If the Creature Design department at Pokemon studios asked you to design a Pokemon, how would you proceed and what would your Pokemon be? Type(s), Attacks, Ability/Abilities, Bio, and maybe a picture or illustrative description?
Well, my usual position is that I wouldn’t.
I’m not against new Pokémon per se; I just think we have enough now that creating new Pokémon for the sake of having new Pokémon should no longer be a priority.
Still, you did ask…
The first thing to do is identify something that’s missing. This could be a type combination that hasn’t been explored, or a particular set of powers that’s needed for a storyline, or maybe a starter Pokémon that develops in a particular way, or even just an ability that’s mechanically interesting. Just as long as it isn’t “we don’t have a Pokémon based on this particular type of generic fish yet” because that way lies madness.
Anyway, let’s say for the sake of example that I’m writing a game in which the Unown are especially important. Furthermore, let’s say that I want to create more opportunities to show off the tablet mechanic I suggested when I talked about the Unown months ago, whereby groups of Unown can be sealed onto tablets to form words, and grant powers based on the words they form (say, a ‘FIND’ tablet that reveals the locations of hidden items). In order to do this, I decide to create a Pokémon who has some sort of special relationship with the Unown, and with the concept of writing in general.
A humanshape Pokémon would be the obvious way to go – maybe too obvious. Maybe even boring. Let’s do something a bit less predictable. I remember that the ancient Egyptian god of writing is Thoth, who has the head of an ibis, and that I need an excuse to annoy my Egyptologist colleagues by blatantly misinterpreting Egyptian culture and history. I decide to make a Pokémon based on the African Sacred Ibis. I realise that I can’t draw, dial Ken Sugimori’s cell phone number, and scream the word “IBISES!” into the telephone. By means of a torrent of abuse and expletives, I gradually convey to him that I want an ibis-like Pokémon, deep blue in colour, with a golden head and neck, wings tipped with black, as though dipped in ink, gold streaks on the insides of its wings, and an ankh picked out in gold on its breast.
I realise that the obvious choice of element combination for this Pokémon, Flying/Psychic, already has a number of representatives – Xatu, Sigilyph, Swoobat, and Lugia – and that I am already in danger of stepping on Sigilyph’s toes. Irritated, I declare that I am creating a Flying/Ghost Pokémon instead, confident that the end result will be completely different to Drifblim. I scribble some barely-legible notes to the effect that this Pokémon is drawn to ancient ruins, where it searches for inscriptions. If it finds any, it stares at them, perched on one leg, for hours or even days, until it understands what they say. Once mesmerised by an inscription, it forgets to eat, drink, and sometimes even sleep or breathe, but never seems to suffer any ill effects. It is said that it is trying to learn the spells it needs to find its way into the spirit world.
I quietly mutter to myself that this Pokémon should be a physical attacker with high special defence and moderate speed, assigning it Drill Peck, Shadow Sneak, Pursuit and Psycho Cut. I note, with irritation, that there are still no attacks thematically appropriate to bird Pokémon that can reliably damage Steel-types, and make a note to shout at someone about that. In the meantime, in a fit of annoyance, I also gift my Pokémon with Will’o’Wisp, Reflect and Light Screen, Destiny Bond, Featherdance, Disable, Hypnosis, Spite and Whirlwind.
Finally, I remember the Unown.
This Pokémon has an ability, Shadow Spell, that allows it to study and learn the inscription on an Unown tablet (if it studies another, it forgets the first) and gains different effects depending on the tablet. It also has a signature move, Shadow Wing (Ghost, physical, 80 power, 100% accuracy, 15 PP), that gains different side effects. After it examines a ‘FIND’ tablet, for instance, Shadow Wing can never miss and has a high critical hit rate, while Shadow Spell allows it to ignore elemental immunities (so Ghost attacks can hit Normal Pokémon, etc). If it studies a ‘SWIM’ tablet instead, Shadow Wing becomes a Water-type attack and Shadow Spell grants it resistance to Water and Fire. I proclaim, smugly, that the sky is the limit, and lean back in my desk chair with a look of intense satisfaction on my face, before falling asleep.
That took me, like, an hour and a half, Game Freak. Your move.
[EDIT: A kind and talented reader later drew this Pokémon for me, and following another reader’s suggestion I named it Scribis]