In just a few days, the global gaming juggernaut known as Pokémon is making perhaps its biggest franchise leap since leaving the shores of Japan. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee will be called into battle on November 16th as the very first main title Pokémon games released on a home console. It’s not too far different from normal for the series, considering the Nintendo Switch is also a part of the portable market, which is a place Pokémon has dominated since it first came out on the Game Boy. These games in particular are remakes of Pokémon Yellow, a game that did originally release for the old handheld brick over twenty years ago.
The last time the franchise went back home to Kanto exclusively was way back in 2004 with the releases of FireRed and LeafGreen, but that was almost fifteen years ago. “Exclusively” is the key word because the Let’s Go games will only feature the original 151 as opposed to being a bit more expansive. Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow are almost as well known for founding childhood memories as they are for being completely broken games that had no sense of balance.
Because of this lack of balance, there were many Pokémon that were downright unusable, despite how interesting or intriguing they may have been. However, thanks to the otherworldly multi-media success of Pocket Monsters, every generation of games afterward have done nothing but fix where the first ones faltered. The Let’s Go games will give us a chance to experience Kanto with the latest and greatest updates to the franchise, but most importantly, breathe life into some of those original captivating 151 and experience them the way we were maybe supposed to first time. So here are nine Pokémon who, for one reason or another, have been redeemed in the franchise and in the eyes of the fans that we will be able to have fun with all over again – even if it took two decades to fully appreciate them.
The only Pokémon we know for a fact could maybe take down Mike Tyson in Punch-Out, Hitmonchan was probably one of the coolest Pokémon way back in the initial release. The “punching fiend’s biggest calling card was that it was the only Pokémon that could learn all three of the elemental punches – Ice Punch, Fire Punch, and Thunderpunch. In a field shallow with quality Fighting-type mons, Hitmonchan was an uppercut above the rest.
But woe, Hitmonchan was a victim of statistics and game mechanics. See, in Pokémon, attacks are split into special and physical attacks. In more recent games, the type of attack is dependent on the nature of the move. So Ice Beam is labeled a special attack because it shoots energy at someone, while Ice Punch is physical because it is, well, a strike with a frosted fist. Seems simple enough right? Well back in Gen I, this was all based on the type of the move. So no matter what, Ice Punch was special because it was an Ice-type attack and all Ice moves were considered special attacks.
It should go without saying that a brawler like HItmonchan completely lacked in Special Attack (or simply Special as it was known then.) Hitmonchan’s most unique feature couldn’t even be used properly because all of the elemental punches were considered special attacks. He’s a brute, not a mage, so this essentially made him useless for ten years. But today, Hitmonchan is now a viable option for a team’s physical sweeper and you actually might pick him this time once you clear the Fighting Dojo.
You’ve seen the memes. The instant anyone in any Pokémon games sets foot in a cave, these damn things come out in full force to do nothing but cause problems to you and your party. This was at its absolute worst in the original games, as swarms of Zubat ambushed Trainers in the labyrinthian Mt. Moon, the first dungeon in the entire franchise.
Zubat’s redemption would begin the very next set of games, as it got a third evolution in the super-fast Crobat. However, that’s not its biggest redeeming factor, particularly because I’m targeting the Let’s Go games and so far as I know, Crobat – a Gen II Pokémon – will not be available in the Gen I exclusive cast. No, its true redemption lies in repaired mechanics and one of the most popular mobile games of all time.
The infamous difficulty of Mt. Moon gave Game Freak tons of feedback as to how these things should work, meaning every cave and dungeon since have been remarkably easier with things like reduced encounter rates. Unfortunately, Pokémon Go made everyone hate Zubat all over again, as it and Pidgey were everywhere and annoyed everyone with their omnipresence. It was doused a little though because you didn’t have to encounter it if you just didn’t click on it. This hopes to be amplified even more so now that we know that the Let’s Go games will not feature wild battle encounters at all, nullifying many Trainers’ issues with Zubat to begin with. So Zubat may not be completely forgiven in many fans’ view, but it’s certainly come a long way from being one of the most hated creatures in the franchise.
Eevee is unbelievably adorable. It has to be, considering it’s going to be selling games opposite of franchise mascot Pikachu. It’s almost too adorable to evolve if that weren’t its entire function. All of Eevee’s evolutions fall somewhere between ‘adorable’ and ‘badass’ as well. Despite the many options you’ve always had, Gen I gave us only three – Vaporeon, Jolteon, or Flareon. For many Trainers, the question was not which Eeveelution your Eevee would become, but when were you evolving it into Jolteon.
Flareon would not be a viable option for evolution until maybe Gen V some fourteen years later.
It all goes back to the physical-special split mentioned before. Flareon specialized in physical attack, but only learned special Fire-type attacks. When the nature split happened, Flareon still had a moveset that only featured special attacks. It wasn’t until Pokémon Black and White that it learned Fire Fang at a reasonable level to be useful and it wasn’t until Pokémon X and Y that it could learn Flare Blitz. It’s still not the best option for a Fire-type on your team when things like Arcanine or Charizard are available, but with the popularity of Pokémon Go, Vaporeon and Flareon endeared themselves to a whole new audience, thereby guaranteeing Flareon might actually see play in Kanto this time.
Poison-types are the Pokémon world’s chew toys. Ever since Gen I, they’ve been on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to anything and everything. If you’re into competitive, they usually have garbage stats and movepools. If you’re a casual player, they offer little to no type advantage over the course of the game, especially against the villainous teams. If you’re in it for the cute stuff, by virtue of being Poison-types, they’re pretty visually unappealing. To this day, Poison-types are the only types that don’t have a Legendary Pokémon. Talk about toxic.
Muk here is more of a bastion for the entirety of the Poison-type, which has come a long way in twenty years. One of the big reasons for Poison’s initial dragging was because of the dominance of Psychic-types, which have been toned down considerably in every Gen since. Things like Toxic being unavoidable when performed by a Poison-type also helps helps, as does being a weakness to the powerful new Fairy type. But what truly redeemed Muk itself was getting some rainbow armor.
In Gen VII, we got Alolan form Pokémon, which were new spins on old friends. In addition to now being made of kaleidoscopic volcanic rocks, Muk gained Dark typing, making it completely immune to what was once its weakness. Always having decent attack stats, Muk now boasts a great defensive typing that can tank it out in battle long enough to sap all the strength away from foes. Although this one comes a with a small asterisk because while it has been revealed that Alolan forms will be available in the Let’s Go games, exactly how they will be has not been revealed since they won’t be encountered in the wild.
Also I just love trying to pet it in Pokémon Refresh, complete with the cruiser sliding slowly over it because you’re petting freakin’ slime. Maybe it’s a 90s kid thing.
5. Bulbasaur (and its evolution line)
It is an overdone joke to say that choosing the starter in the original Red and Blue was the hardest decision of our youth. While the claim is a bit hyperbolic, what isn’t is perhaps the impact and memories that remain from our first starter choice. With a greater number of players picking Charmander or Squirtle to begin their adventure (or at least those people being more vocal), it wasn’t too uncommon to see people make fun of the Bulbasaur line for being the unfavorite of the OG trio.
In truth, while your starter choice ultimately didn’t matter overall, it did make the game harder with Bulbasaur and its evolutions. Virtually every Grass-type was also a Poison-type in Gen I, the Bulba clan included, making all the things said about Muk and co. echo for Bulbasaur, Ivysaur, and Venusaur. Then there’s the simple fact that Venusaur, a quadruped dinosaur with a giant flower on its back, just couldn’t really compete with the badass designs of Charizard and Blastoise – a literal fire dragon and a double water-cannon wielding bipedal turtle.
In the many years since, Bulbasaur and friends have been embraced for being unloved in the first place and have offered hope for every single starter Pokémon that the fan base doesn’t immediately fall in love with. Super Smash Bros. Brawl gave us Pokémon Trainer, which let Ivysaur have a spotlight and garner at least a little bit of love. Pokémon X and Y also gave Venusaur a Mega Evolution, sending its stats through the roof and giving it an additional ability that ignores two of its biggest type weaknesses.
All this together gained the whole line a lot more favor, and this was before Pokémon Go launched, which showcased the adorable Bulbasaur to a whole new audience. Needing some 125 candies to fully evolve it also made it a welcome sight to encounter in the world, making Bulbasaur an exciting must-catch every time it showed up. With all these different elements combined, its safe to say that the family of grass dinos aren’t nearly as looked down upon today.
Man, Raichu is maybe the one Pokémon I’ve felt the worst for since I was a kid. I was never a Pikachu fan growing up, owing to its mascot status stealing the limelight despite not being very fun in the games. Many people obviously (and rightfully) didn’t share my childhood cynicism, but the fates never smiled on Pikachu’s evolved form until Pokémon Sun and Moon some twenty years after the original games.
For starters, many new fans to the series – mostly from the anime or related to Pokémon Go – are surprised to learn that Pikachu even has an evolution because Raichu is virtually nonexistent on any promotional material while Pikachu has, of course, reached Mickey Mouse status. Even way back in the original Pokémon Yellow, the starter Pikachu given to you will refuse to evolve into Raichu since Ash’s Pikachu does the same thing in the anime. Note that that is the only Pikachu in the entire game, so you can’t even catch another one to find a way around that.To make matters worse, Raichu’s most infamous characterization in the anime, Lt. Surge’s Raichu, was a bully and a thug, making it a completely unappealing creature to anyone watching.
Every single Gen in the series has given some new feature to Pikachu, from the held item Light Ball to exclusive Z-Moves. Raichu got nothing until Sun and Moon, which gave us Alola Raichu, a form that potentially surprasses Pikachu on the cuteness scale and gives Raichu both an extra typing and an energy surfboard made from its own tail. While certainly not enough to put it on the same level as its infinitely more supported base form, this form made Raichu one of the best choices for a team member in the somewhat strange Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon story and re-introduced it to fans as a creature that wasn’t just here, but deserved some of the love it’s been denied for so long.
Though again, this one may need an asterisk considering the status of Alola Pokémon in the upcoming Let’s Go games. That said, here’s hoping that more people give regular Raichu at least some kind of chance this time around Kanto.
What the hell is one of the strongest and most desirable Pokémon of the inaugural 151 doing on this list? The same reason kids get picked on for wearing glasses, braces, and playing Fortnite without cool player skins – they don’t fit in. Believe it or not, Dragonite was reviled by some fans for not being as elegant as its pre-evolutions, Dratini and Dragonair. This was also related to backlash in that the Dragon-type was regarded as almost mythical in the original games, only for the strongest Dragon-type of all to not look something like Charizard, but rather something akin to Barney the Dinosaur or Yoshi. Those comparisons are fans’ words, not mine.
This issue was drowned out over the years, especially with the fleshing out of Dragon-types as a whole. If anything, those fans who stuck with the series that long either didn’t care about Dragonite’s design or, like myself, liked it to begin with. This was also helped by the fact that no matter its look, Dragonite has proven to be a badass, jack-of-all-trades battler. Its unbelievably charming appearance in Pokémon: The First Movie also didn’t hurt. But the thing about properties emerging or re-emerging into the mainstream is that issues that once plagued the franchise come right back around as if it were brand new.
Twenty whole years after Dragonite’s first roar, Pokémon Go’s success once again brought an old favorite a whole new set of eyes. Like those unpleasable players back in the day, many new fans were dismayed that the beautiful Dratini and the majestic Dragonair become a somewhat frumpy lizard. This again was drowned out as quickly as the initial complaints, once more aligning with the fact that Dragonite became one of the most sought after creatures in the game from a collecting, attacking, and defending standpoint.
What we’ve learned here is leave Dragonite alone because it’s perfect the way it is.
2. The Bug-type
Giving some props to Grass and Poison-types from Gen I is one thing, but if there was any type that needed a complete overhaul, it was the Bug-type. Psychics ran rampant in Gen I and one of the only ways to stop them was supposedly to capitalize their weakness to Bug-types. Unfortunately, most Bugs were also Poison-type, making them useless against Psychics as well as having just bad stats overall and the typing having three – three – damage dealing moves in their entire compendium.
Even the best Bug-type, Scyther, was not immune to this class-wide terribleness. While it could deal out tons of damage as a physical attacker focused on Normal-type moves, it never learned any Bug-type moves at all to gain that extra damage for same-type moves. This overall redemption has come slow and steady with every new Gen, with bigger and badder Bugs and Bug moves being introduced to the series. Years later, Scyther is still maybe the best and most popular bet, but Pinsir was finally redeemed back in Gen VI after getting a Mega Evolution that was so good, it saw competitive play.
There might not be the widest selection of solid Bug-types in a Gen I exclusive game, but believe you me when I say that it has taken literally 20+ years for Bug-types to finally be able to be good enough in the region that introduced them and live up to perhaps what creator and real-life bug collector Satoshi Tajiri wanted them to be.
The odyssey of Magikarp is perhaps the greatest story in all of Pokémon franchise lore. So popular and pervasive is its journey, that “Magikarp Power” is a term used to sometimes describe any video game character that starts of with pathetic stats, but if you have the patience, will reward you with an OP addition to your team.
But that’s because Magikarp’s infamous weaknesses are endearing to us now. Way back when the games first came out and we were kids, no one cared for Magikarp itself except to just deal with it until level 20 when it’d finally become a Gyarados. As the years have gone by, the joke character that is Magikarp has gone all the way around from pathetic laughing stock to a memetic god-tier brawler because it is such a joke. The amount of videos or playthroughs people have done to prove that one could defeat the Elite Four with a team of six Magikarp shows just how far that portrayal has become and be wholeheartedly embraced by the Pokémon community.
Nintendo themselves have released “The Magikarp Song,” a strange but entertaining tune sung by a child that they took the effort and investment to have a Japanese and English dub version for. This is in addition to the mainstream hit Magikarp Jump, which was popular for a hot second and exposed this lovable loser to a mainstream audience that loved how pathetic it was. This is all without even mentioning the place where it got the most love: Pokémon Go.
In Go, it was soon discovered that it took 400 – four bloody hundred – candies to turn Magikarp into Gyarados, which was initially one of the strongest three or four Pokémon in the entire game. This meant that Magikarp went from something people tried to ignore in its home series because it showed up in every single lake and ocean to something everyone lost their mind over and excitedly tried to catch every single time it showed up in the Go game world. The first shiny Pokémon unleashed in the game was shiny Magikarp and Gyarados, further giving people incentive to catch the goofy lookin’ thing. Put all this together, and it’s safe to say Magikarp has come a hell of a long ways since being an unloved guppy.
Years after the first releases, it could be argued that a long neglected fish has made its way onto an exclusive list of most iconic and recognizable creatures in the entire franchise and all it had to do was suck. Magikarp Power indeed.