Blog Status: Normal??

We haven’t talked in a while.  We should do that.

I spent most of the last year in Greece, participating in an intensive study program for PhD students in classical studies that takes us to archaeological sites all over the country and gives us opportunities for “backstage access” that would be impossible for almost anyone else (culminating in the incredible opportunity to spend three nights on the holy island of Delos – since there’s no modern town on Delos, any normal group would have to take the afternoon ferry back to Mykonos every day).  A priceless experience that I wouldn’t trade for almost anything, but… less than ideal for blog productivity, I have to admit.  Continue reading “Blog Status: Normal??”

Z-nogyroP asks:

i feel like you’ve almost certainly answered this question before, but how do you think abilities work? some abilities seem more like physical features (tough claws, thick fat, compound eyes) whereas others are a lot more abstract (pixilate, mold breaker, cloud nine). wouldn’t a tinted lens butterfree’s eyes be just as compound as one with the compound eyes ability? what makes a gluttony snorlax have less fat than one with thick fat?

I’ve tried to answer this one before; let’s see… here.

It’s a bastard of a question, to be quite honest with you.

My natural inclination is to say that abilities have nothing in common and they all work in different ways because… why would they?  As you rightly note, “abilities” covers a very wide range of traits and skills.  There’s no reason to expect that the rules governing a Butterfree’s vision would be anything like the rules governing Snorlax’s rolls of fat.  Continue reading “Z-nogyroP asks:”

Pyukumuku

Today’s Pokémon is the weird spiky loofah that lives behind Kahuna Hala’s toilet-

wait

Today’s bathing accoutrement is the weird spiky Pokémon that-

okay, let me start again

Today’s Pokémon is the weird spiky sex toy that lives behind-

no, that’s even worse

Look, we’re talking about Pyukumuku, okay

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Pyukumuku

On account of its willingness to sit placidly between its trainer and certain death, Pyukumuku… is just barely a Pokémon, despite clearly being more closely related to the exfoliating bath sponge. It is, everyone is pretty much agreed, based on a sea cucumber. Sea cucumbers are soft-bodied echinoderms, distantly related to starfish and sea urchins. They’re essentially long, squishy tubes, with a mouth at one end and a multi-purpose respiratory/reproductive/excretory hole at the other. This is a body setup that makes for a pretty passive lifestyle. Continue reading “Pyukumuku”

Katiecat asks:

I was reading your eeveelutions reviews. You mention the whole “adaptations” thing isn’t really done that well, since most of them don’t really match their environments all that well.
Theoretically, how would you design an octet of eeveelutions to go with different environments from scratch? I have my own but I wanna hear what you’d do first.
The other thing you mention is that they go for many different aesthetics, such as cute (flareon/sylveon), cool (jolteon), beautiful (vaporeon/glaceon), and mysterious, but kind of leave off a brutish aesthetic. I would also add they leave off the under-appreciated weird aesthetic- the dunsparces and exeggcutes of the world that end up in “top 20 worst pokemon” lists but a small number of us keep close to our hearts.

What catastrophically awful person puts Dunsparce on a Top 20 Worst Anything list?

So, some of the eeveelutions I actually am totally fine with; I’d just associate them with different environments to their canonical ones. For instance, although the core games don’t say much about Flareon’s habitat, spinoffs tend to put her in volcanic or lava areas with all the other Fire Pokémon, but if we’re thinking of eeveelutions in terms of being adaptations of Eevee to a specific type of environment, well, Flareon kinda looks to me like a cold-adapted form. Thick fluffy fur is useful in a cold place, and fire powers are useful if most of the other local Pokémon are Ice-types. Alternatively, and this is what I said when I discussed Flareon for my eeveelutions series years ago, I could buy that Flareon belongs in a temperate grassland habitat, using her fire abilities to scorch areas of dry vegetation and drive out prey. Whether Pokémon in general are actually suited to the kinds of biomes the games tend to put them in… is kind of a big and complicated question and not worth getting into at the moment, but I think if you’re going to do it, Eevee is the place to start, because her lore draws attention to the concept of adaptation and (arguably) to the problems with the way Pokémon portrays adaptation.

Which is my long-winded way of saying “this is too damn complicated to get right with a short post that I wrote in like an hour,” but fµ¢& it, let’s give it a whirl Continue reading “Katiecat asks:”

[A Foursome with Chris Pratt, Grant Gustin and That Garbodor Evolution] asks:

I know this is pretty broad and vague, so no pressure to answer it super deeply and completely, but I’ve found it to be a pretty fun thing to think about and I’m curious to know what you would say to it.
Which specific set of Pokémon games do you think had the most missed opportunities, or could be some of the best games in the series but fell short? (That can be in terms of the story, the gameplay or anything else you think you’d want to be changed about them.)
And if you were put in charge, not of making a NEW set of games or changing the series as a whole but just of fixing up that one set of games, what would you want to do to it to take advantage of that potential?
(By “set,” I just mean a pair like Black 2/White 2 or a single game like Platinum, not a whole Generation or every game taking place in one region, haha.)

That is one confusingly recursive name you’ve given yourself there.

So… I feel like in almost all of them there’s something I would change.  Heck, in almost all of them there’s probably something the designers would change if they could; no one ever gets to put everything they want into their game because time and budget constraints exist, even for a franchise as successful as Pokémon.  And I have a really peculiar love/hate relationship with Black and White specifically, because those are the games that started me writing this blog, and I think they are in some ways the best games in the series but in other ways deeply “meh.”  I guess a lot of my old “If I Were In Charge” article series is kiiiiiind of a response to this question with reference to Black and White, but also not at all.  Assorted thoughts on why Black and White are interesting here, here, here, here, here and here, and although I don’t 100% stand by a lot of it anymore you can also pick up something of what annoyed me about Black and White from my assorted reviews of 5th generation Pokémon from 2011.

All that being the case, let’s talk a bit about a completely different set of games instead. Continue reading “[A Foursome with Chris Pratt, Grant Gustin and That Garbodor Evolution] asks:”

Sandygast and Palossand

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Sandygast

Before we begin, I want to point out, for the benefit of people who might not usually pay attention to this kind of thing, that Palossand has one of the best French names I’ve ever seen for a Pokémon: Trépassable. It’s a portmanteau of trépas, demise, and sable, sand, but it also sounds like très passable – “good enough,” which is a phrase that everyone who has ever built a sandcastle has uttered at least once.

 

Anyway. Haunted sandcastles!

Haunted castles make perfect sense to anyone with even a vague familiarity with 19th century gothic horror or its 20th century cinematic inheritors. Beginning with Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, any gothic horror worth the name has a menacing castle on a windswept crag in the middle of a dark forest in Molvania or some similarly dismal place, and said castle is regularly infested with a range of “local colour” including but not limited to bats, vampires, mad scientists, werewolves and, of course, ghosts. Ghosts and castles go hand in hand right down to contemporary fiction, with the entertaining spiritual population of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series, and ghosts in the haunting business are commonly depicted as pursuing “unfinished business” or grudges left over from their lives. But a haunted sandcastle might be something of a new one… Continue reading “Sandygast and Palossand”