As we build up to the 20th anniversary of Pokémon later this month, and look hotly ahead towards brand new things, we're concluding our journey through each generation of Pokémon; this month we cover the most recent generation, the one we are still in! Be sure to also check out our retrospectives on generation 1, generation 2, generation 3, generation 4 and generation 5.
The build-up to launch
It all started with a Nintendo Direct. The late Satoru Iwata brought us on a journey through the Pokémon series to date and then ended it with a spectacular trailer featuring 3D games and a few new Pokémon. From there, each month brought new Pokémon and features from the games to the fold. With the movie of 2013, Mewtwo was showcased rather unusually and a new form for it. This led into the August 2013 reveal of the brand new concept, Mega Evolutions.
It was a 9 month period from reveal to release, but with the release came the first co-ordinated worldwide launch of a mainline Pokémon game.
The main series
The games came out on October 12th 2013 and brought the latest era for the franchise.
Pokémon X & Y felt like entirely fresh games despite the fact that they were Pokémon titles. Being the first full 3D main series Pokémon games, it brought a lot of interest back into the series and, using that, Game Freak included hints and references to the originals down to the first Pokémon encountered being a Pidgey, and Santalune Forest being based on the layout of Viridian Forest. In this game, you once again start as a trainer who just moved to the Kalos region and sets out on a journey, taking on gyms until you encounter Team Flare who are trying to use a weapon to restore the beauty of the Kalos region from before humans.
The games really changed a lot from the predecessors. The 3D battle system is the most vibrant so far, with it somehow making battles far more interesting to watch. While there are some technical issues when too many high polygonal Pokémon are on the screen, the battles are beautiful to observe.
Pokémon X & Y also introduced the PSS, which is one of the greatest online systems to grace a Nintendo console. At any time you can see other players online, both friends and strangers, and you can interact with them simply by touching them on the touch screen. It also included the Pokémon Amie feature, where you can pet your Pokémon and bond with them to get various bonuses.
The other noticeable inclusion in Pokémon X & Y is the brand new Fairy-type. This type was created to counter the dominance of Dragon-type Pokémon, being completely immune to their moves. Many Pokémon have had their type changed to Fairy-type such as Marill, Clefable and Togepi, while new Pokémon were also created of the type.
There were lots of other features brought in to these games such as the Friend Safari and Super Training which make catching and training even easier. We could go on for hours listing what X & Y brought to the table.
After Pokémon X & Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were revealed out of the blue in May of 2014. After fans had long been requesting a remake of Ruby & Sapphire to the point of every reference being called a hint, Game Freak decided to accept it and create them.
As remakes of Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, these games didn't deviate too far from the story, instead enhancing it in a variety of areas while improving the graphics up to the Generation VI standards. In doing so, they managed to keep the aesthetic from the Hoenn region while going 3D.
Despite being a remake of Ruby & Sapphire, that didn't stop these games introducing a variety of new things. It brought in the post-game Delta Episode which focuses on a story about Rayquaza, as well as the ability to fly over the Hoenn region on the back of a Mega Latios/Latias. It also brought new helpful functions such as the DexNav which let you hunt for Pokémon in each area more easily, and even new Mega Evolutions.
Are we done with main games, though? That's the question on everyone's lips. With the reveal of Zygarde Cell, Zygarde Core, Zygarde 10% Forme and Zygarde Complete Forme, as well as the interesting mechanic behind the mysterious Ash-Greninja, there's definitely a storm brewing...
When it comes to new Pokémon, this generation gets the most ire out of any. It only has 72 new Pokémon, the lowest amount of any generation yet, but there's a reason for that we'll get into shortly.
To start us off, the starter Pokémon once again continue the Grass, Fire & Water trio. You have Chespin, the cute chestnut rodent, Fennekin the fire fox and Froakie, a ninja frog. When they evolve to their final forms, they actually end up with another type trio, one that has long been requested. Chespin's final evolved form is the Grass/Fighting-type Chesnaut, Fennekin's is the Fire/Psychic type Delphox and Froakie evolves into the Water/Dark Greninja.
The Pokédex was then filled out with a variety of cool new Pokémon based on unique concepts with various new type combinations such as the Steel/Ghost Honedge, the Dark/Psychic Malamar and the T-Rex Pokémon, Tyrantrum. It also contained one evolution from a past generation, an eighth evolution to Eevee, Sylveon.
In a change to how the past few generations worked, the sixth generation only introduced three brand new Legendary Pokémon. First is the Fairy-type Pokémon, Xerneas. In legend, it is said to be able to share eternal life. Next is the Dark/Flying-type, Yveltal. It is said to be able to absorb the life force of living creatures. Finally is the Dragon/Ground-type, Zygarde. Zygarde monitors the ecosystem using various Zygarde Cells across the world. If the ecosystem falls apart, then it appears and reveals its secret power. We have multiple new forms of Zygarde, but they have yet to appear in a game outside of Pokémon Picross.
There are also three Mythical Pokémon in the game. There's the Rock/Fairy-type Pokémon, Diancie, which is said to have been a sudden transformation of the Pokémon Carbink. There's the Psychic/Ghost-type Hoopa, a mischievous Pokémon with an alternate form, the Psychic/Dark-type Hoopa Unbound, that increases its size and strength to ridiculous proportions and finally the recently announced Fire/Water-type Pokémon, Volcanion.
So, why are there so few new Pokémon in this generation? That's an easy one to answer. In this generation, the concept of Mega Evolutions was created. These are in-battle transformations that essentially turn Pokémon into stronger versions of themselves. In Game Freak and The Pokémon Company's eyes, these are new Pokémon. There are currently 48 different Mega Evolutions, each activated in battle to take Pokémon to a whole new level. You can only have one activated in a team at any one time and there are so many amazing designs and concepts seen with Mega Charizard X, Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Slowbro and so forth. There's also two Primal Reversions, essentially automatic Mega Evolutions in battle. Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre are amongst the most powerful Pokémon of all time.
For a full list of Pokémon, you can find them here: http://www.serebii.net/games/generation6.shtml
As we rolled up to the October 2013 launch of Pokémon X & Y, in the anime Ash met a character called Alexa, a reporter from the Kalos region who has various Kalos Pokémon including Helioptile, Gogoat and Noivern. After travelling with her back to Kanto, he decided to go with her to the Kalos region. When October 2013 hit and X & Y came out, the anime yet again into a new generation. It changed its title to Pokémon XY in Japan, and began a whole new saga.
As the anime began, Ash soon encountered the Gym Leader Clemont and his sister Bonnie when the Lumiose Gym's machinery malfunctioned. After meeting Professor Sycamore and saving his Garchomp from Team Rocket, he soon went on his journey. Shortly after that, he met a new Pokémon trainer called Serena, but unbeknownst to him at the time, he met Serena years before as a young child when he helped her after she was injured by a wild Poliwag. The four of them soon began their travels through the Kalos region.
This series was unique in that it also had a small subseries of specials, Mega Evolution, starring the character Alain as he travels Kalos and Hoenn to defeat all of the Mega Evolutions that exist. This story then started to converge with the main part of the anime as Alain is in fact working with Lysandre, the head of Team Flare.
Then, in September of last year, the anime made another change, becoming Pokémon XY&Z. This started an arc involving Team Flare as they try to capture Zygarde. This started with Bonnie finding a Zygarde Core which managed to escape from Team Flare. This saga also introduced the mysterious Ash-Greninja form of Greninja. It's all still a mystery. The show is still running, so whether Ash wins the league or not is still unknown.
There have been two movies so far for this generation, and a third is to come. The first movie is called Diancie & The Cocoon of Destruction and features Ash & Co. encountering Diancie and a group of Carbink. Diancie is on a journey to be able to create a diamond and it's up to Ash & Co. to help, but when some bad guys intervene, things go awry.
The next movie is the most recent one, Hoopa & The Clash of Ages. This movie features Ash encountering the mischievous Hoopa, a Pokémon who long ago caused chaos but had its true power sealed away. When its power gets released, chaos ensues featuring the largest cast of Legendary Pokémon to ever star in a movie.
Finally, we have this year's movie, tentatively titled Pokémon XY & Z the Movie 2016. We know very little about this movie except that it features a Volcanion who dislikes humans and, in the story, Ash inexplicably gets stuck to the Volcanion. More is expected about this movie over the coming months
Following Generation V's lead, Generation VI so far has brought a great combination of classic spin-off series as well as some of the most unique spin-off concepts so far.
Pokémon Battle Trozei, or Pokémon Link Battle, was the first Pokémon spin-off game of the sixth generation. This game continued from the Nintendo DS title, Pokémon Link! and is a simple Match 3 game where you have to capture all 718 available Pokémon. This is done by creating matches with you being able to bring several Pokémon in to aid you. This is all time based rather than turn-based so quick reflexes are key.
The next spin-off title was Pokémon Art Academy - This game was a crossover between the Nintendo series Art Academy and Pokémon. It had you join the art academy under the tutelage of Andy, the brother of Art Academy's tutor Vince. With this, you learned various techniques for drawing Pokémon and could save them as faux Pokémon card artwork. There was even a competition where people could submit their artwork on Miiverse and it be turned into a Pokémon TCG card.
The next spin-off title is a Japan-only one. This game, The Band of Thieves & 1000 Pokémon, was a free download title released in conjunction with the movie, Diancie & The Cocoon of Destruction. In it, you had to create teams of Pokémon in order to face off against other hordes in a story that follows the movie. To get the Pokémon you needed to StreetPass with other players; you could only get the other Starter Pokémon through this method. If you completed a special event stage obtained at the movie you could get a Master Ball to send to the main games.
Pokémon Shuffle was the first bit of free-to-play software for Pokémon on the Nintendo 3DS. This game was a sequel to Pokémon Battle Trozei but had you go through the various stages with puzzles that have set turns. It has weekly updates and monthly new stage updates even to this day. It also had a mobile release, Pokémon Shuffle Mobile.
Next came another free to play title. Pokémon Rumble World is the fourth in the Pokémon Rumble Series and has you control Toy Pokémon through various stages to help defend the King's honour. All 719 Pokémon and all Mega Evolutions are available in this game and there's an upper spending limit so it's not there to drain all your money. It also just had a retail release in Japan and Europe with the micro-transactions removed.
The next title is a full retail title and it's the latest in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon. This is a return to form for the Mystery Dungeon games after Gates to Infinity and features all 720 Pokémon across over 120 dungeons with an impressive story to match.
After that was the final, to this day, free-to-play title. Pokémon Picross is a recovery of the previously cancelled Pokémon Picross for the GameBoy Color. In it, you solve various puzzles of Pokémon as well as being able to use the Pokémon you've completed to provide special skills to make stages easier. It also had an upper spend limit so you could essentially just purchase the game outright from within.
Finally is the game Detective Pikachu ~Birth of a New Duo~ which was just released in Japan as download software. This game is a cinematic adventure game that has you play as Tim Goodman and his partner, a talking Pikachu who helps solve crimes. It's one of the more unique spin-off titles that has come to the series in quite a while.
The only Wii U title of this generation is the game Pokkén Tournament. This game was developed for arcades originally but now for Wii U and is essentially a Pokémon Fighting game. Developed by the developers of both Tekken and Soul Calibur, it has a great pedigree and is one of the more popular arcade games in Japan. The Wii U version is out globally on March 18th.
The Trading Card Game continued on through Generation 6 with a variety of new cards. These cards continued with some of the mechanics from Generation 5 such as Pokémon-EX, but expanded on them somewhat thanks to the inclusion of Mega Evolutions.
In addition to that, the Trading Cards recently introduced the brand new concept, Pokémon BREAK. Pokémon BREAK are similar to the Pokémon Lv. X cards of Generation IV in that they are played on top of a standard card of that species, and can use moves from both the BREAK card as well as the base card.
It also, thanks to the introduction of the type in the main games, introduced the special Fairy-type Pokémon.
Conclusion & Look to the Future
So we have come to the end of our retrospective series, and are just a couple of weeks away from Pokémon's 20th anniversary. This generation has certainly been a unique one in the way things were presented, with unusual reveals, new mechanics and a variety of spin-off titles.
However, all we can do right now is look to the future. What is the meaning behind the new Zygarde Forms? Will they be in a main game? How well will Pokémon Go, the big mobile title by Nintendo, The Pokémon Company and Niantic, turn out? What more surprises will hit us through this year? Only time will tell. Train On.