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Comparison of Pokemon games

My dirty little secret is that I'm a huge fan of the Pokemon games (in fact, you might have guessed that the website themes are based on certain Pokemon!). I've stuck with the series since G/S/C - but have also played the originals, as well as everything else up to USUM (skipping only X/Y - but will probably get to it at some point). Plus, I've had a short stint at the original TCG game, and PMD: Blue Rescue Team. Okay, let's get to the point - a common opinion is that the games have been getting worse with each new entry. This essay will explore that view in detail (spoiler: it is only partially right - the first three generations all excel and fail at different things - D/P adds some very welcome improvements but also fucks up a lot. The true decline begins with B/W - and the less said about USUM the better - playing through it made me so mad I've postponed my Linux article and wrote this autistic essay instead). Let's begin then...

Pokemon Red and Blue

The games that started it all. What was once just an idea in a certain bug catching kid's mind has turned into one of the biggest franchises in the world. For the first time you could raise an army of monsters and send them into fights - to eventually become the best Pokemon trainer that has ever been. Sounds simple, right? But behind the scenes were a bunch of masterful design decisions that propelled Pokemon to where they are today - decisions that the newer generations have not always followed. Despite that, Genwun also had a truckload of flaws - sometimes the kind that a teenager making his first Game Maker game would make. Later, we will compare all the other generations to R/B according to this list. Without further ado...

Amount of freedom

Though you have to do some errands at the beginning, later you are mostly left alone. No one stalks you to show you the "correct" path you have to go through - it's all on you. The rival only ever appears to brag and try to kick your ass. In the middle of the game, many towns can be visited in any order - a concept alien to the new games, which never allow you to stray from the route prepared by the developers. Of course there are certain "blocks" - this is unavoidable, especially in GB era - but it's done in such an organic way, you don't notice it.

Starter strength and balance

The first of R/B's good design decisions happens right at Professor Oak's lab. The starters are strong, but not too overpowered - and each will offer a completely different playthrough (choice and consequence - the Holy Grail of RPGs - is fully at play here.) Bulbasaur is slightly weaker than the others overall - learning only Grass and Normal type damaging moves - but has the easiest beginning (cleanly beats the first three Gym Leaders) - and the always-critting, STAB Razor Leaf is deadly. Charmander hates the ubiquitous Water types (will get dumped by Misty) and relies on fucking Ember as the main STAB for way too long - but gets the always-critting Slash relatively early, which enables him to inflict massive neutral damage. Squirtle is the most solid overall - but does lack a strong way to hit enemy Water types - plus requires more TM investment than the others (the high-demand Ice Beam - else he will choke against all the Grass types).

Requirement of varied team - Moderate

An extension of the above - since the starter's cannot beat the game all alone (I still have nightmares of a kid I knew, tirelessly hacking away at Agatha's Gengars with level 75 Venusaur's Razor Leaf...), a trip to the tall grass is in order. And each starter will require different Pokemon, caught at different places, to complement it. A Grass type for Misty (Charmander, Squirtle), Diglett for Surge (Squirtle), a bird for Erika (Bulbasaur and Squirtle), a Water type for Blaine (Bulbasaur). Of course it's not only about the Gym Leaders - other strong trainers exist that will require a full team - like Gary at Silph.Co. You might have noticed that NPCs often talk about the fact that fighting with only your overpowered starter isn't a good strategy - you need a varied team. R/B does try to follow through with this, though the shitty AI and enemy movesets prevent it from fully realizing its potential.

Movesets and TMs

The level up learnsets of most Pokemon are very poor. Entire types (Bug, Dragon, Ghost) lack useful STAB moves - as in, they don't exist at all. Rock type has two moves - the 65% accurate Rock Throw with 50 power, and the 75 power Rock Slide that is learnable only by TM. Even then, not all Rock types get it - leaving Pokemon such as Kabutops and the mighty Aerodactyl empty-handed. Do you like Voltorb? Were you hoping to clear all the water routes easily with it? Well be prepared to learn that it has no Electric type moves in its level-up learnset - requiring Thunderbolt TM. Zubat is an even worse case - it has no good moves AT ALL - even by TM! On the other hand, Clefable learns the whole fucking elemental set by TM. This mess looks like something an overexcited teenager making his first RPG Maker game would make. However, it's not all that terrible - the TMs that are available are usually good, and the bad level up learnsets mean they are in high demand. So you have to think long and hard about which Pokemon to teach a certain TM, and there's no going back. A stark contrast to the B/W+ philosophy of "massive learnsets + infinite TMs". However the right balance is obviously somewhere in between.

Money pressure - Low

One of the most annoying things in RPGs is how you always have a ton of money, and don't have to worry about what to spend it on. This makes its existence irrelevant - so why is it even there? And unfortunately, R/B falls right into this trap. Starters are not too OP, but good enough to not need that many healing items. There is not much else to buy except Poke Balls. A big - here.

Difficulty - Moderate

Let's first define what difficulty means in terms of Pokemon - I mean, you can't actually lose the game. Pokemon games consist of two parts - the overworld part and the combat part. The loss state exists only in fights, so we will rate the difficulty according to how much effort does it take to avoid losing battles - because let's face it - the Pokemon games are not so hard that you will commonly lose in fights - so the more often you get close, the higher the difficulty. Wild and regular trainer encounters you'd have to try hard to lose - some early ones can require a healing item or two, otherwise they are a breeze. But some tough special battles do exist - mainly the leaders require some preparation, but also the Blue fights. Overall, R/B is not very hard if you pick the correct partners for your starter and choose your moves wisely. The terrible AI and enemy sets lower the difficulty even further, but compared to some of the newer generations it's still a challenge (you will see what I mean later), so I can't give R/B a Low rating here.

Legendary Pokemon

After a detour through the Victory Road, a giant bird greets you, flapping its fiery wings. You decide to approach, and...the fight begins. Jolteon, use Thunder Wave! Okay, now come back! Blastoise - Bubble Beam! The bird is visibly hurting. Another Bubble Beam! It's on its last legs. Let's throw an Ultra Ball! One...two...it escaped! Let's try again...no dice. Ten Ultra Balls later...one, two, three - it's in! Good thing I've done shopping recently. Anyway, there's three legendary birds to catch, and two of them are in locations you don't have to visit. You've got only one chance to swing the encounter your way once it begins. Will you capture it, or just let it slip? Newer generations have increasingly got away from this amazing formula, either foreshadowing the legendaries, forcing you to meet them, or respawning them when fainted.

Catching 'em all - a journey

Walking through that grass in Safari Zone, trying to find the ultimate prize that's on the offer, you keep encountering Pokemon. Doduo, Rhyhorn, Nidorino...boring, caught 'em all. Wait, what's this? It's holding an egg. Instinctively chuck a ball...dogded it. And another...dodged again. Maybe I will lure it in with some food...it comes closer, now's my chance. But dogded again. Okay, maybe throwing a rock will be more effective. Aaand...Chansey fled! I have to try to find it again...but will it appear? And will I be able to catch it? R/B contains many Pokemon that are hard to get (how about Dratini in the aforementioned Safari Zone? Nothing tells you to fish there. Or the 6500 coins Porygon...), and it's one of the things creating its great atmosphere. Newer generations have increasingly failed to capture that feeling - as we will see later.

Move audiovisuals

Impact is the name of the game here. Bubblebeam, Hyper Beam, Earthquake, Thunder - you know shit's going down when you see and hear those.

The soundtrack

They've managed to capture the atmosphere perfectly. Any individual song conveys the spirit of the place it's played in - the comfiness of Cerulean or Celadon cities, sadness of Pokemon Tower, playfulness of the Game Corner, urgency of Silph Co, or the shit's going down feeling of the Champion battle - this plus the above keeps you focused on the game. Compare to games like Morrowind, where the soundtrack feels the same everywhere, and battle themes are barely distinguishable from travel or town ones.

The story

There's not much of it (which can be considered an advantage or disadvantage) - just a kid trying to be the best that ever was, plus a short diversion of stopping the evil Team Rocket. You can read the diaries about Mew and Mewtwo at Cinnabar, which is a better way to tell a story than forcibly throwing you into Ultra Wormhole shit you don't care about.

The Rival

The asshole that's been there, done that. He's caught more Pokemon than you, beaten more Gym Leaders than you, and always seems to appear at the least opportune moment (Nugget Bridge...) to beat you up. He's not afraid to tell you of his achievements and how much better he is. A stark contrast to the lovey-dovey "rivals" of the newer generations. Smell ya later!

Pokemon designs

Well, they're good, but not the best of the whole series. The genwunners have really missed the mark by focusing on this one.

Generation 1's flaws

To get it out of the way - yes, there's a lot of bugs in R/B/Y. Many of them are curiosities you will only know about if you search the Internet. However, some really hurt the games. The so-called "good "AI (the one certain Gym Leaders and E4 use) will always use a super-effective move if it has one available - and this famously means that Zubat can beat Lance's Dragonite, since it will keep using the Psychic-type Agility. Regular AI just chooses moves at random. The rival trainers' movesets are just whatever the Pokemon learns at that level, which leads to interesting situations like an Exeggutor with just Barrage and Stomp as attacking moves (even though it could easily have Solarbeam by now). Yes, Pokemon simply learn too little moves - like the "Fear my Fury Attack!" Rhydon example. The Psychic type was supposed to be weak to Ghost, but instead is immune (though the only move where this would matter is...Lick). The Dragons' movepool situation is even worse - only one Dragon-type move exists, and it always does 40 damage - so Dragon's weakness to itself is irrelevant. The Game Corner's slot machines work in a completely stupid way (look it up). I could go on and on...Keep in mind, though, that some of the alleged "bugs" give the games their charm. For example, the way Hyper Beam works is something I'd gladly keep around for the later generations. The games also lack many convenience features that the "modern" ones have, but that is not as important as the above issues. The developers heart was clearly in the right place with R/B - which is why Gen 1 is still loved by Pokemon fans worldwide - but perhaps the focus and experience has not been there yet to support that heart. Now let's see how Yellow compares.

Pokemon Yellow

Or the game that showed how to do it. You claim the role of the anime character Ash - otherwise everything proceeds as usual. I will only cover the sections that differ from R/B.

Amount of freedom

The same except you can roleplay as Ash, having his anime team and stuff.

Starter strength and balance

Pikachu - a really weak rodent who has problems not only with Gym Leaders, but regular trainer or wild mons. He also will refuse to evolve. Incidentally here is where the greatness of Yellow has its fundamentals - the weakness of Pikachu decides everything else about the game.

Requirement of varied team - Massive

Not only does Pikachu suck, it gets completely shat on by the first Gym Leader. Therefore, a Mankey or Nidoran catch is required right at the beginning. Even against Misty (who you supposedly have an advantage over), Bubblebeam will rip it to pieces, while Thundershock will barely scratch Starmie. Ha! Forget about the leaders - fucking Viridian Forest is a challenge - probably need a Spearow there. You will need to be smart about what you catch and when do you dump them into the box - can't waste the EXP on weaklings. And since the EXP will be split, nothing ever becomes too overpowered, ensuring you will play with a full team for the whole game, which is the whole point of Pokemon. Great design decision.

Difficulty - High

If you can't beat the leaders that you have a type advantage on, you know you have a problem. Mankey or Pidgey are not world beaters either. I mean - many trainers at Mt. Moon have Sandshrews in their teams - and even those are a roadblock; Quick Attack does little, and Mankey's low defense means Scratch is more like Slash to him. Of course the difficulty goes way down around Lavender / Celadon if you play properly - this means picking up exactly the anime Ash team - but at least you will be playing with a full team for the rest of the game, instead of one OP starter. It might be tempting to ignore the level 10 Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur - and to keep flailing around with your higher leveled Mankey - but that's a recipe for disaster since it's simply much weaker than the R/B starters. It should also be mentioned that the levels of the later Gym Leaders were increased - you will likely be heavily underleveled for the whole late part of the game. Again, this game would actually be very tough if the AI wasn't so stupid - Sabrina's Alakazam, for example, has the means to one-shot your whole team - but what does it matter if it prefers spamming Reflect instead? Even the regular trainers at her or Koga's Gym would be a problem if they only used their Psychic moves - but Jugglers, for example, will often keep switching their Pokemon out over and over...

Money pressure - High

Pikachu requires a shitload of healing items - I mean like ten Potions just for Mt. Moon. Forget about stacking up on balls - it's all going to be spent on HP restoration - not to mention curing the ubiquitous status moves. More than that - you have to beware not to lose fights - since that slashes your bankroll in half. As with difficulty, the situation changes around Lavender / Celadon - you will have plenty of money by then - but will always need lots of healing items.

Movesets and TMs

If you use the Ash team as recommended, this is pretty straightforward. Bulbasaur gets Toxic, Body Slam, maybe Mega Drain; Charmander Dig and Fire Blast (Swords Dance + Fly also a possibility); and Squirtle - Bubblebeam, Ice Beam, maybe Earthquake if you don't want to put it elsewhere.

Summary

Pokemon Yellow showed how following a few principles will create a better Pokemon game - which none of the other games have done (or not as much). The weakness of the starting Pokemon already sets up good fundamentals. Suddenly catching Pokemon is essential, instead of just helpful - and which ones to catch has to be carefully considered. Money can't be spent just like that. Beating every trainer is now out of the question, unless you like losing or constant Pokemon Center trips. Of course, all this ends eventually, but at least in the beginning, the experience is great. Keep in mind, though, that all the bugs and the shit AI and all the other quirks of genwun are still there. Would a modern Yellow remake be able to keep its advantages up until the endgame? What would it take to make a perfect Pokemon game? I will explore that topic later - for now, let's move on to G/S/C.

Gold, Silver and Crystal

They just had to make a second installment after the massive success of the originals. A new region (plus the ability to visit the old one!), 100 new Pokemon, two new types, lots of new moves, items, battle system improvements, breeding, a phone, radio, many convenience features...it would take a day to list everything. But let's see how it stacks up to R/B/Y in the most important things!

Amount of freedom

Similar to R/B/Y, though maybe slightly lesser. Some locations are completely skippable (Mt. Mortar), Unown ruins, etc. Lots of secrets to uncover, like the Lapras in Union Cave. Can do Mahogany or Olivine first. No one really bothers you, as in the originals. No issues here.

Starter strength and balance

This is definitely not handled as well as it was in Gen 1. There is a contrast between Chikorita (which is really weak, and will force you to catch a bunch of other Pokemon - else all the gym leaders will clean you up.), and the two others which are more self-reliant. Using the grass-type starter against the first two leaders is a death wish, Whitney it is even with (but Miltank is stronger), and it loses to Morty again. Not only that - it learns only Grass and Normal type moves, leaving no hope to fight against its hated types. There is pretty much no advantage to picking it - no Rock, Ground or Water type Gym Leaders to give it a reason to exist. Well...it cleans up Union Cave...and the late water routes - but by then, those shouldn't be a problem. Not only that - Bellsprout is catchable really early and can almost completely replace it. Clearly, some bad design has seeped in.

Requirement of varied team - High

Chikorita pretty much requires a full team to support it - it hates Fire, Flying, Poison, Bug and to a lesser extent Ice, Dragon and Steel - which incidentally means almost all Gym leaders. Now, Falkner's Pidgeotto and Bugsy's Scyther are very tough - so Geodude is a great catch for everyone. Whitney is much stronger than all of the starters, so it's doubtful they can handle her alone. Geodude and Machop help here, as well as things to waste Rollout turns. Morty is much the same - Hypnosis + Dream Eater will devour everything you can get up to that point. Better stack up on Awakenings and hope for a miss...or catch a Magnemite to paralyze Gengar. Pryce gives you some breathing room, being a cakewalk. Jasmine is pretty easy too - one way or another the starters have an advantage. Chuck's Poliwrath is simply a monster by the point you meet him - massive stats, great STABs, and able to inflict two different status ailments means the starters alone surely won't handle him. Then Clair with her no-weakness Kingdra is tough again. Anyway, I can't help but notice how the challenge of Gym Leaders changed from being about type advantages to pure strength, thanks to Pokemon such as Miltank, Gengar and Kingdra. I think combining G/S/C's technical fixes with R/B/Y's "use the type advantage!" spirit would be better - but we have to take what we can get, and Gen 2 does pretty well here, all things considered.

Difficulty - Moderate to High

Gym Leaders are much tougher than in R/B/Y, and obviously the AI and movesets have been massively improved. Miltank, Gengar, Poliwrath and Kingdra will be stronger than anything you have at that point, requiring strategy and a full team. The E4, on the other hand, is quite weak - at least Bruno and Koga are pretty much pushovers. Lance, on the other hand, is a monster - the only single weakness his team share is Rock (which lack good moves, and Gyarados would wash them away anyway), they all have great stats, movesets and high levels - truly a worthy final boss of Johto. Kanto, on the other hand, is a joke aside from Red.

Money pressure - Low

Nope - there's not much to buy except healing items again, and you don't need too many of them. Goldenrod Dept Store has some TMs that won't be very useful then.

Movesets and TMs

Not a lot of useful TMs to be found, unlike R/B/Y - and many of them are too late to matter (Kanto). The few good ones (Headbutt, Dig, Sludge Bomb...that's it?) will most likely have one Pokemon on your team that really wants them - no choice and consequence to be found. Compare to Thunderbolt, Ice Beam or Dig in R/B/Y, where the demand is massive and the need is actually there. Though it should be mentioned that in Gen 2, Pokemon do learn more useful moves by leveling up. However, some types are still gimped. Scyther and Pinsir, for example, don't get a Bug STAB except TM Fury Cutter.

Legendary Pokemon

The (stationary) legendaries are only two, and kind of foreshadowed. However it is hard to catch them (Recover!), and they won't be coming back. You also get three roaming legendaries to find. IMO, the originals have it better still, since you find the legends during the story, and not after the game, except Mewtwo. The Zapdos in Power Plant can easily catch you unprepared.

Catching 'em all - a journey

This is an area where G/S/C does better. Lapras in Union Cave, all the different Unowns, Scyther / Pinsir during the Bug Catching Contest, headbuttable Pokemon, night / day exclusives, baby Pokemon, the single Tyrogue in a place that can be skipped, etc. They've made real good use of the new features. Point for Gen 2!

Move audiovisuals

The animations and sounds have been "modernized", but lost some of their charm. The new Bubblebeam looks puny and weak compared to the original. Thunderbolt is another sufferer. However, some new attacks with really high impact have been added - like Crunch, Outrage or Ancientpower. This is about even for me.

The soundtrack

No issues here, might be even better. Lance's theme is a masterpiece in particular.

The story

As before, just a kid trying to become the Pokemon champion. There is more story regarding the legendaries, but you're not thrown into it. Then, at the end, you meet up with YOURSELF from the previous games. A clear advantage for G/S/C.

The Rival

A heartless asshole and a thief. Then, later, he has a change of heart and learns you need to love your Pokemon. A much more developed character than Blue, while keeping the former's charms. Point for G/S/C.

Bug fixes

Pretty much everything relating to the battle system and AI. Not much to say - a massive + for G/S/C.

New features

They really outdid themselves here. Just there being day and night, or different days of the week, opened up many opportunities. The Bug Catching Contest only happens on certain days. Lapras only appears on Fridays. Different Pokemon can be caught during day or night. People can call you to rebattle you, give you items, information or just talk some bullshit. You can listen to the radio and even get useful information from it. Lottery is available once per day. All of this gives the illusion of a real, open world - at least as much as was possible during GB era. Hold items - a great, though yet underdeveloped idea - allow your Pokemon to recover HP automatically in battle, boost their speed or power of certain moves, and even evolve if traded. Kurt will make special Pokeballs for you if you bring him Apricorns - though some of them are unfortunately bugged (one of the few bugs in G/S/C). Two new types have been added - their availability, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Convenience improvements in boxing, item registration and storage, experience shown in the battle window, etc. are also present and welcome.

Pokemon designs

Not very impressive IMO, and clearly outclassed by genwun - even though some of my favorites, such as Crobat and Houndoom - are here. Regardless, this is not the most important part of the game, so it can be forgiven.

Generation 2's flaws

Aside from sections 1 and 3 of this article, they didn't do a good job of advertising the new Pokemon. There was a whole hundred to choose from, but instead they decided to fill the region with the old ones. Why does Falkner have Pidgey and Pidgeotto instead of Hoothoot and Natu? Give Heracross instead of Scyther for Bugsy. And dump the stupid coccoons - Pineco or Ledian are better choices. At least Whitney has a Miltank...but Morty is full genwun again, even though Misdreavus begs to be on his team. Scizor and Skarmory exist, but they instead gave Jasmine two fucking Magnemites. You should be able to catch things like Natu, Pineco and Marill early - while the Pidgeys and Weedles should be the rarer, later ones. Gamefreak has got it completely wrong here. Overall, again, G/S/C is a big improvement over R/B/Y, but Genwun still holds some advantages.

Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald

Even though there were supposed to be only two installments - Gamefreak smelled the money and we've got Gen 3! And with that, a new region (of course), 135 new monsters, new moves and items, revamped stat system, and well...not much else. On the other hand, some things got removed or made worse.

Amount of freedom

Less. IIRC the order you can battle the Gym Leaders is set in stone. You're also forcibly thrown into a story about legendaries and evil teams - again, might be an advantage for some, but it lessens freedom. But while traveling, mostly no one bothers you, so it's still OK.

Starter's strength and balance

The Grass-type starter is not so hopeless this time, due to the existence of some Gym Leaders he beats (Juan and Tate&Liza - also does OK against Wattson), as well as some nice moves he learns from TMs. Torchic is also fine despite getting the Christmas present of a Fighting-type, which allows him to beat Rock types that his fire brethren traditionally struggle with. Mudkip, on the other hand, is heavily overpowered - nothing prevents him from soloing the game. The Water/Ground type combination, high stats all across the board, plus amazing moves through leveling up and TMs has started the disturbing trend of universal Pokemon. No more "this guy beats this, and this one beats THIS!" - instead "let's make this guy beat everything". They didn't even bother to include a Grass Gym Leader to at least give an illusion of balance - and the regular trainers' Grass types mostly only know Absorb. Huge minus - they could have balanced the other two, why not Mudkip? Well, the answer is you can't balance Water/Ground type combination - so they simply shouldn't have used it.

Requirement for a varied team - Moderate

Literally none for Mudkip - one of the worst design decisions this gen. High for Treecko (hopeless against Flannery and Winona, plus regular Steels and Poisons until Earthquake) and Torchic (Winona, Juan, Tate&Liza...). There's lots of nice Pokemon available to help the starters out against their issues. Brawly is even type-wise but tough - Zubat or Sableye to the rescue! Manectric for Winona and Juan, Sharpedo for Tate&Liza... Just pretend Mudkip doesn't exist and you can give R/S/E a perfect mark here...

Movesets and TMs

Level-up learnsets got heavily improved - there's no more gimped types pretty much. Very nice TMs are also given out, and early too - some in high demand like Brick Break, Rock Tomb and Aerial Ace. Almost no duds compared to G/S/C. And fortunately they are still single use, encouraging planning. I think Gen 3 has struck the best balance between Pokemon learning enough to be useful without TMs, but not so much that they are OP, and TMs aren't needed. A big + here - except again, Rock Tomb + Ice Beam enhance the overpoweredness of Swampert.

Legendary Pokemon

Nope - you know when and where you will fight them. No surprise, no pressure, no problem...

Catching 'em all - a journey

Well, there's the Bagon and the Feebas...forget it, it's not there. And it didn't have to be like this. Why not give a unique Pokemon for winning all the contests? How about a small patch of grass that can only be reached through an Acro Bike in some far-off shithole. Maybe a prize for beating all the Trick Houses, or achieving the best possible time on Cycling Road. Could have easily stuck something rare into some obscure Dive spot...There was opportunity, and - unlike Gen 2 - they didn't take it. Massive disadvantage for Gen 3. At least there's Shedinja...

Move audiovisuals

The impact has been taken out. Hyper Beam? I'll throw you some colored balls instead...Seriously? This is a battlefield, not a fucking playground!

The soundtrack

Best in the series! There's hope for Gen 3 still.

The story

Seems to have lessened the importance of becoming the best there ever was - instead, stopping the demise of the world due to evil teams waking up the legendary Pokemon becomes a priority. Again, some might like it - I don't think it should be more than a side issue. I mean, you've also saved the world in Gen 1 and 2 - but it was a quick job and then it's back to climbing the ladder...Here it drags on and on for the whole game. And the more mundane plans of Team Rocket were more fitting for a game like Pokemon IMO - no need to bring world creation and destruction into it.

The Rival

No real rivals - just a friendly neighbor (who you are even supposed to teach how to be a fucking trainer - seriously?), plus a weakling you've helped catch a Pokemon once - that you fight only twice in the game. Huge decline compared to the first two generations.

New features

Revamped stat system is nice - so are natures and abilities. Rebattling gym leaders with their improved teams. Pokemon Contests are a nice diversion - there's actually quite a bit of depth to the move choices and Pokeblock feeding - almost like a second battle engine. Pokemon can earn Ribbons for winning the aforementioned contests, and other things. Two different bikes are nice.

Pokemon designs

Again, best in the series. The lows are not that low and the highs are very high and there's a lot of them - Claydol, Flygon, Sharpedo, Cacturne, Salamence, Metagross, Altaria...way too many to list.

Generation 3's flaws

Due to the revamped stat system, you can't trade with the previous games - it just had to happen, I guess, so it can be forgiven. Day and night system got dumped for some reason.

Fire Red / Leaf Green

A GBA remake of the originals, that improves everything...except the things that really matter.

Heart Gold / Soul Silver

A highly acclaimed remake of Gen 2.

Amount of freedom

Less. The attitude towards the player is completely different - no more a self-made man (well, kid); this time you're "special" so that you have to be "overseen" through the whole game by the Kimono Girls (don't they have anything better to do than stand in a fucking cave, waiting for a certain child to push them?). It's not that bad yet though - you're mostly free to do whatever you want - so only a small - here.

Starter strength and balance

Chikorita is as useless as ever. Totodile got brought down a little with the early Ice Punch TM not being available anymore (that's a plus). Cyndaquil, on the other hand, also lost its coverage punch (learnable only by Typhlosion though, so not that big of a deal) plus Rollout (TM04 got changed to Calm Mind) - but gained the overpowered, early Fire Blast. I guess this sort of compensates for Totodile having Surf, so it's fine. But why not take the opportunity to give something to Chikorita and equalize it with the others? It could feasibly learn something like Mud Shot early on, to help it against the common Poisons and Fires - or hell, give it the new Rock Tomb TM. So in summary: Totodile and Cyndaquil got weakened (good), but Chikorita didn't get stronger (bad). Some Gym Leaders improved, so HG/SS does slightly better here than vanilla G/S/C (soloing the game is out of the question), but Chikorita is still a stain.

Requirement of varied team - High

Chikorita is business as usual - everything beats it so of course it needs partners. Cyndaquil chokes against Rocks, Waters and the late Dragons. He also lacks a way to hurt opposite Fire types aside from the late, high-demand Earthquake TM - so does need a full team too. Totodile fares the best as usual, but no Ice Punch TM means Blizzard is its only hope of KOing Grasses and Dragons; there is also the not-so-common Electric type. He, like Cyndaquil, lacks a way to seriously hurt its own type, so at least a Grass type is necessary as a partner. Not to mention that it is simply not enough to be neutral against certain Pokemon (such as Morty's Gengar) - you need an advantage. HG / SS does very well here, all things considered.

Difficulty - High

Gym leaders got BIG improvements. Falkner's levels increased and Pidgeotto learns Roost. Bugsy's Scyther is tough as always. Whitney's Miltank got a Lum Berry to resist status (one good strategy against her goes out of the window). Shadow Ball is now special, so Morty's Gengar will likely clean up your whole team if you lack a Normal type. Pryce's Seel and Dewgong have Thick Fat ability, which means Cyndaquil's Fire moves are resisted (and even if you even managed to get Typhlosion by now, he will lack Thunderpunch). Jasmine is still weak, and Chuck - well, his Primeape isn't just a spectator now, but the DynamicPunch version of Poliwrath was slightly stronger IMO. Then comes the Dragon Gym - even the regular trainers are tough, since you will likely lack a fast Pokemon with Ice moves to clear all the Dragonairs. Then the fucking Kingdra - an even bigger monster, with Hydro Pump and Dragon Pulse now, and still no weakness (you don't have a Dragon by now); this is a fight you will very likely actually lose the first time. Then comes the very tough E4, especially Lance - it will probably come down to how many Revives you are able to dump onto your Pokemon, since his team is simply much stronger. Then comes Kanto - a bunch of pushovers in G/S/C got a lift and are now stronger than even Lance. Watch out!

Money pressure - Moderate

Game seems to need more healing items than G/S/C from my playthrough (since the starters are less powerful perhaps). Now that doesn't overwhelm the budget, but there's more things to buy, such as the very useful $5500 Fire Blast, Thunder and Blizzard TMs, or $1000 Net and Dusk Balls.

Movesets and TMs

Level up learnsets got brought up to modern level (one good thing "modernization" does) - no more sufferers like Crobat or Pinsir - since they have access to the Gen 3/4 STABs in X-Scissor and Poison Fang. On the other hand, some useful TMs like Rollout and Mud Slap (Chikorita would like this early on...) got removed; however 50 new ones got added - though usually just as useless, available late or harder to get (Goldenrod Lottery...). HG/SS gets a + here though just for the level up learnsets.

Legendary Pokemon

HG / SS started the terrible "modern" trend of shoving legendaries down your face. It's not enough anymore for an ancient Pokemon to just decide to sit in a cave - only being mentioned by a few NPCs that "heard it eats children" or whatever - that you simply happen to find and catch. No, now you need to be almost pulled by your shirt, and watch a fucking ceremony being made around your battle with it. Why does it need to be "summoned" anyway? Why can't it just fucking be there? No mystery, no journey, no freedom, no satisfaction. Well, at least there are still the roaming dogs...and the Kanto legendaries are back at their R/B/Y locations. But the Ho-Oh / Lugia thing is fucking inexcusable, so HG / SS gets a huge minus here still.

Catching 'em all - a journey

Same as before.

Move audiovisuals

Modern, low impact crap - not much to say.

The soundtrack

Modernized, clean and boring remixes - however, GB sounds allows switching to something close to the OG soundtrack.

The story

The aforementioned Kimono Girls shit. A nice episode showing Silver's backstory is available. Eusine also got more developed.

The Rival

Same as usual + the backstory.

Bug fixes

Kurt's balls work properly now.

New features

Physical / special split! This is massive, and pretty much makes the previous battle systems seem like jokes. This is the generation where battling got "real", and for that HG/SS gets a huge +. All the items and Pokemon from Gen 3/4 are here too. Kurt can make more than one ball per day, making him more than just a gimmick. Safari Zone with the Pokemon from other regions. Battle Frontier is back! And the Pokeathlon...

Pokemon designs

Obviously the same ones - the sprites are high quality too.

Summary

HG / SS took one step forward, one step back. Though a lot of new features got added - as well as improvements to the old ones - some important issues either arose or got unresolved. The early mons are still mostly Kanto - and the Johto Gym Leader teams didn't get modified either. The audiovisuals and Kimono Girl shit is another stain. Then the Lugia / Ho-Oh crap - a complete disregard for what legendary Pokemon are supposed to accomplish - the feeling of the journey, the mystery, the accomplishment...all gone. Is HG / SS a worthy remake, all things considered? Sure - it does improve in a lot of areas - but is certainly overrated by most fans; the inclusion of some modern trends is simply inexcusable.

Pokemon Black / White

Fifth generation. Now I've played the original B/W a really long time ago, so this will be based on Black 2 / White 2. The sequels change, add and remove some locations. Gym leaders and other characters are also modified, as well as the story (since it's set 2 years after the originals), and some other minor stuff.

Amount of freedom

No one really bothers you.

Starter strength and balance

As tradition seemingly demands - the Grass starter sucks (lol). Except this time it's even worse - the first Gym Leader is a Normal type one, so neutral to all three - but the second and third take a dump on poor Snivy. You'd think the Electric one would give him a break, but her Pokemon either resist your moves, can paralyze you or hit you super-effectively. Fifth gym is where you finally get an advantage, at least over the two first Pokemon since Excadrill isn't weak to Grass and has a Steel STAB. Then comes Flying, against which you can only lie down and die. Seventh is Dragon which brings the same fate. Finally, you get to rest a little at the end with the Water-type gym leader. Movepool is terrible, pretty much limited to Grass-type moves and the Normal-type Return. The good thing is that the other starters aren't that great either.

Requirement of varied team - High

First, let me mention a great and way overdue mechanic change that these games brought - namely, scaled experience gain based on the difference between your and the opponent's levels. I mean it just makes sense that beating up on weaklings should eventually give you less experience, while managing to overcome a much stronger enemy should send your it to the skies (like learning from a master of his trade in real life would give you more than watching a hundred youtube celebrity videos). And with that comes the difficulty of raising just one overpowered pokemon, since he keeps growing slower and slower. On the other hand, bringing up a freshly caught one is easier than ever.

Difficulty - High

Can't complain here.

Money pressure - Low

Movesets and TMs

Level up learnsets got brought up to modern level (one good thing "modernization" does) - no more sufferers like Crobat or Pinsir - since they have access to the Gen 3/4 STABs in X-Scissor and Poison Fang. On the other hand, some useful TMs like Rollout and Mud Slap (Chikorita would like this early on...) got removed; however 50 new ones got added - though usually just as useless, available late or harder to get (Goldenrod Lottery...). HG/SS gets a + here though just for the level up learnsets.

Legendary Pokemon

HG / SS started the terrible "modern" trend of shoving legendaries down your face. It's not enough anymore for an ancient Pokemon to just decide to sit in a cave - only being mentioned by a few NPCs that "heard it eats children" or whatever - that you simply happen to find and catch. No, now you need to be almost pulled by your shirt, and watch a fucking ceremony being made around your battle with it. Why does it need to be "summoned" anyway? Why can't it just fucking be there? No mystery, no journey, no freedom, no satisfaction. Well, at least there are still the roaming dogs...and the Kanto legendaries are back at their R/B/Y locations. But the Ho-Oh / Lugia thing is fucking inexcusable, so HG / SS gets a huge minus here still.

Catching 'em all - a journey

Same as before.

Move audiovisuals

Modern, low impact crap - not much to say.

The soundtrack

Modernized, clean and boring remixes - however, GB sounds allows switching to something close to the OG soundtrack.

The story

The aforementioned Kimono Girls shit. A nice episode showing Silver's backstory is available. Eusine also got more developed.

The Rival

Same as usual + the backstory.

Bug fixes

Kurt's balls work properly now.

New features

Physical / special split! This is massive, and pretty much makes the previous battle systems seem like jokes. This is the generation where battling got "real", and for that HG/SS gets a huge +. All the items and Pokemon from Gen 3/4 are here too. Kurt can make more than one ball per day, making him more than just a gimmick. Safari Zone with the Pokemon from other regions. Battle Frontier is back! And the Pokeathlon...

Pokemon designs

Obviously the same ones - the sprites are high quality too.

Summary

HG / SS took one step forward, one step back. Though a lot of new features got added - as well as improvements to the old ones - some important issues either arose or got unresolved. The early mons are still mostly Kanto - and the Johto Gym Leader teams didn't get modified either. The audiovisuals and Kimono Girl shit is another stain. Then the Lugia / Ho-Oh crap - a complete disregard for what legendary Pokemon are supposed to accomplish - the feeling of the journey, the mystery, the accomplishment...all gone. Is HG / SS a worthy remake, all things considered? Sure - it does improve in a lot of areas - but is certainly overrated by most fans; the inclusion of some modern trends is simply inexcusable.

Last updated: 01 / 07 / 2018