Pokemon doesn't really care about innovation, because their target demographic is the 5-10 age range. They put in just enough to keep older players kind-of interested, but we're not who they make the game for overall. We're the side effect.
You're right. I don't really know what the difference is but where I got sick of Pokémon's lack of innovation after a time and stopped playing it I'm enjoying Dragon Quest as much as ever.
The interesting thing about this is that Dragon Quest has literally been doing the same thing for some 30 years, but the latest entry is widely considered one of the best RPGs of the past couple years.
Gen 1 absolutely had some boring-ass designs and names (looking at you, Seel) but I think Voltorbs (and in turn, Electrodes) were actually pretty cool because they fulfilled the niche of Mimics in the Pokemon world. The game is so rooted in RPG tropes: levels, potions, monsters... why not mimics?
I never liked Pokemon, the game, or spin-off, or the tv show, or the cards (especially no the cards), or any of the thousands of movies (including the latest real-life movie) but I like the meme of Gloria.