For this year’s twenty-five days of Christmas special, I’ll be focusing on the Pokémon series, albeit in a different manner than in years past. Instead of making one giant list of my favorite Pokémon or what have you, I’ve opted to make five separate ‘top five’ lists, each highlighting a different aspect of the series. Each will be posted roughly a week apart from one another, between now and December 24th. Today marks the second list, which details my five very favorite titles in the Pokémon series.
#5) Platinum – Generation IV is heralded as many as one of the weaker offerings of the main series of Pokémon games, due to its lack of new Pokémon, few of which are generally considered worthwhile team members, while others are obtainable only through a convoluted process. Still, I certainly found Team Galactic’s intent to tamper with time and space to serve their own needs entertaining, trumped only by Cyrus’ detached and selfish vision for the world. Platinum offers a completed package, with a bit of extra content not included in the original release of Diamond and Pearl, and between its Distortion World puzzle segment and expansive gyms, is still a fun Pokémon title, even if its reliance on event-distributed items and battery-sapping online components means it does not live up to the quality of some of its brethren.
#4) X and Y – The sixth generation games offered up plenty of new and different features that made the connection between player and Pokémon more immersive. These titles also fell victim to considerably easier playthroughs, thanks to the new experience share system that distributed exp. to all team members, even when wild Pokémon were caught. Even if large portions of routes were bypassed here and there, it was not uncommon to find the endgame Elite Four and Champion battles to be a cakewalk. Mega Evolutions proved a tad underwhelming, save for their use in the competitive scene, though the new Pokémon native to the Kalos region offered wonderful typings and movesets, by and large. X and Y did a great deal to advance the Pokémon formula players had become so familiar with, while being perhaps lighter on post-game content than what series veterans were accustomed to.
#3) Black 2 and White 2 – Two years after Ghetsis’ defeat, Team Plasma is back at it in the Unova region, and the influx of Pokémon from other regions during wild encounters makes for a vastly different play experience, despite running on the same setup as its Black and White predecessors. While it would have been easy for Black 2 and White 2 to simply ride on the coattails of the previous monochromatic titles, the team behind these two sequels decided to up the ante, offering brand new areas to explore, even greater ease of access to newcomers and veterans alike with regards to acquiring TMs and training Pokémon for specialized roles, and did away with the need for HMs in the main storyline almost entirely. There’s a lot to do and see in B2 and W2, from NPC trades, to post-game quests, to the test-your-might tournament that allowed trainers to challenge gym leaders and champions from all five major regions of the Pokémon world.
#2) Heart Gold and Soul Silver – The games that properly reintroduced me to Pokémon, these remakes of the generation II titles carry all the sense of fun and adventure in the Johto region over to a significantly easier-to-navigate menu and faster-paced battles. What Red and Blue laid out in ground work, Gold and Silver nigh on perfected for their heyday, and HG and SS do a masterful job of paying tribute to the Gameboy classics, making routes more distinctly identifiable, updating the soundtrack and splashing plenty of color on the screen, and implementing the generation IV online and wireless trade and battle components in a manner even more so seamless than Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum did beforehand. Few regions will ever stand up to the intelligent layout of Johto, or the solid offering of Pokémon encountered therein, and there’s no more enjoyable way to embark on this journey again than through these DS remakes.
#1) Black and White – One of the few Pokémon games to actually present a decently compelling set of ideals for its villainous team to rally behind, the ‘free-Pokémon-from-their-masters’ cries of Team Plasma put you, the player, in a role that will be continuously questioned over the course of this bold new set of Pokémon titles. Generation V effectively barred players from using any non-Unova Pokémon until the postgame content, forcing creative team building strategies not unlike the days of Red and Blue on the Gameboy, but with overall better-balanced Pokémon to choose from, and highly creative and practical typing and moveset combinations to boot. What I found in Black and White was the most engrossing plot of the series, coupled with the most intelligent, creative, and strategic gameplay of any of the generations, bar none. Black 2 and White 2 did exceptionally well at building off of Black and White’s duality of getting back to the basics while simultaneously breaking into bold new territory, but at the end of the day, Black and White did it first, and did it best.