Looking Back: Generation Seven


Wow, that's one compact little generation! Only those Alolan Forms make it look any bigger than X and Y, though X and Y also introduced nearly fifty mega evolutions, so in pure, raw "new Pokemon design" terms, Alola is the smallest yet...but as I think we've demonstrated, it's also the most gorgeous yet. They still found some room for convention - like the early-game bird and mammal - but otherwise, almost every Pokemon in this round had an exceptional level of effort put into its conception and execution, many of them offering surprise twists and often loaded with richer characterization than we're really accustomed to.

This kind of "quality over quantity" was already seen in the Kalos region, but I get a distinct sense that they pushed it farther for Alola, and that they're likely going out of their way to see just how far that can be pushed. Maybe it's because Yo-kai Watch is giving Pokemon its stiffest competition yet in own country, or maybe after nearly twenty years of churning these things out, they just really wanted to up their game.

Speaking of games, however, I will concede that Pokemon's actual format could still use a fresh approach of its own. "Gym leaders" were replaced with "Totem Pokemon Battles," but these ultimately felt like kind of the same thing. Hidden Machines were replaced with "Ride Pokemon," but this also felt like only superficial dressing. Even the epic story of the Aether Foundation felt awkwardly rushed and poorly paced, as amazing as it is in concept, and we were left with very, very little to do after defeating the Elite Four and capturing the UB's.



Meanwhile, that there Yo-Kai Watch I just mentioned has come out with three generations in only the short period between Pokemon's sixth and seventh waves, retooled its battle system and mechanics accordingly with fan criticisms, and kept the games fresh between installments with completely free downloadable content that actually includes NEW MONSTERS.

Pokemon, if you ask me, still plays things a little too safe in comparison. Making us wait three to four years between core games and new species may make every generation feel like a grander event, and the similarities between the games can be both nostalgic for old players and more accessible to newcomers, but after two straight decades of these patterns, they're definitely wearing a little thin even for me.

That said, I know whenever the next batch rolls around, I'll be as excited as ever - maybe more excited than ever - to review another batch of colorful battlebeasts, and I can't wait to find out what designs they've got cooking up for us next.

MY TOP SIX GEN VII FAVORITES:

For the first time, I had twice as many personal, team-worthy favorites as top six slots to give out. Sorry Golisopod, Pyukumuku, Salazzle, Alolan Muk, Shiinotic and Xurkitree.

MY ALL-TIME TOP SIX BY GEN VII:

We've lost Eelektross, Barbaracle, Skrelp, Shedinja and Parasect by now, but only narrowly.

THE SIX MOST "BADASS:"

Another tough contest. I could have also put Incineroar, Midnight Lycanroc, Araquanid, Salazzle, Turtonator, and basically any of the other UB's in here.

THE CUTEST:

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL:

Elegant forms, ornate patterns and artistically pleasant color schemes are frequent in this region, but these six stand out the most to me in those categories.

THE MOST CREATIVE:

BEST DISPLAY OF ZOOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE:

I'm delighted to be able to say that this category, for the first time, also took some careful narrowing down. This is a generation absolutely crammed full of interesting references to the natural world, in a franchise that already made an art form of it!

MOST ABSURDLY OVERDUE CONCEPTS:

Seriously, what took them so long to get to some of these animals?

MY LEAST FAVORITES:

An amazing thing happened here where my "least favorites" became "literally the only six lines I could think of that I'm even just neutral about." These are, moreso than any past list of "least favorites," merely six that I can personally take or leave either way. Every other Pokemon in Alola, every single one, has something about I find actively cool as heck.

THE SPOOKLIEST:

My, but there are certainly some real creepsters running around these islands.

ALOLAN EXEGGUTOR:

Because it's in a class all its own...and because you deserve to end this one on something pure and perfect.

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