Not Final Fantasy Friday

Tomorrow morning I am not streaming Final Fantasy X with Jim the Editor, because he is on holiday in Wales and I will be busy performing a dangerous ritual to wrest vast amounts of spiritual power from the land itself at tremendous risk to my life and sanity making toast. But if watching us play a classic game and listening to our opinions on its gameplay, characters, themes, world, story, etc sounds like something you might enjoy, this might be a good time to catch up with the story so far, which you can do here!

An Evil Bag asks:

Now that we have Jellyfish Pokemon based off of stinging jellies and ghost jellies, what are some other hypothetical concepts based of real-world jellies? Like, maybe the box jellyfish or moon jellies, or the Man-0-war.

Also, I think jellies is a funny word, don’t you?

So I have a fun story about the word “jelly,” which is that in New Zealand we don’t use “jelly” to mean a sweet, fruity spread the way it’s used in America; we only say “jam” for the whole category of things that, in US English, are divided into “jams” and “jellies.”  “Jelly” for us means a fruit-flavoured gelatine dessert, which is what the US calls “jello.”  I think this is all true of the UK and Australia as well as New Zealand.  And we have peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches; that is A Thing.  But here’s the thing; I also knew about peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches from American kids’ TV, and I didn’t know that the words meant different things depending on your dialect (it also didn’t help “jelly” is often purple in cartoons and I thought of “jam” as usually being red).  I thought Americans were eating what they would call peanut-butter-and-jello sandwiches, which they made from jars of pre-made jello, and naturally this led me to believe that they were all completely insane.

Anyway yeah I think a Portuguese man o’ war Pokémon would be legit; there’s a lot you could do with that.  A man o’ war isn’t technically a jellyfish at all, it’s a siphonophore, a colony of zillions of microorganisms in several different specialised types and roles.  You could have a unique evolution method where multiple Pokémon of different species combine into one, and you could play on the name and mix some naval motifs into the design, maybe give it an actual sail or some cannons.  There’s space for something interesting there, I think.

Any thoughts regarding the Champions’ teams in the PWT’s Champions Tournament? Do you like the new lineup for some of them (like Hoenn’s Champions, or Alder’s)?

Hmm.  Never really thought about them before.  Let’s see…

So, their teams are as follows (movesets and items are generally an improvement on their basic lineups):

Red: As his Heart Gold/Soul Silver team
Blue: As his Heart Gold/Soul Silver team, but swapping Pidgeot for Aerodactyl
Lance: Salamence, Haxorus, Kingdra, Flygon, Hydreigon, Dragonite
Steven: As his Emerald team, but swapping Skarmory and Claydol for Archeops and Excadrill
Wallace: Sharpedo, Swampert, Walrein, Starmie, Ludicolo and Milotic
Cynthia: As her Black 2/White 2 casual team, but swapping Milotic for Roserade
Alder: Reuniclus, Chandelure, Krookodile, Conkeldurr, Braviary and Volcarona

So, Red doesn’t change at all, and Cynthia just reverts to another of the Pokémon she used on Platinum.  It’s odd that Blue would replace Pidgeot, who is his strongest Pokémon on Heart Gold and Soul Silver, but throwing in Aerodactyl instead certainly makes for a more menacing line-up, and fits his obsession with rare Pokémon (although I seriously question his decision to teach it Fire Blast, particularly in a Choice Band set…).  The changes to Steven are, likewise, straightforward; Archeops over Skarmory fits his interest in rare stones and fossils; Excadrill over Claydol gives him another Steel-type to replace Skarmory and helps him to dig up cool new rocks.  I’m really not sure about Head Smash on Archeops with Defeatist to worry about, but I suppose it combos decently with Sitrus Berry and Acrobatics, and I’m glad to see the back of that bat$#!t special attacker Aggron set he used in the third generation games.

Wallace changes out most of his team, keeping only Ludicolo and his signature Pokémon, Milotic.  Wallace doesn’t have much of a unifying theme to begin with other than being a Water trainer; his battle philosophy revolves around grace and elegance, but all that translated to in Emerald, as far as I could tell, was using Pokémon who were a pain to kill, like Amnesiac Whiscash and Double Team Ludicolo.  His new team seems generally more heavy on offence, mostly due to the presence of Sharpedo and Starmie, but I don’t think that makes it any more or less appropriate to him.  I’m not keen on the fact that his Swampert is a special attacker, but I suppose it’s not as bad an idea as a special Aggron.

I actually don’t like Lance’s all-Dragon team much, simply because I was fond of the way his original Gold and Silver team worked around the single-type limitation while still making him very obviously a ‘Dragon Master.’  It made him stick out a bit amongst all the other single-type Gym Leaders and Elite Four members.  Multiple Dragonite is obviously a no-go, but I think I would have gone with a compromise team, replacing Haxorus and Flygon with Aerodactyl and Charizard, and maybe Gyarados over Kingdra too.  Also, Solarbeam on Flygon, particularly without Sunny Day anywhere on his team, strikes me as a… poor decision, especially when he could have just given it Flamethrower or Fire Blast.

Alder certainly gets more difficult by losing his focus on Bug-types, and there was nothing about Escavalier or Accelgor that made them strikingly appropriate for him (I mean, Reuniclus and Chandelure are kind of weird choices for Alder as well since they’re very calm and subdued by nature, but whatever).  Conkeldurr and Braviary appear on his casual Black 2/White 2 team as replacements for Druddigon and Vanilluxe, and I think they’re good ones; they’re more dangerous on the whole, and they fit Alder’s energetic style.  It’s unfortunate that Bouffalant is gone, because he almost works as a secondary signature Pokémon for Alder, sharing his excitable temperament and ridiculous hair.  Krookodile is okay as a replacement, I suppose, and probably stronger.  I’m neither here nor there on Alder’s lineup as a whole.

Hey Chris, a little while ago you talked about moves and the trend of proliferation for all of them. It got me thinking about proliferation of moves on Pokémon themselves. I’ve long thought that the expansion of movepools is actually not diversifying Pokémon but just reducing them all towards a point of “these moves give perfect coverage and power, this is all you should run”. How would you feel if the movepools were drastically reduced so each mon has more clearly delineated roles in battle?

Well, “less is more” is very much a core belief of mine in picking apart this franchise.  I don’t think it’s so much a matter of ‘more clearly delineated roles,’ because most Pokémon do have that down pretty well anyway; the problem is how easy it is to be outclassed by things that have a similar roles, and making moves less widely available might help with that.  The presence of TMs in some ways is a little unfortunate, because the increasing ease with which we’ve been able to teach those moves over the years (first breeding to recycle them, then just outright reusable TMs) sort of devalues the Pokémon lucky enough to actually get some of those awesome moves in their level-up lists.  Panpour is the only Pokémon in the game who naturally learns Scald!  Did you know that?  I sure didn’t.  Do you care?  I sure don’t, because just about every other Water Pokémon who isn’t also an Ice-type gets it too!

This is sort of part of the messed-up incomplete charm of the original Red and Blue – a lot of Pokémon just don’t have access to very good techniques, and with single-use TMs and no breeding, you have to think long and hard about what to do with those precious discs (well… except for the part where the games are so horribly glitchy that you can basically turn them inside out and make them your bitches without any special equipment or expertise whatsoever, but I’m a theoretical kind of guy, so sue me).  It was a little unfortunate that this ‘feature’ of Red and Blue came with little, if any, thought for game balance (something that I doubt was a major fixture in Game Freak’s mind at the time), so some of its victims are Pokémon like poor Sandslash, who will never get any Ground attacks at all unless you spend your Earthquake TM on him, and remains lacklustre even if you do.  Maybe today, though, it’d be a neat balancing factor on a really powerful Ground-type like (say) Excadrill if Game Freak were willing to arbitrarily say “yeah no Earthquake for you lol use the goddamn signature move we gave you” (and, in that particular case, it encourages Excadrill to be more like Excadrill too).  Might also give more of a point to some moves that look and sound cool but just have no reason to be used, ever, like Aurora Beam – every Pokémon that learns it also gets Ice Beam, with the exception of one (Xerneas, who has better things to do with his time).

On the other hand, can you imagine the backlash from the fanbase if that were implemented in a future game and hundreds of Pokémon lost many of their best tricks?  People get annoyed enough by the obsolescence of move tutors and the occasional TM.  I sure wouldn’t want to be the one to announce that.  Accumulating more and more skills and abilities for Pokémon just seems to be the way this franchise typically operates, and I don’t think that’s likely to change any time soon, whatever I might think of it.