Galarian Ponyta and Rapidash

Galarian Ponyta

Back when Fairy Pokémon were first introduced in X and Y and several existing Pokémon had their types retconned to Fairy or part-Fairy, one of the things we talked about a little bit here was which Pokémon weren’t changed to Fairy-types although they justifiably could have been – and one of the Pokémon on that list was Rapidash.  Rapidash is a unicorn – a fairytale creature if ever there was one, full of mystery and magic.  But Rapidash itself is… weirdly not very unicorn-ish; all of its powers are related to either fire or speed, and all of its lore (not just in the games, but in other continuities like the anime) is pretty heavily focused on its legendary speed and competitiveness.  It’s not really a unicorn in the sense of Mediaeval European mythology – more of a horse that just happens to have a pretty vicious horn.  And is on fire.  But Galar has now given us an enchanted, divine Psychic-type Ponyta and Psychic/Fairy-type Rapidash, all pure white and sky blue and candy pink like a My Little Pony character, sweetness and light from head to hooves.  And we’re gonna dig into it and figure out what makes a unicorn unicorn-ish, because that is apparently the path I have chosen.

Continue reading “Galarian Ponyta and Rapidash”

Patreon tier changes

I’ve made some changes to my Patreon tier structure, which will hopefully make small donations a bit more worthwhile. New benefits are as follows:

The “minion” tier ($1+) lets you jump the queue for my Q&A box by sending me questions via Patreon DMs. Right now I have so many unanswered questions, most of which are complicated ones that I can’t easily knock out in half an hour, that there’s a sort of wishing-well quality to putting anything in the question box. It doesn’t cost me anything to rearrange the queue, so I think it’s reasonable to give that to anyone prepared to support me, even for only a small amount.

I’ve never had anyone sign up specifically for the $8/month tier that included access to behind-the-scenes material, so I’m moving that to $5 and getting rid of the $4 tier (which used to have the question priority benefit).

And lastly, it’s now $10/month (down from $12) for membership on the Dark Council, which gets to make suggestions for a longer discussion article every month, as well as a unique title on my acknowledgements page and a shout-out at the end of articles.

If you like my writing and would like me to be able to do more of it, check out and consider a monthly donation – every little helps!

Weird question time asks:

Really REALLY out of left field thought on my part… but I’m curious to see how you’ll respond or interpret my potentially mad rambling. Since USUM, I’ve never really gotten over the alien-humans from the Ultra recon squad. And as I have now been replaying Pokémon Platinum and stumbled across the ye olde Sinnoh myth of Pokémon and people being one in the same at one point. Which got me to think like “do humans in the various Pokémon multiverse have types?”. Which isn’t too far-fetched in some cases given normal and ghost for alive and dead people, or psychic for those few individuals like Sabrina. But now that there are technically canonical people that took a different offshoot of human evolution AND how some Pokémon types are based on humanesque myth critters. The idea of people in universe being like the fae or fair folk akin to Fairy types or other types could potentially be a viable canon thing given how darn big and infinite multiverse shenanigans actually are. Here’s hoping what I’m sending somewhat makes sense or isn’t too off the deep end!

So… to my mind that depends on what you think type actually is.  If they’re somehow baked into Pokémon biology specifically, then the answer is obviously “no, that doesn’t even make sense.”  Humans aren’t Pokémon, at least, not in any meaningful way; there are several things that all Pokémon have in common which humans don’t appear to share (I’m not convinced that we’re supposed to literally believe that Sinnoh myth; there are real-world cultures that have similar myths, and we don’t believe those; there are also compelling ideological reasons for a culture that relies on Pokémon training to create a myth like that).

Continue reading “Weird question time asks:”

Systema Pokémonum: Assessing Pokémon’s Place in the History of Science

well, it was only a matter of time before I found an excuse to talk about Pokémon for an academic conference

Trinity History Con is an annual conference on intersections of science and pop culture, run out of Trinity College Dublin. It’s been in-person previously, but is all online this year, for… obvious reasons… so the presentations are all on YouTube. And I submitted one! My co-writer and presenter here is Elena Romero Passerin, who’s doing a PhD at St. Andrews (where Jim the Editor did his PhD) on the history of biology in early modern Europe, specifically botanical gardens in the 17th and 18th centuries. We talk in this video about the “collector” mindset of enlightenment naturalists, the involvement of non-professionals in scientific research, the utopian ideals of western science, and Pokémon’s place as a cheerleader for environmentalism and life sciences. We put a lot of work into it, so I hope you enjoy it!

also, if you’ve watched any of Jim’s Final Fantasy streams you will have heard my voice by now, but for most readers this will be the first time you’ve seen my face (albeit in a tiny corner thumbnail), so get ready to be blown away by my sheer on-screen charisma

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXVIII: Bouldered!

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

What should Scallion do?
– Just make it a straightforward fight – Scallion should be favoured.
– Brock’s tough; you should try to come up with something more creative.

[AUTHOR TIEBREAK: Well, it would really be a shame to waste all the interesting suggestions for option B that I got in the comments and my Q&A inbox…]

The next stage of the fight goes just as you predicted.  Geodude is already tiring, and after a few rounds of dodging, circling and jabbing, you spot it lowering its guard and call out.  With an almighty THWACK, Scallion springs a coiled Vine Whip forward and nails Geodude right between the eyes.  Geodude lurches back, lists in its formerly smooth hover, spins around drunkenly and crashes to the arena floor.
“Super effective, babyyy!” hollers Abner from the stands, tossing his Metapod up into the air and catching it in celebration.  The bug catchers all cheer, and out of the corner of your eye you even notice Lilac(?) slowly clapping, an enigmatic smirk dancing across his face.
Brock joins the applause as he strides out onto the field to help his Pokémon pick itself up. “Now that’s a Bulbasaur,” he exclaims approvingly, before crouching to take his Geodude’s hand.  “Good job as always, Geodude.”  He gives his Pokémon a quick once-over before recalling it to its Pokéball and returning to his end of the arena.  Scallion joins you back at your end of the field as well.  “Well, I guess that means it’s time to get serious.”  Brock suddenly has another Pokéball in his hand, and throws it high, higher, up towards the ceiling.  “Onix, go!”

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXVIII: Bouldered!”

RandomAccess asks:

The new Dreepy evolutionary line, to me, brings up some pretty interesting questions about the Pokemon world’s evolutionary biology. They’re apparently aquatic Pokemon that lived in the ancient past that became spirits once they became extinct, and now fittingly have the “ghost/dragon” typing in the modern day. What’s interesting about this is you must wonder, why isn’t this more common, that being why isn’t there a ghost type variant of every existing Pokemon, since all Pokemon are living creatures that shed their mortal coil eventually all the same. This seems to imply that becoming a distinct ghost-type pokemon is something only some are capable of, while the rest just become normal wraiths like Pikachu did in the Pokemon Tower episode and presumably eventually pass on. Might there be some “metaphysical” (or possibly just physical, since this is just how things work in this world) laws that determine how adaptive a Pokemon’s spirit is? And judging what we know of Pokemon that are suspected to have once been the departed spirits of humans (such as Yamask and Gengar) and how different they look compared to humans, how many ghost type Pokemon might be the result of the ghost of a known or unknown species of Pokemon? Hell, if we could somehow find the spiritual version of “genes” would it be possible to trace common ancestry with their mortal relatives, and add ghostly branches to the Pokemon tree of life? The implications of this are both overwhelming and exciting.

Yeah, it’s an interesting problem.  I really love the idea of a Pokémon that’s not a fossilised prehistoric creature, like so many we’ve seen before, and instead the ghost of an extinct creature, but it does raise that question – why this Pokémon?  Why is Dreepy unique (well, not quite unique; Galarian Corsola seems similar, but they’re obviously unusual)?  I would not actually default to thinking that Dreepy became lingering spirits because of something inherent to them, though.  In folklore, people become ghosts because of something about the way they died – maybe they have “unfinished business,” or weren’t given the burial rites their culture requires, or were killed by a particular monster, or just died in a particularly unpleasant way that somehow damaged their soul and prevented them from moving on to wherever spirits are supposed to go.  In Pokémon, we often aren’t explicitly told where Ghost-types come from, but when we are, my impression is that it’s more often a magical or spiritual cause than a biological or scientific one (of course, then the follow-up question is whether we’re supposed to believe what we’re told about Phantump, Sandygast, etc. or just see it as a mystery yet to be solved).  Given what little we know, my first guess would be that Dreepy exist in their current ghostly form due to something about the nature of the event (or competing species, or predator) that drove them extinct.  Maybe their species was wiped out by something unusually sudden or traumatic, or maybe there was some Ghost-, Dark- or Psychic-type predator (now extinct itself as well) that could manipulate and damage souls, or maybe – just maybe – they were the victims of some kind of spiritual calamity, like an eruption of the spirit world into the “real” world.  That’s the sort of place my mind goes when you raise the question, at any rate. I think in the absence of anything more explicit from an official source, the “correct” answer is probably whatever you feel is the more potentially interesting.

final fantasy friday, or whatever

look, I didn’t come up with the name; it’s Jim’s channel, he gets to decide what things are called

but yeah, we’re streaming Final Fantasy X, 9 am tomorrow NZ time/8 pm tonight UK time/when the fµ¢£ ever US time, sort your own time zones out, people

Come for the level grinding and creepy blue-haired villain, stay for me rambling unscripted about the Crown Tundra and Jim talking about the energy ethics conference he’s been helping to run all week

Camper Smoke asks:

I know you have said India is ideal, but how would you feel if game freak made a Pokemon region out of scandinavia?

I guess predominantly “fine”?  Like, I have multiple preferences ahead of that, and particularly if we’re thinking generation IX – that is, immediately following another northern European region – I don’t think it makes a lot of sense in sequence.  But I’m not sure I can think of any place on Earth that I’d be offended or upset or even really disappointed to see as the setting of a Pokémon game.  Scandinavia’s got a lot of affluent multilinguals who are part of Pokémon’s global community, it’s got distinctive modern aesthetics that fit in well with Pokémon’s distinctive blend of tradition and techno-utopia, it’s got Vikings, it’s got fjords, and what else do any of us really need in life, when we’ve got fjords?

Jim the Editor remarked on this that it could be interesting to have a very cold region, and it certainly would.  On the other hand, the cynic in me says that Game Freak would shy away from creating a region with very few habitats for desert and tropical Pokémon, and especially from having to deal with the polar day-night cycle, in favour of just putting in a few more snowy areas than most games in the series, and otherwise keeping the climate mostly temperate.  Which… I think is an issue not just with this idea in particular but more generally.  There are things that the Pokémon games like to keep formulaic – say, having a variety of biomes to slot a large number of existing Pokémon into, or having a certain ratio of small towns to big urban centres – and if a region doesn’t obviously have those things, I kind of suspect they would get shoehorned in anyway, potentially at the expense of its unique character.  Not that it wouldn’t be great just to see Poké-Stockholm and Poké-Copenhagen, but… y’know, I think if you want to have a Scandinavian region, you want the northernmost areas to experience midnight sun and polar night, and you want that to be mechanically and narratively significant somehow; you want big parts of the map to be sparsely populated like the Crown Tundra, and you want the player spending a lot of time in those areas and thinking about them; you want the ocean to be important as something you explore and learn about, not just travel through.  Honestly, now that I’m saying all this, can we have, like… a sprawling Pokémon region based on the whole Arctic Ocean, something with big environmental themes, maybe some light survival mechanics?  Can we just put that one on the list, after India and Brazil?  I’ll just pop over and let Shigeru Ohmori know that I want that on the list.