In 1996, if anyone had predicted that Nintendo’s kid friendly monster raising RPG would become the global phenomenon that spans generations, they would have done so without much foresight. Yet here we are, 22 main series games, 719 unique monsters, and 20 years of memories and moments later. The 7th generation of Pokemon is upon us as Nintendo and Game Freak showed us the next phase in the ever-evolving (pun semi-intended) Pokemon adventure with their latest additions to the main series, Sun and Moon. The newest entries look to build off the success of both series of X/Y and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire with more beautifully 3D rendered monsters and environments for fans to enjoy. The new Alola region (based off of Hawaii) looks to offer a plethora of new environments for trainers to traverse and search for new monsters to add to their team. But that begs the question: How many new Pokemon will there be? And what does that mean for the series going forward?
To start, we first look at Pokemon’s latest batch of unique monsters (courtesy of X and Y). The 6th generation was full of brilliant Pokemon, both from a design standpoint and in terms of functionality. As usual, some better than others (looking at you Klefki) but fans have learned to take the good with bad each gen has to offer; but when you break it down, just how many new monsters did the Pokemon Company bring to the table? X and Y are chock full of legacy Pokemon, offering 454 Pokemon off the bat, a more impressive menu of available Pokemon before the game is beaten and players obtain the upgrade to the National Dex. Hidden among that, however, is that there are only 70 new Pokemon, and when you take evolution trees into account then that number shrinks to 36 new “species.” To amend this came the introduction of 25 Mega Evolutions, which were beefed up designs of existing Pokemon with changes to their abilities and stats. Having players surrounded by more classic Pokemon really did make the new additions stand out more clearly, but left a little sense of disappointment. Was that all Nintendo had left in the tank? Had the creative well run dry? Or was the emphasis placed on quality over quantity?
Let’s go one generation further back to Black and White, where the approach was almost the opposite. While we saw the addition of 155 new Pokemon, the generation was not as well received as its predecessors. Ask most fans and they’ll tell you that Black and White tried to copy a lot of the magic from the original 151 with Pokemon like Gilgalith and Conkledur were immediately recognized a “the new” Golem and Machamp. Suddenly there were more inanimate object that felt like Nintendo just slapped some eyes and a mouth on, came up with a name and called it a day (looking at you Garbodor). While it may not be the unanimous opinion, most would agree that Pokemon’s attempt to go for numbers ended up just reusing old ideas to mixed results.
So what does this mean for the next generation of Pokemon?
We want each monster to feel unique and a welcome addition to the ever-growing Pokedex, but we’ve been spoiled by generations of 100+ new Pokemon with each passing game. What if the reason newer generations are filled with legacy Pokemon is that Nintendo is running out of ideas for new monsters?
Well, before we start sounding the end of Pokemon as series, we have one final piece of evidence to look at: what new Pokemon we do have: our starters Rowlet, Litten, and Popplio, and our legendary cover Pokemon Solgaleo and Lunaala (names of the last two pending). The designs are what we have come to expect of our Pokemon. Starters are cute and full of personality, and signature legendaries are imposing (if not a little complicated). If this is the quality of future Pokemon, fans should be thrilled. What we’ve seen so far is content that meets the high standard set over the years. There will undoubtedly be unpopular Pokemon, but we cannot deny that the precedent here is the quality of each individual monster. Moreover, the new region offers ideas that have never truly been explored. Hawaii means tropical, something Pokemon has a lack of. Toucans, iguanas, tiki’s, komodo dragons, and another volcano species to go with Camerupt. Possibilities are abundent. If Sun and Moon can crank out close to 50-70 more like what we’ve seen, this writer will consider the 7th generation a success as should the populous of trainers.