It’s been a while since we here at Pokémaniacal introduced something new, but with the end of the Gen VII Pokédex in sight, we thought we might try something a little different and begin a spotlight series. This monthly series will take the form of a conversation or interview between Chris and I (Jim the Editor) around the subject of one of Chris’ past projects throughout the eight-year history of this blog. Of course, as good historians, all references to old works will be linked to so if you’re new to the blog, you won’t be left in the dark and can follow on with the loyal few who have followed us from BlogSpot, to Tumblr and finally to our new-ish home on WordPress.
Now, before you stop reading and accuse us of just lazily pointing at old content in the ever-going quest for more clicks (I mean, yes, I’d be a liar if I said that wasn’t part of it), the real aim of this series is to allow us both – mainly Chris – to revisit some of his older works and address what /he/ liked about some of his older stuff, where his perspective has changed, and whether he might do things differently now. It’s a way of updating and revisiting some of the earlier stuff without having to trawl through each of the 2,237 posts on the site to date individually… Which I don’t think anyone wants. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to it – please let us know what you think of our topic and this new series in the comments – be sure to include any old posts which you would like to see covered next!
Jim the Editor: Well, here we are, our brand new spotlight series, and what better place to start than where it all began!
Chris: Right. Beginning. Unova Pokémon.
That is where we started… 8 years ago?
Oh, something like that. God, what a terrible idea that was…
Looking back on all those posts, all those words, I have one pressing question… Why?
Um… can I get back to you on that one? Maybe in another eight years…
Sure. Maybe an easier question would be what we’re you trying to do when you started this project?
I guess at first I mostly meant it for our friends? Like, people who hadn’t been into Pokémon for a while but might want to catch up on it. So I talked about all the Pokémon of the most recent batch, and what made them in my opinion good or bad.
Was the choice of starting at Gen V deliberate? After all the way these games handled the availability of earlier Pokémon probably represents the greatest split from the earlier games and so would be a natural starting point for a project like this…
I mean… sure, I guess? But I don’t think we ever thought of it that way at the time; it was just the most recent. Or at least, that’s my memory of it.
Chalk it down to happy coincidence then?
Heh; something like that.
And then, why reviews?
You know, I honestly don’t know. I suppose there are other approaches I could have taken; there are other approaches I now think about taking… But I guess Pokémon is about the Pokémon, and looking at each Pokémon one at a time makes a certain amount of sense.
I think it may have been your idea, actually.
It may well have been… Or at least influenced by my… ambivalence towards some of the newer Pokémon… After all, generation 5 was my return to the games also.
So looking back on those early days, is there anything that stands out for you? Anything that you are most proud of?
Honestly I’m more proud of how far I’ve come since then. My Kalos and Alola reviews are a lot more deeply researched and have a lot more insight. The Unova ones have a nice turn of phrase here and there but mostly they feel to me now like I was still coming into myself.
I can see that and yet at the same time, I do love looking back at the energy you had in those shorter posts – the format just seems to suit a more manic persona than the one you’ve grown into. Worryingly, you seem more sane now.
Heh. Probably. I’ve grown soft in my old age.
Ha, yes, quite… And that brings us nicely to one of the more significant differences between those old reviews and the more recent ones…. The main conceit of those early reviews were that you were trying to decide whether the Pokémon in question ought to exist… What was the logic behind that?
I think part of the point – and this is sort of coloured by recent events, but you can see in some of the old entries that I was thinking this way even then – was that each Pokémon has a “cost,” and just adding more for the sake of adding more is not actually neutral; it’s development time that might be spent on things like story and worldbuilding and game balance and spotlighting Pokémon that exist already. My thinking was that if you’re going to create a bunch of new Pokémon, you ought to have a reason for it and in Black and White, the reason for a lot of them seemed to be “well, we actually wanted Pidgey or Geodude or Rattata or Zubat or Machop or whatever, but we’ve decided not to have any of the old ones in this region, so we’d better come up with a one-for-one replacement.” I’d be broadly supportive of having no old Pokémon in Unova as a top-level design choice; I just don’t think they were very committed to it.
And that’s why you decided to do away with almost half the new Pokémon?
That begs the question, why’d you decide against continuing that aspect of the reviews into the newer generations?
It started to feel limiting. Relatively few of even my Unova reviews are genuinely firm on one side or the other but the final aye/nay verdict kind of makes them seem that way. There’s a lot of Pokémon where relatively minor changes could have tipped me in the other direction, and I think in the Unova series that gets obscured.
Also, people get very attached to their favourite Pokémon, and tend to interpret “your favourite is bad” as “and you should feel bad.” A lot of the time “I deny this Pokémon’s right to exist” isn’t even a good expression of what I mean, because often the truth is closer to “this Pokémon deserved better.”
I think you can still see that line of thinking in your reviews these days.
Do you regret that aspect of the Unova reviews?
Eh… a little. But it doesn’t really weigh on my mind; I’ve moved on to other things since then.
So where does that leave the Unova reviews in your mind?
They’re a thing that I did. They’re fine.
A ringing endorsement! Haha! Worth checking out though?
I’d like to think so. I don’t really stand by them anymore, so much has changed since then with new abilities, the expansion of movesets, and changes to the overall metagame – not to mention the addition of mega-evolution and Z-moves – but they’re fun, and they’re interesting to look at to see the evolution in my style.
They are good fun. I’ve read through a bunch for this post and although I am very proud of what this blog is now – what you have made it – there is a certain mad genius about those early reviews… Do you have any recommendations for the people at home?
Hmm… I like my review of Darumaka and Darmanitan, because it captures some ideas that I still think are major flaws with that design. And the Basculin review has some vintage snark that I still believe is wholly deserved. What about you?
Well, if you want that characteristic Pokémaniacal humour, it’s hard to pass up the Alomomola or Emolga entries … However, those more acquainted with your recent style of reviews however might appreciate the Heatmor and Durant double review.
And with those plugs, I think we are about done with this first entry in the Spotlight Series. This was fun!
Oh, are we? That was quick and relatively painless…
Congratulations to those of you out there who made it all the way to the end – without all of you… well… this would be a much less justifiable use of our time. Please do tell us what you think of this new series in the comments and if there’s anything you’d like me and Chris to revisit, let us know!
Anyway, that’s enough from me. I’ll catch you all next time.
Wow, our first piece hasn’t even come out yet and we’re already creating some buzz… and so we might as well address it with an addendum, right Chris?
Oh, I suppose…
In the comments section of the July edition of the ‘State of the Blog’, where we announced this new series, the idea of redemption for some of the Pokémon whose right to exist was denied was raised… Is there anything you would like to say on the topic since we are here?
Well, like I said, the whole denying Pokémon their existence thing… it’s really not that clear-cut – not as black-and-white–
– boo your face. But no, really; my approach is just different now. It’s… apples to oranges, in a way. Leppa berries to oran berries. Whatever. Some Pokémon really are just better now, maybe a couple as a result of move tutors starting in Black and White 2, but the most prominent changes are because of mechanics shifts or even outright buffs in generations VI and VII. I got asked a while back about Bisharp, who was “fine” at best in Black and White but a dominant metagame force in X and Y – due to, frankly, not even anything as subtle as metagame shifts, but just the fact that Dark-types are better now, because Steel doesn’t resist their attacks anymore. In cases like that, I’d stand by what I said as having been true at the time. And then again, there are Pokémon like Scrafty and Gothitelle, where I was mostly critical on design grounds, and I stand by the conclusion itself, but think the blunt, all-or-nothing style of the reviews did a disservice to the actual complexity of the problems I think those Pokémon raise.
I want to go on the record as saying that I actually really like Scrafty and always have –
Well, you are wrong.
Haha, so you’ve said! But is there any Pokémon in particular you might like to use this platform to redeem…?
Well… hmmm…. There are definitely Pokémon I’ve warmed to. In the case of Mandibuzz, certainly, I think I didn’t give enough credit to the originality of the design.
Unexpected… any others?
Krookodile… rereading the entry, I do see my point about Krookodile, but I still think I was too harsh there. Cinccino, conversely, I think I was if anything too lenient with. I mean, really, what is the point of Cinccino? I barely remember the bloody thing exists these days. Should’ve thrown that one out. I think the same probably goes for Liepard.
Okay, but we are deviating from the point somewhat… Maybe there’s one particular Pokémon who deserved fairer treatment, whose faults you exaggerated at the time but you have managed now to come to terms with…?
Oh, Druddigon! Yeah, I felt bad even at the time about Druddigon, because I did always have a soft spot for it. It was just so underwhelming even at the time that I felt constrained by the format into condemning it.
Again, unexpected and certainly not what I was driving at… How about something you trashed and condemned to the garbage heap without proper consideration…?
Um…? You don’t mean the Muskedeers, do you? I mean, not that I don’t have mixed feelings, but I thought that you always-
I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT MEAN THOSE RIDICULOUS UNGULATES! Damn arm-less, quadrupedal fighting types…. THEY’RE BASED ON THE MUSKETEERS BUT DON’T HAVE HANDS…?!
I know… I know…
WHY WOULD YOU CREATE SOMETHING LIKE THAT…?!
It’s okay; it’s okay… Fighting-types having something other than two arms plus two legs isn’t the end of the world. But… well, that’s everything I can think of; what were you talking about?
Don’t you think it’s time you put aside your enmity for the friendly rubbish Pokémon and gave it a fair go?
Hello…? Are you still there?
I can see that you’ve seen my messages….
… um, I guess that’s all we have to say on the topic of redemption for the time being. I hope you enjoyed our first edition of the Spotlight Series. Thank you again to everyone who got this far.
If you want to continue the discussion please feel free to do so in the comments and don’t forget to let us know what other posts you would like us to revisit!