Looking Back: Generation Five


After the warm reception to Generation II, every new batch of pokemon was met with seemingly exponential scrutiny. The third and fourth generations seemed to have the most detractors, who generally felt - within reason - that the series art style had shifted. Far less reasonable were assertions that the designers "ran out of ideas" at some point, and unfortunately, that criticism was only invigorated with the fifth batch. As the first game with absolutely zero evolutions, prevolutions or alternate forms for existing pokemon, Black and White approached its designs from a reboot-like angle, giving us new equivalents to franchise classics. Woobat occupies the same role as Zubat, Amoongus combines the Paras line with Voltorb, the electric-time Zebstrika is arguably a spiritual successor to the fire-type Rapidash, and so forth.

If anything, however, I feel like these "rehashes" brought fun new spins to their underlying concepts and only added to the richness of the pokemon world. Why, after all, would zubat be the only kind of bat swarming the caves of this setting? Why would Muk and Koffing be the only examples of pollution springing to life? The idea was clearly that the Pokeworld equivalent to "America" would mirror its "Japan" in as many ways as it differed, and it's not as though this region was bereft of wholly original monsters, either. For every animal and type combination we've seen before, we received an innovative weirdo like Reuniclus, Ferrothorn, Scrafty or Golurk.

As for artistic style, the fifth generation always struck me as a big step back to what made the first generation so charming. Compare this region to the previous two, and the Black and White pokemon have dropped a lot of the excess markings, unnecessary joints, awkwardly sharp angles and gratuitous doo-dads that plagued Hoenn or Sinnoh, typically using "artificial-looking" anatomy where it made the most sense.

As the last two-dimensional, sprite-based game in the series, Unova sort of marked the end of an era, and it really feels like it wraps up a sort of "first chapter" in Pokemon's history, really fleshing out the setting's biodiversity before the next two generations would explore more divergent themes, styles and niches.

MY TOP SIX GEN V FAVORITES:

In almost every previous generation, I kind of had to pad this out a little. This time, it was a bit harder to narrow down.

MY ALL-TIME TOP SIX BY GEN V:

It was around Gen V that I rediscovered my appreciation for Tangrowth, but otherwise, half of my personal favorites persevered.

THE SIX MOST "BADASS:"

THE CUTEST:"

I'm excluding Trubbish here only because I may have a bias. This was another tough race; there's a LOT of cute going on in the fifth gen.

THE MOST PECULIAR:

Peculiar, weird, creative and cool are things that kind of blend together in my mind. This is practically just a back-up favorites list.

THE MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED:

Even Garbodor seems to have accumulated more fans than these guys. They aren't all necessarily "hated," but it's not all that common that their designs or concepts get any strong attention.

BEST DISPLAY OF ZOOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE:

MOST ABSURDLY OVERDUE ZOOLOGY:

A spider that actually resembles a spider, a hermit crab and a mere ant are just a few of the animals it took far, far too much time for Pokemon to represent.

MY LEAST FAVORITES AFTER THE MONKEY TRIO:

This entire list could have just been those elemental monkeys, so I've bumped them down to keep it interesting. These are the other six who just don't do it for me, whether it's because their designs miss the mark or I just preferred their unevolved forms.

This just goes to show how good a generation this really is, of course; I still kinda actively like almost all of these.

THE "MORE OBJECTIVE" COOLEST:

Finally, here are my picks for the coolest pokemon when I do my very, very best to exclude my own personal tastes! This, too, was still hard as hell to narrow down to only six.

All in all, I personally feel that the fifth generation was the best since the first, and not only roughly on par with it, but an improvement in many areas. It really shows a creative team learning a lot from their predecessors, doesn't it?

Stay tuned for GEN SIX!

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