The Great Regional FRIENDLY Debate: Kanto vs Galar

By Blitzamirin, Ivy, Repu, and The Dutch Plumberjack. Released: 2019/12/22.
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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.

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

The Dutch Plumberjack

The Dutch Plumberjack

I was sort of expecting this one to be a comparison of two extremes going into Sword, but in practice, it turned out to be slightly less extreme than I assumed. Let's talk about Kanto first.

One rough trend there has been in the plots of Pokémon games is an increased focus on the storyline; anyone that's read the previous installments of this series will know that it's been a major thing especially in Unova and Alola. Kanto, however, as a region is pretty open world, which as a concept logically has trouble accommodating an extensive plot, and Kanto is a pretty textbook example. Kanto's plot is better viewed as a "situation" rather than an "event sequence," honestly; the Gym Challenge and the Pokédex are what you technically set out to complete, but Team Rocket ends up being your main priority as you go along. They really just sort of get in your way initially, but that wasn't really to be avoided with how ingrained they are in the region. I'm quoting someone else here I think, but Team Rocket is unlike any other villainous team in that at the start of the Kanto games, they've already won. They control the underworld of the region, and everyone knows it and has pretty much accepted it, except that one kid with the Bulbasaur / Charmander / Squirtle. That's the status quo you really set out to resolve, and in the end, everything basically comes back together again when the final Gym Leader is Giovanni. Yea, there's not too much active plot advancement at work here; everything that happens is your own doing, and it all turns out to be pretty cleanly woven together as you resolve what's really the Kanto region itself.

Now, Galar. Oh boy, I didn't know what I expected, but it wasn't this. Or, well, I did know what I expected; I expected it to continue where Alola left off and give us an extended adventure that would completely take the spotlight from the "official" quest. An extended adventure we got, technically, but… it's funny, really, I knew Gyms were set to make a return, but Galar's story literally being the story of the Gym Challenge was quite a surprise. It probably does make more sense to have the Gym Challenge be a widely televised and periodically organized event rather than something random kids can walk into whenever they please but no one really seems to take much note of (has there been any game before where Trainers other than you or your rival challenged and beat a Gym?), so points for Galar on that, I guess, but I kind of expected… more? Probably me being spoiled for always having been given "something else" in addition, but other than the Gym Challenge and some very short writing on the wall beforehand, the plot is pretty much limited to a short diversion during the Champion Cup; it also fits in the story pretty awkwardly because of its shortness, and Chairman Rose's lunacy coming essentially out of nowhere doesn't help things. The fact that that arc implicitly dismisses wanting to resolve future energy problems as insanity doesn't really seem appropriate in this day and age either, haha.

Galar gets the best mark it can by really considering it as "Gym Challenge: the game," and it does that decently, don't get me wrong. But all things said, its plot remains kind of shallow, and I'd take Kanto's static mission over it any day even if that one is devoid of memorable cutscenes and/or plot twists; it didn't need those to be great.

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

The Dutch Plumberjack

The Dutch Plumberjack

That's another one that's increased in significance a lot over the course of the generations. Older games weren't devoid of good characters; even from RBY I'm sure we have fond memories of Bill's Teleporter mishap on Cerulean Cape or the Warden's Gold Teeth, but it's mostly just short one-off events like those, and it's really limited to them. The Gym Leaders and Elite Four are just… there (at least Misty had her own Cerulean Cape event in GSC, and Blaine had lost his Gym), and the only characters that actually drive the story are /maybe/ Blue and Giovanni. FRLG already saw that RBY could've done more with the characters it was given and added the Fame Checker, which was a really cute way to give them all some more personality.

However, that's been turned up a few notches, especially since Unova, when character depth and development became a considerably increased focus of the games and, notably, the Gym Leaders transcended their role as simple challenge roadblocks to do their part in protecting the region. It's no surprise, then, that Gym Challenge: the game saw Raihan and Opal take a similarly driving role in the plot, that every Gym Leader transcended their minimum role by taking part in the Champion Cup, or that Champion Leon took it upon himself to guide you through the adventure like Kukui did a generation earlier (fortunately in a way less in-your-face and condescending fashion, I'm still seething with rage).

Where the game mostly shines is with rivals and traveling companions; multiple rivals is something that technically goes back as far as Hoenn, we even saw five of them in XY, and this time around we have three (that are worth their while, at least). Blood truly is thicker than water, because just how Leon was a not-so-obnoxious Kukui, Hop is a less annoying Hau, who mostly serves as the "get stronger alongside you" rival and decent companionship but little more than that, though he does undergo decent character development; good for him that he got to help with capturing Eternatus, too. Bede is where things get more interesting; Cheren and Bianca from Unova already saw characters represent specific values / "types," and Bede is similar, in that he's the typical arrogant, sponsored, "coattails-riding" competitor—and ends up being completely insufferable as a result, way overstepping his boundaries, being put in his place, and making enough of a turnaround in the end. Naturally, Chairman Rose's decision to disqualify him from the challenge was the right one, and it turned out well for all parties involved. Rose's bait-and-switch turn into a villain was… kinda weird, but I think that's more due to the game's compressed storyline than a flaw with the character itself. When he was a good guy, he was a charismatic, helpful, and mostly sincere figurehead, and that's what makes the most sense to judge him off of.

Closing the ranks is Marnie, who has earned the popularity she's gotten since the games' release. The game pulls a bit of a bait and switch with her as well; her status as Team Yell figurehead makes us expect an edgy and troublesome rival, but she turns out to be genuinely likable and helpful and actually not all that appreciative of Team Yell's support. Bonus points for her bond with Piers, too. Team Yell pulls yet another bait and switch in that the rival team for a change really is just that; it was refreshing to have a "villainous" team that, while it admittedly tries its hardest to slightly inconvenience you over the course of the story, has zero part in the "villainous" part of the story (Team Skull kinda went there but eventually failed) and actually ends up helping you.

Galar really doesn't do much wrong in this area and gives you a bunch of good companions for the road. I haven't gotten around to the postgame yet; I hear that Sordard and Shielbert are pretty decent as well?

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

The Dutch Plumberjack

The Dutch Plumberjack

I've been having some trouble answering this question because I… like plenty of Pokémon from both? Kanto has several of my all-time favorites like Starmie, Ponyta, Kabutops, Marowak, and Zapdos, while I also was pleasantly surprised by Galar's roster and was happy to include Pokémon like Drednaw and Corviknight in my team; other standouts include Centiskorch, Dragapult, and Copperajah, and the game also did a good job incorporating the cover legendaries into the storyline. Kanto certainly has more standouts than Galar, but it also receives criticism for being too basic (a literal Poké Ball Pokémon), which, to an extent, is justified but in other ways also works out well: the other extreme is overdesigning, which Galar hasn't been immune to (Zamazenta…) but overall did a decent job avoiding.

So then let's take a look at this from another angle. It doesn't make sense to judge Galar's Pokémon solely off the new species it introduced, since there's relatively few of them, meaning we also need to take a look at the two major groups of new formes it added: regional formes and Gigantamax formes. Both have given us several great designs—think Galarian Ponyta, the cross-generation evolution Sirfetch'd, and Gigantamax Butterfree—but the regional forme thing was already done earlier by Alola, and Gigantamax formes have many similarities to the now-defunct Mega Evolutions. Admittedly, Galarian formes are a clear improvement over Alolan formes—not limited to Kantonian species, innovatively opening the door to a long-awaited new batch of cross-generation evolutions, doing a great job giving underrated lines like Ponyta, Darumaka, and Yamask some new time in the limelight—but the fact that the region introduces not one, but two major groups of new formes and both are "been there done that" does not reflect well on it. Kanto, on the other hand, while it (obviously) didn't give us any alternate formes of existing Pokémon, did provide us with several staple concepts right away that, for the most part (Pikaclone fatigue…), have stood the test of time well, which really no generation since was able to do. Every game has its own early-route bugs and rodents, most games have given us a set of fossil Pokémon, pseudo-legendaries, or a legendary trio, and I always look forward to seeing what they come up with. Yea Kanto's roster isn't perfect by any means and probably does receive undeserved praise for nostalgia alone, but give it a break, people had to start somewhere.

Are there too many concepts?

The Dutch Plumberjack

The Dutch Plumberjack

I'm answering this question from the perspective of someone whose first game was Silver, when I was barely sentient, and who also used to collect TCG cards back in the day. I remember first playing Red and feeling that it was so… primitive, without essentials like the Waterfall HM, the SELECT button, a (real) way to hit Psychic-types super effectively, and the ability to interact with HM targets rather than having to go through the menu (reasons why I blasphemously prefer FRLG over the original RBY, too), yet I figure that's exactly how someone that started out with DPP would've felt while playing GSC. And I honestly wouldn't disagree with them; abilities, natures, physical / special split, and actually existent STAB Bug-type movepools are good mechanics that never felt overly complicated and for sure would've added something to earlier games. There is a tipping point, though; I'm not saying it's already been hit, but it's becoming harder and harder to avoid.

The TCG had already sort of lost me by the DPP days; PokéBodies were something I could still keep up with, but EX cards already felt like fan service more or less, and that would be only the tip of the iceberg. I'd already promised myself I wouldn't try collecting any new cards for… financial reasons anyways (allowance isn't exactly a six-figure salary), and recent cards always make me wonder just how steep the game's learning curve has become in this day and age; I guess that's how a returning genwunner looks at recent metagames. The games stayed clear of extravagant gimmicks a while longer, but after XY introduced Megas and SM brought us Z-Moves, it was no surprise that having those coexist alongside Dynamax would be simply too much or that Game Freak somehow managed to come up with a power creep gimmick that turned out to be outright unsustainable in 6v6 singles.

Dexit fits well in that pattern of the games possibly collapsing under their own weight, since it's clearly an (arguably inevitable) attempt by Game Freak to scale back when they felt enough was enough. It is funny, honestly, since from a competitive or balancing point of view, the huge number of available Pokémon has been tough to handle for a few generations already, to the point that I actually was kind of surprised about the outrage even among competitive players. Does that mean Dexit was necessary? Well, no… competitive balance arguments are legit but Game Freak has the power to limit usable Pokémon pools as they please for their competitions anyways (see every regional Dex VGC format ever), and they're really no grounds for removing the Pokémon from the code outright. I sympathize with it from a competitive point of view (and actually don't disagree with Movexit), but from a holistic point of view, I don't understand it and doubt I ever will. Let's hope this generation's other games will give us access to the currently missing Pokémon, at least.

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

Blitzamirin

Blitzamirin

As it is the first region, Kanto's plot is fairly straightforward and everyone knows it by now: complete the Pokédex for Professor Oak, become the Champion, beat Blue at both of these goals, and defeat Team Rocket along the way. If one counts the Sevii Islands as part of the Kanto plot, then you can add those too: get Moltres at Mt. Ember, help Blue and Celio restore the PC, rescue Lostelle (anyone else notice her name is literally just lost Elle?), and beat some Team Rocket remainders.

While more fleshed out than its predecessor, Galar's plot only gradually develops itself: at first, you're simply going through the League Challenge with your rival Hop in order to eventually beat Leon. Add the Dynamax mechanic to make Gym matches a spectator sport, and that's basically the bulk of the plot until later in the game. The evil bosses show up when you're beating the pretentious Bede in his quest to collect Wishing Stars for Chairman Rose. Why, you may ask? Rose reveals that Galar has a crisis that will deplete the region of its energy in 1000 years, and the only way to stop this is to capture Eternatus. Of course, plot reasons being plot reasons means that this has to take place immediately and has to postpone Leon's championship match with the main protagonist. And all this time you were doing the Gym Challenge, Rose had awakened Eternatus from its slumber... then you beat him, Leon fails to capture Eternatus, and the culmination of this is you, Hop, and the wolves vs a 1100+ BST abomination that you then make into your slave. Your Gym Challenge ends as you beat Leon and are hailed as the new Champion and the savior of Galar...

Clear winner here goes to Galar, but that's not without its criticisms: the plot is :farfetchd:, as the motives for each character aren't really revealed until the very end and even then don't make a lot of sense, but it is fairly more interesting than Kanto's simplicity.

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

Blitzamirin

Blitzamirin

Kanto's cast has been fleshed out over the years in a multitude of games to its advantage, but since the very beginning, there is one character that stands out. Blue, being the second face of the game, stands out as the rival who constantly leaves Red in the dust: always has the badges Red doesn't, has a larger Pokédex, and even became Champion first. His loss at the hands of Red serves as a bit of character development as well, as he's no longer obsessed with being the very best and becomes a formidable Gym Leader in Kanto that mentors trainers. He takes this further in Alola by being one of the Battle Tree bosses, and his witty charisma still shines there. Another character with depth is Giovanni, as you discover he's the boss of Team Rocket and is also secretly Kanto's 8th Gym Leader; in other games, you get to see his past or his newfound mission of conquering the rest of the regions with the other evil bosses. Lance is also another standout—he's simply the leader of the Elite Four in the original games, but he gets fleshed out as he helps you take down Team Rocket in Johto and also doubles as the Champion who trained the likes of Claire and is an inspiration to other relatives and Dragon-type trainers alike.

The characters in Galar also have colorful personalities: Hop is your eccentric rival who lives under his brother Leon's shadow, but he constantly finds ways to improve and help you when he can. Leon, the undefeated Champion of the Galar region, is also portrayed as a charismatic individual who is hopeless with directions, but ultimately wants the best for his little brother and the people of Galar. Bede, who is the first antagonistic character you encounter, helps Chairman Rose gather Wishing Stones to summon Eternatus and is then cast aside after his purpose is fulfilled, and finally becomes Opal's Gym Leader replacement when he finds an actual purpose. Our antagonists Rose and Olenna, with the former lusting for Eternatus's power in order to solve some dumb crisis and the latter being obsessed with the chairman himself. And finally, Marnie and her fan club of rowdy punks and her very caring brother Piers.

I think Kanto's characters have more depth due to being more fleshed out in various games, but Galar's cast has a lot of variety that gives Kanto a run for its money.

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

Blitzamirin

Blitzamirin

Who can forget Kanto's original 151? They're consistently shoved down our throats to make sure we don't forget them. They have the heaviest presence in the main games, merchandise, and you can't miss them in the anime! With that said, I think a lot of Kanto's designs work beautifully for the simplicity of the region, and the fact that they have been shown in multiple interpretations only helps to bolster their designs. Pokémon such as Charizard, Dragonite, Gyarados, Gengar, and Mewtwo are long-time fan favorites with good designs, and many of my own favorites are from here too: Exeggutor, Starmie, Alakazam, Magneton, Moltres, and Lapras, to name some. I have to mention Megas and Alolan formes as well, which only adds to their flair and gives fans a way to appreciate a design they otherwise wouldn't have before!

That said, Galar's Dex is my favorite to date since Generation V. While many of the Pokémon are unfortunately monotyped, the designs are in my opinion excellent and full of life. To name some notable examples, the fossils have everything going right for them (except their existence): they're mismatched abominations created by a scientist named Cara Liss (pun off careless) who creates non-sensical Dex entries for them... as if they existed like that in Galar's past. Furthermore, they're genderless and unbreedable, which truly shows the kind of "what the f-" they are, but adds to their charm and ultimately, they have good execution. Eternatus is also another unusual design that showcases just how alien it is—it makes the Ultra Beasts look normal by comparison. It's from space, it is the reason for Dynamax energy (similar to Ultra Necro's power over Z-Moves), has another form that looks like a weird tentacle / hand of sorts, and it also has a swirling core in the middle of its body. If this isn't neat, I don't know what is! Galarian formes (and regional evolutions) lets us evaluate and appreciate forgotten Pokémon like Corsola, Farfetch'd, and Zen Mode Darmanitan. Gigantamax formes are also pretty cool concepts—pre-release ones weren't honestly that impressive and didn't make me hype for the feature, with things like Eevee and Corviknight being fairly bland / not that different from their original designs. The final game, however, has a bunch of interesting ones we hadn't seen like Grimmsnarl, Orbeetle, Copperajah, Kingler, and Duraludon, which either add an extra layer to the Pokémon's design or exemplify what "Gigantamaxing" truly means.

Kanto very narrowly wins this one for me due to its many interpretations that allow fans to appreciate pretty much most of the old designs, but the biggest negative to it will be how much they're shoved in one's face. Even when I say I'm sick of Kanto's constantly one-upping every other region, Galar's crew keeps the field very competitive with its own designs!

Are there too many concepts?

Blitzamirin

Blitzamirin

This is a big, resounding "yes" for me, and I'm sure for many others as well. "Gimmick bloat" is something that has afflicted the series with the addition of things such as constant forme-changing items (Plates, Red / Blue / Griseous Orbs, Drives, Memories, N-Whateverizers, Mega Stones, etc.), concepts such as Mega Evolving, Z-Moves, and Dynamaxing, and now over 890 individual Pokémon.

Galar did something right in alleviating some of the gimmick bloat: removing Z-Moves and Mega Stones (as well as most forme changes) makes for more balancing, though a more optimal situation would be to reduce the number of items / interactions one needs rather than culling Pokémon outright. And this brings me to Dexit: I am not a fan of it in the long-term. Was it inevitable? Honestly, yes, but I feel it could have been worked on better: bring everyone back without changing their learnsets, focus on a specific set that will be the only ones allowed in competitions / are the face of the region, and that's that. Dexit also brought constant arguments and bickering between the fanbase that we could have done without.

Ultimately, though, Dexit has proven to be something that isn't as bad as the end-all-be-all people were screaming it to be: the focus on this select group of Pokémon helps, as this generation is the best generation in terms of preparation for competitive with the access to many desirable moves in TRs/TMs, the new Egg move mechanics (pass Egg moves without even breeding), and the new vitamins mechanics (no EV cap).

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

Repu

Repu

One of the first things I look for in a plot is its main goal. The main goal is what moves a story forward and keeps you interested in it. That's the problem when I think about Pokémon plots, because if I ask myself "What's the main goal of Kanto's and Galar's plot?" my first answer wouldn't be "Complete the Pokédex, defeat Blue, and beat Team Rocket" nor "Complete the Gym Challenge, fulfill a Galar ancient legend by beating Eternatus, and defeat the unbeatable Champion." Doing those things can be really fun, yes, but I surely wouldn't call them the main goal.

I'll try to use both plots to explain what I'm going for. In Kanto, you leave your home to become the best Pokémon Trainer out there. Blue is your neighbor and rival and constantly wants to show you he IS a better Trainer than you in every single way, conflicting with one of your objectives. You're tasked to catch all 151 Pokémon from the region, and while you're catching them and defeating Gym Leaders, you meet Team Rocket, which is an organization that constantly gets in your way.

In Galar, you and Hop are two Trainers getting a starter from the unbeatable Champion Leon, who endorses both to participate in the Gym Challenge later in the story. Before leaving your hometown to start your journey, you meet one of the two legendary Pokémon in the Slumbering Weald. After this event, you also meet Professor Magnolia and her granddaughter Sonia at Wedgehurst Town, with the former giving you a Dynamax Band and the latter a Pokédex. The Gym Challenge is an annual competition that happens in Galar, and in order to fight the Champion, you have to take part in it, so most of the story is about you trying to finish it to attain a chance to battle against Leon. While doing it, you get to know more about Galar's characters, especially Bede, Oleana, and Chairman Rose, who are collecting Wishing Stars in order to awaken Eternatus to solve Galar's energy supply problem, with the former not knowing about it.

The reason why I mentioned both stories like this is because their plots are very different, but if I were to point out their main goal, it would be the same for both: living the adventure itself. That's why this question is complicated, because since the main goal is the same for both, what changes is where the adventure takes place in and what kind of plot you're living at the moment. I do have to mention between Kanto and Galar, Galar's plot surely has a more convoluted story than Kanto in terms of structure, but Pokémon games in general really don't follow regular storytelling; even after becoming Champion, there will always be a bit more of adventure for you to live, which is the most interesting aspect of Pokémon plots to me.

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

Repu

Repu

Brief spoiler: this time I'll give a more concrete answer. Pokémon FireRed was the game from the first generation I played the most, and there aren't many characters that left a huge impact on me; not even Blue. They were remarkable, yes, and I can't deny its roster is one you can't forget easily. For example, Professor Oak arguably is the most memorable Pokémon Professor of all, and you can't make enough jokes about Youngster Joey and his fellow Rattata. But despite that, none left a huge mark on me in an interesting way.

As for the Galar roster, I admit I was a bit unsure about what I should expect of them, but the development of some characters was quite intriguing to see. The group of rivals Hop, Bede, and Marnie all developed themselves throughout the story, and seeing their growth was actually quite pleasant. But from its roster, I do have to highlight Sonia and Leon.

One of the most interesting and engaging parts of Sword and Shield's main story to me was seeing lots of Sonia's insights and explanations about Galar's history. It really grabbed my attention knowing more about the Darkest Day, and she even went through good character development: from a person who was unsure about what to do with her life to a person who would become a Pokémon Professor. It wasn't a spectacular development, but I wasn't expecting much character development from her to begin with, so I would guess the best thing about her character was the unexpected way she developed in the plot, making me want to quote "sometimes you meet very interesting people from the most unexpected situations."

About Leon, when I saw the first news about him on the official website, I wasn't hyped about him, but once you meet the guy, one of the first things you discover is that he is full of charisma. I would say Game Freak really handled his character with care and made him someone very likeable. Also, you do see him in a different way when a friend of yours tells you that his name is a tribute to Lionel Messi, which just makes him even more awesome. The only aspect I would probably compare between Kanto's and Galar's characters is their design. I really like the designs from the first generation more, but this is only a minor factor.

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

Repu

Repu

I have to admit, at least to me, this question is quite problematic, but not in a bad way. What I mean is, for example, an answer like "Gen 'X' Pokémon are more interesting than Gen 'Y' Pokémon because its roster has 'A', 'B' and 'C' Pokémon" isn't appealing to me. If it were like this, I could just answer "Kanto has the most interesting Pokémon because Sandshrew is in it." That isn't interesting.

Quoting Pablo Picasso, "a work of art must make a man react... It must agitate him and shake him up." You could say, according to that, "interesting" doesn't necessarily mean something "good" or "bad", but something that catches your attention and makes you react to it. Taking this into consideration, I believe thinking about how worldwide events and culture throughout the years have affected Pokémon designs and concepts is much more interesting, and Galar does have some good examples of it. Galarian Corsola shows how coral bleaching, a very serious ecological problem, has affected its design and ideas in comparison to its Johto counterpart. Inteleon clearly references British spies like James Bond, and you could even associate it with the popular anime-culture character Yusuke Urameshi because of the finger-gun thing. And why couldn't we assume that Cufant and Copperajah designs and color palettes are based on the Elephant Parade, very well-known artistic exhibitions?

Kanto isn't left behind in this area either. For example, Mewtwo brings to us a still-relevant debate about "how far can humanity go by using genetic knowledge to its own benefit?", and Magikarp portrays the old Chinese tale of a carp becoming a dragon by climbing a waterfall. Though, despite this, I do have to mention Kanto's logic of creating Pokémon is quite different from the other regions. Kanto is more about "what Pokémon are we going to create next?" instead of "what kind of Pokémon haven't we done yet?", since Red and Blue were the first games. The 151 original designs do look more like "pocket monsters" than a lot of later Pokémon from other generations, since there were no Pokémon to begin with.

Analyzing Pokémon by their context is much more appealing to me than making a list about which Pokémon from which region I like most. This kind of analysis is something you can do with any region and puts all of them in equal footing when talking about their creative logic. With that said, it's clear that I'm unable to give a direct answer about which Pokémon from both regions are the best, because there isn't a "best" to me in this aspect. All Pokémon from all regions can be very intriguing if you give or spot the context behind them.

Are there too many concepts?

Repu

Repu

I wouldn't say Pokémon and mechanics ever become too many. Speaking of the mechanics, they had to become too many. In order to grab and get more of the public's attention, Game Freak had to make Pokémon battles look more and more spectacular, going even further and beyond with new concepts like Mega Evolutions or growing in size with Z-Moves and Dynamaxing. This really reminds me of Guy Debord's concept of "Society of Spectacle," in which means of entertainment, especially media ones like TV or movies, takes a huge part in our lives and creates a sense of happiness and escape of reality for us. I'm mentioning this because, in order to achieve this goal, Pokémon had to grow more in scale and innovation.

Take Mega Evolutions as an example. Battles have reached extreme highs, with a lot of Pokémon gaining absurd stats, abilities, and even typings in special cases. Z-Moves are an even greater example. Using the anime to give a better idea of what I'm talking about, you would never, for example, see a clash of moves as big and as intense as Tapu Koko vs Pikachu from the last SM anime episodes in older anime seasons. The size of battles has grown off the charts. Now with Dynamax and Gigantamax, you could say that it's the epitome of all this, since it doesn't hide itself at all: Pokémon literally got giant. Battles don't take place in cramped Gyms anymore; now they take place on huge stadiums, where Trainers can Dynamax their Pokémon more freely and spectators can get a better view of the "spectacle". This will sound obvious, but it needs to be mentioned: technology has evolved a lot since RBY, and because of that, it's much easier to make everything previously mentioned possible.

About the number of Pokémon, they didn't necessarily "have" to become too many; they were going to become too many at some point. We can say Dexit indeed was a consequence of this, and we just didn't know when it was going to happen. Unlike items, moves, and a lot of mechanics you can get rid of, Pokémon don't simply disappear from the franchise. We just get more, more, and more Pokémon with each generation. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is undeniable there are, and there will be too many as long as we get new generations of games.

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

Ivy

Ivy

The storyline of a Pokémon game is probably the most important part for the average player—someone who plays the game to completion of the main storyline and maybe the postgame offerings and calls it quits, as would be done with a run-of-the-mill RPG. What does Kanto have to offer in this regard? It's quite standard, to begin with: the player is bestowed a Pokédex in a forced vow to complete it as much as possible—Oak even sends aides to follow through on this—and the rival bids the player adieu with a Smell Ya Later and a promise to usurp them in strength. The evil Team Rocket makes their presence known, and their malevolence is revealed with the hostile mistreatment of Marowak's ghost and the takeover of Silph that enabled that, followed shortly by overtaking Saffron as a whole. Interestingly, this in part enabled the uniquely non-linear Gym progression that can be taken around the mid-game, a nicety seen only in GSC and DPP otherwise.

Oh, the player can do some gambling, too. I really wish that hadn't been quietly phased out of the games over time. Hell, in Gen 1, gambling is explicitly associated with the Rocket hideout—it's not an activity for good boys & girls—and boy do you feel like a proper P.I. discovering that yourself the first time! Anyways, Rocket remains one of the most worryingly realistic of the enemy teams in Pokémon games, and while this storyline is considered rather "vanilla" by today's standards, it still holds merit in my opinion.

With Kanto being almost a template for the series to follow, Galar surely built off it masterfully, right? In some ways, sure. Indeed, the desire to become the Very Best is emphasized with how the protagonist and their rival Hop immediately seize a newly limited opportunity to take on the Gym Challenge, an upgraded and more spectacle-sport-y version of the original League requirements. It is, admittedly, spectacular to witness these battles featuring Dynamax Pokémon and see the culmination of it all in the Champion Cup reminiscent of the anime playoffs.

Unfortunately, the Pokédex completion aspect is minimized even further than in Gen 1, treated as a completely optional feature of the game. Furthermore, Team Yell, the designated rabble-rousers for the generation, hardly impact the story whatsoever, which does make sense considering they're solely Marnie's orbiters. The true antagonists, Rose's Macro Cosmos, are revealed just before the actual Champion battle and immediately dip into non-existence upon defeat (apart from their ever-lasting corporate tendrils in the Poké Jobs and all other aspects of society). The Eternatus plot point is an interesting facet that sort of ties the generations together, raising questions as to what Team Rocket would have done with Mewtwo had they gotten their hands on it—something similar to what happened in Detective Pikachu, I'd like to imagine.

With all this said and done, I'll actually hand the reins to Kanto on this one, as it has a more natural-feeling game structure. Galar tries to simultaneously stick to and revamp the flow of the original games, but the only difference is moving its "villainous interruption moment" to the very end, which feels like an attempt to meet an "evilness quota" at the last minute. Also, earlier challenges the player may have endeavored are instead obliterated by Leon. It introduces two "bad guy" teams, but neither end up making much of an impression on the player, while Team Rocket alone poses a persistent threat in Gen 1 and even throughout Johto. Neither set of games has much postgame content to speak of, though Galar does get an honorable mention in that regard.

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

Ivy

Ivy

Kanto has, well, let's see. There's Oak, DINGUS "What was his name again?" Blue, Bill, the Gym Leaders, and the Elite Four off the top of my head. Then the bad guys come into play, featuring Giovanni and an indistinguishable mass of Grunts. Archer from HGSS, actually, returns in LGPE alongside these Rockets, adding a slight speckle of diversity to the cast, and Jessie, James, and Meowth appear in both Yellow and LGPE, which is an actual treat. While some have interesting backstories, they are almost all static, seeing no real development apart from, finally, the delectable payoff in defeating STUPID Blue at the end of the Pokémon League, where Oak came just in time to see all of his grandson's self-confidence obliterated in one fell swoop.

Where Galar indisputably has Kanto beat, then, is in the characters. In Galar, not only are there far more characters of note, they are tangibly dynamic—this is evident in Hop's fading of hope until ultimately resigning himself to instead assist the Professor, Bede's acquiescence to the pink glamor of the Fairy Gym Leadership, Rose's predictable two-faced reveal, Oleana's loss of her marbles and then nonchalant toiling in the Galar Mine... the list goes on. The Gym Leaders don't end with Bede and Opal; all of them endeavor to change or effect change at some point in the game, especially during the Champion Cup postgame and the Zacian and Zamazenta quest. Speaking of that quest, Sordward and Shielbart are perfect in every way. True wild card antagonists are few and far between in Pokémon games, and this dastardly duo hits the nail on the head (presumably by using their own ravishing heads of hair). Even though they try to redeem themselves in the end in a manner most typical of Pokémon writing, it can be certain that they are still scheming behind that irrevocably smug demeanor. In all, these are all certain improvements over the one haranguing rival, one geezer professor by your side, and one menacing mob boss that Kanto has to offer, so I'm reaffirming Galar as the winner here.

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

Ivy

Ivy

Kanto was the defining generation to kick off the games and therefore featured a lot of classic, "generic" Kaiju style monsters; among these, there were also delightful originalities like Porygon, Starmie, and Ditto. Thanks to the lack of cover legendaries, there is instead a focus on the starter Pokémon for branding the games; this emphasis is seen in gameplay as well, particularly in Yellow and LGPE, where the starter is nigh inseparable from your character. Heck, in LGPE, the intro cutscene features the starter Pokémon emerging from the TV and into your very living room. Even more radically, one mission in the games allows you to control your starter Pokémon for a fetch quest. Because of all this, legendary Pokémon are de-emphasized. However, Mewtwo still has unsettlingly realistic lore across Gen 1 and sees further development in the rather "yandere" actions of Green in LGPE.

Galar, by virtue of being the eighth installment of the series, has an expectation to provide "creative" monsters to put off perceived stagnation. Fortunately, James Turner directed this masterfully. Largely, Gen 8 Pokémon are more "culturally relevant" and feel more specifically endemic to their region. Such examples include Stonjourner, made of the very same ruins seen in Turffield; Obstagoon, a wacky display of convergent evolution alongside Team Yell; and finally, Sinistea and Galarian Weezing, which are pure stereotype fodder. The starters once more receive a cute cutscene of their own, but apart from that, they're left to their own devices. The real magic of this region comes from the legendaries, as expected by the box art. Gen 8 ties with Gen 1 for the fewest total, but each one sees significant relevance to the story. From the very beginning in the Slumbering Weald to a "reclaimed" tapestry in Bob's Your Uncle to Sonia's additional contributions along the way, it is made very clear how important these Pokémon are.

Despite this praise, though, neither region does exceptionally much with its Pokémon in my opinion. Galar does claim the win due to not only having cover legendaries but also them being better integrated to the story; its standard Pokémon are similarly a tailor-made fit to the region. Furthermore, Galar would also have the upper hand with how Galarian and Gigantamax formes augment the identity of the base Pokémon, but LGPE also featured Alolan formes and Mega Evolutions, which accomplish the same goal—Alolan formes provide useful contrast towards how distinct their Kantonian counterparts are.

Are there too many concepts?

Ivy

Ivy

Well, it's easy to extrapolate that there would ultimately be a tipping point in Pokémon. You can't reasonably expect Generation 20 in 2033 to feature all 1890 Pokémon that had been designed up to that point in full 8K virtual reality on the New Nintendo Switch U Deluxe, as delightful as that would be. This is even more true when considering how the past three generations have all endeavored to create a game-defining gimmick; National Dex metas in their current all-encompassing state will trend towards the unplayable, and Game Freak certainly needs to either stick to a single radical mechanic or continue binning old ones to keep their own games manageable. In my opinion, LGPE was a fine example of picking just one defining mechanic from the past selection (Mega Evolutions) with which to augment the battle system.

However, among the unsustainability and Dex cuts, there is still hope. While it may be a pipe dream to expect Pokémon Home to have any sort of battle capability, it's undeniable a location like Home that contains all species of Pokémon in a lower-fidelity and cross-platform environment is exceptionally ripe to become Game Freak's own battle simulator to finally rival PS!. That Game Freak hasn't done this yet or simply attempted to assimilate PS! is rather astonishing. Furthering the capabilities for their central Pokémon deposit in this manner would allow Game Freak to continue innovating in wacky ways for the main games with boundless freedom.


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Closing Words

That is all, thanks for bearing with us. Let us know your favorite region in the comments!

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