Once upon a time a phenomenon was born. This phenomenon, called Pokemon, started in 1998. Ever since then the Pokemon-series has become one of most successful and popular franchises of all video games history times. Just this year Nintendo released the Nintendo DS-remake of the Silver and Gold edition, originally released for the classic GameBoy. Soul Silver and Heart Gold are already selling in the multi-millions in Japan, and there´s not doubt that this kind of success will carry over to Europe and the US as well.
So Gold and Silver are ten year old now. And they´re not even the original Pokemon-games. I´m lucky enough to have been there when Red and Blue were released in 1998. Got myself the Blue edition and loved it. Back then, the game concept was completely new and unique. What made the experience near-perfect was Nintendo´s “marketing”. I don´t really want to call it marketing, because it made the franchise so much better, but of course, in the end it was one big marketing campaign. Talking about the anime-series. As far as I remember the anime started even before the games were released, so it built greatly upon the already existing hype. What made the anime so enjoyable was how true it stood to the in-game story of Red and Blue, From meeting Professor Oak, visiting the various towns, to fighting the well-known arena-leaders. It was all there. And while you watched the series on a daily base, fleshing out the Pokemon-universe, you yourself could become part of the universe by simply switching on your little GameBoy. And thus, the Pokemon world came into existence.
We´ve seen four generations of Pokemon-games since then. While the series has still many, many fans, there´s also quite a lot of former fans that feel the typical Pokemon-formula has gotten stale. From personal experience, that´s true. While Red and Blue were a great adventure, Silver and Gold already felt less motivating. Ruby and Sapphire were horrible in the sense of engaging me into the story. I just walked through the world, beating enemies, beating the Top4. Diamond and Pearl then marked the peak of me losing interest into “these” games. That´s not to say that my opinion is better than anyone else´s. Looking at the unbroken popularity, it´s hard to make a sentence against these games. Still, personally talking, I have a hard time getting into the well-known game setup. But that´s not just the gameplay´s fault. There´s a lot I´d change if I was in charge of the Pokemon-series (I kind of already described my dream Pokemon-game), but there´s also one important fact that plays a big role: The horrible design of modern Pokemon.
When you look at the original 151 Pokemon, you´ll see with how much love for detail these unique monsters were created. They´re all original in a way, they´re charismatic, they give you the impression of another world. Instead, if you take a look at the newest additions in Diamond and Pearl, you´ll see a lot of Pokemon that are basically real animals slightly changed in appearance. Sure, there have been real life-inspired Pokemon in Red and Blue as well, but these were few and they complemented the other Pokemon in a good way. In the modern games you have a hard time finding nice looking Pokemon.
That is why I love to look back into the original 151 Pokemon and pick a few that I believe really show the difference in design quality of now and then. Even if you like the modern Pokemon, it´s nice to get a little bit nostalgic and review the past designs. And without any further prologue, some of my favorite Pokemon from the original 151:
I´ll start with my favorite Pokemon of all times. Charizard represents a classic dragon-design. I remember how I started out with Charmander, only having this cute, little fire-attack, and fighting my way forwards. As many will remember, the first arena-leader featured rock-type Pokemon, so choosing Charmander at the start of the game really puts you at a disadvantage. But not for long and your Charmander evolves into Charmeleon, losing his cute look, and finally turning into Charmander. The combination of the strongest fire attacks, strong normal type-attacks and his special ability to use the optional flying-power make him a real powerhouse. Not to mention his appearance in the anime that really gave him a rich character (omg, poor Charmander almost died in its first episode!).
Admittedly, he´s not nearly as impressive as the above Pokemon, but once you made it through the moon stone cave and reached Azulea city, he came in quite handy. Sandshrew is just normal in every way, which his “variety” of attacks shows. Still, his scratch-attack was powerful and if you let him evolve into Sandslash he could keep up with many different enemies.
The Pokemon that reinvented the term “annoyance”. God, the way it looks at you with his overly cute eyes and then uses his stupid pound-attack. If that wasn´t enough, the anime made sure to hate this little pink monster. The oly good thing that came from Jigglypuff is his inclusion in the Super Smash Bros.-games…nothing beats making fun of other playes by starting to sing inmidst of a battle.
Psycho-Pokemon are just the coolest, no way to argue that. Abra looks so unique. It also looks weak, which makes it that much more awesome to use some of the strongest attacks the franchise has to offer. Both evolutions of Abra look great, too, though Abra wins due to cuteness. Oh you little, sleepy psycho.
It´s a duck. And yet, the game manages to present Farfetch´d in such a unique way that it loses any kind of boringness. It´s behavior portrayed in the anime and his stick that it fights with it are so funny.
Fire-type Pokemon are a rarity. Which shouldn´t make it surprising that the rare monsters of this type are some of the best designed ones. Ninetails is one of them, and only years later should I get to know that the Kyuubi is part of some Japanese myth.
Wanna get to see the second most annoying Pokemon? Here it is! Oh well, it´s neither the games´ nor the anime´s fault. It´s Pokemon Stadium´s. That one minigame totally killed Drowzee for me. I could only ever look at it with a disgusted look on my face. God, did I hate that minigame. Still doesn´t change the fact that is Drowzee´s great design.
Another one of these animal-inspired Pokemon, yet charismatic and unique. Butterfree was you best friend if you chose yourself Charmander at the game´s start. With a bit of grinding, Butterfree would learn a psycho-attack, basically the only somewhat effective attack against the first arena-leader that´s available in the starting area. Reading the Pokedex to learn that Butterfree dies after mating added something tragic to this otherwise happy looking Pokemon.
The most boring designed Pokemon, one could say. And yet it evolves into the most angry- and fierce-looking Pokemon of them all. The huge difference between its evolutions makes Magikarp one of the most hilarious Pokemon.
I love how it just lies around, totally out-spaced.
I like all three ghost-type Pokemon of the original two games, but Haunter features the best visual design. It looks just like a ghost. I may add, though, that to this day I don´t know how there can be ghost-type Pokemon. As far as I know they´re not supposed to be the ghosts of dead Pokemon of other types, so what…are they?
That was just a mastermind-like idea: A single Pokemon that can evolve into three different kinds, depending on what you choose (nowadays, there´s even more options). Both the evolutions´ designs as well as the whole idea for Eevee shows how unique the first two Pokemon-games were.
What the heck?! That was probably everyone´s first reaction about this Pokemon. You could only get it at one of these shops by doing something (I cannot remember, maybe it was related to that casino-mini game). An artificial Pokemon. And its metronome-attack is one of the most unique attacks in all the Pokemon-games.
We´re close to the end, so you´ll see some of the, well, coolest Pokemon of the original games. One of them is Scyther. I don´t even know what to write, as it is so obvious as to why this Pokemon was so liked back then. Aside from all the obvious cool parts, the fact that it is an insect-type Pokemon made it that much better, as all other insect-type Pokemon looked just too insect-like, with Scyther giving a more unique impression.
It almost killed Charizard in the anime, can it get more badass within the Pokemon-series?!
I´m a fan of fossils and such in reallife, so I absolutely loved Kabutops. And it´s one of the most badass-looking Pokemon, too. I remember it being one of my six regulars, nicknamed “Grimreaper”. Good times. And it´s water-rock-type. Also very special.
How could I not mention it when I just told you that I like fossils. And dinosaurs (pterosaurs, to be more correct in this case). Aerodactyl was also featured in the anime, becoming a real threat to the series´ heroes.
I usually try not to use legendaries in my regular team, but Zapdos was the exception of that personal rule. A flying-typ Pokemon that also was of the electric-type. Another strange, special combination. And I love the black parts of his wings. Gave him the nickname “Nightbird”.
The epitome of badassness. This Pokemon ruled everything back then. Its design is unique, its abilities some of the strongest. Having the most powerful psycho-attack AND the regeneration-ability, it could easily become your best companion or worst nightmare. It also had a very cool appearance in the anime and was the villain in the first Pokemon-movie.
The Pokemon everyone wanted, but only lucky people could actually get. I still remember the rumored ways to get Mew. That there is a Pokeball with Mew inside somewhere near a truck at the ship´s harbor. I never got it. Nintendo only gave away Mews at special events, and of course they never happened anywhere near me.
That´s it. Writing this article made me look forward to Heart Silver even more. And, of course, the inevitable Gen 5-Pokemon game that should be announced rather sooner than later. Nothing is known about that new game, but let´s hope it introduces some spectacular new features and polishes the existing gameplay mechanics.
Feel free to post your favorite Pokemon in the comment-section. Maybe I´ll take my time and do a similiar article for the other Pokemon-games. They´re inferior in terms of quality Pokemon, but there´s some gems in there, too.