What would a pokémon based in New Zealand be like?
Well, New Zealand has a lot of unique native birds, and I’d love to see Pokémon based on some of them. Kiwi are the obvious choice, because they’re adorable and weird and iconic, but I think you could also do something fun with kea (mountain parrots that dismantle people’s cars for fun), moa (extinct giant emu-things), kākāpō (flightless nocturnal parrots with a booming mating call that can be heard several kilometres away) or pūkeko (wading swamp birds with beautiful blue and black plumage and red beaks that adapt easily to living near humans). We’d need something for pāua, which are a kind of abalone with an iridescent shell that’s used a lot in Māori art. I’d love a regional form of Shelmet with rainbow armour, that kept its armour instead of losing it to Karrablast and evolved into a warrior with a taiaha or mere. There should probably be some kind of bat Pokémon, because bats are New Zealand’s only native mammals, but I don’t know exactly what to do with it beyond that. And we’d need a giant wētā – they’re these huge bugs, like spiky crickets the size of your hand (if you choose to search for images of them, don’t be scared; they look terrifying but they’re completely harmless). You maybe don’t even need to do much with that one; just make it a huge, tanky pure Bug-type.
Jim the Editor had this idea that I absolutely love, which was to have a Solrock regional form based on the legend of Maui slowing down the sun (aside: I love that the existence of the movie Moana means we can talk about Maui and Americans will more or less know who that is), possibly also building in some kind of reference to the ozone hole, which has always been a particularly acute problem for New Zealand. Maybe they normally live in the sky but have been driven closer to the ground by air pollution and are terrorising land Pokémon. I think there’s a lot of cool possibilities.
At the risk of sounding like a wet blanket, though, I do want to repeat some stuff I’ve said before about designing Pokémon regions, namely that I would not be super comfortable about Game Freak doing this stuff without hiring some Māori artists and designers as consultants. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to take material from indigenous cultures to inspire new media, but money from that commodification should flow back to those communities and they should have a voice in how it’s done. It would be… really personally unpleasant for me if this were something I had to get mad at Pokémon about.