The Great Regional FRIENDLY Debate: Sinnoh vs. Unova

By skylight, Cretacerus, DHR-107, Lumari, Recreant, and SailorCosmos. Art by Bummer and Cretacerus.
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Introduction

We've been through six generations of Pokémon, and we're now entering a seventh. We've made the monocolor journey through Kanto, we've fought with legendary beasts in Johto, surfed the many seas of Hoenn, become distorted in Sinnoh, almost froze to death in Unova, and walked the same road as a king in Kalos.

To celebrate the six regions, I've put together a bunch of panelists to discuss the most similar regions. Kanto and Johto, Hoenn and Kalos, and Sinnoh and Unova will all be compared in a friendly debate.

We're concluding our discussion with Sinnoh and Unova. Please welcome SailorCosmos, Recreant, Lumari, DHR-107, and Cretacerus.

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

Cretacerus

Cretacerus

For me as a player, a good plot in a Pokémon game isn't just limited to an engaging chain of events that keeps you interested in playing, but also acts as casual guidance and an introduction to the region and its selection of Pokémon. And as such, the Sinnoh region sets an excellent example of how a relatively generic storyline can make for a truly memorable experience by taking advantage of all the facets available in the game.

The premise behind the Sinnoh plot admittedly wasn't too special on its own, and basically retells the story of Hoenn albeit with heightened stakes. What made it so enjoyable for me, though, is just how well it managed to tie in the region as a whole, with its diverse locations, history, and legendary Pokémon. When traveling across the region, you would oftentimes return to already known areas just to explore them in previously inaccessible ways, which greatly enhanced my game-playing experience and made the map feel a lot more closely intertwined compared to regions such as Unova.

The Sinnoh region is widely known for its distinct geography with many prominent landmarks, such as the three lakes and most importantly the dominating Mt. Coronet in the center, and the plot elegantly integrates all of these elements into the storyline while simultaneously expanding on the region's rich lore including both of its legendary trios. In the final act, it would then bring everything together, and lead you on a race across the entire region and ultimately on top of Mt. Coronet itself, in order to stop the villain team from erasing the universe in a climactic showdown. The established significance and omnipresence of Mt. Coronet throughout the Sinnoh region arguably increased the impact of this final battle even further.

In comparison, the Unova region overall felt a lot less coherent to me from a game-playing perspective. While it did introduce us to a refreshingly grounded plotline after two generations full of world-threatening disasters, the region itself seemed to lack much of the deep connections and background which I came to enjoy in its predecessor. Partially, this might be due to the circular arrangement of the Unova map, which made the progress in the game feel very linear and even formulaic at times. The repetitive concept of collecting badges, unlocking obstacles, and proceeding to the next town might have been present in all of the Pokémon games, but the linearity of the Unova region caused it to be especially apparent in Gen V.

However, it appears that the plot itself is also much more independent from the region, and relies largely on a few main characters instead. The game places much more emphasis and time into developing their characters instead of moving the plot forward, which brought forth many interesting and complex personalities and a fascinating philosophical debate, but in the progress delegated the arc of finding and restoring the region’s legendaries somewhat to the sideline. There’s no doubt that this approach made for a highly enjoyable game as well, but ultimately it left the region itself slightly less distinct and memorable to me compared to Sinnoh.

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

Cretacerus

Cretacerus

While Sinnoh definitely had a fair share of interesting and memorable characters, it can be said that Unova actually set completely new standards for the series in this regard. Considering its rather philosophical theme centered on the concepts of truth and ideals, it's not surprising that Gen V focuses a lot more on dialogue than any of its predecessors, and dedicates more time towards establishing the various personalities, motivations, and relationships of its characters. Notably, the games are willing to depict the villain team from different perspectives and with rare complexity, grant supporting characters such as the gym leaders and champion more valuable screen time beyond their key duties, and allow the main characters to actually grow and mature over the course of their journey. Cyrus might have been a more charismatic yet ruthless villain than even Ghetsis, and Cynthia can be considered a more powerful and capable Champion than Alder, but ultimately they didn’t feel just as well-developed in the games as their Unovan counterparts whose personality and reception in the region has been much more thoroughly explored.

The one thing I enjoyed the most about the character portrayal in Unova, however, has to be the atmosphere and personality conveyed by the music. Between the outgoing and nature-loving spirit of Alder, the modern and technological world view of Colress, and the dark and chaotic turmoil within Ghetsis, the Gen V themes employed a wide range of unconventional instruments and rhythms which went beyond anything the series had seen before. The themes in Sinnoh were beautiful and elegant, but Unova was just so full of personality and diversity. Perhaps my favorite example of this is how every gym got its very own variation of the original gym theme in BW2, which really helped add a very distinguished feel to each of them.

That being said, the characters in Unova were by no means perfect, and it can be argued that their affinity to common concepts in anime could make them slightly cliché and unbelievable at times. While Team Galactic from Sinnoh at least tried to include various concepts of science into their schemes, and were shown doing some actual archeological and scientific research on the region’s history in order to further their purposes, Team Plasma will always be remembered for its superhuman ninjas, pirates, airships, and magical castles, however complex their convictions might have been.

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

Cretacerus

Cretacerus

When comparing the Pokémon from both generations in isolation, it is hard for me to give a definitive edge to either of them. Out of the two regions, Unova saw a noticeably wider range of new Pokémon introductions which were able to fill up the regional Pokédex all on their own, whereas Sinnoh additionally drew from the pool of preexisting Pokémon to fulfill certain in-game roles, granting it a greater flexibility with its new introductions. Nonetheless, this discrepancy in quantity surprisingly didn’t reflect too much in the overall quality of the Pokémon, at least in my eyes. Both of the regions had their own fair share of forgettable dex fillers, but also some really exceptional designs, inspired concepts, and competitive highlights which easily manage to stand out in the series until today, making it impossible for me to say which one did better in this regard without any bias.

However, the appeal of a Pokémon lies not only in their concept, design and competitive value, but also in their exposure in the games, an aspect we often tend to overlook as seasoned competitive battlers. And it is this aspect where Sinnoh, in my opinion, easily surpasses its successor. While both regions certainly have their ups and downs, Sinnoh just seems to have a higher quality of Pokémon in the area that matters most—namely in the early stage, where you get introduced to the region and start building up your team.

The Sinnoh starters, for example, managed to stand out with interesting new typings, or, in Infernape's case, sheer versatility and offensive prowess, which alongside their varied movepools and appealing designs made them a joy to play with, no matter which one of them you chose. Proceeding to the early-game routes, you would find a nice selection of three-staged evolutionary lines which would remain useful throughout the game, such as Starly, Shinx, and Budew, so even casual players could build up a solid in-game team relatively early. Even Bidoof managed to be somewhat interesting with its gimmicky abilities and astounding movepool conveniently including almost all of the HM moves. For those players striving a bit higher, the region's pseudo-legendary Garchomp line was available right after the second Gym, as long as you were willing to stray off the common path.

In comparison, the Unova starters suffered from a rather bland typing and somewhat limited movepool, which was especially painful for those people who chose Snivy as their first Pokémon (judging from my own experience). Upon reaching the first gym, it was not uncommon for casual players to hold a team consisting of their respective starter Pokémon, an elementary monkey, Pidove, and Patrat, all of which would usually require lots of level grinding to pull their weight in later stages of the game. But even that could be a real challenge at times, due to some rather annoying characteristics of wild Pokémon in Unova, such as Patrat's and Tranquill's tendency to continuously use Detect to drag out the battles, or the Roggenrola line's frustrating ability Sturdy, making life hard for players such as myself who like to be overprepared at any given point of the game. All of these factors made me much more likely to retire my original teammates at some point in the Gen V games, and thus, unfortunately, also effected my overall experience and connection with the Pokémon in Unova.

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

DHR-107

DHR-107

This is a tough one. I'll take Platinum here over Diamond and Pearl because Platinum is by far the more superior game. Sinnoh's plot had us defending the entire universe from destruction as Cyrus' crazy plan almost came to fruition. In Unova, Ghetsis attempts to separate people from Pokémon through his speeches and twisting N into a puppet of a character. Unova's plot starts off early with you being in amongst one of Ghetsis' speeches. It instantly asks some questions about the Pokémon world which are fairly pertinent. N also appears and talks to your Pokémon, again showing what this game might be about.

From there on, the plots get deeper than any other Pokémon game. Galactic investigate the Valley Windworks for power, as N tries to figure out if you are for the greater good of Pokémon or not. As you reach the pinnacle part of the games, both Ghetsis and Cyrus make impassioned speeches about the future of the region and the world as they work up their followers to do what needs to be done. Cyrus in particular has an incredible scene where you are listening in on him explaining the plan to the workers in Eterna... That is the point at which the player is left dumbfounded at the insanity of the plan at hand. Ghetsis gets this moment much later on as his plan to convince people to give up their Pokémon is merely a smokescreen for ransacking the entire Computer System so all Pokémon are under his control. There are even some Grunts who start to wonder about Ghetsis' words about Pokémon.

Sinnoh's story ramps up as you reach the top of Mt. Coronet and Cryus is about to call forth the gods of Time and Space. After defeating Cryus and calming Giratina with the aid of Cynthia, you can move on as Galactic is seemingly disbanded. The Unova story is a bit of a slow burner throughout the game but ramps up as you tackle the Elite Four and comes to a head as N defeats Alder. The Gym Leaders appear to battle the Seven Sages and stall as you work your way deeper into the mysterious castle. Cue a double showdown with the newly crowned champion and his maniacal father.

Unova's second storyline in Black 2 and White 2 is slightly different with the two split factions of Plasma going at each other, with a resurgent Ghetsis at its head. N is nowhere to be seen. Hugh (your new rival) appears to be solely interested in a Purrloin which was stolen during the events of Black and White, two years prior. Plasma have captured the legendary Kyurem and are using its power to freeze sections of Unova. The player eventually tracks them down and takes on Ghetsis once again.

As much as I love Platinum, I have to give this to Unova, as the conjoined storylines make for a very in-depth and genuinely well thought-out plot. I have to agree with the majority of people that Generation V comes out on top with almost all positive reception in terms of its story. Sinnoh however wins almost every time when it comes to learning about the history of its own nation with various characters filling in gaps about what happened during Sinnoh's past.

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

DHR-107

DHR-107

This one is a lot tighter. Both Teams come out with memorable characters with the likes of the damaged N, the enigmatic Ghetsis and the super-scientist Colress coming up against the Galactic Admins: Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. Cyrus leads this bunch of actually competent leaders in Sinnoh, with the Seven Sages being the understudies in Team Galactic. All of them turn out to be somewhat interesting, and tracking down the sages in BW2 is something of an interesting side plot after the main game is over.

Unova also introduced Gym Leaders who had proper character and jobs. While it was always hinted at before that other Gym Leaders did stuff in their spare time apart from lounge around at their Gyms, Unova showed us this was the case. Right from the second Gym Leader also being a Museum Curator to Drayden being the town mayor, the Gym Leaders exuded personality. Even the more minor gym leaders had interesting roles, with Elesa giving us a rousing speech to Bianca's father and Skyla showing her true colors as a Pilot. The fact that they ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING under the leadership of Clay to aid the player against the evil team is a massive positive. None of the other Pokémon games can out match that.

Sinnoh's gym leaders by comparison are deathly dull, with only really Fantina and Volkner having extra duties outside of their gyms. Sinnoh's interesting characters come in the form of Cynthia, Cyrus, Charon, and Looker. All four of them pop up at various points to help or to hinder the player. Cyrus I think takes the cake here, introducing you to Galactic and giving an impassioned speech to the members of Team Galactic. Cynthia helps bring more lore to the background of Sinnoh and does actually give the player a tough fight at the Pokémon League. Looker and Charon are more minor characters, but both have little tidbits of story attached to them. The fact Looker pops up in Unova and again in Kalos (and most recently in Hoenn) shows that he gets around a bit and has a lot more to him than meets the eye.

I'd give this one to Unova simply because it massively expands on the Gym Leaders and actually gives them roles in their towns apart from just "being a Gym Leader".

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

DHR-107

DHR-107

Unova. This one is super easy for me. Unova introduced a bunch of new Pokémon which were interesting with great designs and awesome amounts of personality. I can't think of a bad one amongst the bunch! While Sinnoh did bring in the likes of Garchomp, Lucario, and Staraptor to the table, it also brought some awful Pokémon too. Lumineon, Purugly, and Bibarel spring to mind here (no offense to anyone who likes those designs, I just find them utterly bland). Unova gets a lot of hate for "that Ice Cream Mon", Vanilluxe; or "that garbage mon", Garbodor. I'm not sure why. The latter is kinda related to the amorphous sludge blobs of Grimer and Muk.

Unova definitely went all-out on its designs, with every Pokémon fitting into where it's based. There are so many good Unova designs I could just name loads, but I won't. Unova's Pokémon stood out and are memorable because that's all you had to pick from. Sinnoh's decision to include older Pokémon into its games was a good one, but it ended up diluting the experience of the new Pokémon somewhat.

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

Recreant

Recreant

Let me just start out by saying how much I adore the Distortion World. Full of mysteries and twists and turns all around. Just the thought of the devil pulling you and Cyrus down into the murky depths of an unknown, unexplored world is enough to get me interested. The detail put into this world as you wander around is incredible. The intense music as you battle Giratina, the lower-toned colors, the awesome physics, it all just comes together to form the perfect late-game dungeon. Other than that, Sinnoh certainly had some cool moments, such as Barry's defeat at the hands of a Galactic admin, freeing the lake trio from Team Galactic's clutches, and, of course, the battle with Cynthia.

However, this is where Sinnoh falls flat for me. Unova just has so much more to offer. Sinnoh just feels like your "run-of-the-mill" Pokémon game. Hey look, there's the bad guy, stop him from destroying the world (or in this case, creating a new one)! Cyrus was just so clearly the bad guy. I like villains who don't appear as villains and try to act as if they were on your side. I could never get attached to the plot, and it didn't help how slowly the game moved as a whole. Unova had a cast of characters who actually added something to the plot. You get attached to them, and there's actual motive behind Team Plasma's take over. N's awakening of Zekrom or Reshiram atop Dragonspiral Tower literally sent me into awe. The incredibly difficult final battles against N and Ghetsis took me an eternity. Cheren and Bianca cheering you on as you go to confront the shapers of the world gave me hope. Sending the often-forgotten Seven Sages into hiding after destroying their base of operations was redeeming.

To enjoy a plot, I have to find moments that physically give me different emotions, and Sinnoh didn't do that. Don't get me wrong, Sinnoh had the potential to be the best plot in any Pokémon game, it really did, but it just struggled to make an impact on me with the way they executed it.

Unova for me.

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

Recreant

Recreant

This one's really no question for me. Cyrus and Team Galactic as a whole were just... boring to me. It's not that they weren't threatening and imposing villains... it's just that's all they were. Each of them—the admins and grunts—acted the same with the exception of Cyrus, who had a "leader" tone to him. Cyrus was at least... all right. His personality was just "bad guy", but at least he was kinda terrifying to be fighting against, just due to the thought of him obliterating the world in a single stroke. The only other character in the whole game that I could like and solidly remember was Barry. As a rival, I feel like he sets the perfect example on what games are looking for. Friendly, funny, always ready for action, but never afraid to stand by your side.

N's character was such an amazing improvement on Pokémon antagonists. He has actual ideals behind his actions, and he honestly made me question that whole Pokémon journey. His deep and complex story served to flesh him out, and I won't lie to you, when N's Farewell began playing, I cried. I felt genuinely bad for him and all the suffering he had gone through. To this day, there's no other Pokémon game that's made me cry, with the exception of Explorers of Sky's ending, and to this day, there's still no other Pokémon game that has had a character as deep as N. This isn't even looking at Colress, Ghetsis, or any of the gym leaders, and Unova is already better in my books. I love the pop star Elesa and her corny jokes, Cheren and Bianca were great rivals (and in Cheren's case, a fantastic first gym leader), and the bond that Drayden and Iris share makes me really happy. Speaking of Iris, she's probably my favorite Champion battle. I was so surprised to see her there, and it was nice to see her climb all the way up to the top. I'm so glad they didn't forget about Alder as well. Alder was kinda just...there, to be honest, but I'm glad he didn't just fade into nonexistence. Every character in Unova has a unique personality, something I'm not sure I can say about Sinnoh.

So yeah, Unova by a landslide here.

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

Recreant

Recreant

Everyone has the tendency of hating on Generation V's Pokémon, and sadly, I don't think I'm an exception. Unova had plenty of gems, of course, such as Archeops, Zoroark, Druddigon, Braviary, Hydreigon, and the three musketeers, but having a few cool designs here and there won't save the generation for me. Take out those cool designs and you're left with... Ferrothorn, Stunfisk, Vanilluxe, Conkeldurr, Klinklang, Garbodor...bleh. Unova had probably the most forgetful list of Pokémon, which is a shame. The legendaries almost bring it back for me, Zekrom is my favorite legendary after all, but I severely dislike the copy-paste genie forms (although the Therian forms are all beautiful). The lake trio kinda does the same thing, but they're able to get away with it for me because I adore their backstories.

Sinnoh had consistently awesome designs with only a few failures here and there. When I think of good non-legendary designs, my brain turns to Luxray, Honchkrow, Staraptor, Lumineon, and Garchomp. I've always been interested in various mythology, so I immediately became hooked on Arceus and the creation trio. The other legendaries are exceptional as well. Shaymin is absolutely adorable, Cresselia is gorgeous, and Heatran has such an awesome concept of design. Sadly, I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of the starters of this generation, with the exception of Torterra, who I like due to sentimental values, but just the sheer amount of amazing designs pulls Sinnoh above Unova for me.

Sinnoh here. Sorry Unova, you are my favorite generation, but your designs were pretty questionable.

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

SailorCosmos

SailorCosmos

Sinnoh had some cool legendaries, but I think the Unova plots were the best we've had yet with its interesting characters (N, Ghetsis, Bianca, Cheren, etc..). The plot of Sinnoh revolves around a lofty enemy who -record scratch- wants to end the universe! A step above Rocket's thieving and Magma/Aqua's terraforming. Bigger, however, is not always better—despite a massive threat, Team Galactic manages to be both forgettable and silly, with a cliché head administrator and 1950s sci-fi B-movie costumes. A plot is made by the character motivations, and the character motivations in Sinnoh tend to be incomprehensible.

Unova's rival, the mysterious N, sets in motion a plot that is a level above any other Pokémon story to date, with—get this—REAL moral dilemmas and well-intentioned antagonists! The story manages to make the legendary dragons a point of interest, with layers of backstory that affect the immediate storyline. With an enemy team that is a sum of its parts rather than a typecast system of multiple copies of the same person, Black & White raise questions that people have been asking themselves ever since Red and Green came more than a decade ago. What role do Pokémon have in our world? Are humans ready for the responsibility of caring for Pokémon? N is possibly the most sympathetic antagonist seen in a Pokémon game EVER. It's all topped off with a set of final battles that can best be described as epic, with a surprising twist and sad ending that might actually make you shed a tear or two.

Point to Unova!

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

SailorCosmos

SailorCosmos

The unsung characters that you always see but never truly consider: the Player! Between Dawn and Hil-Touko and Lucas and Touya, who wins the "best design" contest? Dawn's youthful design is suited to the anime, with an impractical yet cute skirt (seriously, Sinnoh's population is 90% snow and hostile winds), a beanie-like hat, sleeveless button-top, and pink scarf, which seems like a mockery of the rest of the design. On the male side, there's the oft-forgotten Lucas, whose attire is a lot more practical and is more or less a male version of Dawn's. Unova's PCs, notably older-looking, are driven by connections to the legendary dragons, with everything from their name to their clothing. Touko's bright smile, cute little bob ponytail, hip, modern shorts, and sleeveless jacket over white shirt contribute to one of my personal favorite designs and undoubtedly one of the fanbase's as well. Touya looks a lot more casual than Lucas, with baggy pants, hi-tops, messy hair, and a simple contrasting color palette making him a call back to Red and Ethan. Points to Unova.

As for the others, N remains a fan favorite for being a genuinely sympathetic antagonist and having an interesting backstory that is seen more than just heard. Sinnoh has the one-tone Barry (a step down from even Wally), a character whose most interesting traits are his similarities to Blue. Bianca and Cheren are both characterized with some unique traits, being near polar opposites to each other and also having interesting character arcs that end with satisfying conclusions. Who could forget Bianca's overprotective Dad, or Cheren's ascension to Gym Leader?

As for the Pokémon League, I'd concede that point to Sinnoh. A champion like Cynthia oozes cool, with her mentor-like appearances over the main story as well as her devil-may-care black outfit. Unova may have some cool gyms and gym leaders like Burgh or the Trio, but overall consensus for the league makes Sinnoh's Elite Four vastly better than Unova's. Point to Sinnoh.

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

SailorCosmos

SailorCosmos

I'm partial to Sinnoh simply because of the sheer number of legendary Pokémon introduced that gen. Arceus, the Creation Trio, Darkrai, Manaphy, Cresselia, the list goes on. In that league, Unova offers precious few legends of that caliber. However, it is interesting to note that Unova Pokémon were the only Pokémon available in B&W before you got the national dex, leading to a lot more people getting familiar with them compared to Sinnoh's Pokémon. Also of note are the new evolutions and pre-evolutions introduced in Sinnoh, like Mime Jr. As for "mascot" Pokémon, Lucario and Zoroark are both rather popular, but Lucario seems to be the more lasting one, getting a slot in Pokkén and a Mega Evolution.

Point goes to Sinnoh.

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

Lumari

Lumari

I guess it helps if we establish something here first: I don't really play Pokémon games for the plot in the same way as with, say, Professor Layton; I play Pokémon for the adventure. I don't expect the games to be plot heavy, because, let's be real, they kind of are not—I'd like to play a nicely set-up adventure, with the actual "plot" to be found primarily in some engaging pivotal arcs.

And as far as pivotal arcs go, Sinnoh (more specifically Platinum) completely nails it. The moment the explosion at Lake Valor is heard in Canalave Library marks the beginning of my favorite story arc from any video game, and it won't end until we're all the way at the bottom of the Distortion World. The reason why I like this arc so much is... the urgency, if that makes sense. Throughout our adventure in that sleepy, autumnesque region, it becomes increasingly clear that the world is about to change drastically, and not for the better. The buildup is slow but steady, until the plot bursts open with a literal bang.

It's the textbook example of a rat race. You're dashing towards the lake where the explosion came from, and naturally you're too late. Next order of business: make sure your friends are alright. Some of them are. But that other one had gone allll the way to the north. So you chase him alllll the way to the north, straight through a freaking blizzard, casually beat the Gym because that's what you need to do before you can access the lake where he is now, and find him. He lost, but he is safe. And then, when your main goal in your friends' safety has been achieved, it's time to defeat the villains. You corner their lunatic boss, who you absolutely have to stop, in their hideout. You beat him, but he gets away, going to the most epic location in the entire region. You corner him again. He flees again, into a freaking alternate dimension, where chase him all the way to the bottom, cornering him again—and now that he finally finally finally cannot get away anymore, the battle for the safety of the region ensues. And it's actually a tough one, haha.

Similarly, one thing that warrants highlighting about Unova is their integration of the final faceoff with the villainous team within the Pokémon League. Which really wasn't too surprising when viewing the series as a whole honestly. In Kanto and Johto, Team Rocket was more like a bunch of sidequests, though admittedly in Johto they at least had the Champion team up with you—only in Hoenn they got a more prominent plot role by targeting the legendary Pokémon. However, in Sinnoh a complete Gym Leader pretty much got buried in the "adrenaline rush", and the fact that the same thing happened with the Pokémon League Champion in Unova really is a logical culmination to that pattern. And I honestly really liked it, if only for the deviation from the standard formula. Though I found Unova's plot in general to be just a tad bland compared to the other main series games, N's takeover of the Pokémon League is a biiig saving grace. And in more than just a diamond-in-the-rough sort of way. Not all the ways they tried to revisit Kanto were to my tastes, but the leader of the villainous team beating the Pokémon League Champion definitely was not the throwback to Gary I was expecting.

Adventure-wise, one thing worth highlighting is the map, if that makes sense. Take Unova. Unova is just... so... linear. The region is almost set up like a race track that we have to walk towards the Pokémon League. No side turns possible. Not a hint of freedom in deciding your own path either. Like, it's not even subtle. Every town has some dude blocking the path to the next route who just miraculously disappears when you've cleared whatever quest you have to clear in said town. On a tangent, this is actually a reason why I very much do think HMs serve a purpose—when you've got a tree blocking your way, you need the Cut HM to get past it, and in order to be able to use it, you need the Gym Badge. See? Easy. Everything serves a clear, immediate, logical purpose—unlike the dude blocking your way out of Castelia City for whatever reason deciding to go home the instant you defeat Burgh. Another very neat example of more natural progression is from, indeed, Platinum—during the adrenaline rush when you're chasing your friend through a freaking blizzard just to make sure he's alright, when you finally arrive at Lake Acuity, you see him stand there, ready to challenge Jupiter... right atop a cliffside you need Rock Climb for. So what do you do? You dash right into the Gym to get that badge that allows you to use Rock Climb. Easy. And everything just follows so naturally from everything. So much more effective than in Diamond and Pearl, where we've got some random grunts blocking the way.

Now take Sinnoh. "Random dudes blocking paths" exist here as well to an extent, true—but just how many times do we have to pass through Veilstone and Hearthome in order to beat this game? The region is set up beautifully with tons of backtracking, revisiting places, junctions, and all things not linear, and just the bare fact of having to figure out where you have to go, and even the semblance of somewhat being able to determine our own path, adds so much to Sinnoh. It doesn't go quite as far as in Kanto and Johto, where actual sequence breaking is possible (pretty sure it isn't in Sinnoh), but we're on an actual adventure, not on a guided tour like in Unova.

One final point: Sinnoh plot is apocalyptic, Unova's plot is philosophical. Sinnoh exudes history from top to bottom, and there's really no better way to make the region go along with a plot like that. Sinnoh's plot is complemented by the region, whereas Unova's plot is complemented by the characters.

Conclusion: Sinnoh. Love Sinnoh.

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

Lumari

Lumari

Unova did some things suboptimally. This is not one of them. I don't think there's a single game where the Gym Leaders are given this much personality—from the friendly yet eccentric Burgh to the rowdy sweetheart Clay to Skyla and the distant Brycen, they all are intriguing characters in their own right. And they all exist outside of the doors of their gyms too, haha, which is actually really rare in the rest of the games. On the subject of breaking with traditions, having two rivals in Cheren and Bianca was kind of unprecedented as well. It was not entirely unique, since Hoenn had Brendan and Wally, but Cheren and Bianca provide two different, contrasting perspectives on what it's like to be on the journey they're on, with Cheren providing the determined (blindsighted?) outlook and Bianca the naive one. A depth of perspective that would've been unattainable with a singular rival.

Naturally, Unova's standout character is N, and he really is one of the most intriguing characters of the entire series. Right from the get-go, it's obvious that this villain is not evil, just... weird haha. The further we progress into the story, the more sympathy we're getting for him—he really does mean well, he just doesn't really know what he's doing. He cannot be the real villain, and indeed, he's "just" a brainwashed puppet, as we're showing more accurately than words can do in N's castle. And the actual evil genius, Ghetsis? Right from the beginning, it's clear that this is the dude we truly should be aiming to bring down. And we're right. Classic concept, masterfully executed.

Nothing is perfect, though. Alder just... isn't the right person to be making the point he's trying to make, if that makes sense. He's been called weak. And that's accurate. His message is a good one, and one that's possibly even better coming from an old and relatively weak trainer. But at the end of the day, he is the Pokémon League Champion, and he is supposed to be the strongest Trainer in the region, and he just clearly is not. There's just some friction here that puts a damper on what on their own are a bunch of good ideas. And as excellent as N and Ghetsis are, the whole premise of Team Plasma is just... kind of dumb lol. It fits into the story remarkably well, but in isolation, it's kind of silly, and then I'd actually prefer the bog standard power hunger of other teams.

Other teams... such as Team Galactic. Team Galactic's premise (at least of the members that actually know what they're working towards!) is just good, old, plain, simple, and unimaginative world domination. Exemplified by their leader, Cyrus. He wants more than the world, he wants a new world. Emotions are suboptimal, so let's get rid of them. He's mad, plain and simple. And he will do absolutely anything to get what he wants. Including chasing the embodiment of antimatter all the way to the bottom of an alternate realm, with the express goal of destroying said realm. You're trying to beat a man with so much determination complete incapable of feeling remorse, or anything at all? Good luck. You'll need it. Cyrus is not a profound or well-rounded character, but he's a phenomenal foe. And to me, that deserves just as much praise.

Cynthia, in a way, fits into that pattern. She's quite possibly the strongest of all Champions, also accompanying the player all the way to the final battle and being someone they can be happy to have around in the depth of the Distortion World, not to mention collected and—can I just say badass? However, in addition to this, she's perfectly capable of proclaiming the standard protagonist wisdom as well. She's both a strong and wise character, and a Champion to look up to. Maybe she is what Alder used to be, who knows.

Something that I sort of missed in Unova is cute side characters, of the category Copycat from Kanto and Johto, of which Sinnoh did have a couple ones. Take Cynthia's grandma, and take nice little easter eggs in Flint and Volkner's friendship, as well as the dude in charge of the hardest battle challenge in the game being... your rival's dad. Not that Palmer needed to be Barry's father in order to be cool, though.

Conclusion: Two winners really, but gotta give this one to Unova.

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

Lumari

Lumari

I... have very mixed feelings towards Unova's Pokémon. On the one hand, the region's got several original designs and concepts that I really like—think Chandelure, Sigilyph, Scrafty, Galvantula, the Swords of Justice; but on the other hand we have an ice cream cone, we have one, two, and three gears (this was cute with the Magnemite line, but it's one of those things that just aren't funny anymore when you keep doing them), elemental monkeys (another concept that gets worn out and just really doesn't fit here), and a literal garbage Pokémon. I can keep going, but it's really the same group of Pokémon that people keep holding against Unova's roster. It's almost as if they tried to do too much and stretched themselves, really. On a similar note it's kind of funny just how many unique or semi-unique typing combinations Unova threw down at once—all at the same time, we got out first pure Flying-type, we got two more Electric / Flying types in addition to the mere one we used to have, Bug got some quirky secondary typings in Electric and Ice, you name them. And it's too much at once, basically. If everyone is special, no one is. Compare this to Sinnoh, where the innovation worked on a much more subtle level—there was still the standard early-game bird, but suddenly it got a Fighting-type attack.

And there's also the fact that Conkeldurr is a lot like Machamp. Gigalith is a lot like Golem. Beartic is a lot like Ursaring. Garbodor is a lot like Muk and Weezing. Munna is a lot like Drowzee. Tympole is a lot like Poliwag. You catch my drift. However, there's a notable insight here in that this ties back into the whole "throwback to the past" thing Unova tried to accomplish. Some people can appreciate it, but... when the designs don't really stand out to me in their own right, the "homage to the old days" just doesn't end up working out properly for me.

Compare that to Sinnoh, which has... remarkably little to point out about the main roster, really. The main roster has been called bland, and I can definitely understand where people are coming from. The games themselves covered this nicely, though, by using older Pokémon as well in the regional dex, whereas Unova had nothing to fall back on. And while Unova had some designs that I found notoriously bad, for all its blandness, Sinnoh really had none. On the other hand, there weren't that many standout designs in the main roster either (aside from like Weavile and Lucario and a couple more). That is, until we get beyond the main roster, where we find a ton of new evolutions. Controversial as that move was, and admittedly extraneous as some of them are (Electivire, Magmortar, Dusknoir), so many of those designs are just so gorgeous :> It has two of my favorites in Gliscor and Gallade, there are more excellent ones in the likes of Froslass and Tangrowth, and (with the notable exception of Magmortar and Lickilicky) pretty much all of them are good. I like most of Sinnoh's legendaries too, but at the time, I (alongside many other people I'm pretty sure) thought they went too far here and ended up shooting themselves in the foot. Kanto's and Johto's legendaries were really nothing too influential in the greater world, but Hoenn's showed that they had the power to control the elements—and Sinnoh took this a lot further by literally introducing the creationist God of Pokémon. It was the end of the line, really, and there was no way a next generation could have continued on that way. And, fortunately, Unova didn't, but it ended up taking a step back and rescaling everything to local myths. Which worked.

Conclusion: It's much closer than the Klinklangs and Vanilluxes of this world would have me think, but I'd still go with Sinnoh here.


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Conclusion

That's all, folks! See you in Alola!

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