As a Generation Five Pokémon fan, it’s important to remember some unfair criticism the Unova region has received. From complaints about the ice cream Pokémon, as well as people complaining about the return to a regional dex of 151. Unova is Pokemon’s most underrated region and that’s just criminal. Generation Five was an attempt by Game Freak for a soft reboot of the series. Unova was meant to be the new Kanto. A new beginning for players for the entire series with an emphasis on story and character. However, it wasn’t as revered as Nintendo hoped it would be though fans have grown more attached to the New York inspired region over time. As the Pokémon Company continues their Kanto favoritism I want to take a look at both these regions to determine which one is truly the best.
Everyone knows the original 151 Pokémon, people who don’t even know or like Pokémon know the most famous monsters from Kanto: Pikachu, Charizard, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Eevee, Mewtwo, etc. These Pokémon cemented the series into a billion dollar franchise. Not to mention the legendary birds as well as Snorlax, Gyarados, and Lapras, who subsequently find themselves into every Pokémon game due to their popularity. However, I would argue that the majority of the remaining Kanto pocket monsters are serviceable at best. Though Dragonite is my favorite Pokémon and I will not take any slander. Pokémon such as Electrode, Dodrio, Exeggutor, Pidgeot, and Wheezing are fine but not amazing. A lot of Kanto’s notoriety comes from nostalgia bias and the monsters are no exception. Plus Mr. Mime is still one of the worst designed monsters in series history, fight me.
As for Unova, I would also argue that the pocket monsters were unfairly criticized. I get the argument that there are too many Pokémon. However, Gen V gave us some truly excellent monsters such as Krookodile, Excadrill, Volcarona, Hydreigon, and Haxorus. The starters are good but the region is chalk full of excellent Steel and Dark types, something that wasn’t present in Kanto. Every type felt like it was done fairly, even Fire which was pretty abused in Diamond and Pearl. Players were given plenty of options to choose from for each type, even with just the 150 in the main campaign. I’ll be honest, there’s only twenty Pokémon in the Kanto dex that I want on a playthrough. For Unova, there is at least fifty that I want on a playthrough right away.
Based on the real life Kanto region, Kanto exists as the most iconic Pokémon regions for 25 years and counting. The anime did a spectacular job fleshing out the region with large cities, beaches, islands, and so forth. However when it comes to the games, Kanto is lacking geographically. Even in Fire Red and Leaf Green, Kanto is grass, caves, and rivers. I’ll give them a pass since it was the first ever region and based on the real life area. Still, as terrifying as Lavender Town was, every other region afterwards has surpassed Kanto in terms of geographical design.
Unova is so much better visually. In Black and White players traverse the New York inspired streets including spectacular Skyarrow Bridge. The desert section is genuinely the most enjoyable area as players will find Unova’s best Pokémon in Route 4. There’s more freedom to explore in Unova than the previous for regions. Yes, the main plot and campaign is extremely linear. However, areas such as Pinwheel forest, Nimbasa City, and Mistralton Cave allow for more rewards for exploration before you even need to beat the Pokémon League. Kanto has that as well with the Legendary Birds. Unova better implements exploration in the main game with the Swords of Justice, Tornadus/Thundurs, and Victini all able to be caught before facing N.
Gym Leaders and Elite Four
Brock, Misty, and Giovanni are in the top echelon of gym leaders. They remain iconic characters and battles even outside of Kanto. Through a combination of the anime and games, the Kanto gym leaders remain as notable to Pokémon as the pocket monsters in Generation One. The gym leaders have great personalities in their dialogue and especially in their design. Sometimes the design of a character matters more than the personality. In Kanto’s case, the gym leaders pop out and feel like proper bosses.
The Unova gym leaders, though having great designs, are not as resonant. They play a greater stake in the plot which is amazing. However, given Pokémon’s insistence on type-based gyms even though it is well played out. I love the Unova gym leaders personally. Yet, Pokemon’s insistence on type-centric bosses keeps me from engaging with them. It’s the same old trope and it’s extremely tiring. The Unova gym leaders are just another set of eight trainers for the player to beat. If Black 2 and White 2 had done more with the gym leaders in the plot like its predecessor did, then I would’ve afforded them the win. As is, in B2W2, the gym leaders go back to being completely useless and it’s a real shame. If only Game Freak would finally move away from type-centric gyms already then I would start to care about them again.
Even without Jessie, James, and Meowth, Team Rocket remains a highly memorable group of villains. As mentioned earlier, Giovanni is memorably ruthless and charismatic. The Rocket executives in Arianna, Archer, Petrel, and Proton serve their roles fine in Heartgold and Soulsilver.
The original Red and Blue games didn’t have a post game quest aside from catching Mewtwo. Fire Red and Leaf Green added the Sevii Islands as well as Elite Four updated rematches. However, compared to the other Pokémon entries Kanto’s post game content is easily the worst. Say what you will about Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, at least the game gave us the Delta Episode and a Battle Maison. Black 2 and White 2 add in the best post game ever implemented in the series with the Pokémon World Tournament. Not to mention more legendaries to capture as well as the Black Tower/White Treehollow. Safe to say, I think Unova wins this round easily.
It’s understandable as to why people love the Kanto region so much. Yet I feel as though Unova surpasses almost everything Generation One attempted and then some. If you don’t like the ice cream or the trash bag Pokémon then fine. Regardless, Unova is a great region that perfectly recaptures the Gen One experience in 2010. Black and White deserved so much more respect than what they were given. Kanto fans can get over themselves, cause I would rather go on an adventure for Professor Juniper over another go around with Professor Oak.
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