As we build up to the 20th anniversary of Pokémon in February 2016 and look hotly ahead towards brand new things, we're continuing our journey through each generation of Pokémon, this month we cover the generation that's the most recent to be fully completed. If you need to catch up before reading ahead, be sure to check out our retrospectives on generation 1, generation 2, generation 3 and generation 4.
The build-up to launch
The build-up to this generation is somewhat different to previous ones. While the last ones all had years of hype and build-up, this one came quite suddenly. In January 2010 a note was posted on the official Japanese site saying that a new Pocket Monsters series game was coming. Nothing further was said until February when Junichi Masuda showed a special silhouette on the variety show, Pokémon Sunday, and soon after the Pokémon Zorua and Zoroark were revealed for that year's movie. After that nothing was heard of it until April when the first images of gameplay were shown: a trainer in a large 3D city, confirming as well that the games were coming to the Nintendo DS, not the then-recently announced Nintendo 3DS, marking the first time there were two generations on the same device (barring backwards compatibility in Generation 2). From there, monthly news started coming revealing a variety of Pokémon and features up until its launch in September 2010. This was the quickest public build-up to a generation that had existed.
The main series
The games came out on September 18th 2010 in Japan and March 2011 in the West, and with it came a brand new era of Pokémon.
Pokémon Black & White were different from their predecessors in a specific way. Game Freak wanted the feeling to be like when players first played Pokémon Red & Blue, so it completely locked out backwards compatibility until the post-game and made it so that you would only play with and encounter brand new Pokémon until you'd completed the game. This made the entire game feel fresh and acted like a soft reboot.
In the game you play as a new trainer starting out from Nuvema Town as they travel through the Unova region, once again beating gyms. However, these games took a shift from previous entries and became far more story heavy with the story about an orphan, N, and how he feels Pokémon are being enslaved. With Team Plasma behind him he tries to free Pokémon, but not everything is as it seems.
As Black & White were on the same device as the Generation IV games, there were not that many improvements overall to the engine. While the games were more ambitious with the 3D environments, mechanically the games didn't change all that much. More moves were added for the variety of new Pokémon, many of which had unusual types, and many Pokémon were given new "Hidden" abilities, but the battle system was not changed much. That said, it did introduce two new different types of battles: Triple Battles and Rotation Battles, where you had 3 Pokémon on the field at once, making more strategy than ever before.
Despite the minimal changes the battle system, Black & White did include a lot of groundbreaking features for the Pokémon franchise. It implemented the Pokémon Global Link, which is a website that tracks GTS and Battle data, as well as having a Dream World where you could play mini-games to get Pokémon with their Hidden Abilities. It also had the C-Gear feature which allowed you to visit other people's games, play missions with other people locally and have easy access to battling and trading without having to head all the way to a Pokémon Center. These features have now pretty much become standard for Pokémon.
After Black & White, some time passed and nothing had been heard of about the next games. While the fandom was insisting that Ruby & Sapphire remakes were coming, it was silent until 2011 when the next movie was confirmed to feature Kyurem. Then, based on past instances of the tertiary legendary Pokémon of the series starring in a game, the speculation began. In February 2012 it was confirmed that the next games were coming with alternate forms of Kyurem, but they were not the games people thought.
Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 were not enhanced versions like other games, but rather sequels to the story in Pokémon Black & White. Set 2 years after the events in Black & White, you play once again as new trainers going through the Unova region, who end up dealing with a reformed Team Plasma. In the end, you have to work with N and help stop Kyurem and fuse it with the dragon N had in the previous games.
This was a breath of fresh air to the expected third versions of the game, with a new story bringing in new possibilities. The game also increased the wild Pokémon in Unova, meaning you were no longer restricted to just the new Pokémon and could find more in each area. It also implemented a variety of new features including the Join Avenue, which brought in players you interacted with from around the world and allowed you to use them to set up shops for a variety of features. It also included the much beloved Pokémon World Tournament, where you could face up against every Gym Leader and Champion from all previous Pokémon games, as well as download new tournaments from the Internet. They were also unique in that they included unlockable Challenge and Easy Modes, which increased and decreased the levels of opponents respectively. Gym Leaders even had brand new teams in Challenge Mode.
That is it for the main series games in Generation V. With only four titles, it has the smallest amount since Generation II, but these were some of the more unique titles that Pokémon has had.
As this generation started off with a soft reboot, all the Pokémon encountered in Black & White were new, totalling a massive 156 brand new Pokémon in the game, the highest introduced thus far, bringing the total up to 649. Unlike the previous generation, absolutely no Pokémon had any relation to any previous generation. To top that off, many of the Pokémon introduced became usable Pokémon of many obscure types such as Bug-type.
The starter Pokémon in this generation are the grass snake, Snivy, the fire pig, Tepig, and the sea otter, Oshawott, once again continuing the trend of Grass, Fire and Water-type starters. Unlike the previous generation, however, the final evolutions of these Pokémon go back to basics with Serperior being pure Grass-type and Samurott being pure Water-type. Tepig's evolution, Emboar, continues the tradition the past two generations set of Fire/Fighting-type final evolved starters.
Like the previous games, there was a very large amount of Legendary Pokémon in the game, nine in fact. The first three are a trio. The Steel/Fighting-type Cobalion, Rock/Fighting-type Terrakion and the Grass/Fighting-type Virizion. These Pokémon were commonly associated with being based on the classic story, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Next is another trio, commonly referred to as the Kami trio, the pure Flying-type Tornadus, the Electric/Flying-type Thundurus and the Ground/Flying-type Pokémon, Landorus. In Black 2 & White 2, these three Pokémon were given unique Therian Formes that allowed them to become more animal like. If you saw any VGC battles in 2015, chances are you saw at least one of these in each team. Finally, the three Pokémon that adorned the covers of the games, the Dragon/Fire-type Reshiram, the Dragon/Electric-type Zekrom and the Dragon/Ice-type Kyurem. Reshiram and Zekrom are often considered to be referencing the Tao, with Reshiram said to represent truth and Zekrom ideals. Kyurem also has the ability to fuse with Reshiram or Zekrom in order to become the far more powerful Black Kyurem or White Kyurem. It is said that the three Pokémon were once one Pokémon that split into Reshiram & Zekrom, with Kyurem being the leftovers.
There are four Mythical Pokémon in this generation too. The first is Victini, which is actually situated at the start of the generation's Pokémon list with the #000 Unova Pokédex number. It's Psychic/Fire-type and is said to represent and bring victory. Next is Keldeo, the Water/Fighting-type Pokémon. Keldeo is related to Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion in a story that parallels d'Artagnan in that it was an orphan that is looked after by the three. It can change its form when it knows the move Secret Sword. Next up is Meloetta, the Normal/Psychic-type Pokémon that has the power to control people using the melodies it sings. Finally is Genesect, the Bug/Steel Pokémon. Genesect's backstory is different in that it is a Pokémon that lived in ancient times, but was restored and altered by Team Plasma. Its original state is not currently known.
For a full list of Pokémon, you can find them here: http://www.serebii.net/games/generation5.shtml
When September 2010 hit and Black & White came out, the anime shifted once again into a new generation. It changed its title to Pokémon Best Wishes in Japan, and like the games acted as a soft reboot for a while.
Ash and Pikachu set off on their own for the Unova region, but right after they land Pikachu was hit by the lightning strike of the legendary Pokémon, Zekrom, causing it to be severely weakened. Shortly after that, Ash met the mysterious Iris and her Pokémon Axew, his rival for the region, Trip, and soon afterwards the Striaton City Gym Leader, Cilan, who then joined him in the travels. Through the region, Ash went through battling the gyms once again to various levels of success, catching a variety of Pokémon including Pignite, Oshawott, Snivy, Unfezant, Boldore, Krookodile, Palpitoad and Leavanny. Team Rocket followed to Unova, being more serious at first following a special promotion by Giovanni.
In Japan, the anime went through a few transitions. To tie in with Pokémon Black 2 & White 2, the series became Pokémon Best Wishes Series 2, as Ash went to tackle the Unova League. During this, Dawn visited from Sinnoh for a while, and Meloetta joined Ash for a short time as Team Rocket went after Meloetta. This plot marked the first time Ash ever faced off against Giovanni, too. In the league, Ash lost in the quarter finals against a new trainer he met, Cameron, due to an unfortunately timed evolution of Cameron's Riolu.
Following the league, the show shifted again to Pokémon Best Wishes Series 2 Episode N. This subseries of the show featured Ash & co. still travelling through Unova where they met N and finally dealt with Team Plasma. Ash's Charizard returned during this series.
Finally, when Team Plasma were dealt with, the show shifted again to Pokémon Best Wishes Series 2 Decolore Adventures, which dealt with Ash, Iris and Cilan travelling through an island range on their way back from Unova into Kanto. This was a much muted series, dealing with just random happenings on the island, but did lead into the sixth generation with the introduction of the character, Alexa.
There were three sets of movies during the generation, each focusing on one of the Mythical Pokémon of the region.
The first movie was actually separated into two different ones: Pokémon the Movie Black: Victini & Reshiram and Pokémon the Movie White: Victini & Zekrom were a unique experiment where a similar story was told but with version exclusives, changing the starring and antagonistic Legendary Pokémon for the plot. In it, a man named Damon is intent on restoring a lost kingdom using one of the Legendary Pokémon and forcing Victini to help, leaving it up to Ash to solve it.
The second movie was a return to standard fare. This movie was called Kyurem and the Sword of Justice and featured Ash & Co. befriending the Mythical Pokémon, Keldeo, after learning of it and its associate Pokémon feuding with Kyurem. It's up to Ash to help Keldeo train and defeat Kyurem. This movie also featured a return of having a short attached to the movie. This short was called Meloetta's Moonlight Serenade and focused on the Mythical Pokémon, Meloetta.
The final movie is Genesect and the Legend Awakened. This movie featured a group of Genesect, led by a special Shiny Genesect start causing issues in a city that was built on what was their home thousands of years ago. Teaming up with a different Mewtwo to the one he remembers, it was left up to Ash and Mewtwo to solve it. This movie also introduced the concept of Mega Evolution, including Mega Mewtwo Y.
While Generation IV spin-off games largely stuck to what was tried and true, the fifth generation branched out with numerous brand new types of spin-offs, as well as a few familiar continuations.
The first spin-off in the fifth generation is a unique one, one which was only released in Japan and Europe. This game was called Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure. This game came bundled with a Bluetooth keyboard and had you capture Pokémon simply by typing them as you went through a stage. The faster you type, the more Pokémon you can get. It featured many boss Pokémon and has what many would argue is the greatest boss battle music of all time.
Pokémon Conquest was the last Nintendo DS spin-off title to be released. This game was a crossover between Pokémon and the Nobunaga's Ambition series by Koei Tecmo and was essentially a Strategy RPG. In it, you had to take over various kingdoms in Pokémon battles in an isometric battlefield. As you got more warriors on your side, you could do more including defend your kingdoms and continue on. The game had a large post-game where you could play as all of the various warlords.
The first Nintendo 3DS title is not technically a game but rather a utility that came out in June 2011, when the Nintendo eShop went live. This was Pokédex 3D and provided all sorts of information on the 153 known Pokémon in the Unova Pokédex. It also contained a special AR viewer that let you take photos with your Pokémon using AR markers. It later had a paid sequel, Pokédex 3D Pro, which contained all 649 Pokémon and data from Pokémon Black 2 & White 2.
Next is the first true Nintendo 3DS title for Pokémon, Pokémon Rumble Blast / Super Pokémon Rumble. This was a sequel to the hit WiiWare title Pokémon Rumble and had you play as a Toy Pokémon who travelled through the world to find out why the fountains were drying up, causing Pokémon to rust. Unlike its predecessor it contained all 646 available Pokémon that were known at the time.
Next came Pokémon Dream Radar. This downloadable software was made to work in tandem with Pokémon Black 2 & White 2. In it, you helped Professor Burnett study the InterDream Zone where various Pokémon are said to be found. Using the Augmented Reality features of the Nintendo 3DS, you'd capture these Pokémon in the very room you're in and they could then be sent to you Black 2 & White 2 game. This was only way to get the Therian Formes of Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus.
The final fifth generation Nintendo 3DS title was a continuation of the much beloved Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. This game only contained 144 of the Pokémon, but had you play as a human turned into a Pokémon once again as they tried to solve the mystery of the Magnagates, portals that open up to various areas. This game utilised the 3DS's camera to scan any round object to create a special dungeon for you to explore. Ultimately, it is considered one of the weakest Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles
Only one Nintendo Wii title was released in this generation. It is PokéPark 2: Wonders Beyond. This game was a sequel to the previous PokéPark game and had you play as Pikachu, Snivy, Tepig and Oshawott as they explored PokéPark and the nearby Wish Park in order to save the PokéPark. Unlike the predecessor, this game focused less on mini-games, but more on the Action/Adventure and exploration aspects introduced in the previous game.
Nintendo Wii U
Next is the first Nintendo Wii U title featuring Pokémon. This game is the third in the Pokémon Rumble series, Pokémon Rumble U. It featured you playing as Toy Pokémon again, this time as they work their way back to the Toy Shop after falling into a river. This game was scaled back in story and gameplay somewhat. Rather than exploring stages, you play in Battle Royale stages, achiving various accomplishments and beating boss Pokémon to move on. This game was also the first Nintendo Wii U title to utilise NFC technology. In tandem with the game's release, 21 special NFC figures were released. These could be scanned into the game and customised in level, strength and moves, with the data then saved onto the figure and able to be used at any time.
The Trading Card Game continued on through Generation 5 with a variety of new cards. These cards continued with some of the mechanics from Generation 4, but also most notably reintroduced a classic.
In the third generation, many Pokémon cards were released called Pokémon-ex. These cards were powerful Basic Pokémon and, if defeated, allowed for 2 Prize Cards to be taken. These were reintroduced in the fifth generation, this time in upper-case as Pokémon-EX, and is a mechanic that continues to this day.
The most notable change for the TCG in this generation though is the introduction of a brand new type. The first new type since the introduction of Metal and Darkness in 1999. This is the Dragon-type for all the Dragon-type Pokémon in the game. Unlike the other types, there's no Dragon-type energy, but rather the Dragon-type Pokémon use a combination of types in order to get their move.
As we approach October 2013 in our retrospective, the fifth generation of Pokémon comes to an end. This generation is one that many consider a stop-gap between the DS and 3DS generations, considering the length of the generation and the fact not much new was brought in, but when you look at the Internet features introduced, this generation definitely brought a lot into it.
While it only lasted 3 years in Japan and 2 and a half years in the West, it is definitely a generation that will be remembered.