The Dag asks:

Which of the 7 Ancient Wonders would you pick to see in its prime?

Oh, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, easy.  That’s the one we know the least about.  The Pyramids are still there (albeit past their glory days); we have bits of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the great temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the Pharos lighthouse was still there for most of the Middle Ages and we have the foundations; we can make a lot of educated guesses about the Colossus of Rhodes and Pheidias’ chryselephantine statue of Zeus because we have so much other Greek sculpture (I think we have some artistic depictions of the statue of Zeus too?  The Byzantines hung onto it for a while after the Pagan temples at Olympia were shut down).  For the Hanging Gardens, we literally have nothing to go on but second- and third-hand written descriptions.  To be honest, we’re not even completely certain they were in Babylon – a good chunk of Babylon has been excavated and there’s no sign of them, and I don’t think they’re mentioned in any known Babylonian cuneiform texts.  I’ve seen it argued that they were actually in Nineveh (near modern Mosul), the capital of the Assyrian Empire, which was kinda like… Babylon 2.0 for a while (that could conceivably have caused our Greek sources to get a little muddled).  Or perhaps they were just the rooftop gardens of the royal palace, and the Greeks got a little carried away in describing them.

But despite everything we don’t know, I think they must have been pretty special.  Building a rooftop garden, the size of a palace, in Baghdad, full of plants that don’t naturally grow there, with pre-industrial technology, shows a damned impressive command of irrigation and water management.  And besides that, what we’re describing is basically a botanical garden, a place you can go to see exotic plants that require special care.  To my mind, that’s a special moment in the history of science as well as engineering and culture, one that shows a real interest in understanding and controlling the variety and beauty of the natural world.  The Greeks saw elaborate gardens full of exotic plants as major distinctive features of Babylonian and Persian culture, and even though they sometimes looked down on their eastern neighbours for being “soft” or “effeminate,” they couldn’t deny the beauty and grandeur of their cultural achievements (our word “paradise” comes, through Greek, from the Persian word for garden).  The inclusion of the Hanging Gardens in the traditional “seven wonders” attests to that (although, admittedly, that list is mostly just one dude’s… like, opinion, man – honestly, what gets to be a “wonder” is a pretty interesting topic in itself).

Leo M.R. asks:

In many ways I think Glacia from RSE and Flint from DP are polar opposites, pun semi-intended. Not only are their personalities the reverse of each other (Glacia is cool, elegant, and reserved; Flint is passionate, boisterous, and a little unhinged), their situations are also reversed (Glacia is an Ice-type specialist in a hot region; Flint is a Fire-type specialist in a cold region). Despite all that, they’re both penultimate Elite Four members with only two fully-evolved Pokémon of their chosen type specialties available in their respective regions (Glalie and Walrein for Glacia; Rapidash and Infernape for Flint), and yet they have the complete opposite approaches to team-building. My question is: whose approach do you think worked better? Glacia’s “Imma stock my team full of repeats if it means sticking to my type specialty!” approach or Flint’s, um, imaginative “these things are hot!” approach?

Obviously this doesn’t apply to Glacia from ORAS – where she gets to add a Froslass at least – and Flint from Platinum (and hopefully BDSP as well).

Bonus question: if Glacia from RSE were to do a Flint and fill her team with a Glalie, a Walrein, and three other non-Ice Pokémon, what do you reckon those three other Pokémon would be?

I suppose I prefer Flint in theory and Glacia in practice.  I like Pokémon teams that give a character a little bit of flexibility in responding to threats against their specialty type while still feeling thematic.  Flint’s Diamond and Pearl team is just so… all over the place.  Drifblim for hot air, Steelix for hot rock in the Earth’s mantle, Lopunny… is vaguely feminine in design and therefore “hot”?  Glacia’s team composition is boring, but her duplicate Pokémon still manage to have slightly different movesets and do slightly different jobs (as do Phoebe’s duplicate Banette and Dusclops, in the same Elite Four lineup) while contributing to a fairly coherent overall strategy (at least by the standards of generation III AI trainers).

For alternative Pokémon on Glacia’s team… well, let’s assume we have to pick Pokémon that are both among the 200 in the Ruby and Sapphire Hoenn ‘dex and able to learn at least one Ice attack.  Let’s also try not to load her up with just Water Pokémon; that’s just the easy way out of this kind of problem for Ice-type trainers.  Glacia has this vaguely Nordic look to her, she’s from another region that’s far away from Hoenn and much colder (she claims that Hoenn’s heat is good for training Ice Pokémon), her slogan is “flaming passion in icy cold” and she’s very serious, but also very elegant and poised.  Her existing team uses Hail in combination with defensive and disruptive effects like Attract, Encore, Light Screen and Body Slam paralysis to wear opponents down.  I think the Pokémon that most immediately jumps to mind as a possibility for her is Gorebyss, who signifies Hoenn’s tropical climate, is beautiful but deadly, and has access to moves like Confuse Ray and Amnesia that fit Glacia’s battle style, as well as Ice Beam.  Nothing else sticks out to me as such an obviously good fit, but I’d like to offer for consideration an Ice Beam Altaria (elegant, aloof, can paralyse with Dragonbreath) and Ice Punch Alakazam (poised and focused, can capitalise on the chip damage inflicted by Glacia’s other Pokémon; bonus points for giving it Ice Punch and Fire Punch).  Neither of those Pokémon can learn Hail, so we pretty much have to give it to Gorebyss, but I think I’m okay with that.  It’s just a shame Castform is so terrible or we could use that as an extra pseudo-Ice-type – then again, Phoebe does have a Sableye (in the pre-Mega Evolution days, mind you) so this Elite Four wasn’t above scraping the barrel a little.

[This question was promoted to the front of the queue because the submitter is supporting me on Patreon!  If you enjoy my writing and like getting my answers to cosmic dilemmas like this one – or just think I deserve something nice for my work – consider visiting https://www.patreon.com/pokemaniacal and signing up!]

whatever asks:

How tf is phione a legendary but not Volcarona, Rotom or Spiritomb????

Well, there is no real definition of what a legendary Pokémon is, other than “the ones we say are legendary Pokémon.”  It seems to me like the distinction has two parts.  There’s a real-world reason, related to how you, the player, go about obtaining the Pokémon practically, and there’s an in-universe reason, roughly related to how well-known the Pokémon is.

Continue reading “whatever asks:”

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVII: Lunacy Intensifies

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Which Pokémon do you turn to?
– Aura, the Beautifly

You need to do something about this smog before it chokes you – and hey, you’re a smart kid, you know exactly how to deal with that.  You have a Flying Pokémon; time to use her.  Aura appears from her Pokéball in a flash of light, and without even a word from you, she begins to flap her wings, using Gust to blow the clouds of choking, toxic smoke back into the cave it spewed out of.

Two things now happen at once.  First, with the smog gone, your vision is now clear and you can see a squelching, purple goo-like Pokémon that you recognise as a Grimer, clearly trying to sneak up behind you using the heavy brown clouds as cover and just as clearly alarmed that it has now been exposed.  Second, you hear a startled yelp from the ledge up above you, where the first enemy commands came from.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVII: Lunacy Intensifies”

hugh_donnetono asks:

How attacked do you think the “I Chews You” guys would feel if they saw this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xUDN6g2H28&ab_channel=ProZD

I don’t know; LET’S FIND OUT

(TBH I know Ben, at least, doesn’t even like La Croix very much but I think Ian may have something to say about this)

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVI: Conservatively Speaking

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you want to investigate?
– Visit Lexa, then go looking for the Super Nerd

You decide that Mal and Ellie’s comments about a “weirdo” who hangs out at the mountain’s peak are the best thing to follow up, so you head over to the tent where they said their fossil conservator, Lexa, is busy working.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVI: Conservatively Speaking”

Reports of my death have been mildly exaggerated (also cake)

I can see, definitely, how people might have gotten the idea that I am dead, and I’m not not dead. I had a lot of assignments that were all due all at once, because I’m doing a high school teaching diploma and our first school visits for observation were delayed due to a short COVID lockdown in March and then all the due dates for everything had to be pushed back until we ran out of time to push them back into, because we had to go on our first practicum assignment. So a whole bunch of stuff was due at once, and I did die for a short while because it was more convenient for me to work from Hell (you know how it is; they have some good research libraries and you can eat as much junk food as you want), and then the next day I had to immediately drop into a school and start teaching and getting to know the students, and the first two weeks of that were exhausting. I have been trying to write, but the school is, in some ways, y’know, physically located in Hell, in the Fifth Circle, which is obviously a bit of a commute from my preferred hangouts in the Seventh, so I am somewhat dead, but really only a little bit. I didn’t really intend to take an extended break like I have, but I did also become slightly unmoored from linear time and obviously that took… some indefinite length of subjective time to sort out.

Anyway I have an episode of A Pokémon Trainer Is You coming out tomorrow, and I have the next two weeks off so I should get something done in that time.

But more importantly (and you might have seen this if you follow my Twitter for some reason) I made a Parthenon cake over the last weekend for an online “Build Your Own Monument” competition! Everyone knows the Parthenon, right? This thing?

I thought anyone who’s still here might like some documentation of that, so here’s my process:

Continue reading “Reports of my death have been mildly exaggerated (also cake)”

some random person asks:

You mentioned that, in gens 1 through 4, all of the “archaeologists” in the Pokemon games were either glorified grave robbers or hobbyists (with the latter category being pretty much entirely represented by Cynthia and maybe Eusine). Has there been any improvement in the portrayal or archaeology since then?

I think so!  I mean, a lot of the archaeologist-as-adventurer-and/or-grave-robber stereotypes are baked into pop culture in a way that it’s difficult to get away from, but I actually wrote an article about this for PokéJungle not long after Sword and Shield came out, which you can read here.  I think Sonia’s storyline in those games presents an attitude to the past, and the study of the past, that is kind of unique in Pokémon so far and much more representative of what history and archaeology are actually like: a process of negotiating and reshaping our understanding of the past and our relationship with it.  All Pokémon games since Gold and Silver have cared at least a little about the ancient past, but I think Sword and Shield really “get” it, more so than any of their predecessors have. 

Chronos asks:

On a mechanical standpoint, do you think the gameplay would suffer if there were no chance involved with the pokeball successfully catching the pokemon (aka 100% capture rate for all pokeballs)?
Excluding legendaries from the discussion for the moment, the catch rate mechanic seems a unnecessary clunky relic. I liked how they simplified the TM/HM system and move deleter/rememberer in Sw/Sh and made managing teams and trying new combos much easier.
Not to mention from mid game onwards you usually have a surplus of pokeballs anyway, particularly Ultra and Quick balls, that when a capture fails it feels more like a waste of time than anything else.

Hmm.

So… not going to lie, my reaction to this suggestion was more or less:

“What?  No, that’s obviously dumb.

…wait, hang on, is it?”

Continue reading “Chronos asks:”

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXV: Lunacy

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What moves should Scallion focus on?
– Razor Leaf and Sleep Powder

What moves should Nancy keep?
– Thunder Wave and Helping Hand

Now that Scallion’s bigger and can’t lift his own weight on his Vine Whips, they’re not as useful; may as well go into Razor Leaf specialisation instead.  He’ll still have the vines, obviously; they just won’t be as versatile or effective without continual practice.  As for Sleep Powder, it’s not only great in battle, it’s so useful for pacifying wild Pokémon – or potentially even people, if you run into “Team Rocket” again – that you can hardly pass it up.  Nancy, on the other hand, you think should stick to what she’s already good at.  Thunder Wave is just a great disabling technique, and Helping Hand fits her cheerleader schtick too well to get rid of it.  The other moves she could learn instead might be useful, but you don’t think she really has the temperament for trickery to master them.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXV: Lunacy”