Everything New is Old Again: 1st Gen vs. 5th Gen

By Deck Knight and Chou Toshio. Art by TheMutant.
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First Generation (RB) | Fifth Generation (BW)

 VS 4


Do you ever get that sense of Déjà vu? As if you’ve already done something before? As if your current experience is the same as a previous one? That is in many ways what the fifth generation of Pokemon does to people who experienced the first.

Everything from the Pokemon selections down to abilities released in the Dream World seem to bring the first generation and the fifth generation closer than any two previous generations. They tried to redo the world in the third generation with Hoenn, but Hoenn was, if anything, completely alien to Kanto. Unova on the other hand seems to be an altered version of Kanto in many respects.

With the exception of an unhealthy amount of level creep, perhaps paying homage to Red and Blue’s sparsely populated and widely spaced level-up movepools, all of the evolution methods of Pokemon native to Unova are the same as they are in Kanto, save a few: Shelgor and Karrablast must be traded with each other specifically to evolve into their higher forms, and the Dusk, Shiny, and Sun Stones released in the later generations each have a corresponding evolution or two. Otherwise Unova’s evolutions are all Level-up, Trade, or with the original five evolution stones. None of this “Trade while holding Swimming Goggles” stuff.


Muscle over Mind

Recall the first time you entered the fighting dojo in Saffron City and wondered—why is this place even here? They’re just a bunch of whipped dogs. Sabrina totally made them her bitches. The “leader” doesn’t even have his own name and sprite! How ironic to look back now, and think that Fighting may have very well taken Psychic’s place as the premier typing of the game. Like Psychic was in first gen, in fifth gen Fighting might have demonstrated itself as the greatest mono-type, and as the most useful secondary type.

What made Psychic so dominant in the first gen? The defining features were (1) a lack of relevant weaknesses and (2) an almost completely uncontested STAB type. With Dark/Steel not on the scene yet and Bug and Ghost attacks being weak, poorly distributed, and completely ineffectual, Psychics had no enemies to fear defensively. Offensively, the only Pokemon that resisted Psychic attacks were . . . other Psychic Pokemon, which further perverted the telepathic circle jerk that was the RBY metagame. Essentially, there were no negatives and only serious positives to being a Psychic type.

Ironically, this has come full circle, and many of the things I just said about first gen Psychic can be applied to fifth gen Fighting. Looking at weaknesses, Fighting has only two—the poorly distributed Flying-type, and the now very mediocre (read: crappy) Psychic-type. Both of these attack types were almost non-existent in fourth gen, and while somewhat more common, still rarely used in fifth gen, which trivializes Fighting's weaknesses.

As a STAB type too, Fighting is very good. While on one hand, Ghosts’ immunity and Flying’s resistance are very notable and deprive Fighting a rank on par with Dragon or Water in terms of neutral coverage, Fighting’s synergy with other types is peerless. Ice, Dark, Ghost, Rock, Dragon, Flying—no other type can claim to make so many “near-flawless” 2 Type combos. In fact, Fighting can combine with every type in the game except for Ground with some relative competency. This means Fighting-type attacks are in high demand, and Fighting-type Pokemon are never at a loss for good secondary attacks, and capable of near-perfect coverage without fail in their movesets.

Weaknesses that are largely irrelevant, a STAB type that guarantees awesome coverage with just 2 moves, and convenient resistances to the threats of Stealth Rock, U-Turn, and Pursuit—what is the disadvantage of being a Fighting-type? Long story short, there really isn’t any. While it certainly is not as dominant as first gen Psychic, fifth gen Fighting can certainly claim: “It can only be better as a Fighting-type.” Game Freak has certainly noticed this too, and accordingly gave us a horde of new Fighting-types, including a trio (quintet?) of legendaries that abuse “Fighting as the ultimate secondary type.” Their level of dominance has, once again ironically, reached the point where they have pulled Psychic Pokemon and even Psychic attacks back into popularity! Perhaps things come full circle once more?


One of the first generation's introductions (among many) was that certain Pokemon evolve only when trading. They selected 3 Stage Fighting-, Ghost-, Psychic-, and Rock-types as their examples. The Fifth generation brings us an encore by having their own Fighting and Rock Trade Evolutions.


Golem vs. Gigalith:

It's big, it's slow, it inhabits every third step in a cave, and if you don't KO it, it will explode on you. Mercifully for you, Boldore (the middle of the bunch) can't actually explode until Level 55, so as long as you don't find yourself at the very center of a Giant Hole, you'll be set. Unlike its counterpart Graveler, Boldore is only going to toss rocks your way. This can be good or bad, considering Sturdy prevents them from being KOed in one hit, meaning something on your team must take damage in an engagement.

Golem and friends have never been as kind to adventurers, and to add insult to injury they almost always had two STAB moves to nail you with in addition to the big bang. Competitively speaking the two are similar, however while Golem doesn't have as much punch, it does have STAB on Earthquake and an immunity to switch in on.


Machamp vs. Conkeldurr:

One is so mighty its punches cause confusion, while the other can throw a punch that floors you quicker than you can move. Don't be fooled by Conkeldurr's stature; it may just be a cruiserweight at 192 lbs, but it's also only 4'7". Machamp on the other hand is a heavyweight at 287 lbs, which it fits on a 5'3" frame. In either case these muscular titans vie for the title of greatest bulky fighter, and for now Conkeldurr has the upper hand.

Machamp has been a force in the ring throughout all the previous generations, although its first shot at the big time was in GSC. Once Psychics got lowered from their peak and Fighters got their chops, Machamp's strengths became clear. Conkeldurr marks the first real contender to Machamp's throne. And those so-called legends? Fuhgettabout it. None of them has the courage to challenge either in a direct confrontation.


This Section Tapired Off:

For some inexplicable reason Game Freak decided they had not explored the concept of a dream eating tapir enough.

Drowzee suffered from several problems in the original design. It was far too strong and not slow enough to deliver the true essence of the tapir. Enter Munna, a Pokemon alluded to in RB by a girl outside that infuriating Rock Tunnel. To be sure, Hypno more closely resembles humanity than its pre-evolved counterpart (well, the non-pudgy, non-balding kind), but nonetheless is based off the idea.

Sadly for Hypno, Musharna is superior in almost every way. It may be slower, but it checks all the boxes for a support movepool and has considerable bulk. This more than makes up for its utter lack of Fighting attacks, although a good Ankle Sweep from Hypno will cut an incoming Tyranitar down to size, Choice Scarf or no.



With due apologies to Hitmonchan since it appears to have a full head of hair aesthetically, Game Freak has brought us another all-male dynamic duo that has difficulty distinguishing itself.

Before there was a Tyrogue there were Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan. Fighting was at its lowest point and so aside from Hitmonlee being the only Pokemon in the first generation with something resembling a good Fighting-type attack, this duo went unnoticed. Were it not for Fighting-types getting their abysmal Special Attack for a Special stat in RBY, Hitmonchan might have actually been useful. Alas its mightiest physical attack was Mega Punch, which it did not even receive STAB on.

Throh and Sawk now join the fray, and much like when their predecessors were introduced, they have difficulty contending with their type contemporaries even within their own generation. Conkeldurr can't phaze but is comparably bulky to Throh considering Drain Punch, and Sawk is simply too slow to take advantage of its powerful Fighting-type attacks. More ironic than perhaps intended, like Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee in the first generation they wish they could have a move swap. Throh would make a fantastic user of Counter, whereas Sturdy would allow Sawk to almost always get in an Overhead Throw and continue its offensive pressure. Alas as they do not share a wonderkin, so they are stuck with neither Egg moves nor luck.

Three Uncanny Trios:

Articuno  Zapdos  Moltres

Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres. (Ice/Flying, Electric/Flying, Fire/Flying)


Tornadus, Thundurus, Landorus. (Flying, Electric/Flying, Ground/Flying)


Kyurem, Zekrom, Reshiram. (Ice/Dragon, Electric/Dragon, Fire/Dragon)

RB may not have the insane legend creep that has come to infect later generations, but it sure is uncanny how both the Legendary Genie Trio and the Legendary Dragon Trio both swiped their typing in part from the original Legendary Bird Trio. That isn't really the coincidence though. Ever notice how Articuno, Tornadus, and Kyurem are kind of terrible compared to their counterparts? They have easily the worst typing, poorest movepools, and usually their stat distribution doesn't pan out as well either. Tornadus sort of gets a pass by being the exact clone of Thundurus. Too bad Electric/Flying is superior to pure Flying in every possible way that could ever matter in a battle.

There are so many ways that the heels of the trios fail. Articuno may have the single worst typing in the game given its stats, with a 4x weakness to Stealth Rock, absolutely zero useful resistances, lackluster offensive stats, and a competitive movepool consisting entirely of Ice Beam and random support moves. Tornadus isn't quite the abject failure Articuno is as a concept, but its singular advantage over Voltolos is a better special Flying STAB in Gale. Too bad in order to have perfect accuracy, Gale requires Rain Dance, and Thundurus has the much better STAB Thunder to abuse that with. And Nasty Plot to boost its Special Attack. At least Tornadus isn't weak to Earthquake in Gravity though! In truth, Gale is a great move that hits Grass-types that normally wall rain teams for absurd amounts of damage, and Tornadus certainly earns its keep there. Kyurem is one of those Pokemon where a single solitary stat swap would take it from mediocre to insane. I submit to you that Kyurem would be the best Dragon-type Pokemon in existence if it exchanged its base 125 HP for its base 95 Speed. That Speed would allow it to nuke every other Dragon before they moved with its incredible dual base 130 Attack and Special Attack stats. Alas, Kyurem is doomed to the land of Pokemon with excellent, even devastating offenses and mediocre Speed: UU. Well, maybe not yet, Kyurem still hits amazingly hard and for whatever redundancy Dragon and Ice have, both are excellent attacking types. Maybe it will get lucky and there will be an Icicle Drop tutor in the 3rd 5th generation installment. Unfortunately as far as Uber Pokemon go, Kyurem is the turkey of the trio. Perhaps the funniest thing is that Articuno was like Kyurem in RB. It had its full 125 Special then and as RB movepools were almost all shallow, Articuno could easily spam its 90% accurate STAB Blizzard as it pleased.

Electric is a fascinating type, and the middle of the trios were always great at making it shine. It has only a single weakness and is an excellent offensive typing, save Ground's immunity to it. Zapdos, Thundurus, and Zekrom are all excellent representatives, each abusing its offensive prowess in different ways. Zapdos was the original Electric-type sweeper, with its Ground immunity through the Flying-type making it a contender even with the much faster, slightly weaker Jolteon in the earliest generations. Later it became one of the greatest Pressure stallers ever created, and still retained its high offensive threat level. Thundurus is, if anything, Zapdos's replacement for offensive sets. It doesn't have Zapdos's durability and its coverage moves are a little bit less reliable, but nonetheless it brings the terror the original Zapdos inspired in RB to BW. Zekrom is perhaps the most perfect physical Electric-type ever made. Probably because it has no real competition, but even that aside its devastating Lightning Strike attack smacks most Electric-weak Ubers in their lower Defense, obliterating them handily. Combined with Outrage it can hit the rest of the Ubers quite easily. It's mediocre base 90 Speed is somewhat of a letdown, and for some odd reason it gets Stone Edge but not Earthquake, but nonetheless it provides a unique and devastating addition to offensive teams.

The third wheels of the trios often go under-appreciated, but each of them has always had something unique to offer. Unlike Articuno, Moltres never had any structural problems to speak of. The 4x Stealth Rock weakness is still bad, but STAB Fire Blast off base 125 Special Attack makes almost anything think twice about switching in, and immunity to burn and Toxic Spikes means the only way to wear Moltres down is by hitting it with Toxic itself. This made Moltres an excellent Pressure staller in the 4th generation, although unfortunately it went down in UU since Zapdos claimed that title fairly quickly in OU. Being in Ho-Oh's shadow wasn't a great help either. Landorus is quickly distinguishing itself as a top tier threat with its amazing boosted Earthquakes and Stone Edges. Like Moltres it knows how to pack a punch with its base 125 offensive stat, but Landorus is more exclusively a bruiser. Reshiram has the perfect combination of typing and ability to hit any Pokemon for neutral damage. With its insane Blue Fire attack that is nearly as powerful as Overheat without the drawback and a STAB Draco Meteor off its immense base 150 Special Attack, and an ability that functions like Mold Breaker, switching into Reshiram is a 50/50 shot at either being crippled or obliterated. Like Zekrom it is hampered by mediocre Speed, although unlike most special attackers, with sunlight support from Groudon and Choice Specs, Reshiram can smash straight through even Blissey with its Fire attacks. The Dragon/Fire special attacking combination is nothing new, but Reshiram elevates it to near perfection.

Even though RB had so few legends, it's clearly the baseline for much of the 5th generation. Sharing both types and other attributes with the new legend creeping generations, it's easy to see the 5th Gen still has deep roots in the 1st.

Venusaur  Charizard  Blastoise


Start-ling Similarities:

Game Freak's formula on starters is usually pretty straightforward. Most of the starter Pokemon can ravage in-game (except the Grass starters, usually), and are competent but not really overpowering competitively. Swampert and Infernape got the best marks in their respective generations, though Blaziken and Empoleon weren't slouches when they were first released either.

What's truly notable is how well the Dream World abilities of the starters match up. Venusaur and Serperior both have Dream World abilities that turn them into impressive threats if utilized properly. Venusaur's middling Speed doubles in sun under Chlorophyll, and with Growth now boasting +2/+2 in the sun, Venusaur can use its considerable movepool to great effect. Serperior goes from an odd sort of fast, defensive Pokemon to a devastating threat by abusing Perversity Leaf Storm. 140 BP STAB Nasty Plot? Yes please.

Charizard and Emboar both have situational abilities that boost their significant offensive prowess. Charizard gets Solar Power to act like a free Choice Specs during the Sun. Where coincidentally its Fire STAB also gets boosted already. Come on in Grass-types, Charizard dares you. Emboar gets Reckless, which boosts the power of its recoil moves by 20%. Considering it gets STAB Flare Blitz, Head Smash, and Wild Charge to go along with its base 123 Attack, Emboar hits like a truck. I'm hoping a miracle occurs and in the third installment Submission becomes a tutor and gets powered up to 90/100 or 120/100. Then the good times will roll.

Blastoise and Samurott both received defensive abilities. Rain Dish gives Blastoise additional healing in the Rain which enhances its already considerable bulk. It still competes with Tentacruel which received the same ability, although Liquid Ooze is in higher demand now with Conkeldurr Drain Punch everywhere. Samurott received the considerably less useful ability Shell Armor. 95/85/70 Defenses really don't have to fear much from critical hits, though. Regular attacks do enough.

Raticate    Pidgeot    Tauros  

Everything is Normal Here:

Some Pokemon are included as early-game filler. Most of them are Normal-types.

Raticate and Watchog are separated at birth. One is a Swords Dancing rodent that can get an additional Attack boost for a drawback and the other one is Raticate. In fairness, Watchog also stole a lot of moves from Spinda so it has some utility. Back in the day Raticate used to be fairly fast, but now it shares the same failed Speed tier with Haxorus and Luvdisc. Guts and Hustle are at least manageable though. How Watchog intends to use Analyze with its pitiful defenses and midling Speed is anyone's guess. Analyze isn't even as strong a boost as Guts or Hustle!

Next we come to Pidgeot and Unfezant. Now initially you might think with its higher Attack and slightly better Speed (and generally better distributed stats overall) that Unfezant might be useful. You would be sadly mistaken. In fact, most of the other Normal/Flying birds (sorry Togekiss) would kill for Pidgeot's movepool. What's most unpleasant about Unfezant is a complete lack of useful physical Flying-type attacks. Like most Pokemon with Big Pecks, it can't learn Peck or Drill Peck. It also doesn't learn Brave Bird. So if you want to take your chances with 25% crit rate Super Luck Sky Attack, go right ahead. Pidgeot and Unfezant were both solid choices for in-game, but competitively they always left much to be desired. Stop laughing Staraptor!

Bouffalant will only ever dominate Tauros in the style department. Tauros was a menace in RB - it is a known fact that no team could ever beat a team of 6 Tauros, save perhaps a team of 6 Mewtwo (If they avoided Body Slam paralyzation). Over successive generations, though, Tauros has suffered greatly from Speed and power creep. 110 Speed just isn't as quick as it used to be, and Dragon replaced Normal as the "neutral type that nukes everything through sheer force." Bouffalant sadly has poor Speed at base 55, and while its defenses are somewhat better than Tauros, Tauros has Intimidate to shore up its physical defense. Bouffalant does have one major selling point though: Swords Dance. Switch into a Grass attack with Sap Sipper and use Swords Dance, and whatever comes in next will be in for a world of hurt. AFRO BREAK!


The 1st and 5th generations have a lot of uncanny similarities no matter how you slice it. Granted that all Pokemon generations share at least something in common, but with the addition of the newest 155 Pokemon, it can't be helped but notice how close this generation is to the formula that produced the first 151. This article is by no means exhaustive, but merely points out how the more things change, the more they stay the same. No matter how many times it is repeated, the formula is a success and always keeps you coming back for more.

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