It’s a well known fact the days of Ruby and Sapphire were a dark time for the franchise. Sales slumped as the franchise’s hay day died out, many fans left the franchise for one reason or another, and to this day, it still remains the most controversial era to this day on message boards. Seriously, start a topic on a message board about it and watch the blood pour. The topic’s been covered on Bulbanews before. We don’t need another apology for Hoenn, but with the early emerging parallels with Black and White to Ruby and Sapphire, a look should be taken to see if Game Freak won’t make the same fandom alienating mistakes that were made then.
First, why is Generation III so controversial? Several reasons abound. Some point to the different art style of the monsters, which were more complex compared to the simpler designs of previous generations (you can even note the return to more simplistic designs when Generation IV came about), as well as bitterness towards lack of connectivity with previous generations. I remember, at twelve years old, being furious I couldn’t transfer my mighty Missingno-empowered monsters I’d had with me since Blue. To add insult to injury, many older Pokémon were unable to be obtained in Ruby and Sapphire. It felt like they had been erased from the franchise, even if we would later be able to catch them all when Colosseum, Fire Red, and Lead Green came around. Lastly, several features we had come to love in Gold and Silver (such as the day and night cycle and sprite animations) had been removed. In some superficial ways, Generation III could have been viewed as a step back.
Now, let’s look at the parallels with Generation V. Isshu has been stated to be far, far away from the previous regions in the series, just like Hoenn had no land connection to Johto and Kanto. This goes along with Game Freak’s stated goal of creating a brand new experience for old and new fans alike. Black and White also are taking an even bolder step forward by having an regional PokéDex filled entirely with new Pokémon, especially compared to Hoenn having a good amount of Pokémon from older generations accompanying the new monsters. Generation III also brought us Double Battles, set to be topped with Triple Battles.Game Freak seems to have learned its lessons though. Like I said, the major sticking point of Generation III hate was lack of connection with the previous games. Like Pal Park in Generation IV, Black and White will have a method of transfer from the current generation, the recently revealed PokéShifter. The day and night cycle has not only been kept, but upped in ante with rotating seasons. So that leaves one area where fans could be driven away: the new Pokémon. The new Pokémon in Black and White may ultimately be what makes or breaks the game in the eyes of the fans. As I’ve said in my first article, each new revealed Pokémon generates its own sea of praise and/or hate. Game Freak seems to be offering more complicated designs again, and while some welcome it, there will of course be detractors. In the end, I think this will be what will define Generation V in the eyes of the fandom.
Pokémon Black and White versions seem to be taking the best cues from its predecessors Ruby and Sapphire. At the same time, the developers seem to have learned what caused such a schism in the first place. Generation V is set to carve its own niche in the franchise’s history, and hopefully, it will do so without a firestorm of controversy following it.
Looking Forward can also be read on BulbaNews.