And now we get to the weird stuff. The last two Pokémon in generation VI – Hoopa and Volcanion – have never been officially revealed by Nintendo or Game Freak, and their existence has been kept a closely-guarded secret. Obviously, we’ve all known about both of them for months. There’s simply no way Game Freak can compete with the collective time, energy and resources of all the computer-literate Pokémon fans on the planet, so Hoopa and Volcanion’s names, Pokédex data, powers and sprites, along with the dialogue of the characters involved with their events, were all quite promptly extracted from the games and made public on the internet, just as happened for Genesect, Meloetta and Keldeo before them, and Darkrai, Shaymin and Arceus before that. I’m coming to seriously wonder why they even bother to keep up the charade anymore; they must know that they can’t keep these things secret. Then again, I suppose if the publicity blitz surrounding each big reveal helps them drum up customers for the inevitable movies, I’m not going to deny them their little bit of theatre. Anyway, let’s get on with our penultimate sixth-generation Pokémon, whose secrets are much better kept than Game Freak’s – the mischievous psychic spirit Hoopa.
Most of what we know about Hoopa comes from a dialogue with a backpacker in the library of the Parfum Palace, which will apparently be activated if you speak to him while she is in your active party. A vaguely humanoid Pokémon with two large bull-like horns and a wispy lower body, Hoopa appears to get her name from the three golden rings – hoops, if you will – that she wears, one on each of her horns, and one about her waist. These things have the power to distort space and create wormholes that Hoopa can use to move objects (and people!) from place to place. Hoopa herself can also travel through the rings, and uses them to make surprise attacks against her opponents from all directions with her signature Hyperspace Hole technique. The rings can even distort their own sizes, allowing Hoopa to fit larger things through them… supposedly, up to and including entire islands when she achieves her “full power” (more on that later). Hoopa is a mischievous Pokémon, and primarily uses her space-warping abilities to screw with people – she likes to steal things and send them to distant places. She supposedly has a lair in the middle of a desert somewhere, filled with all the gold and other precious treasures she’s stolen from powerful rulers and aristocrats over the years. No-one has ever been able to find this place, possibly because it’s not really a place at all, according to conventional human understanding. If Hoopa’s power lets her warp space – not merely teleport as other Psychic Pokémon do but actually alter the physical distance between two points – perhaps Hoopa’s oasis and treasure pile have never been found because she has hidden them, folded them into a sort of pocket of space that doesn’t obey normal geography and can’t be seen or accessed from the outside. I have no idea whether this is really within her power or not, but it seems like a logical extension of the way her wormhole abilities are said to work, and it certainly fits with her crafty, mischievous personality to have a clever way of concealing all her loot.
To illustrate the way Hoopa tends to work, a story is told about an unnamed organisation that tried to “manipulate Hoopa’s power for their own benefit.” Who these people are is left vague, though I think it’s probably reasonable to infer that their group’s name began with the word “Team.” Moreover, I’m inclined to suspect that their motives were less than noble – Hoopa uses her powers to steal, and it seems likely that anyone attempting to “manipulate” her had motives equally nefarious or more so (rather than, say, seeking to reverse-engineer Hoopa’s space-warping abilities into new forms of travel or storage). Unfortunately for them, Hoopa apparently had no need of a plucky young Pokémon trainer to join forces with her at the eleventh hour and defeat the bad guys against all odds. The moment she got wind of what our mystery antagonists were up to, their money and equipment started to disappear mysteriously. Eventually, confused and frightened by these events, they boarded themselves up in their headquarters to wait it out… only to find, when they emerged, that the entire building had been moved to the middle of a huge desert! The fact that Hoopa chose to put them in the desert is interesting, since her own lair is supposed to be in a desert. Could it be the same place? If so, was this not merely an act of self-defence but also Hoopa’s greatest heist ever – not just to steal from a group of thieves but to steal the thieves themselves? Regardless of Hoopa’s exact motivation, it seems to be implied in the story that her enemies did manage to make it out of the desert and return home, where their group disbanded and was never heard from again.
While I’m not really fond of trying to pick out specific mythical inspirations for legendary Pokémon, since I believe that they more often aim to channel general archetypes than individual characters from specific mythologies, I would not be the first person to have seen shades of Arabian djinn (singular djinni, whence the English ‘genie’) in Hoopa. The wispy lower body and gold jewellery fit reasonably well with depictions of djinn, particularly modern imaginings, and the horns wouldn’t be terribly out of place either. Certainly Hoopa’s penchant for theft and mischief accords well with djinn, who are sometimes equated with demons, although there is no shortage of supernatural creatures from mythologies around the world who enjoy playing tricks on humans. Also, for me at least, the tales of her hoard of loot hidden in the middle of the desert are reminiscent of nothing so much as the story of Ali Baba and the treasure-stuffed cave of the Forty Thieves, from the Thousand and One Nights, the standard ‘big book of Arabian mythology.’ I think there’s enough in there to suggest that the designers may have had one eye on that part of the world, at least when putting together Hoopa’s appearance. Data extracted from the recently-released demo of Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby indicates that Hoopa will have some manner of powered-up form as well, a frighteningly powerful Psychic/Dark attacker, and in terms of her physical appearance, the change is quite dramatic – Hoopa is surrounded by six disembodied arms, each apparently reaching out of a hyperspace ring, and another ring sits in her belly, opening into a void. The six arms make this Hoopa more evocative of a Hindu deity – but then again, since she retains her horns and wicked talons, and gains an arrowhead tail, contributing overall to something of a ‘demonic’ appearance, perhaps it would be more appropriate to look to the Hindu gods’ perennial rivals, the demon asuras. This form is presumably the “full power” described by the backpacker studying Hoopa who features in her event. It seems like it’s probably not a mega evolution, because it has slightly different level-up moves to Hoopa’s regular form, including a new signature move called Hyperspace Fury, which seems to be similar to Hoopa’s existing Hyperspace Hole technique but is a Dark-type attack rather than a Psychic-type one and is significantly more powerful. I don’t think there’s actually anything in the game mechanics that makes it impossible for a Mega Pokémon to have a different level-up set – just much more annoying, in all likelihood. This form also gets a slightly smaller stat bonus than other Mega Pokémon do (although, so does Mega Alakazam – probably as a result of Alakazam’s normal form also getting a slight increase to special defence over his generation V stats). What exactly is involved in attaining this ‘full power,’ assuming it’s not mega evolution, is currently unknown, as is the case for Zygarde.
Any conversation on the subject of using Hoopa is of course entirely theoretical at this stage, since Game Freak hasn’t yet admitted that she exists and we have no idea how that alternate form works. However, we can certainly pick out several points from what we already know. Ghost/Psychic, first of all, is something of an unfortunate type combination to be stuck with in the world of X and Y. Ghost and Dark attacks are both far more popular now than in the past, in the wake of the elimination of Steel’s resistances to them, and Hoopa’s unique type combination saddles her with double-weaknesses to both. Poor speed and defence – even by non-legendary standards – also make her a sitting duck for attacks like Pursuit, and her high attack stat isn’t much use to her, as her physical movepool is nearly nonexistent. It’s not all bad, though – Hoopa enjoys fantastic special attack and special defence scores, and has a decent array of special attacks to choose from, including Shadow Ball, Psychic, Psyshock, Thunderbolt, Charge Beam, Energy Ball and Focus Blast, as well as the aforementioned signature move, Hyperspace Hole, which is weaker than Psychic but never misses, and ignores Protect and Detect. Calm Mind is in her movepool, but seems inadvisable on Pokémon with poor physical defence and no efficient means of healing. She gets Trick Room, but unfortunately isn’t that slow and can’t make the most effective use of it. Overall, she seems to be a little on the weak side for a legendary Pokémon, partly because of an unhelpful stat distribution that emphasises a skill (attack) that she can’t really use very well anyway. The alternate form only continues that trend, with most of her bonus points from the transformation going into attack, to further improve all those devastating physical attacks she has like Phantom Force, Return, Brick Break and… uh… Thief, and stuff. The change to Psychic/Dark is, on the whole, probably a positive – losing Ghost-type immunities is painful, but they probably wouldn’t have been worth the hassle of those Ghost and Dark weaknesses anyway. It also adds Dark Pulse to her movepool, although to be honest you’re probably just going to be using Hyperspace Fury for her Dark attack anyway; as far as I can tell the only other new thing in there of any consequence is Knock Off, which… well, it’s a physical attack, and Hoopa’s physical attack stat is going through the roof no matter what you do, so hey, may as well roll with it. She’s certainly not going to be bad, though – I mean, her special attack goes up as well, and at that point she’ll be tied for sixth-highest in the game, behind Mega Mewtwo Y, Attack-form Deoxys, Mega Rayquaza, Primal Kyogre, and Mega Alakazam, so… yeah. She’s gonna be nuking stuff.
Hoopa’s no mysterious primal guardian or embodiment of an eternal force – she’s legendary because she built herself a legend, a legend of increasingly daring and ridiculous thefts that spans entire centuries and has never been pinned down to fact or fiction, and that legend isn’t over yet. For once, I’m actually kind of intrigued to see what will happen when Hoopa inevitably stars in one of those godawful movies. Will she be a hero, or a villain? It’s going to be a lot of fun finding out.