one's my favorite because a lot of my favorite Pokemon are in Gens III and V, the first games were riddled with glitches, and a lot of the nuances that came in later games only improved the experience for me. HG/SS, for a long time, was the closest I could get to a happy balance between in-game content, post-game content, variety of Pokemon, technical enhancements, and overall enjoyability.
Then Sun and Moon happened, and my expectations were blown out of the water. It felt like a lot of things had come together over the course of the 20+ years Pokemon had been around. The idea was even advertised in the trailers. You don't really feel it, though, unless you have been into the games since their inception.
Also, I have to admit, I'm biased towards Hawaii. This was a great idea for a location. I'll get a little more to it later. Here are a few other reasons why Generation VII caught my heart in a Poke Ball:
1. I like every Starter.
This is a personal thing, but there's not a Starter I dislike in Gen VII. This is a pretty big achievement, considering...
Gen I - Yeah, OK, these were pretty cool. Why do Venusaur's eyes look...well, like they need drops in the middle of combat?
Gen II - Cool designs that GF needs to do more with. Please do something to help Meganium in particular. If any Starter set desperately needs regionals/Megas, it's this one.
Gen III - Also all pretty cool. Really got what they deserved, too.
Gen IV - If you didn't pick Chimchar, you were screwed for your entire run. This fact alone dented my appreciation for the entire Generation, and its Starters. Otherwise...eh, I guess they were okay. Infernape is still very good. My beefs with Gen IV (particularly Diamond) exceed the staters so much that I try and fail to see them as a non-issue. The real issues with the Sinnoh games were mostly structural, i.e. based on the map rather than the Pokemon themselves.
Gen V - Oh, let's see. Serperior was one of my favorite Pokemon for a good amount of time, but took a long while to become amazing. Samurott has a decent concept behind it, if nothing else.
Tepig, though...I have to break down exactly what I dislike about Tepig. When I first saw it, I was like "hey, cool, this might go somewhere interesting."
The "somewhere interesting" I had in mind was a boar from Norse mythology named "Gullinbursti." It is literally a fire-breathing wild pig that was forged to life. Unlike Heatran, who...what is that, even? Gullinbursti is a perfectly solid concept for a Fire/Steel Pokemon.
Nope. We got a...fighting pig. A fighting pig that doesn't show the badassery that wild swine have in any way, shape or form. The fire pig was an idea that started going somewhere interesting, then decided to crash at a motel along the roadside and went "eh, this is far enough." Welp.
Maybe the Fire Sheep Starter (you know they're gonna do it) will have a more myth-based creature. Can we have a Fire/Steel tao tie/toutetsu, please? That would have been a cool idea for a Pokemon to represent China in the regional motif that Gen V had going with its starters, but...nope.
For future reference, Game Freak, a Fire/Fairy satyr would also be pretty awesome for your obligatory sheep/goat. Sheep and goats have a ton of mythological symbolism to play with. Bet you don't have the Poke Balls to actually go that route! Have fun with the likely Fire/Fighting rabbit; you're going to take a lot of heat for it (pun totally intended).
Gen VI - I greatly disliked all of Gen VI (except my Fennekin turned out Shiny). It felt like the furries and Genwunners had officially won that generation. The Mega Kanto Starters were probably the selling point for a lot of people, leading to the impression that X/Y were more about nostalgia than making a solid game. The whole Generation just felt underutilized to me; Norse mythology has a metric ton of great Pokemon concepts, especially for wolves. Wolves comprise 25% of the beasties in that canon, if not more. Between this, Gullinbursti still missing, and not seeing Ratatoskr as a Mythical cutie, I was pretty sour.
At least the Gen III Starter Megas were kinda neat, and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire fixed almost all of the issues XY had, including utilizing Mega Stones better in the old R/S/E plot. If the ORAS games had actually given us the Battle Frontier, as opposed to teasing it with an "under construction" sign that never came to fruition, they would edge out HGSS as my favorite games. ORAS did everything right that XY did wrong, and kind of vice-versa (cutting out trainer customization was a BAD move).
Gen VII - I'd dealt with the idea that, yes, anthros were probably going to win Pokemon from here on out. Assassin/ghost owl? Cool. Selkie? Wound up being one of my favorite Pokemon in the Gen. My least favorite starter from the set is Litten, but I love cats and had made a Fire-Type cat starter beforehand. I am okay if said fire cat becomes an expy of a famous wrestler - that's a neat idea. Rowlet was just barely worst starter, and then for reasons that were largely beyond its control (i.e. a game structure thing). Bonus point for all of the animals they were based on (a (stilt) owl, a (feral) cat, and a (monk) seal) all being more or less findable on Hawaii at some point in time - I don't think any other game has thought that hard about their Starters.
Moreover, this was the generation when they finally got signature moves down. The idea had been in play since at least Gen III, when Frenzy Plant, Blast Burn, and Hydro Cannon became things. In Gen VII, not only are the Starter moves unique, but good. I'm particularly fond of Sparkling Aria, as it not only does damage, but heals burns. The Z-move upgraded version, Oceanic Operetta, gave me chills. The other two signature moves are also pretty cool, and offer unique options as opposed to just dealing damage. Nice.
Also, Primarina officially eclipsed Serperior as my favorite Starter of all time. What's my thing for elegant Starters with upturned, pointy noses? I don't know. I also have a unique deal with Primarina and the male-dominant (87.5%) sex ratio all Starters are cursed with: male seals and sea lions tend to be very aggressive, meaning that the majority of trainers who get a Primarina have to deal with this:
It's not just the Starters, either. I actually like a lot of the new Pokemon for this Gen, including regionals. Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Raichu, Alolan Marowak, Salazzle, Mimikyu, Decidueye, Primarina, all variations of Lycanroc (more on that later), Lunala, Nihilego, Comfey, the Tapus...they made the game feel special, and a lot of them were references to actual Hawaiian fauna or lore. More on Yungoos later, but that's pretty Hawaiian, too.
2. Regional variants have been begging for implementation since Gen I.
No, really, here's what it says about Arbok in the original Red/Blue English game data:
"It is rumored that the ferocious warning markings on its belly differ from area to area."
While we could chalk this up to it nodding to a real-life fact about cobras in the genus Naja (hood markings are a decent place to start with cobra identification, but not a place to finish), that doesn't mean we should completely invalidate the concept. The anime, for all the credibility that we can give it, had a few island subspecies Pokemon in it ("Pudgy Pidgey Isle" and the island of pink Pokemon). It's not like series wasn't aware of the idea of an island subspecies until Alola.
There was also something called "Delta Species" in the Gen III series of the trading card game. Due to experiments in the Holon region, many Pokemon gained new types. For example, there was an Electric/Steel Pidgeot, and the Red Gyarados was a Fire-Type. The idea was in play, even if the reason for its existence was to balance types out in the Pokemon TCG. I'd love to see a post-game island with more tweaks to Pokemon we know and love - maybe make Holon a thing.
Speaking of real-life concepts...
3. Gen VII covers invasive species.
Strap in; this might be a long point.
Way back in Gen V, Pokemon attempted to tackle its biggest enemy: PETA. Team Plasma had a legitimate argument: Pokemon should be free animals, not told what to do in death battles for human entertainment. This was a criticism of the entire concept of Pokemon. Had it been executed right, it would have been a literal game-changer.
But it wasn't executed right - not really. N, the person who spearheaded the ethical treatment deal because he could talk to Pokemon, turned out to be a pawn in a conspiracy to take over the world. The idea was that, with everybody surrendering their Pokemon, only Ghetsis would have them. Basically, "I want to ban guns so that only I will have guns" logic.
This undercut an argument that should not have been dented. There were a few possible good counterarguments to be made, and it bugs me that Black/White made none of them. One of the counterarguments could have been that human advancement has stifled the growth of Pokemon as a phylum, and Pokemon battling and breeding is probably keeping a few varieties, such as your Starters, from going completely extinct.
One other very common consequence of humans settling anywhere, at all, is that they bring other species with them. This ranges from cats and dogs, to livestock, and even foxes and rabbits for hunting. We also sometimes carry along hitchhikers without even meaning to; rats are the key example that we will be looking at.
The rule of thumb is, whenever humans have a rat or snake problem, they bring in mongooses. This usually does not work. It didn't work on Okinawa, it didn't work on Puerto Rico, and it did not work on Hawaii. Yungoos is a simulation of the consequences of this, and MatPat here breaks down how that can get very bad, very quickly:
Luckily, as MatPat says, the most at-risk Pokemon are safe in other parts of the world. (Eevee is particularly safe in my headcanon, but that's a topic for another day.) Ultra Beasts were also inspired by invasive species, and nobody really knows why crown-of-thorns starfish are devastating coral reefs, but they are. There's so much real-life science that went into the Gen VII games that I'm in love.
Again, invasive species do appear in the rest of the world, but are really noticeable on islands. Hawaii is so strict about invasive anything that they wouldn't let my mom bring a fruit cup, which she had bought at the airport, onto the plane. Good use of geography, thrice in a row! Also, good counterargument to "free all the Pokemon" from Gen V- the ecology would be an absolute mess.
4. We really wanted the Orange Islands, and this is close enough.
One final note about island geography: Pokemon has wanted to do something with islands since at least the time between Generations I and II. In between those two games, they had a season of the anime set in the Orange Islands. There were a lot of little filler islands, but only four had Gyms. These challenges were exceptionally original, with some using the terrain as part of the test. Also, instead of taking ferries, Ash and co. rode on the back of a baby Lapras - i.e. they finally got something that could use Surf so they wouldn't be late for another ferry.
There were always theories that Game Freak would one day make a game set in the Orange Islands. My guess is that they doubled back on the thought after realizing that people would complain about all the Surfing. There was also a "Southern Islands" card set and other small archipelagos, but never a game that took place in an island range. Granted, that's not the only thing we never got from that arc...
Anyways. Four islands. Extended trials. Four major marks of approval. Actually riding Pokemon. While the games had borrowed things like double battles for a while, Sun/Moon came very close to replicating the feel of the Orange Islands "filler" season while also being set in Hawaii. Cool.
5. PokePelago is a godsend.
Er, Arceus-send. Anyways. PokePelago is good if you have a life, bad math skills, or both. Need to train a Rowlet, but have work? Leave it on an island for a while. It requires a tiny bit of math to determine exactly how long, but get a calculator and you will be fine. You can now hatch up to 18 eggs and interact with the world like a normal human being. Farming berries is now easier than ever. Oh, and we now have something for our boxed Pokemon to do- yay!
Also, major props for keeping PokemonAmie in the form of Pokemon Refresh. Even if we can't have walking Pokemon, we get the one-on-one interaction. Good Game Freak. Good. Don't cut this or PokePelago, ever.
5. They finally made a wolf Pokemon!
For people who don't realize, the Pokemon fanbase had been clamoring for a wolf Pokemon since at least Gen II. Suicune was the first Pokemon, to my recollection, that got the "this is TOTALLY A WOLF" treatment. Others include the (understandable) Mightyena, Absol, Lucario (*sigh*), and Zoroark (I'm sorry, are you high?). Manectric was always some kind of canid, but the fanbase never really glommed onto it, to my recollection. Even Bogleech, a person who hates a lot of the "popular" designs (especially Lucario - can we be internet siblings?) admitted that, yes, we needed a Pokemon that could undeniably be called a wolf.
So, when I saw that Rockruff became a wolf, my reaction was "FINALLY!" End the madness! Give the most popular animal the Pokemon it deserves! The fanbase cottoned to having a genuine wolf. Now, please stop calling everything else a wolf.
And, y'know what? I have fun using these wolves. All of them. That's saying a lot, since I've had very bad experiences with wolf furries in the past, and they made me think less of an animal that I did not think very highly of. Lycanroc even has an awesome Z-Move!
My only complaint is that a wolf wasn't the Gen VI fire starter. Again, Norse mythology has a sun-devouring wolf they could have played with, but considering that there are both sun- and moon-eating wolves, I suppose putting wolves in Sun and Moon was fair enough.
6. No type left behind.
Sun/Moon is one of the most balanced challenges to date. There isn't a single type of Pokemon that doesn't have a representative. In other games, bare minimum, Dark-Type usually got left out, but in S/M, everybody has a piece of the pie. Cool. I wonder if they'll keep that up?
7. "Get in the bag, Nebby" and other character interactions.
So, first scene in Sun/Moon features a young girl with a bag that has something moving inside it. Her name is Lillie, and her Pokemon, a space dust critter nicknamed "Nebby," are the focus of the story. The player's role is to help Lillie grow as a person, stop her insane mom from letting aliens into Alola, and finally reveal the secrets of Nebby. It helps that Aether Foundation has a pretty legit basis as a Pokemon ark of sorts, even if it's used for some nefarious purposes as well.
Moreover, though, Lillie's family drives the plot in Sun/Moon. Her mom is the main villain. Gladion, her brother, also features into the storyline. Getting to know both of them makes us more invested in the plot. (Also, Mohn, the owner of PokePelago, is her dad.) It becomes "save our best friend's mom from herself" rather than just saving the world from a menacing organization that's harnessed the power of a legendary again. It's actually really neat that there's this family of plot-relevant NPCs in Sun/Moon.
Both Sun/Moon and Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon inflict feels in different places. The real tearjerkers are at the end of Sun/Moon, and right before you enter the Pokemon League in Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon. S/M is still the better game in terms of story, but the US/UM feels before the league could theoretically make even Gen I better from a narrative standpoint. Keep it up, Game Freak!
The first two games of Generation VII are some of the strongest in the entire franchise, largely because they feel like things have finally culminated. We now have regional subspecies, which are a thing in real life. Every type is represented. Many things that we had been wanting in Gen I got implemented. The EVing, farming, and breeding are likely as efficient as they are going to get. And, finally, we have a wolf Pokemon. Arceus bless Gen VII.
Are Sun and Moon perfect games? No. One of the biggest nitpicks I have is with the graphics. The world could be ending, and your character would have this dopey smile like "this is fine." They also took calling for help a little far with Mareanie, Salandit should probably have a 50/50 gender split (no reason for this other than flavor/"let's mimic Combee," and why do that second thing?), and a bunch of other finer things that won't make sense if you've never played a Pokemon game before. I have no idea what Sword and Shield will bring, but I will say that they have some very big shoes to fill.
Also, I dare Game Freak to reference Brexit. It'd be one of the few ways to make these games half as accurate to the locale as Alola was. Have a nice night, and feel free to add me to your Poke-things!
-Pokemon Go: TLHKuro, 7149 1321 3194