Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash and Ninetales; Galarian Mr. Mime and Darmanitan

Today, for… some reason… I have decided to try to bridge the gap between Alola and Galar by reviewing all four of the Ice-type regional variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash, Alolan Ninetales, Galarian Mr. Mime and Galarian Darmanitan.  This obviously took far too much time and the article is far too long, but I’ve written it now, and if I had to write it, then you all have to sit down and read it; that was the deal, that’s how this works.  The Ice type is an interesting choice for regional variations, because real animals also kind of have Ice-type regional forms: as animals move into more extreme latitudes, they have to deal with longer and colder winters, and tend to adapt accordingly.  Cold-adapted animals tend to be bulkier than their relatives living in temperate climates, with more compact limbs, thicker fur or feathers and often a white colour scheme to blend in with snow.  Adaptation to different climates in Pokémon can be a mixed bag as far as realism goes, and we’ll see multiple different takes on that with today’s four Pokémon.  Let’s get started.

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The Dag asks:

Why is Aphrodite considered an Olympian instead of a Titan?

Well.  Hesiod doesn’t give a definitive list of “the Olympians” in the Theogony, and it’s the Theogony that claims Aphrodite was born of the blood of Ouranos – Homer says in the Iliad that she’s a daughter of Zeus.  In fact, I don’t think anyone gives a definitive list of “the Olympians” until the Hellenistic period.  The Homeric Hymn to Hermes mentions that there are twelve of them, but doesn’t say which twelve, except that Hermes isn’t one of them (because the Hymn is about Hermes’ ascent to godhood).  The idea that there are twelve of them is persistent in ritual, but it doesn’t seem like anyone thought it was particularly important to come to a firm agreement about who the twelve actually were (Herodorus’ list of the twelve gods to whom Heracles made sacrifices at Olympia includes Kronos, Rheia and Alpheios, who would never make it onto any modern list of “the twelve Olympian gods”).  It’s also perfectly acceptable in Greek poetry to refer to a whole bunch of minor deities, notably the Muses, as “Olympian” (often it’s really just a synonym for “divine”).  So “Olympian” is fuzzy and you can get away with throwing a whole lot of people in there.

“Titan,” on the other hand, is pretty specific.  Hesiod claims that “Titan” was a name given to them by Ouranos, and he derives it from τιταίνω, to stretch or strain, and τίσις, vengeance (which is probably not the real etymology, but it’s what he believed, at any rate), so I think in his mind “Titans” only means the twelve children of Gaia and Ouranos who rebelled against the rule of their father, whom he explicitly lists: Kronos, Rhea, Koios, Phoebe, Hyperion, Theia, Iapetos, Mnemosyne, Kreios, Themis, Okeanos and Tethys.  There are other, different lists of the Titans given by other ancient authors (Apollodorus adds Dione, the mother of Aphrodite in the Homeric tradition, for a total of thirteen; the sixth Clementine Homily seems to think that Demeter was a Titan, but this is a Christian text citing pagan myth in order to discredit it, so it could conceivably have some details muddled).  Today we often consider several of their more famous children to be “Titans” as well – notably Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Leto, Helios, Selene and Hekate, or even more distant descendants like Calypso – but to be honest I can’t find an ancient source that actually calls any of them “Titans” so I’m not sure when that starts; it could be in the scholia or something.  So the short answer is simply that, despite belonging to an earlier generation than the other “Olympians” in Hesiod’s version of the creation myth, there is no tradition I’m aware of that ever says Aphrodite was part of the rebellion against Ouranos.  It also helps that Aphrodite literally lives on Olympus, which the Titans traditionally didn’t – according to Hesiod they hung out on Mount Othrys (which like Olympus is the name of a real mountain in Greece; it kind of faces Mount Olympus across the plain of Thessaly).

Larry asks:

How much of the way our experience with “a pokémon trainer is you!” was based on the background we picked for our character? Obviously, there were the story beats with us doing ranger/biologist work besides training.

But I’m assuming that our capacity to find Pokémon that you usually only see in Kanto under special conditions (The Hoenn Radio In Soulsilver) is because our scientist background lets us examine the environment better? And our compassion is the reason we’ve had your first non-misanthrope character. I assume even if we weren’t a big battling fan we’d still know most, if not all, type matchups though? (The games and the anime pretending 10-year olds wouldn’t know that ground is immune to electric is just… the worst worldbuilding I’ve seen.. ever? )

Uh, but tangent aside- I meant to ask you about what you would do with each specialty! “Swords” seemed weird as fuck and I’m confused, but I’m pretty interested in Athlete- would that let us basically be our own HM pokémon?

[Before saying anything else: I do want to bring this back, but things are… well, crazy right now, as I think most people have probably noticed.  When I do, it will probably be a two-week schedule rather than every week, because that was taking too much time away from articles.]

[…what is my life]

But yeah, the point of that “choose your background” question was basically to decide what kind of story this was going to be, what aspects of the Pokémon world we were going to focus on.  Part of that is just dictating the kinds of details I emphasise and explore in the narration, but the character’s skills also determine some of the options I offer when we have a choice to make.  I didn’t have everything planned out, but for every “special skill” I had some idea of a few things that it would let us do to take the story of Pokémon: Red and Blue off the rails, and a few ways that our character would react differently to the events of the story.  The point is that the things we do to influence the world in significant ways should mainly come from those “special skills.”

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H20 asks:

What would your dream pokemon region be based off of?

I’ve answered basically this exact question a couple of times before, so I’m going to incorporate it with another question about Pokémon regions and go through some thoughts I have about this:

The Dag asks:

Which region so far do you think has best incorporated the history, mythology, geography, and biosphere of its real-world inspiration?

My traditional standard answer for “where do I want a region based on?” is India, just because it gives you so much to work with, in terms of environment, climate, fauna, history, culture, mythology, everything.  The feel of that region would also be distinctive and recognisable to an international audience, but still leave a lot of room for incorporating material that would be new and interesting to players in both Japan and the Anglophone “West.”  But let’s talk about that second question a bit.

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Isle of Armour time!

Okay; the first expansion for Pokémon: Sword and Shield is out today, so let’s do this thing! Same as with my initial playthrough of Shield, in the interests of being timely I’m not going to spend time writing a super detailed or analytical write-up; I’m just going to bullet-point things as they occur to me, and if there’s something I want to write an article on, we’ll figure it out later (at the very least, we know there’s at least one extra regional form, which will have to be tacked on the end of the series I’m currently writing [also the next one of those is almost done; I know it’s taking ages and it was probably a mistake to try and do four Pokémon at once, but it won’t be much longer]). Anyway, here we go!

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Grass monkey, that funky monkey, GRASS MONKEY! asks:

So, the Greek God Apollo, he is definitely bi right?

Well, there’s a bunch of caveats I have to rattle off whenever someone asks a question like this, ‘cause in ancient Greek culture there’s no such thing as “bi” or “gay” – and there’s definitely no such thing as “straight.”  The categories simply don’t exist; there are no words for them in the ancient Greek language.  Personally, I think we have reason to believe that the whole concept of being exclusively attracted to only one gender would have seemed a bit alien to the ancient Greeks.  It’s just… kind of normal for adult men – men who are married to women and happily participating in a strictly patriarchal and, weirdly, kind of heteronormative social structure – to also be attracted to younger men and teenage boys, and indeed to have sex with them.  What’s more, this is totally fine, because in general Greek marriage customs only require that a married woman should not have sex with any men other than her husband (and Sparta had exceptions to even that rule; I also kind of suspect that extramarital lesbian relationships might have been common as well, but that’s a lot harder to track, because almost all our written sources come from male perspectives and they just have an extremely rudimentary understanding of female sexuality).  Marriage is a very functional, utilitarian, transactional thing; you get married in order to produce legitimate male heirs who will inherit your property and your place in the social fabric of your city.  That’s a duty that you have not just to your family but to your entire community, because it ensures continuity of land ownership, and land is where the community lives and produces food.  The point I’m trying to make is that male/male romantic or sexual relationships are doing different things from male/female ones, in a way that wouldn’t have left much room for a modern conception of same-sex relationships, where we want to be seen as equal and equivalent to straight people.

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Tapu Wooloo asks:

A while back, you cautiously played with the idea of replacing the physical/special split with a spectrum, where Flare Blitz would be 80% physical and 20% special for instance. You said this would probably be too radical. But what if there were just a “mixed” category of moves (50% physical and 50% special)? You could change some moves to mixed (like Rock Throw, Razor Leaf, Earthquake etc) and in exchange buff their power a bit.

then clarifies:

On second thought, “mixed” attacks wouldn’t need a power buff, since they’d be as hard to defend against as to attack with. But my question remains the same otherwise.


what… exactly did I say…?

Oh, here it is.

So… it’s been a while and I can’t testify with 100% certainty to my state of mind when I wrote that, but I think when I said “such a radical change I’m not even sure I’d want to do it,” I didn’t mean “this is too much of a departure and the fan base would never buy it,” so much as “I am worried this might break some important aspects of the game’s strategy in a way that isn’t immediately obvious to me and can’t be balanced out in a straightforward way.”  If you have this category of mixed moves, then the whole concept of “wall” Pokémon changes quite significantly, because it’s much less viable to focus on just one type of defence, which in turn shifts the balance of the game significantly towards offence.  That may be totally fine, but I don’t know, and I don’t really have the capacity to find out.  It’s a sufficiently foundational change to the battle system that I’m nervous about unreservedly declaring that it’s a good idea, and I’m not sure that it’s possible to work that out theoretically.  On the other hand, we do have Psyshock, a special attack that does physical damage, which hasn’t broken anything, and “mixed” attacks would be more demanding of attackers as well, who’d need to invest in both attack stats.  So maybe it’s completely fine?  I don’t know.  That’s all that means; I still don’t know.

jeffthelinguist asks:

I was wondering what your thoughts are on how Pokemon Masters handles typings. Now, I know the game is a shameless gacha cash grab so in the likely chance you haven’t touched it (and for good reason): Pokemon don’t have a type, exactly. Pokémon moves all have a type and Pokemon themselves each have one individual weakness. So while Blastoise is weak to electric, Feraligatr is weak to grass. Most Pokemon only have moves of one type which is probably the most relevant factor, though some have two move types (like Ho-Oh having fire, Overheat, and grass, Solar Beam). Now maybe having one weakness is oversimplifying, but having weaknesses depending on an individual basis and reserving typings for moves does have its own implications. Thoughts?

Well, I wanted to give Masters a try when it first came out, but the fact is, my phone is just too $#!tty to run it with anything resembling acceptable performance, and I’m not about to change my lifelong policy of carrying only the $#!ttiest phone on the market just for this game.  So I don’t really know how this works out in practice.  In general I’m in favour of simplifying Pokémon’s type system and I have in the past suggested… well, basically the elements of this system that you’re highlighting, but I think with only one weakness and two moves (potentially two moves of the same type) per Pokémon, this might be too simple to transfer well to the core games.  Masters has triple battles as its default format and focuses much more heavily on trainers’ ability to support their Pokémon, so it simply doesn’t need to place the same weight on the Pokémon themselves; it has other avenues for creating complexity.

Son of Iris asks:

I know this blog is about Pokemon, but due to your recent chain on twitter about a Percy Jackson TV series, how would you rate & rank each of Riordan’s books, at least the ones you have read in full.

honestly, dude, I’ve had so many classics questions coming in lately I don’t actually know what this blog is anymore

I’m not going to do a whole rank-and-rate numbered list thing, because… frankly there’s a lot of them.  That just sounds like more work than I want to do, especially since it’s been a while since I read most of them; like, the original Percy Jackson and the Olympians books came out when I was a teenager and I don’t think I’ve reread any of them in full since then; I also haven’t read book 4 of Trials of Apollo yet.  I think the Magnus Chase books are probably my favourites in the Percy Jackson ‘verse, which is not entirely because of Alex Fierro but honestly that’s a pretty significant factor.  I think those books are also a really good example of how minority representation in fiction is good, not just for people who don’t often get to see characters like them in media, but because working with diverse perspectives can actually make a story just flat-out more interesting.  Riordan’s whole schtick is reinventing mythology as a presence in the modern world, and that just works better with the widest possible range of character backgrounds.

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Tapu Wooloo asks:

Now that regional variants are a thing, can you revisit your article on Beautifly and Dustox and say what more you would do with them?


so the thing about Beautifly and Dustox

is that there’s no reason for them to exist

and I know I try not to say things like this anymore, and I try to be nice about Pokémon that are a bit dull or pointless, and I’m just a more chill and friendly persona now and try to keep my violent rage against the entire universe buried under a few thousand layers of self-loathing and cream cheese icing, and I don’t even think that article is good anymore, we’ve simply moved on, Tapu Wooloo, but my god, WHY ARE Beautifly and Dustox?  What, actually, is the point?

I mean, really, there’s an argument that Beautifly and Dustox are already just Hoennese forms of Butterfree and Venomoth.

I don’t even know what you’d do with them that justifies using them and not any other butterfly or moth Pokémon.  Vivillon is kinda the obviously more interesting butterfly Pokémon to work with as a regional variant because it has them already; they just weren’t called that at the time; you could retcon all its existing forms by giving them more significant cosmetic and mechanical differences and suddenly you have a whole bunch of regional variants, most of them for regions we haven’t even visited yet!  I guess there must be something that makes use of Wurmple’s split evolution, right?  Something sun/moon-themed might have been good, because Beautifly and Dustox have a day/night duality to them and Dustox is based on a luna moth, but we kinda missed the perfect opportunity for that with Alola (and you’d have to be careful not to step on Volcarona’s toes, because Beautifly 100% does not survive that comparison).  The most interesting thing about Beautifly is it can stab you with its face and drink your blood, so I guess I would like to work more with that, but how you would actually go about it depends on the region you were building, I guess.  You could flip the day/night thing on its head and have, like, a vampire Beautifly with a black and red colour scheme, then make Dustox into something vaguely day- or sun-themed, maybe imitating the colours of a monarch butterfly… that works better mechanically too, because Dustox is already support-oriented and wouldn’t be so obviously trying to compete with Volcarona.  Needs more than that, of course, but it’s a start.

I know this is not a particularly satisfying answer, but this question has seriously been in my inbox for weeks, and the sincere answer is honestly “nothing, why would there be anything?” so… y’know, I’m trying, is the point.