Name asks:

Lore-wise, how is aura sphere a fighting type move if other pokemon besides Lucario (Togekiss, Clawitzer, Zeraora to name a few) can also learn it? And why is aura wheel electric?

Well, Aura Wheel is a different thing from Aura Sphere, because if you go back to the original Japanese, the “Aura” of Aura Wheel is オーラ, ōra – just the English word “aura” written in katakana. This is, I have to assume, a reference to the new-age/pseudoscience concept of auras, visible, colourful energy fields that represent your personality or mood (which is why Aura Wheel changes type according to Morpeko’s mood).  The “Aura” of Aura Sphere, also mentioned in Lucario’s flavour text, is はどう/波動, hadou, which means something like “wave energy” (see also the classic Street Fighter move Hadouken, or “Wave Motion Fist”).  Despite the English translations, the two are completely unrelated.

As for the other Pokémon that learn Aura Sphere – the move is supposed to represent, basically, weaponised spiritual energy (it’s… well, it’s a Dragonball Z ki blast; there’s no other way to put it).  Lucario gets it because of the mastery of spirit produced by intense martial arts training.  Other than Fighting-types, it’s primarily learned by Pokémon with what you might think of as “strong souls”; Togekiss, Mewtwo, the Sinnoh space-time trio, Magearna.  Clawitzer and Blastoise, on the other hand, get it because of their Mega Launcher ability, which powers up things with hadou in their Japanese names (the “Pulse” moves).

The Dance of Dragons asks:

If you had a dragon, what would you name him/her?

I had a fairly long discussion about this with Jim the Editor and didn’t really come to a satisfying conclusion; I think I’m possibly going about the question the wrong way.  See… when I take it upon myself to imagine a dragon, I sort of… picture something that would come with a name?  Like, a dragon to my mind is an intelligent creature that might not necessarily want me to name it, or might expect a name from its own language.  Y’know, you can’t name a dragon the way you’d name a pet dog or whatever because it’s going to understand the name and has to like it, but it’s also weird to just give a dragon a normal human name like “Kyle” – which is a name I genuinely like and could imagine giving to a kid, but is undeniably a weird name for a dragon.

Can you do that?  Can you name a dragon “Kyle”?  Kyle the dragon?

I mean, I’m committed now; I guess if I ever get a dragon, then this is what’s happening and we all just have to live with that.

Seronimo asks:

Have you ever considered starting a discord chat for this blog? I feel like your blog attracts a very specific type of Pokemon fan, and we constantly flood your inbox with thoughts of our own since we have nowhere else to share ’em. Maybe you could herd us into a groupchat so we could bounce our absurd ideas off of each other, instead of making you respond to each one yourself?

Well, I have considered it.  I don’t regularly use Discord and I’m honestly not sure I really “get” it, and by setting up something like that I’d kinda be taking some responsibility for moderating it and being a regular presence there, which… as a long-term commitment I’m honestly not wild about.  On the other hand, there are a lot of things people seem to want to say to/about me for which the question-and-answer inbox is simply not a useful or effective outlet.  So I guess I’m not really against it, just unsure whether/how it would work.

Charred Black Potato Ash asks:

How did they build the Pantheon?

I have to assume that this question is less about Roman architectural techniques and materials generally and more about the thing that’s super distinctive about the Pantheon, so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.

The Pantheon is a big Roman temple in the heart of the city of Rome.  The name Pantheon (or Pantheum) is not on the building itself anywhere, but it’s mentioned in ancient Latin texts.  It’s Greek for “[Temple to] All the Gods” and seems to have been a nickname given to the building because it housed cult statues of multiple patron deities of the imperial family, including Mars and Venus.  The Pantheon is also known today (and for the last several hundred years) as the Church of Santa Maria della Rotonda, and that name is a big clue to the thing that’s impressive about it: the rotunda.  From the front the Pantheon looks like a fairly standard Roman temple with a triangular pediment and colonnaded porch, but from the side, you see that it isn’t rectangular like a normal temple; it has a humongous round butt sticking out the back, and once you go inside, it turns out to have a massive domed ceiling that you can’t easily see from the front.  We used to think that the Pantheon was originally built as a fairly ordinary rectangular temple in the reign of Augustus, the first emperor (r. 31 BC – AD 14), by his right hand man Marcus Agrippa (whose name is on the dedicatory inscription), and was subsequently rebuilt as its gloriously unique self by Hadrian (r. AD 117-138) after being destroyed in a fire; this is what I was taught when I was in high school, back in the 1840s.  New research says that, in fact, the Pantheon we have today was probably built during the reign of Hadrian’s predecessor Trajan (r. AD 98-117), and Agrippa’s original Pantheon probably also had a dome.

So… whence the dome?

Continue reading “Charred Black Potato Ash asks:”

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXV: Afternoon at the Museum

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Do you want to give Zorua a nickname?
– Let Jim the Editor name it.
– Let the Narrator name it.

[AUTHOR TIEBREAK: The dice say we give this one to the Narrator.]

Y’know kid, you shouldn’t make a habit of this; nicknames are personal and your Pokémon should have names you came up with for yourself.  But yeah, all right; if you’re not feeling too creative I guess I can give you something.  You don’t technically know this yet ‘cause it’s not in your Pokédex, but what you’ve got there is a Zorua, a rare Pokémon that can impersonate other Pokémon using illusion magic – keeping its true identity secret from all but the keenest observers.  With that in mind, and by the power vested in me, I hereby name this Pokémon:

Jane Doe

Jane seems pretty pleased with herself just for having a nickname at all.  You gotta have an identity in order to conceal it, I guess.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXV: Afternoon at the Museum”

Gym Badges

The eight Kanto region badges. Clockwise from top: Boulder, Cascade, Thunder, Rainbow, Soul, Marsh, Volcano, Earth.

One of the seemingly immutable fixtures of the Pokémon games is the system of gyms and badges.  In each game (barring the Alola generation) the main challenge set before you, as a young trainer, is to visit eight Pokémon gyms, battle and defeat their leaders, and earn their badges – little bits of metal and brightly-coloured enamel that you pin to the inside of your coat, so you can flash them at people to get into clubs and impress boys.  I assume.  Today, in this article brought to you by the Dark Council of my Patreon supporters, we’re going to talk about badges and their history and meaning.  I honestly don’t know how that’s going to go, but that’s what’s happening, so let’s get to it!

There is a venerable video game trope of “Travel the World, Raid the Dungeons, Defeat the Bosses, Collect the Things” that provides a useful structure to hang your story on.  There’s multiple Things of a single class that you’re trying to collect, or perhaps multiple pieces of a single Thing, and they’re in different places being guarded by different enemies.  This means developers can do things like, say, create a series of thematic dungeons with thematic boss fights, without having to come up with a unique story rationale for why you’re going to each one – it’s more gameplay mileage out of a single story element.  That sounds lazy, but creating a video game is essentially about training players to do something, then presenting them with more and more variations and twists on that thing, so some amount of repetition can be part of good game design.  Arguably the most straightforward and best-known examples are from Japanese games – Pokémon Red and Blue are themselves classic examples by now, but there’s also things like the elemental crystals of early Final Fantasy, or pieces of the Triforce in the Legend of Zelda series, as well as plenty from western games.

But why badges?

Continue reading “Gym Badges”

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXIV: Out of the Woods

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What kind of Pokémon wanted to join you?
– Creepy
– Intelligent

The odd thing is, you didn’t see it at first.  You mostly remember releasing Bug Pokémon from the cages – Caterpie, Weedle, Ledyba, Spinarak.  There were some Pidgey, even a couple of Pikachu, who immediately fled into the underbrush.  Not really anything you’re surprised to see; hell, aside from the Pikachu you aren’t even sure what Pokémon there are here that are even worth poaching.  What is the business model of a Pokémon poacher, anyway?  You make a mental note to ask your prisoners that.  The point is, everything you consciously remember seeing is… well, not that you’d ever put it like this, but trash.

But when you glance over your shoulder at Scallion and Nancy, the Pokémon talking to them isn’t any of those.  It’s… a four-legged, furry charcoal-grey Pokémon with a pointed face and keen, intelligent, almost sinister eyes.  Did it just come out of the forest?  No, you’re sure it walked over to them from the stream of Pokémon you were releasing from the cages.  You saw it out of the corner of your eye.

Didn’t you?

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXIV: Out of the Woods”

Leo M. R. asks:

So, last time we talked a little bit about signature Pokémon and how (ever since Ruby/Sapphire) most Gym Leaders’/Elite Four members’/Champions’ signatures are always newly-introduced Pokémon. Let’s talk about that more. I’m of two minds about this paradigm.

On the one hand, I do think new generations *should* showcase new Pokémon in major battles, since that is the major draw of new Pokémon games. On the other hand, I feel like it’s gotten to the point where Game Freak design certain Pokémon specifically to fit a particular character they’ve come up with, regardless of the Pokémon’s own merits. XY was particularly bad with this: Vivillon was the only new Bug-type introduced in Gen VI and half of its raison d’être was just to be Viola’s signature. I would argue a similar case for Heliolisk/Clemont, Avalugg/Wulfric, and to a lesser extent Pyroar/Lysandre. SwSh may have begun moving away from this somewhat, but I still get the same impression with Drednaw/Nessa, Centiskorch/Kabu, Coalossal/Gordie, Alcremie/Opal, and like the entirety of Bede’s teams. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those are badly-designed Pokémon necessarily; I’m just saying it seems to me they only exist to be the signatures of their respective Trainers, and not much else. What are your thoughts?

Continue reading “Leo M. R. asks:”

The Dag asks:

Why do you think Poison-type Pokemon were so commonplace and widespread in Gen I and since then have been relatively scarce since?

Honestly, maybe the fact that it’s true is the reason for the thing itself?  Like, if balance of the number of Pokémon in each type is something that Game Freak cares about at all, then you could fairly look at the 33 first-generation Poison-types and say “okay, we have more than enough of these.”  Per Bulbapedia, Poison is still the 8th most common type out of 18, despite gaining only three new members in generation II, four in III and just two (Skrelp and Dragalge) in VI.

I think Poison is just… a weird thing to even be a type, frankly.  It’s like Flying, in that it’s more something a Pokémon does than something a Pokémon is (except arguably in the case of industrial waste Pokémon like Muk and Weezing), and it’s not hard to imagine its abilities being given fairly freely to Pokémon who aren’t actually members of the type.  And… well, think of other JRPGs.  Poison is always a status effect; off the top of my head I can’t think of any games that have a concept of status effects where poison isn’t one of them.  However, I think I’m justified in saying that it’s very rarely, if ever, a trait of monsters that affects their general strengths and weaknesses.  Having Poison as a type at all is a very weird decision, both conceptually and in terms of mechanical game design, and generation I also slaps it on several Pokémon for whom poison is… arguably not a very strong part of their identity – Bulbasaur, Golbat, Nidoran?  I’m really going out on a limb here, but it’s sort of plausible to me that Game Freak’s designers genuinely didn’t know what to do with the Poison type for quite a while after the first games.