The Great Regional FRIENDLY Debate: Johto vs Unova

By GatoDelFuego, Lux92, Ryota Mitarai, Pikachu315111, and TMan87. Released: 2019/12/14.
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Introduction

It's a question that's tormented many Pokémon Trainers and has made many Pokémon Trainers torment one another: of all the regions that we've seen in the main series games, which one was truly the best? Do people have the fondest memories of Mt. Coronet, the Island Trials, Unova's hard regional Dex reset, Johto's Kanto "sequel", Hoenn's oceanic scenery, Kalos's Mega Evolutions, the fight against Kanto's mafia, or something else entirely? With the Galar region freshly added to the roster, now is a perfect time to look back at what we liked about every region and compare them all in a friendly debate.

We'll be reviewing all regions in a four-part series; today, we'll be looking at Johto and Unova!

Who had the most interesting... plot and why?

Pika

Pikachu315111

Being a GBC era game and building off the Gen I games, Gen II saw its plot kept relatively simple. You're a rookie Trainer initially tasked with doing a small chore for Professor Elm and afterwards encouraged to participate in the Pokémon League challenge. While adventuring around the region, you run into the returning Team Rocket, who are trying to call back their boss, Giovanni, who abandoned Team Rocket after losing to Red in Gen I. After a few more encounters with Team Rocket, you eventually face and defeat the admin leading them, putting an end to Team Rocket for once and for all (or did you?...). You then challenge the Pokémon League and become Champion. Simple, right? Huh? You're saying I'm missing half the game? Silly, this is about Johto, not Kanto. The most I can say about the postgame is that at the very end you climb Mt. Silver to have a final showdown with Red to prove who is the best. This is going to be the main problem for this article when judging Johto: should Gen II's version of Kanto be considered part of it? Johto heavily leans on Kanto and the Gen I games, and you could even argue that Johto only makes up half the experience of the Gen II games. For my contribution, I'm going to be more strict and stick with only what the Johto side of Gen II offered. And sadly, for the plot, it didn't offer (and this is also true if you count Gen II's Kanto, as it's just a random assortment of stories and catching returning players up with what's been happening since Gen I).

It's kind of unfair to compare Johto's plot to Unova, as all of the Gen V games were solely based in Unova, and it had two paired versions (the second pair being direct sequels taking place 2 years later) to flesh it out. You get a new region and also got to see how it changed in a couple of years; the best of both Johto and Gen II's Kanto all in one package! Unova also had another advantage: it was going to be the last sprite-based Pokémon game before the series made the 3D jump. Wanting to end this era of Pokémon with a bang, a lot more focus and thought went into Gen V's plot than in past generations. As you start your journey you immediately run into Team Plasma, but instead of doing criminal activity they're instead preaching to a crowd about Pokémon freedom from human control. This is also when you encounter N, seemingly a third rival at first, but he's revealed to be the king of Team Plasma and wants to become Champion so he can order everyone to release their Pokémon. To do so, N is going to awaken one of the Legendary Dragons of Unova. This is where your character comes in. Yes, unlike past games where your character was "a wrench in the works," this time the villain team had taken into account that there would be another Trainer to stand in their way and that they'd awaken the other Legendary Dragon. N tells you as such and, with no other choice, you play along: finding and awakening the other Legendary Dragon and battling N for the Championship at the Pokémon League, which gets overtaken by Team Plasma and their mobile castle. You defeat N, of course, which forces the true villain, N's father Ghetsis, to take matter into his own hands. He reveals Team Plasma was all just a ruse by him to take over the Unova region unopposed, as he and Team Plasma would be the only ones with Pokémon. You defeat Ghetsis, who is then arrested while N, discovering Ghetsis was only using him, decides to leave Unova to do some soul-searching and find out who he really is. And all of this is JUST Black & White's plot! Black 2 & White 2 takes place two years later with a new character and, while the Pokémon League challenge and villain team plot mostly stays separate, that doesn't stop it from having a deep story. To list a few elements: your rival is a friend looking for revenge against Team Plasma for kidnapping his sister's Pokémon. There is a new faction called Neo Team Plasma, who turn out to be followers of a returning Ghetsis. Many of the other old Team Plasma members who are loyal to N are now trying to redeem themselves and stop Neo Team Plasma, resulting in a civil war between the two. We learn more about the Legendary Dragons and their connection with Kyurem, and so much more between and after. Unova took daring decisions with its plot and themes resulting in the most complex plot the Pokémon games had up to this date; Alola, the only other region that tried to do more with its plot in a sequel, still falls short of Unova. If it's not obvious yet, Unova wins this question.

Who had the most interesting... characters and why?

Pika

Pikachu315111

When I think of the most interesting characters for Johto I really only think of your rival Silver, the Team Rocket admins, and Champion Lance. For a while Silver had the most complex character arc of rivals, and he still does in some ways. Starting out as a thief, he's later revealed to be Giovanni's son who hates Team Rocket, as Giovanni spent more time running it than raising him. Through harsh losses against the player and a lecture from Lance, he learns to become a better person. The Team Rocket admins are more interesting as a group than individually, and it wasn't until the Gen II remakes they were given actual identities. They all have their own personality quirks, but having a singular united goal prevents much growth outside of that. Lance helping the player deactivate Team Rocket's Lake of Rage HQ was the first example of an NPC actively helping the player and cemented Lance as one of the most badass Champions and characters in the Pokémon franchise. But Lance also brings back Johto's major problem: relying on Kanto and Gen I. Yes, Johto has its own set of eight Gym Leaders and introduces two new Elite Four members, but the other two Elite Four members are returning characters from Kanto. The Johto Gym Leaders are an interesting batch, though only two stand out: first is Whitney, but only because she doesn't give you your Badge at first (and her Miltank is considered one of the toughest Pokémon in the early game). The second is Clair, who also withholds giving you your badge but also has some more character development outside of just being a boss. The rest of the Gym Leaders were still mostly bosses waiting for you to defeat them, though the remakes did somewhat remedy this by giving them more of a background life. The only other Johto-exclusive figure that comes to mind is Eusine, who is hunting Suicune, though aside from a few battles he doesn't offer much else.

Where do I begin with Unova's characters? Your rivals Cheren, Bianca, and Hugh all have their own different story arcs with twists, turns, and revelations. Since the Pokémon League challenge and villain team story were combined together, the Gym Leaders had an active role in the story helping the player stop Team Plasma (moreso in Black & White than in Black 2 & White 2, but even in the sequel games some of the Gym Leaders got involved). Champion Alder played a significant role as a sort of mentor figure and "first line of defense" against Team Plasma's plans while having his own complex background (sadly Iris, after becoming Champion in Black 2 & White 2, wasn't given as much of a presence). And then we have Team Plasma and the major figures associated with it, especially Ghetsis and N. Ghetsis proves to be a frightening villain, cruelly manipulative and raving mad. N has become a very popular character due to his complex views and morals while also still being charismatic and endearing. And that's not going into the Sages, Shadow Triad, Anthea & Concordia, and Colress. Then we have a lot of memorable side characters like Professor Juniper and her father Cedric, the heartbreaker Charles, the enthusiastic Pokémon Musical director, and the Neo Team Plasma Spy, to name a few. The only characters who fall kind of flat are the Elite Four and the Battle Subway Bosses, but even they have interesting quirks to not leave them completely dry. Because Gen V had a more complex plot and a pair of sequel games, the Unova characters were given so much characterization and development. Unova wins again.

Who had the most interesting... Pokémon and why?

Pika

Pikachu315111

Now some may think I'm picking on Johto's reliance on Kanto as if it was a bad thing, but it can also be a positive. With the Kanto Pokémon so readily available, the Johto Pokémon had sort of free reign when it came to designs. And it wasn't just a freedom to be based on more animals, which some certainly were; Johto was a bit more experimental with their designs, probably trying to separate their Pokémon from Kanto's. To name a few: a hatchling still in its shell evolving to a fairy, a totem pole bird, a sheep that evolves into a lighthouse dragon, a Rock-type that thinks it's a tree, the Latin alphabet, a punching bag that counters back, a two-headed giraffe, a flying scorpion bat, whatever Shuckle is supposed to be, a gun that's a fish that evolves into a cannon that's an octopus, a Santa Claus penguin, an elephant that spins like a tire, a reindeer with hypnotizing horns, and a painting beagle that can copy any move. Not only that, but it also introduced evolutions and pre-evolutions for Kanto Pokémon that have remained very popular: Crobat, Pichu, Bellossom, Espeon, Umbreon, Steelix, Scizor, Porygon2, Elekid, Magby, Blissey, and a handful of others. Gen II also introduced the Dark and Steel types, got us Murkrow, Sneasel, Forretress, Skarmory, the Houndour family, and Tyranitar, and granted new typings to some Kanto Pokémon. With the combination of new and creative designs, expanding upon popular Kanto Pokémon, and introduction of two new types, it's easy to see why many trainers say Johto is their favorite region for new Pokémon introduced to the franchise.

Unova has an advantage over Johto by having 50 more Pokémon introduced. But there is a reason for this: the main game of Black & White did not include any Pokémon from the previous generations. Because of this, Unova has more designs inspired by past Pokémon than any other previous generation, mainly to Kanto Pokémon: the Blitzle family are inspired by the Ponyta family, the Roggenrola family by the Geodude family, the Woobat family by the Zubat family, Audino by Chansey, the Timburr family by the Machop family, Throh & Sawk by Hitmonlee & Hitmonchan, the Trubbish family by the Grimer family, the Klink family by the Magnemite family, and other more subtle examples. Not to discredit the Unova Pokémon; they all add their own spin and have different stats, types, and/or abilities to make them their own individual species. However, Unova's problems don't end there. There are a handful of questionable design decisions: the Elemental Monkeys felt like lesser Starters and only exist to be a "gotcha" for the first Gym Leaders of Black & White. While all generations had object-based Pokémon, Unova really pushed it by having Pokémon that were essentially a trash bag, ice cream cone, gears, lighting fixtures, and a snowflake with a face drawn on it. While Johto experimented with its Pokémon designs, they always felt like they were still living creatures. Johto also did a better job fusing an animal and a concept together, while in Unova, a Pokémon was either just the animal or a concept given form. Because of Unova's design problems I have to give Johto the win for its tighter designs.

Going into the special question, Johto has 1 point to Unova's 2 points. How about we make things interesting: the winner of this question gets 2 points! Will Johto make a come-from-behind win or will Unova take it all in a landslide victory? Which region did the concept of a "chronological sequel" better?

Pika

Pikachu315111

Let's mix things up by starting with Unova, as it's ahead. Gen V has it easy connecting Black & White with Black 2 & White 2, as it all takes place in Unova; the only difference is BW2 takes place two years later. It had its work cut out for it, so much so that BW2 had to teleport the player across the region two times just so they wouldn't be following the same linear path they did in BW. BW2 also created many new locations that weren't in BW so even players who played the initial games would have something new to explore: new towns, routes, buildings, caves, even sewers and a flying pirate ship. They even created a new Victory Road because the rise of Team Plasma's castle caused stability issues in the old one—one of the ways they showed there were lasting consequences to Team Plasma's actions in BW. While we get to see how characters from BW have changed after two years, including previous rivals Bianca (now Professor Juniper's assistant) and Cheren (now a Pokémon School teacher and Gym Leader), it's anything involving Team Plasma that gets major focus. Your journey starts because your rival, Hugh, asks you to help find his sister's Pokémon that was kidnapped by Team Plasma. You later discover members loyal to Ghetsis formed a new Team Plasma to continue causing trouble while those loyal to N can be found in Driftveil trying to redeem themselves. Both old and new Team Plasma get into conflict with one another, creating a civil war-like situation. At the climax, both N and Ghetsis are present to show how one had grown from the previous game's experience while the other has remained the same, which drove him mad. While the Pokémon League challenge has plenty of its own connections, such as showing what the ex-Gym Leaders are doing and Iris becoming Champion, it's the complexity of the Team Plasma plot that makes it all come together.

In comparison, Johto has it hard. It has to make connections between two regions while also giving each region its own unique identity. The way Johto does this is quite interesting and almost opposite what other series might have done. Instead of trying to make Johto feel newer and more "hip" than Kanto, Johto based its region on history and folklore. But not all of Johto is like this; Goldenrod City is much like any modern city, even having a Radio Tower and Magnet Train, two things that directly connect it to Kanto. Another connection is that, while both regions have their own Gym Leaders, they share the Indigo Plateau as their Pokémon League (where Bruno and Lorelei remain Elite Four members, Koga was promoted to one, and Lance is now Champion). Johto's connection with Kanto is with the few things the regions share with each other, features that stand out due to how differently each region is themed. Though the most important connections are with the characters. We have small ones, like how Bill is originally from Goldenrod City, where most of his family still live, Falkner has a rivalry with Koga's daughter Janine, Clair is Lance's cousin, and the Fighting Dojo's Karate Master Kiyo has started to train in Mt. Mortar. However, the biggest one is, much like with Unova, the returning villain team, in this case Team Rocket. After Giovanni was defeated by Red and disbanded Team Rocket, a majority of Team Rocket members following the Executives retreated to Johto and started making plans to call back Giovanni. However, unlike Team Plasma, which had members with separate allegiances that caused conflict, all Team Rocket members you meet are loyal to Giovanni and are doing what they normally would have done. The ending of the villain team story is also nearly identical; you defeat Archer, who realizes Giovanni isn't coming back, so he disbands Team Rocket for good (or does he?...). You can also play Gen II without having played Gen I and still follow what's going on in the world, while BW2 does depend on the player having some knowledge on what happened in BW.

Taking this into account, between Johto and Unova, the Gen II games are the better ones to pick up if you're new to Pokémon, as you don't really have to worry about what happened in Gen I. There are connections, for sure, that only those who played Gen I would get, but Johto can stand alone as its own region. HOWEVER, that's not what this question is about. For which one is the better "chronological sequel" it almost defaults to Unova. Yes, you can go back to Kanto in the Gen II games and see how it changed, but we're talking about Johto, and honestly Kanto seems pretty okay, as Team Rocket mostly left it behind. Meanwhile Unova is by itself, so all of its changes are more apparent; the villain team story needs to move on and evolve, as there's no way it could repeat itself with the old Team Plasma still around. If you're looking for a game that has a strong chronological sequel so that you can stay with the region and its characters a little longer as well as see the direct effects of the villain team story, then Unova are the games for you! Unova wins by a landslide!

Who had the most interesting... plot and why?

Ryota

Ryota Mitarai

Both Johto and Unova, in my opinion, had great plots. The thing is, they are both of different types, so it's hard to say exactly which one would be the winner here.

Let's start with Unova. Unova was more focused on the story itself and characters (in both versions). The player actively worked in tandem with the other characters to complete one goal: stop Team Plasma. The story gave spotlights to other characters as well, revealing their motives and pasts, which helped the player sympathize much more with them. Team Plasma in both games felt as the most threatening villainous team I had ever faced, as they are able to successfully attain control on the mascot Legendary Pokémon. It also felt very interesting when Team Plasma actually tricked people into believing them, making them unique in that they are not deemed so villainous in the public's eye compared to other teams. Not to mention, BW and BW2 were accompanied by what I consider the best soundtrack in the whole Pokémon franchise (most battle themes and Route 10 come to mind whenever I think about the soundtrack).

Johto, on the other hand, didn't really focus on the story itself. Rather, it focused more on the gameplay and tasking the player with less responsibility. For some players, this would be a factor for liking HGSS (and GSC), as it encourages casual playthroughs much more and don't feel as much as a burden as BW and BW2. Ignoring the rather low actual speed of the games, the games felt reasonably fast (at least for me) to complete, assuming you don't run 6 Pokémon, requiring you to grind everything with wild Pokémon. It is also worth mentioning that this is the only time in the series where we can visit more than 1 region, something that, in my opinion, helps differentiate it from the other games.

If you were to consider the story part of a plot, Unova would be a clear winner here. However, in terms of casual plot, Johto has the upper hand here due to burdening the player with fewer responsibilities.

Who had the most interesting... characters and why?

Ryota

Ryota Mitarai

I would say both Unova and Johto have some of the most influential characters in the franchise.

Let's start with Unova again. Unova, as established earlier, focused more on the story and characters by giving them more spotlights and whatnot. BW and BW2 are perhaps the games where the Gym Leaders and other characters are the most involved in the whole franchise; for example, look at the moment where all Gym Leaders (minus the Striaton trio) siege N's Castle. N was a very interesting idea of "boss leader" (he was a puppet leader, more or less), as he neither hated the player nor got angry whenever he lost and started blaming his own Pokémon. Ghetsis was very interesting due to his manipulative nature, making him actually scary and threatening, compared to the more outspoken leaders of other teams. Alder breaking the "plot twist" of Champion also felt a nice change in pace. Finally, we had characters like Colress that, despite being against you, would still feel a part of your team and help you out with whatever they could. In short words, characters were more involved, making them much easier to bond with.

Johto had a shortage of great characters. Most of them either appeared rarely or weren't really important or notable. However, one character stands out from the rest, and that is Silver. Silver had one of the greatest character developments in the whole franchise. He initially started out as a power-hungry, mistrusting, and misguided person due to being abandoned by his own father (Giovanni) in favor of Team Rocket. However, as the game progressed and he lost once to Lance and multiple times to the player, he realized that his attitude wouldn't get him anywhere. This was easily visible in the postgame. First, in the Dragon's Den, his starter started following him, implying that he gained its trust and made it happy. Second, he owned a Crobat after the Mt. Moon encounter, which would only evolve if it were very happy. Finally, he tried at one point to return his starter to Professor Elm but was allowed to keep it, as Elm saw it was happy with Silver. It is also worth mentioning that Silver evolved his Haunter and Kadabra, which shows that he decided to trust other people by trading his Pokémon temporarily.

However, despite Silver being one of the most interesting characters in the series, he's unfortunately the only one from Johto; Unova has more interesting characters, so Unova takes the win here.

Who had the most interesting... Pokémon and why?

Ryota

Ryota Mitarai

There's one clear winner between Unova and Johto when it comes to the availability of Pokémon.

The problem with Johto is that a lot of the Pokémon were virtually useless (like Spinarak and Ledyba) or came late and under absurd conditions (Swinub could have been great if it didn't come just before the 8th Gym, and Snubbull had a 1% encounter rate for some reason). Furthermore, it felt weird that we couldn't have access to some Johto Pokémon in Johto itself, like Houndour. However, Johto (more specifically HGSS) had quite a few broken Pokémon that made the games enjoyable if you wanted to just destroy it, like Alakazam, Heracross, the red Gyarados, and Golem. On the other hand, Johto also introduced the unnecessary baby Pokémon that just made completing the Pokédex harder than it already was, not to mention 100 Pokémon with some not available easily or at all under normal circumstances meant Johto was much more reliant on Kanto Pokémon to have enough diversity. HGSS does get bonus points for making both cover legendary Pokémon available, something that is missing from every other game.

Unova fixed a lot of issues in terms of diversity in the Pokédex. The Unova Pokédex, up to this day, has the highest number of new Pokémon, reaching 156. And the truth is, 90% of the Pokémon in Unova are actually usable (yes, even Accelgor and Maractus are usable in some way). The player's options for game breakers aren't limited either, with Pokémon like Darumaka, Drilbur, Axew, and Scraggy annihilating everything in their way. Not to mention BW featured only the newly introduced Pokémon through the story, which showed how diverse the Pokédex was. Finally, BW2 kept this diversity and improved it further by adding some older generation Pokémon while still giving enough focus to its own Pokémon. It did feel weird that Munna and Tympole were kicked to the postgame, but at least Unova had a lot of different options.

Thus, Unova clearly has the upper hand here when it comes to Pokémon availability.

Which region did the concept of a "chronological sequel" better?

Ryota

Ryota Mitarai

Both GSC/HGSS and B2W2 bear resemblance to "continuations" of a previous game. In reality, they do differ a lot, and I will explain why.

GSC/HGSS supposedly takes place around 3 years after RBY. This is clearly evident, as the player has access to Kanto Pokémon despite being in a completely new region. There are some subtle references to Red or pretty much anything from RBY, but they don't really go into detail about it to the player. The only thing from RBY that actually impacted something in GSC/HGSS was that Team Rocket tried to find Giovanni after Red defeated him and he decided to disappear to train. Other than that, Johto felt more like a "spinoff" to Kanto as opposed to a sequel.

BW2 did offer more of a "sequel" feel to me. Team Plasma's actions clearly had impact on a lot of characters in BW2: old characters like Cheren and Bianca were fully aware of how dangerous Team Plasma was and decided to help the player immediately, former Team Plasma members are still shamed for their past actions despite regretting them, and N came to help the new player stop his "former" father. As a whole, BW2 really gave me the feeling that the story wasn't over—as opposed to Johto—and that I need to finish what had to be finished.

Thus, Unova accomplished the concept of a sequel much more than Johto in my opinion, so I am gonna give it the win for this category.

Gato

GatoDelFuego

So, going into this, my favorite game in the series is HGSS by far. And when I was a kid, I must have reset and replayed Gold at least 6 times... I've never reset any of my other games more than once, and even then, only a handful have been. I enjoyed Unova too! But there's no way I can not auto-lock-in Johto as my favorite of all time.
....right?

Who had the most interesting... plot and why?

Gato

GatoDelFuego

Each of these games have very different, but also very strong, plots. It's easy to say that I can't choose... but I can. I pick Unova.

Johto's plot is extraordinarily basic....at first glance. Catch the Pokémon and become a Pokémon master. Keep it simple, and you can't go wrong! Only around the game's third act does the plot begin to pick up, but it's definitely the game's highlight. Mind you, at the time we didn't have anything like getting called up by the Professor and being told to get to somewhere right away, while modern games do it all the time. I felt like I had a real sense of urgency to save the Radio Tower! And then, after the plot is wrapped up, you can go straight back to your quest to become a Pokémon master. Team Rocket isn't a distraction—it's a complement.

Contrast this with Unova, which has two plots to its name. However, both follow an evil team through the whole game, so I'll be focusing on that. Team Plasma feels like a "real" antagonist, while the Gym quest is more of an afterthought. Perhaps that's why people felt that Gyms blocking your path was worse in BW than other regions? The benefit of this is that your journey with Team Plasma is actually really fulfilling. Saving Pokémon...That's an interesting moral concept that hadn't been approached before. Unova was the first time that it seemed anybody bothered to mention that Pokémon were more than tools, even though the series loves to say it during the introduction to every game. Mixing this in with the obvious betrayal by Ghetsis and seeing N becoming the Champion? That's a great story to follow. BW2 didn't have that luxury, but they still had Colress's journey and Iris being revealed as Champion.

It's not BAD to have a more relaxed plot, and I really enjoy Johto's setting. But putting these two against each other, Unova's whole story is just better.

Who had the most interesting... characters and why?

Gato

GatoDelFuego

This is another easy answer for me—Unova.

Why? Well...Johto barely has antagonists at all. The Team Rocket executives have only a handful of lines, and their motivation is also un-fleshed-out. In fact, the best Rocket character may very well be the "hyuk-hyuk-hyuk!" dude. Lance is the only opposing Trainer with any lines, and he's an extremely generic, edgy, overpowered ally. The rest of the Gym Leaders and Elite Four are empty, and even the Kanto Gym Leaders felt lifeless. The Professors are just boring characters who really have no impact on the story.

The only character worth standing out is Silver. And let me be frank, I like Silver's character a lot! Probably one of the best rival characters (one of the best... more on that later). Unfortunately, his story doesn't get fully revealed unless you did the time travel event that was added in HGSS.

Contrast this to Unova, where every Gym Leader doesn't just have a personality, but a real job too, making them more than just obstacles. You've got Ghetsis, the seven sages, Alder, the excellent Colress as team leader, and of course N. N is my favorite of the rivals because he fulfills the role of both "antagonist" and "friend" without being too much of either, like so many other rival characters. There's not much more I can say, I suppose! The games just take a different approach to world-building. Johto feels empty... but with more of a tight feel, helped by not having a massive cast. It's a more laid-back Pokémon game. This is fine, but its cast as a result can't hold a candle to Unova.

Who had the most interesting... Pokémon and why?

Gato

GatoDelFuego

This really has a clear victor... Unova! Take Galvantula, for one. The perfect Pokémon design: type, concept, and execution. I can go on and on about my favorite Unova designs: Hydreigon, Haxorus, Chandelure, Excadrill, Beheeyem, Reuniclus, Landorus, Genesect, Volcarona, Krookodile, Sigilyph, Jellicent... even Garbodoor has a cult following. What other region can claim so many standouts? Serperior and the other starters are fine, Conkeldurr, Scrafty, and Sawk rock the Fighting-types, there's plenty of Dragons... every type has a standout, there's something for everyone.

Even better than that is the fact that the region feels cohesive. Maybe it's the tan battle background or the animated sprites, but every Unova Pokémon feels like it's part of a unit. Maybe every generation has this, but I feel it applies to Unova more than most. And yeah, Unova has trash too (Vanilluxe, Woobat, Braviary...). But are they really WORSE than what other generations have to offer? Unova gets a lot of flak for having bad designs. But when you crank out 150+ Pokémon and have this many greats, I cut you some slack.

On the other hand, Johto... never really feels like more than an expansion pack to Kanto. There's gems in there (Kingdra, Raikou, Typhlosion, Tyranitar, Feraligatr, Heracross, Houndoom), but they aren't GOAT status, and unfortunately a MAJORITY of the roster is.... bland. People honestly forget that Ledyba is the region's Bug, because it's so forgettable. There's really nothing you can say about stuff like Wooper, Sentret, Natu, Spinarak, or Togepi. They just may as well not exist. There's more one-off Pokémon in Johto than anywhere else (Sneasel, Shuckle, Delibird). While I like these, they make the game feel disconnected. The only three-stage Pokémon are Tyranitar, its pseudo-legendary family, the starters, and Ampharos. What's up with that? The entire list just leaves me wanting more, which Unova definitely didn't.

Which region did the concept of a "chronological sequel" better?

Gato

GatoDelFuego

Bringing it all together...am I still confident that Johto is the better region overall? You bet. Why? Because it can't be looked at in a vacuum—you have to look at it compared to Kanto.

Black and White 2 are called the first "true sequel" games in Pokémon, but I disagree. For being a sequel, they really don't have a good link with the previous game. In BW you stop Team Plasma. In BW2 you're...trying to save a Purrloin? From Team Neo Plasma? It feels like a contrived way to link the games. I'd call them more of a "spinoff" in the same universe than a real sequel.

Team Plasma has fractured in two, with each side fighting the other. Where else did we see two teams fighting each other? Oh right, Hoenn. Rather than elevate what you had in BW, BW2 seem to reduce the accomplishment of BW while not making themselves any better. Confused? In BW, Team Plasma orchestrated an operation to steal everybody's Pokémon. In BW2, Team Neo Plasma flies around the world in a frigate and uses the power of Kyurem to freeze an entire city solid. That's just jumping the shark! N returns flying around on his magic legendary Pokémon, but where's the protagonist of BW? In my opinion, BW2 could have been stronger if it AVOIDED linking itself to BW. Trying to tie everything together makes the whole thread of plotlines too complicated.

Johto, to contrast, is elevated by playing Kanto first. On the surface, Johto can just be you becoming a Pokémon master, beating a crime syndicate and catching Pokémon. Or, you can think back to your adventure through Kanto. You've seen the crime syndicate before, and you understand what they're doing this time. They aren't acting overtly, but in the background, trying to rebuild. Neo Plasma didn't even act like they were rebuilding. Taking down Team Rocket a second time, hearing the executives referencing the previous protagonist...it gives a sense of finality to Team Rocket. Johto is act 2 of the FULL story.

And of course, you actually REVISIT everywhere in Kanto! Going back AFTER you've become Champion is the true genius. Now, you breeze through areas you struggled with in Kanto. On the surface it's just postgame cleanup, but as a sequel, it's more than that. This is culminated in the battle against Red, the most difficult NPC fight in Pokémon history. It feels so strong, because you ARE Red; you've experienced that story. Who do you root for? The protagonist now, or the one from the previous region? As a sequel, Johto is so, so much more than its own game.

And this is the reason that Johto is still my favorite. The huge leap in what Johto contains from its immediate predecessor, the plentiful callbacks, the truly continued story... these are not matched by any other Pokémon game. Playing through Johto is like playing through two whole regions at once! Not just literally with the revisiting, but from a storytelling perspective too. If you haven't played it, I suggest you do—you won't be disappointed.

Thanks for reading!

Who had the most interesting... plot and why?

Tman

TMan87

I feel like this one is a bit unfair towards poor Johto. Being only the second generation and coming right after the barebones Kanto mean the plot is rather scarce. Although, to be honest, the approach of "Team Rocket has disbanded and is trying to get back together" was an interesting followup to Kanto's plot, where Team Rocket was swinging in full force. The story is also fairly well distributed throughout the game, starting right off the bat with that strange red-haired kid staring through the Lab's window and rudely telling you off should you interact with them; the child's presence is explained shortly after, when you learn the same kid actually stole a starter! We upgraded from jerk rival to actual criminal, then, alright. Seemingly unrelated, Team Rocket is found bullying Slowpoke in Azalea Town.

The storyline then disappears for four towns, as per usual in the games, but it comes back with one of the most famous moments of the game: the Lake of Rage. You there encounter the legendary Red Leviathan, defeat Team Rocket in their headquarters, and go back to collecting Badges. At this exact moment, the very raison d'être of Gold and Silver appear: the invasion of Goldenrod Tower reveals that Giovanni actually has gone missing. For those new to the game, that name is nothing. But for those who played the original RBY, that's huge. The archvillain, the final roadblock in their quest... gone! That's where GSC really hits as a Kanto sequel.

Unfortunately, that storyline kind of peters out afterwards, and there isn't much left. Decent, as far as 2000s sequels go, but not that great.

Now, Unova. Unova's plot also starts fairly early, in Accumula Town, where a bunch of weirdly dressed people are telling people to release their Pokémon. That's a new one for a series telling us to catch them all, for sure. The quest of getting badges is peppered with interventions of that mysterious Team Plasma, that may be the evil team... or maybe not? They seem to genuinely care for Pokémon, after all. N himself, that strange young man with the ability to talk with Pokémon, is rather sympathetic despite siding with Team Plasma. Ghetsis certainly isn't, though. What's going on with that lot?

And that's where the plot echoes the games' title, and even their box art: nothing is white as snow or black as pitch. I've always thought a genius move to have the white Legendary on the Black box art, and vice versa: it really drives the point home from a visual standpoint. Ghetsis is your true Pokémon villain, N is just a gentle boy trying to genuinely care for his Pokémon friends. The seven Sages have various degrees of cynicism and idealism, making them another grey area. Oh, and the game earns bonus points for actually having the Gym Leaders do something about the evil team.

This one goes to Unova!

Who had the most interesting... characters and why?

Tman

TMan87

Gold and Silver introduced a fair share of new characters, but the most memorable of them is probably the rival, who I'll dub Silver from now on. Silver, revealed to be Giovanni's son in FRLG then HGSS, goes through phenomenal character development throughout the game, first seeing Pokémon as tools and weapons, just like his father before him. Silver is probably the most hateful rival in the series so far, downright resenting the player at first and absolutely abhorring the mere mention of Team Rocket, believing them all to be weak and useless—two words that are synonyms in his mouth for a good while.

However, as we beat him again and again, and as Lance rightfully chews him out for his attitude, his mindset starts to change and his beliefs flicker. He then grows mellower and starts acting as a human being towards his Pokémon. He strives to become a good Trainer and to atone for his former behavior. There's no more "worthless" or "weakling" in his language at the end of the game, instead being replaced with mentions of care and trust. The boy has come a long way, and even if he remains a bit tsundere by the end, it shows he's now really caring for his team.

This is best exemplified by his Golbat's evolution into Crobat, something that can only happen if the Pokémon is friendly enough with its Trainer. However, Silver is about the only fully fleshed-out character in the games. Honorable mentions include Prof. Elm, a wackier take on the Professor role but nonetheless very supportive, and a few Gym Leaders, notably in the remakes, where they get additional details.

Unova is known for being the first generation to introduce not one, but two rivals: Cheren and Bianca. Fitting for the games' plot, they have the exact opposite character growth. Cheren starts out as a power-hungry (yet friendly) serious guy. He craves strength—the strength to become Champion. He immediately asserts dominance over the player by choosing the starter that has a type advantage over ours, showing that he's not here to play games; he's aiming to win. He'll then pop up here and there to help, but his real character arc starts when Alder asks a simple question: "Strength, yes, but to what end?" Up until now, "strength" was Cheren's ultimate goal. He did not realize strength was a means to an end, and that strength alone is worthless. Cheren then starts to question himself, and by the end of the game, he has accepted that his views were wrong. In the second game, he has become a Gym Leader, using that strength to teach the new generation of Trainers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is Bianca, the meek, weak, cheerful girl. She sounds ditzy, she picks the starter that has a type disadvantage against the player's, and even her battle animation is more goofy than intimidating. There is no lying: the girl is bad as a Trainer. Yet she has that odd determination at times. She goes on her quest despite her father being against it, later managing to convince him to let her do as she pleases when he sees how determined she is. She tries to defend a Munna against two obviously violent Plasma Grunts, though the player admittedly played a big part in driving them off. In total contrast to Cheren, her untapped strength only comes out when she worries about others. Bianca traveled the region to find out what she wanted to do but came to a realization: she isn't strong, and that's OK. In the second game, she's seen as Prof. Juniper's assistant, also helping out the new generation of Trainers.

The third character to deserve a spotlight is N. The young boy was raised by Pokémon and later became the figurehead for Team Plasma. Thoroughly manipulated by Ghetsis, N still has the heart in the right place. He genuinely tried to better the life of Pokémon and quickly turns against Ghetsis when the latter reveals his plans of world domination and Pokémon abuse. He sees Pokémon as friends and is very reluctant to battle with them, as they'll get hurt, but he is determined to do so to achieve his end goals. N disappears after BW's main story and only has a small role in the sequel.

In conclusion, this segment is much closer in outcome, but Silver barely edges out and gets the victory home for Johto.

Who had the most interesting... Pokémon and why?

Tman

TMan87

Johto and Unova had both very different approaches to their Pokédex, as Johto expanded upon Kanto while Unova was a clean slate.

Johto notably introduced baby Pokémon, a novelty included to showcase the new breeding mechanic. This helped getting forgotten lines to the spotlight again, such as Electabuzz and Magmar, which would later gained another evolution in Gen IV (strangely, Jynx did not). It also tied together Hitmonchan, Hitmonlee, and the newly introduced Hitmontop. Johto also introduced some evolutions to older Pokémon families, like Silver's ace Crobat. Interestingly, it also expanded upon branching evolutions, previously locked to Eevee; Politoed and Bellossom were new alternatives to Poliwrath and Vileplume. Johto doesn't have that many memorable Pokémon, to be fair. Pokémon such as Scizor and Espeon will come to the mind of competitive battlers, and people unfortunate enough to have picked Cyndaquil (like yours truly) probably still have nightmares about Miltank. The starters have OK popularity, with Feraligatr ahead of the other two for its badass crocodile look. In terms of legendary Pokémon, the trio of dogs is more remembered for how utterly annoying they are to catch. Ho-Oh is a really cool-looking phoenix Pokémon, while Lugia has plenty of fans due to the second Pokémon movie, though fans still wonder to this day why it's not part Water type. Celebi was barely obtainable in this game, so cartridge fans could probably have lived on without even knowing it existed, though the pink Celebi seen in the Mystery Dungeon games boosted its fanbase. In my opinion, a lot of Johto 'mons need something to get a bit brushed up—it's almost been 20 years since GS, and most of them are forgotten.

Unova, on the other hand, had a whole new Pokédex. No older Pokémon, all you get is fresh stuff! That's in theory at least, because in reality, parallels could be drawn between Gen V Pokémon and Gen I Pokémon. Many fans have claimed Pidove was just a weird Pidgey. Patrat is just weird Rattata. Roggenrola is just weird Geodude. Timburr is just weird Machop. Woobat is just weird Zubat. Frillish is just weird Tentacool. The list goes on and on. To an extent, that's true. Gen V has some of the most controversial designs of the whole series, being a breaking point of a sizable number of previous fans. However, dissing the whole generation because of obvious Gen I inspiration (or Garbodor/Vanilluxe memes) is doing it a disservice.

In my opinion, Unova hosts some of the best designs Pokémon has seen to this very day, although you'd have to reach the mid- to end-game to see them. Sigilyph, Gothitelle, Reuniclus, Eelektross, Chandelure, Mienshao, Bisharp, Hydreigon, and Volcarona are very good non-legendary designs. While the starters are nothing to really write home about, the legendary Pokémon offer plenty of superb designs, from Reshiram and Zekrom having reactor tails, to Victini literally being an adorable and cuddly embodiment of victory with a big "V" on its forehead, to Meloetta changing forms between a refined singer form to a badass karate kid thing form. There was a lot of experimentation with typings as well, making the region feel diverse.

All in all, I'll stay a big Unova fan in terms of 'mons.

Which region did the concept of a "chronological sequel" better?

Tman

TMan87

Johto was the second half of Kanto, and you could explore Kanto after beating all of Johto. I must say, as a kid, discovering there was another whole region to explore was mind blowing. However, Kanto in GSC and HGSS is flat. Yes, you can collect 8 more badges, but the Gym Leaders' Pokémon have a lower level than Lance's at the end of Johto. You can re-explore all of Kanto and let nostalgia course through you, except there is no incentive to do so: it's still same old Kanto you knew and loved in RBY. Or you didn't love it and get bored rather quickly exploring the region, which makes it hit or miss. It was useful for filling the Dex and encountering new Pokémon, but that's it.

BW2 offered to re-experience Unova 2 years after the events of BW, in mostly the same region. The plot is all different, though: the previously evil team is split between Team Plasma, who decided to follow N's word and take care of Pokémon, and Neo Team Plasma, who followed Ghetsis and went to rule the world. Characters like Cheren and Bianca have settled down, there is a new Champion, there's a few new places to explore, and Gen I-IV Pokémon are coming back. BW2 felt like an actual new edition of BW worth its salt (looking at you, USM). Everything's the same, and yet, everything has changed. While the game can feel too close to BW at times, the new characters and places are just enough to feel like another adventure.

I'd say Unova is the better sequel.

Who had the most interesting... plot and why?

Lux

Lux92

Unova actually attempted to do something with its plot with both of its games. It went super hard on its “theme”—the balance of ideals and reality—in everything it did. It didn't feel unnatural at any point in time but was strongly present across all of its towns. Opelucid is the most obvious example here—in one version it shows a futuristic way forward for Unova, while in the other it shows a rustic past. This and the plot really put Unova ahead for me—Unova actually had emphasis on character development, and the plot fit the theme well enough. For a Pokémon game, it actually felt somewhat good. And again, it didn't feel like it tried to get in the way at all—the whole gameplay felt seamless and very natural. I can say I truly enjoyed both playing the game and the plot.

Johto on the other hand… really didn't. It barely had its own identity—it felt like they tried to simply recycle and push Team Rocket again as a sequel of sorts. However, with the way Team Rocket went—trying to get back into prominence—it felt forcibly tied to Kanto and had no identity of its own. Having played Johto first and never having watched the anime, I'm likely biased here when it felt lost because of that tie. It never really does anything, though—nothing of Giovanni past the Celebi event nor any real characters.

Unova wins this by a large margin, because it actually *tried*, and it went very far. It felt like there was the best system of balance between plot and gameplay experience. Johto didn't—it just felt like a standard game plot. I'd argue Unova has the best plot in the series, while Johto has the worst.

Who had the most interesting... characters and why?

Lux

Lux92

There's not much to say here really. I'll be upfront and just hand this one to Unova, which actually tried there, unlike Johto. Each character is made to actually be present, and it turned into something that was surprisingly effective. I actually cared about N, Colress, and Hugh, which is more than I can say for Johto. Even less prominent characters like the Gym Leaders at least have *some* effort put into them, while Johto never really put much at all. The only character that was a real knockout was Silver, who definitely is the best character in Johto and arguably one of the best in the franchise. He actually sees a lot of development in how he thinks and acts—it was truly beautiful to see him move from a cold, apathetic person to a caring one, and the Celebi event cemented that further, but honestly it just doesn't do enough to save Johto. Unova still had a lot of good characters that became something beautiful, while Johto quite literally has one—the rest are entirely flat in every way.

Who had the most interesting... Pokémon and why?

Lux

Lux92

This is a surprisingly hard one. Unova definitely has more unique Pokémon, but Johto's 'mons actually are super good as well. I feel these two are the best regions in their attempt to create a realistic ecosystem of Pokémon.

Unova had its very own system, and while I feel that was done super well, there were times where I wish it didn't try to reinvent the wheel and just tie back to the main Pokémon world. I do feel that, of the memorable designs in Pokémon, Unova had the most and definitely some of the very best—Victini and Hydreigon are, imo, good examples of this.

I think Johto, 'mons-wise, is actually very *underrated* because its concept as a sequel and companion to Kanto is actually done very well. Johto tied into Kanto very well here—it had a lot of what could be said to be “background” Pokémon in that they aren't by themselves meant to be prominent, but they overall made the world feel like a very real one. A good example here is Sunkern and Sunflora—while neither is particularly memorable, a sunflower Pokémon definitely fits in a real environment. This is what I feel is Johto's greatest strength—that strong cast of Pokémon working in the background. It still had some very strong cases of prominent Pokémon, though, and those did shine—Tyranitar is the obvious standout here.

Johto naturally depends a lot on what Kanto built up for this, and Unova does really well on its own, so I'd lean towards Unova for that, but this is definitely a close one.

Which region did the concept of a "chronological sequel" better?

Lux

Lux92

Unova really had a very strong sense of its own identity, with its emphasis on what makes a region its own region. Between the characters, plot, heavy emphasis on themes, the new Pokémon ecosystem working out really well, and the general towns of each, which all had something memorable, Unova *really* did well on this.

Honestly it doesn't feel that Johto really was a sequel, though I may be biased,as I played Kanto games a *long* time after I did Johto games. It did really feel that Johto relied a lot on the Kanto half to really get going, though, and I honestly didn't feel fulfilled by Johto alone at all when I played through it because of how reliant it was on Kanto. But at the same time, I don't think where it ended up was really the strong sequel it could have been either. I think this is inherent to being a separate region. I won't pretend I didn't feel Johto didn't have its own spirit, because it really did. It just feels like a spirit that tries to be too much—the concept of a region trying to be sequel and at the same time its own thing feels awkward, because neither ends up as good as it could be. This *really* brings Johto down for me.

I think Unova was better done in what it did—it took its individual identity and went really far with it, it almost was its own world away from the rest of the Pokeverse, while Johto didn't go as far as I think it could have. Handing it to Unova on this one.


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