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History of Pokemon's Metagame Part 1: RBY

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Posts : 43
Join date : 2015-09-29
Age : 22
Location : California

PostLinty on Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:12 pm

At its most basic, Pokemon hasn't changed a whole lot. You and your opponent send out little monsters, you tell them how to fight and the last one standing is the winner.

Although how they battle and who was most powerful has changed a great deal since the days of Red, Blue, and Yellow. Fighting types are all the rage now but remember a time when they were a joke? Remember a time when Quick Attack was the only guaranteed, priority move-first attack in the game? Remember when the Gengar family was the only ghost types in existence?

Let's take a quick stroll down memory and reminisce about where we've really come in terms of progression of such a long lasting franchise that has changed subtly over the years so much.

First Generation: The Magic Words: Abra, Kadabra, and Alakazam!

Think back to the old type chart from RBY and you'd think it all worked correctly. Fire beats Grass, Grass beats Water, and Water beats Fire. Dragons were only weak to Ice and resisted these basic elements.

Any person lucky enough to catch an Abra knows otherwise about balance. These little guys were annoying to catch since they only knew one move: Teleport. Thus, when you encountered one, their only choice was to run away. But if you did catch one, you just caught yourself a champion.

Alakazam dominated teams for two glaring reasons. First, it had an incredible Special stat. For you newer Pokemon trainers out there, Pokemon RBY only had 5 ruling attributes: HP, Attack, Defense, Special, and Speed. So even though the Attack stat and Defense stat were differentiated, Special Attack and Special Defense used to be 1 stat. Which meant that having a Pokemon with a high Special stat could not only dish out Special attacks very well but take Special attacks very well.

On top of that, RBY suffered a flawed mechanic that wasn't resolved until Diamond and Pearl. Some of you might know what I'm already talking about. How moves were determined as Physical or Special depended on the typing of the move for the first 3 generations of Pokemon. As an example, moves that were Fire-Type were Special and moves that were Fighting-Type were Physical. For the most part it made sense although moves like Fire Punch counted as Special and Gengar could not take advantage of both STAB and its high Special stat since Ghosts were considered Physical.

Most Pokemon with a Special stat high enough to survive a Psychic from Alakazam would usually struggle to deal damage back due to how Special worked back then. In generation 1, all Psychic pokemon  were considered "A worse version of Alakazam". Regardless of what the title would make you think, every Psychic type was amazing because of the ridiculous Special stat. Most Pokemon that would try targeting Alakazam's weak Defense usually had low Special, and thus would get KO'd because of Alakazam's high Speed and Special.

As if this wasn't enough, the system for determining critical hits was based on the Speed stat. The faster the Pokemon, the higher the chance for a critical hit to occur, giving fast Pokemon like Jolteon a hidden advantage against slower Pokemon who's value may have been in Defense rather than Speed. Because of this, Persian used to be in the OU tier. Persian at first glance isn't that impressive although Persian had a high Speed stat, meaning that 25% of the time it would crit. Although by using the move 'Slash', it jumps significantly from 25% to 99.6%. And since both Persian and Slash are both normal, Persian would gain a STAB boost as well on-top of his ridiculous crit rate.

So you have a powerful Psychic-type Pokemon everyone wanted. What was the hard check to this overwhelmingly powerful Pokemon? Ghost-types and Bug-types?

With the exception of Tauros, nothing really. Yes it had low Defense so anything capable of surviving its signature Psychic attack could probably kill it but that's practically a ritualistic sacrifice. In what can only be described as a glaring oversight, the only Ghost Pokemon in the game were also dual typed as poison, meaning they'd be weak to Psychic attacks. And most Bug-types also shared this dual typing logic for some reason.

As if that weren't enough, there existed no actual effective Bug or Ghost-type attacks. In fact, if you tried to use the only functioning Ghost-type attack (Lick) on Alakazam, all you'd get is a “It doesn't effect it...” message, which is a giant oversight that on the developer's part. As for Bug Pokemon, well, take your pick: Twineedle or Pin Missile?

Well, Bullet Punch-Scizor had to start somewhere. And it started in the Underused tier of RBY.

This area of the metagame is what really stands out when you revisit its history. Gamefreak created Psychic-types, which were strong against Fighting and Poison-types and weak to Ghost and Bug-types. And yet no actual effective Ghost or Bug-type attacks existed and too many Pokemon carried a secondary Poison-type. Nearly every grass Pokemon was part Poison for whatever reason.

The move Wrap was all sorts of messed up. If not aware how this worked in the first generation, Wrap would cancel the opponent's move and if your Pokemon was fast enough, you could Wrap Sweep the entire team. This made the Pokemon Dragonite very good for competitive use since it could learn both Wrap and Agility.

Looking back on the metagame history for first generation, many things are notable that would seem impossible in the current generation. Tauros sweeping late game with Hyper Beam? Madness! Golem being in the OU tier? Incredible! Victreebel being mentioned at all? How can I be sure this wasn't a different era but actually a different dimension?

And this sort of bizarro metagame could only exist with the strange differentiation between Attack/Defense and Special. Pokemon like Golem work hard to have both powerful Attack and Defense. Meanwhile, Alakazam, despite having low Defense, was blessed with a high Special stat that allows it to both Attack and Defend well with designated Special attacks like Psychic.

Other weird attributes about Generation 1:

-Every move, except Swift, had a 1/256 chance of missing for no reason.
-The move 'Disable', disables a completely random move, not the last one used.
-If 1 of the 5 or so Multi-Hit moves became a critical, they all become critical hits.
-The only way to be thawed out was by getting hit from a Fire move. Otherwise you'd be frozen forever.
-Whirlwind and Roar does literally nothing.
-If you made a Pokemon faint from Hyper Beam, you didn't need to recharge.
-Using Hyper Beam on a substitute meant the Pokemon didn't need to recharge.
-If you use Self-Destruct/Explosion on a substitute, the Pokemon wouldn't faint.
-The turn in which you woke up from a Sleep status steals the turn you woke up on and then goes back to your opponent's turn.
-Focus Energy does the exact opposite of what it's intended to do. How this move works is that it makes it so your next attack have a 4x times increased chance of landing a critical. In generation 1, it divides the move by 4, meaning that you would never land a critical hit the turn after you used this move.

Notable threats in this generation included Starmie, Chansey, Zapdos, Mew, Snorlax, Slowbro and Rhydon. This generation gave birth to several Pokemon who remain relevant to the metagame to this day: Starmie, Blissey (which evolves from Chansey), Gengar, and Gyrados. Normal attacks were more common place as well, as Hyper Beam back then used the Attack stat; the attack was still a Physical attack before the Physical/Special split in the 4th generation occurred. Body Slam also showed up on several movesets for its combination of power and paralysis, which was the best way to cripple sweepers and still is.

Look at this smug jerk. She's been smug since 1996!

Meanwhile, this would be the peak for others, as they'd slowly fade into mediocrity as the years passed by. Alakazam, Tauros, and Moltres would all be weakened in some way or another in the coming generations. Although that's for next time.

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