On some level, the idea of new Pokemon generations is inherently untenable. Every few years, they introduce a brand new region, new gyms, new characters, and of course another set of Pokemon that numbers in the dozens upon dozens. That’s a big workload when developers space the games out a lot, it seems a lot more difficult at the rapid pace Game Freak has been putting titles out recently. At some point, even in the best case scenario, cracks start to appear and something has to give.
I don’t know if regional variants — Pokemon that take on different branches in different regions — are part of making that easier for them. Some of the regional variants seem like they would take just as much work as a new Pokemon, so if they are attempts to save time or effort, I’m not positive they’re very efficient. I just know that, for me, the novelty has worn off. I don’t want many more regional Pokemon variants. I think they should pare them down significantly.
The whole concept was introduced in Gen VII, specifically Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon, a generation I more or less liked. At the time, it was decently novel, though I was bristling a little at the fact that all of these new Alolan forms of old Pokemon were from the original 151. It was a well I was already tired of Pokemon visiting so often and they were still gulping away at whatever moisture remained. Regardless, the idea as a whole had not driven itself into the ground yet and Alolan Raichu was cute, so whatever.
The problem is that it’s very easy to take what’s novel and then keep doing it until it gasps its last fresh breaths. At that point, I’m less likely to express disinterest and more likely to give way to contempt. As of today, they’re seemingly teasing a regional variant of Smeargle, a Pokemon that I’ve maybe thought about twice since they were first introduced. This generation also has a regional variant of Wooper, which is just the Wooper from Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver but brown. Big woop…er.
As a novel idea for Alola in concert with Pokemon’s 20th anniversary, it was fine. But then they just kept going and adding new regional variants every generation. I can kind of see the logic that this gives older Pokemon that didn’t entirely get their due. But those older Pokemon never really go away, they still live on in the anime, the spinoffs, and — as is a constant annoyance for me — as part of new games’ Pokemon rosters.
This is a specific issue I have because I can’t stand an over-reliance on old Pokemon in new games. It drives me nuts to go through a cave in a brand new Pokemon game and see Geodude and Zubat once again attacking me every few feet. This is a larger problem with the Pokemon games that I deal with every new generation (except V), but the regional variants strike me as the same kind of nostalgia play that should have just been new Pokemon. You’re telling me that there was really no other new idea for a Poison/Ground Pokemon that Wooper just absolutely had to fill?
Overall, I know this is a battle I cannot win. The type of fan that goes absolutely nuts every time a new regional variant is shown will never get bored of them and will never dislike them. More importantly, those fans outnumber me by a lot. They’re totally fine with seeing older Pokemon with new hats because the series has lived so long that its recursive nostalgia loops offer solace and comfort rather than repetition for most. Maybe what I’m really begging for is more Galarian Weezings and fewer recolors of Woopers.
Or, in a deeper sense, maybe I’m just begging for another Pokemon Black and Pokemon White, which we’ll probably never get again. I’m not sure how much of all of this is simply a way to make it easier for Game Freak to make these games, but I’d suggest that I’d rather take a little longer on each video game than make concessions to do them more efficiently.
Ultimately it’s all a matter of preference, but I personally can’t help but feel a little bit more tired every time we trot out another instance of “It’s the thing you remember but slightly different now.” Maybe that’s just a Pokemon problem we’ll never escape.