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Individual Values: A Pokémon Feature - Week 32: Region Spotlight #2


Jonathan Higgins

Welcome to the thirty-second week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed the last one, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday.

 

You can check out the previous Region Spotlight here.

 

 

 

 

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Region Spotlight #2

Unova

 

 

Today is the next Region Spotlight! On the first Friday of every month, for five months more, I“ll pick five things about each region from all six generations of Pokémon games and explain why I find them particularly unique or insightful. The region players explore in Black & White plus its sequels is up next!

 

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Castelia City

 

Welcome to New York City! Okay, okay...so maybe this place is just heavily inspired by it. The Pokémon series had been steadily building up to 3D-like visuals since the Distortion World from Pokémon Platinum, as well as pieces and parts of the gyms from the Sinnoh region. Until the Kalos region fully realized 3D visuals on Nintendo 3DS, Castelia City is the best example of a big, booming environment where you could potentially get lost in it. Nimbasa City seems like a place that centers around entertainment and fun stuff. But Castelia City seems like a heart of commerce and industry, like New York vs. Los Angeles.

 

Further evidence of this place being New York City is Central Park...I mean Castelia Park, an area only explorable in Black & White 2. There“s actual Pokémon here you can find in the wild, and the area is shaped like a PokéBall, almost reminiscent of the National Park from Johto.

 

The fifth generation is one of only two examples in the entire franchise where we can actually see how an area has changed over time; I think that“s pretty neat. But let“s not get side-tracked on talking about sequels for too long….

 

 

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Black City & White Forest

 

Unova was the first region that boasted different types of areas depending on whether or not you were playing through Pokémon Black or Pokémon White. Opelucid City and Mistralton City are noteworthy for their aesthetic changes, and even a Gym Leader swap out, depending on your version, I think the definitive areas to talk about this aspect of Unova are Black City and White Forest. I played Pokémon Black Version, so I got to see Black City first hand. My girlfriend played White Version, so she showed me White Forest when she arrived.

 

Black City“s music seemed almost melancholy, like it was a place that lost its way. It features a wide variety of people to fight, all with Pokémon not native to the region. Pieces and parts of the area would change depending on your Entralink stuff, and the city would eventually expand to its maximum potential and let you do things you wouldn“t be able to do in Black Version, normally.

 

White Forest was a much calmer place, featuring Pokémon not native to Unova. It“s an environment that is meant to be a sharp foil to what Black City offers. I“m not sure why the Pokémon Company decided to make these two places show a conflict of man vs. nature, but it“s interesting to theorize sometimes. Black“s Opelucid City is much more advanced. It“s almost like by picking Black, you“re picking a more advanced Unova — while White offers a land less touched by civilization.

 

The sequel featured unque areas as well, but the two weren“t as diverse. I think the only noteworthy difference is that conquering White 2“s trials netted you a Shiny Dratini, while the other won you a Shiny Gible. So there“s that, at least.

 

 

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(Fun fact...I've had the Pikachu in this picture for almost ten years!)

 

The Dream World

 

Besides random exceptions like signing up for the Pokémon Trainer Club account to grab the Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire Special Demo Version, I think my journey through the Unova region is the only time I regularly took my adventure beyond the Nintendo DS to play a few basic flash games with Pokémon characters. The Dream World was an interesting concept made integral by including exclusive Pokémon not native to the region, as well as several Pokémon with Hidden Abilities that were exclusive to the various stages. I“ll never forget discovering Drizzle Politoed and Drought Ninetales for the first time. Heck, it got so bad that the sixth generation games had to completely nerf weather effects.

 

The Dream World had some seven different areas that didn“t feel like anything you“d find wandering around Unova. Looking at areas like Pleasant Forest and Spooky Manor from just a design perspective — I think the Dream World was meant to feel like an escape from the region versus a companion to it, despite the game often alluding to it and having both people and Pokémon dedicated to dreams. The mini-games were really simple, but looking back... I may have enjoyed a handful of them. It was fun stacking ice cream to see how high it would go, and Playing with Wailord always reminded me of pinball in a weird way.

 

Ultimately, concepts from the Dream World kind of morphed into Pokémon Aime in the next generation. Bits and pieces of the three games you can play in that in-game application kind of feel like concepts applied from the Dream World. While Game Freak have developed new and innovative ways to access Hidden Abilities and non-Kalos/Hoenn Pokémon in the next games down the line, I think the Dream World deserves to be remembered because it brought some major features outside the main game and worked with it. Unova as a region was unique for offering many ways for players to interact with one another outside of the games, but I think the Dream World is the best example of this.

 

 

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The Pokémon World Tournament

 

No Pokémon game since Gold & Silver have featured more than one region to explore. But the Pokémon World Tournament is a unique place that let you battle gym leaders and League Champions from every region known thus far. Everyone from Blue to Steven Stone was featured, and had a super refined team and new remixed themes to make the battle as epic as possible.

 

The Pokémon World Tournament is also the only area in the entire series outside of the first generation games and Mt. Silver where Red, the first Pokémon protagonist, appears. Your fight with him isn“t as isolated and epic as it is in Mt. Silver playing through GSC or its remakes, but...still. For including absolutely everyone noteworthy to series veterans, I think the Pokémon World Tournament deserves a mention. It“s not the Battle Frontier, but I honestly think it worked as a refreshing new direction unique to the Unova sequels.

 

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N“s Castle

 

N must stand for insane. All puns aside, I think N remains the most capable and accomplished villain ever present in the Pokémon franchise. Except... I really don“t think he“s classified as a villain sometimes; that“s the amazing part. Still. He seized the Pokémon League... which no villain has managed to do before or since. Unlike Giovanni, Cyrus, or some of the more infamous villains with Secret Hideouts and what have you, I think N“s Castle sticks out a whole lot more because it didn“t show itself until after N had become the most powerful trainer in the entire Unova Region by defeating the Champion, Alder.

 

I honestly don“t remember the area“s visual sense, so much. But I remember the music, how it helped the atmosphere feel urgent. A lot of Unova“s landmarks were inspired by pieces and parts of the United States, with Castelia City being the “Big Apple” for example. But N“s Castle doesn“t seem like it draws visual inspiration from anything, outside of an area that fits the enigmatic Pokémon child. Seeing what it looks like again for the purpose of writing this Individual Values caused a few memories to come back to the surface. But I remember the place for far more than how it looked.

 

N“s Castle is where you fought the game“s respective Legendary Pokémon, then had a final showdown with your rival for the entire game, got that plot twist at the end, and then watched the credits roll from there. There“s no Hall of Fame necessary this time. Just

, and you“re done and onto the next part of your journey. N“s Castle deserves the top spot for breaking the mold of a plot that existed in the same way for easily fifteen years prior.

 

The Unova region didn“t really yield many series firsts compared to the game that came after it, but there is definitely a focus on going beyond the game and breaking typical molds established by common plot themes, too. With the Dream World, you“re using your computer. With the Entralink, you“re achieving things by helping your friends. And with sequels, it let you experience memories filling the gaps between the two games. Unova is definitely about connections moreso than breaking ground or pioneering new concepts.

 

What are your favorite places in the Unova region? How do you feel about Pokémon Black & White, as well as its sequels? Be sure to let us know!

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