Right, where was I?
I’ve been doing the regional variant Pokémon up until now as blocks of two or three, but I don’t think that’s going to work for the rest of them – I’ve been stuck for weeks trying to do another set, and I’m not sure there are useful themes I can use to tie them together. There’s also just… a lot more to say about the Galarian forms than the Alolan ones, partly because some Galarian forms evolve into totally new Pokémon, partly because the design changes are more radical. So let’s not do that – let’s just talk about Galarian Weezing, the steampunk capitalist keeping Galar’s air fresh and clean!
Galarian Weezing was one of the first Pokémon of generation VIII revealed to us, and the visual references of its design were clear from the start. Its smokestacks evoke the chimneys of coal-burning factories during the industrial revolution, but are also a clever visual pun on the “stovepipe” hats that first became staples of European men’s formal dress in the same period. Its two heads even have green smoke “moustaches,” and the charcoal grey colour alludes to both coal and formal men’s clothing. The big inversion and subversion is that, instead of pumping out black coal smoke, Galarian Weezing’s smokestacks give off white clouds that the Pokédex tells us are just clean air (hence its unusual Poison/Fairy typing, mixing pollution and toxins with purification). In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Britain was the heart of the industrial revolution – the birthplace of mechanised textile production, the first country to widely adopt steam power and by far the most urbanised region of the world apart from the Netherlands. The aesthetics of the British industrial revolution – brick, smoke, steam, iron, huge machines – are a particular influence on the city of Motostoke in the heart of southern Galar, which we saw even before Galarian Weezing in the very first trailer for Sword and Shield, and game director Shigeru Ohmori explicitly said in an interview that the ideas and history of the industrial revolution were an important part of the inspiration for Sword and Shield’s themes of “strength and greatness.” “Steampunk” aesthetic science fiction looks back to the technologies and the styles of dress of 19th century England in the same way, trying to evoke an era when rapid advances in science made it seem that anything was possible – especially for the top-hatted upper-class who owned the factories. The point is that Galarian Weezing’s design is not just conspicuously British, but fits into what the designers seem to consider one of Sword and Shield’s central themes: possibility, ambition, industry. Where this Pokémon came from, and how, are quite important.
Traditional or “Kantonian” Weezing consume, mix and concentrate airborne toxins. According to the Pokédex, they feed on the gases given off by rot and decay. Typically, these gases – the products of the breakdown of organic matter – are mainly carbon dioxide and methane, which are invisible, although it’s probably not worth scrutinising the chemistry of what Koffing and Weezing actually do with them. Kantonian Weezing were apparently once common in Galar, but changed into Galarian Weezing “long ago, during a time when droves of factories fouled the air with pollution” for reasons that Galar’s scientists apparently still don’t understand. To us the players, though, the reference to the British industrial revolution is pretty clear, and the implication seems to be that Weezing took on a new form to adapt to a new source of “food” – industrial pollution as opposed to organic putrefaction. Oddly, there is no Galarian Koffing, and the Pokédex says that Koffing have become much rarer in Galar over the same period. The major chemical products of coal burning are actually not that different to those of organic decay – there’s lots of carbon dioxide, plus coal mining can release subterranean deposits of methane (which is a precursor to coal); industrial smog mostly comes from the nitrogen and sulphur impurities in coal. It’s possible Galarian Weezing is feeding on basically the same pollutants as original-recipe Weezing, but from different sources… and instead of brewing ever more toxic compounds from those pollutants, it turns it into miraculously clean air. That, surprisingly, makes a lot of sense chemically: carbon dioxide + water à sugars + oxygen; that’s just photosynthesis, that’s what all green plants do. Other chemicals in coal smoke probably go into Weezing’s biochemistry and its toxic defences. In the real world, the industrial revolution marks the beginning of a still-ongoing age of heavy atmospheric pollution, with humans releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. Nature can deal with that $#!t, up to a point; carbon dioxide levels have fluctuated before in the earth’s geological history… but it can take millions of years to establish a new balance, and there’s no rule that says humans have to survive. Nature in the Pokémon world reacts a lot more quickly, and with much more benevolence. Galar industrialises and starts filling the atmosphere with coal smoke, apparently without fully understanding the impact of that choice, and nature responds by providing a solution: Galar’s Weezing adapt to consume and purify polluted air. Not only is the environmental harm blunted, we get a whole new regional variant Pokémon out of it!
We can look back to Alolan Grimer and Muk for a point of comparison on the niche these Pokémon have evolved to fill in Galar. In Alola, Grimer and Muk aren’t horrid toxic pests; they were imported deliberately as part of a waste-management program, which seems to have not only succeeded, but stimulated them to develop into a regional form with specific adaptations for their new role. Unlike Grimer in Alola, Koffing seem to be endemic to Galar, but Weezing have responded to increasing levels of air pollution from Galar’s coal-powered industrial sector by taking on this new form: one that absorbs and metabolises atmospheric toxins and belches out clean, sweet-smelling air. Humans in the Pokémon world aspire to live in harmony with nature, but nature also bends over backwards to live in harmony with them, by producing new creatures that can assimilate technology and pollution back into natural cycles. Pokémon’s vision is sort of aspirational; it sometimes seems like it wants to provide a role model for how people can embrace harmony and work with the natural world rather than against it. But it’s also sometimes pretty escapist. Modern Galar still has coal plants (run by none other than the sinister Chairman Rose!) and bases a significant chunk of its economy on coal mining, but air pollution isn’t a problem, because Galar’s Pokémon themselves have adapted to preserve the balance of nature. Humans in the Pokémon world simply haven’t had to do a lot of the hard work that faces us, and haven’t had to face the full consequences of their historical actions. When someone does show up and try to tell us that Galar needs to make dramatic changes now in order to build a sustainable future, he’s the bad guy… but no one ever really says he’s wrong, or offers an alternative to his plans. After all, we can just make Weezing do it.
As is tradition, let’s also take a look at how Galarian Weezing differs from Kantonian Weezing on the battlefield. It has an identical stat profile to its counterpart, which makes it a physical tank. It also has access to all the same moves (since it evolves from a standard Koffing) plus a couple of extras. In accordance with its theme of air purification, Galarian Weezing can learn Defog and Aromatherapy, both extremely useful support moves that add a lot of flexibility to its toolkit. These can be mixed-and-matched with Kantonian Weezing’s existing support moves like Toxic Spikes and Will’o’Wisp, and its solid selection of special attacks. The other main difference is that the Galarian form is a Poison/Fairy dual-type, which is mostly important for adding a weakness to Steel attacks and an immunity to Dragon attacks. It also gets its own Fairy attacks, including a signature move, Strange Steam – a powerful blast of magical steam that has a chance to confuse its target. Fairy is a much stronger type than Poison to have as your main attack, and the confusion is a minor bonus, but nice to have. In addition to that move, Galarian Weezing was kind of advertised as having a signature ability – Neutralising Gas – although, as it turned out, classic Weezing can actually have this ability as well. Neutralising Gas turns off everyone else’s abilities, which is pretty nifty; other Pokémon can suppress abilities, but with a few exceptions they have to spend a turn and give up a moveslot for Gastro Acid or something, which is usually not worth it. Weezing can shut down abilities immediately just by showing up, which is a nasty hit to Pokémon that rely on powerful abilities like Chlorophyll, Technician, Sheer Force, Huge Power or Serene Grace (in doubles, Neutralising Gas will also turn off your partner’s ability – and although the most obvious Pokémon for abusing this effect, Slaking, isn’t in Sword and Shield, Archeops has just been added with the Crown Tundra, so get out there and see if this is any good!). The flip side is that you’re giving up Levitate – Weezing’s original ability – which is really powerful. For either form of Weezing, Ground is easily the most dangerous on a fairly short list of weaknesses, and getting rid of it is a big deal. Galarian Weezing’s hidden ability is Misty Surge, which immediately sets up Misty Terrain when it comes into play. This is a rare ability, but Misty Terrain is easily the least useful terrain effect, so with two much better choices on offer, give this one a miss.
I think Galarian Weezing is really well put together mechanically – its differences from Kantonian Weezing are for the most part pretty subtle, but speak very effectively to the themes of the design while giving it a lot of extra utility. I have more mixed feelings about the Pokémon itself. “Steampunk Weezing” is a really cool thing to slot into the history of a region based on Britain, and the way it adapted to human industrialisation to keep the air clean is a neat representation of the flexibility and reactivity of nature. But… it’s also one of the more conspicuous parts of Sword and Shield where I just have trouble buying the optimism and escapism that Pokémon is selling. Pokémon takes too much inspiration from the natural world and science to completely separate itself from the reality of scientific crises. Living in harmony with nature is a worthwhile aspiration – but it’s just not as easy as Pokémon makes it seem.
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