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The Evolution of Pokemon

With the release of Pokemon X and Y around the corner, I take a look back at all the changes and upgrades made throughout each generation.

Every time a new Pokemon game comes out, I come across a number of people who say it’s the same game every time. Some even dare to compare it to Call of Duty! Most Pokemon fans set the record straight and explain how there have been so many changes in each set of Pokemon games, but they don’t always do a great job convincing. Well, I’m here to show and explain the various changes that have been made to Pokemon throughout the generations. Since I have to do a little convincing to those who disagree, I kept things very short and in ordered lists.

Each upgrade that I point out will be the introduction of the change. Many times there are further developments of the original change, but I felt it was best to stick only to the initial revision to keep things short.

I will not delve into the graphical changes in Pokemon at all in this blog. Why? Because I already covered it from head to toe in another blog. If you wish to see that blog, click THIS LINK.

What are my credentials? I’ve been playing Pokemon since the very start in 1999. Yes, the first Pokemon games released in 1998 in the US, but I started a few months later after saving up for a Game Boy Color and Pokemon Red. Since then, I’ve played every single Pokemon games from the main series, and I’ve been following the news for the upcoming Pokemon X and Y.

Generation 1

The first generation started off with Pokemon Red and Blue, or Red and Green in Japan. The third game in the generation was Pokemon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition. There were a total of 151 Pokemon consisting of either one or two types. Types were the elemental strengths and resistances of Pokemon and their moves. There were a total of 15 types at the time. The thing that has stayed the same throughout most of the generations is the basic gameplay structure: capture Pokemon, train them, defeat eight gyms to collect eight badges, and compete in the Pokemon League against four tough trainers and the champion. You can sort of say all Pokemon games are the same for that reason, but there’s much more to the game than that.

Generation 2

The second generation was sort of a sequel to the first. The games set in the generation were Pokemon Gold and Silver, and the following year brought Crystal. There were a total of 251 Pokemon, and this is where things really kicked off. Since these games were sort of a sequel to the first, they included the first region (Kanto) with a new region (Johto). There were a total of 16 gyms and badges, and the Pokemon League trainers had two separate sets of Pokemon.

  • Two New Types: As I mentioned earlier, there were a total of 251 Pokemon in generation two. Instead of consisting of 15 different types, there were now 17 different types. The second generation added the Dark- and Steel-types to mix things up.
  • Special Stat Split: In generation one, each Pokemon had an HP, Attack, Defense, Special, and Speed stat. In generation two, the developers decided to split up the Special stat into a Special Attack and Special Defense stats. It drastically changed a number of Pokemon and attacks.
  • Addition of Effort Values: All Pokemon stats were redone from generation 2 and on with the addition of Effort Values. Effort Values are what makes each Pokemon different from each other. Basically, a Pokemon defeats another Pokemon in battle and gains a few EV points. These points can either go to their HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, or Speed stats depending on the Pokemon that was defeated. These EVs boost up a stat until it reaches a certain threshold. Players later figured out the EV structure to make full use of each Pokemon’s power.
  • Pokemon Breeding, Eggs, and Genders: Previously, only Nidoran had genders because they were very different from each other. From generation two and on, all Pokemon had a gender which could affect certain moves, but were mostly used for breeding Pokemon and creating eggs. Some may ask, “Why would I want to breed Pokemon?” Well, breeding Pokemon was done to create even stronger Pokemon with special attacks and better stats. Some Pokemon could only be obtained through breeding, as well. It wasn’t necessary, but it definitely extended the life of the game in a unique and useful way.
  • Held Items and Berries: A huge feature that altered Pokemon battles was the ability to hold items in battle. Each item could power up the Pokemon and their moves while in battle. They also introduced berries that grew and could be picked around the region. These berries could be used by Pokemon in and out of battle.
  • Weather: Another feature that shook up Pokemon battles were weather effects. Battles could feature heavy rain, intense sunlight, hailstorms, and sandstorms that could boost or weaken specific moves and types.
  • Day Cycles: One of the coolest new features was the introduction of day cycles. Not only were there seven days of the week with different events that could happen on each day, but there was also morning, day, and night. The time of the day would change how everything looked, and it determined which Pokemon may or may not appear in the wild at that time.
  • Shiny Pokemon: Generation two introduced the extremely rare, alternate colored Shiny Pokemon. These rare Pokemon would randomly appear in the wild. They were a bit more powerful than normal Pokemon in generation two, but the later generations didn’t make them special than any other Pokemon, except for their appearance.
  • Battle Facilities: These challenge buildings didn’t appear until Crystal. They allowed player to keep battling Pokemon against very tough trainers even after defeating the Pokemon League. This change made it feel like the game never really ended.

Generation 3

The third generation took players to a whole new region: Hoenn. The games set in this region were Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. Pokemon Emerald came two years later. The total Pokemon count boosted up to 386, the gym and badge count reverted to eight, and the day cycles were completely removed for some reason. Technically, the remakes of Red and Green (Fire Red and Leaf Green) counted as generation three games as well because of the compatibility. Those games were released a year after Ruby and Sapphire.

  • Pokemon Contests: This first introduction was completely optional, only lasted two generations, and was just for fun. Pokemon Contests allowed Pokemon to compete against each other using their moves in stylish ways to earn ribbons. The style of the moves and Pokemon were either cool, beautiful, cute, smart, or tough.
  • Wireless Trading: Another small feature was the removal of the link cable and the introduction of the wireless receiver. These devices came free in copies of Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green. This allowed people to trade or battle each other without having to link their Game Boys with a small cable. The wireless signal wasn’t incredible, but the little gadget was pretty cool nonetheless.
  • Pokemon Natures: Natures were personalities attached to every single Pokemon in the game. All but five natures would increase one stat by 10% while reducing a different stat by 10%. Some players would use this to their advantage and capture multiple Pokemon of the same species just to get the right Nature.
  • Pokemon Abilities: Abilities were another new mechanic tied to every Pokemon. Each Pokemon had a special ability that could change the flow of battle in so many ways. Some Pokemon were completely immune to status conditions like poison or sleep, and some Pokemon could increase their speed stats every turn, all because of these new abilities.
  • Double Battles: Generation three included a whole new way to fight Pokemon in the form of Double Battles. Double Battles are just as they sounds. Two Pokemon fight two other Pokemon at the same time. This forced players to rethink the moves they used in battle. Some attacks could hit both of their opponents at once, and some attacks could hit their own ally!
  • Form Changes: Technically alternate forms appeared in the second generation with the useless Unown Pokemon, but the third generation introduced the ability for some Pokemon to change forms at will, and even change their stats or type. Two Pokemon in generation three that specialized in these form changes were Castform and Deoxys.

Generation 4

The fourth generation took place in the region known as Sinnoh. This region brought the total Pokemon count up to 493, and the morning, day, and night cycles made a return! The games set in this region were Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. Platinum released two years after the first two, and another set of remakes released a year after Platinum. The remakes were of Gold and Silver, and were called Heart Gold and Soul Silver. Again, these were considered generation four games because of the compatibility. This generation may have had the fewest changes, but they were definitely some of the most important.

  • Internet Trading and Battling: The fourth generation allowed players around the world to trade and battle Pokemon through the internet. No more link cables or trading within a very short vicinity. Now everyone was connected to the world of Pokemon.
  • Move Split: In the previous generations, the type of the move determined if it was a Physical or Special attack. All normal-type moves would be Physical, and all fire-type moves would be Special. After generation four, all moves were split up into Physical, Special, and Status moves. This allowed all seventeen types to use all three kinds of moves, which changed Pokemon battles more than any other previous upgrade or revision.

Generation 5

The fifth generation was set in the region known as Unova. This area brought the total Pokemon count up to 659. The games for this generation and region were Pokemon Black and White. This generation was the first since gen two to feature an actual sequel. The sequels were named Pokemon Black 2 and White 2, and they were probably the most story-driven Pokemon games in the franchise. The changes they made weren’t incredible, but they were still nice.

  • Seasons: Just like days and weeks, Seasons were added to Pokemon using the system’s internal clock. One real-world month was equivalent to one of the four seasons. This changed the scenery of some areas, and altered what Pokemon could be found in the wild.
  • Triple Battles: This was a new type of match that was just as it sounded. Three Pokemon faced three Pokemon within the same battle. Unlike Double Battles, some Pokemon attacks could not reach Pokemon at the far side of the field.
  • Rotation Battles: Another new match type introduced in generation five was a very interesting concept. Three Pokemon were set in a circle and fought three other Pokemon, but only one Pokemon could attack one other Pokemon at a time. These Pokemon could be rotated once during each turn without sacrificing an entire turn like a normal switch out of battle. This allowed Pokemon to switch out and use a move at the same time. Rotation Battles barely made an appearance in Black and White, but their sequels had a large number of these matches around the region.

Generation 6

We’re now at the sixth generation of Pokemon. We don’t know how many Pokemon there are, but the region is called Kalos, and the games set in this region are Pokemon X and Y. This is the first Pokemon game to use full 3D mapping instead of an overhead view. Details are still emerging, but we know of a few new additions.

  • Another New Type: The Fairy-type was introduced to Pokemon X and Y. This brought the total type count up to eighteen. On top of that, a number of older type’s strengths and resistances were slightly altered.
  • Mega-Evolved Pokemon: A new type of evolution called “Mega Evolutions” will be available in Pokemon X and Y. This allows select Pokemon to evolve during battle and become stronger than normal. Their stats will increase, and they may even alter types. However, after battle they will revert to their original forms.
  • Horde Encounters: A new kind of match allows one Pokemon to fight five others at one time. It seems this kind of battle is restricted to wild Pokemon.
  • Sky Battles: Another new type of match is only available for flying-type Pokemon and Pokemon with the levitate ability. As the name implies, the battle takes place in the sky.

Conclusion

So, as you can see, I noted at least 24 changes made to the Pokemon franchise over the past six generations. Remember, this did not include graphical changes nor upgrades made to previous introductions. So the next time you hear someone say “Pokemon hasn’t changed,” you can direct them to this blog or point out one of the upgrades I noted. If I’ve forgotten another change in the series, please mention it in the comments section.