Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Golem and Dugtrio

Alolan Geodude

In the second instalment of my exploration of regional variant Pokémon, we’re going to deal with two Pokémon whose regional forms are related to Alola’s geology: Alolan Geodude/Graveler/Golem and Alolan Diglett/Dugtrio.  Geology, like archaeology and ecology, has always been in the background of Pokémon, but these games have never been the kind of stories that need a whole lot of scientific verisimilitude in those areas – or, to put it another way, who really gives a $#!t whether or not there are actually Cretaceous fossil deposits in the part of western France that corresponds to Ambrette Town?  I could tell you that I care, and you’d probably believe me because, frankly, I give off a certain vibe, but the truth is I haven’t looked it up, and I’m not going to.  Alola, in my opinion, cares more about the fact that it is Hawai‘i than any of the previous Pokémon regions cared about being each of those places, and at a guess maybe half of Alola’s new Pokémon are in some way influenced by that, but there are still limits – no one cares that there aren’t actually toucans or koalas in Hawai‘i, for instance, because Alola is also just a pastiche tropical paradise that should have whatever Pokémon, locations, characters and rocks seem fun.  Today we have one Pokémon that cares a lot about having a specifically Hawaiian inspiration, and another that takes a somewhat more casual approach – let’s talk about that.

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Stakataka

Stakataka

We’re down to our last two Ultra Beasts: Stakataka and Blacephalon, who were added to the roster only in Ultra Moon and Ultra Sun (respectively).  We don’t know as much about them as we do about all the others, because we never see their homeworlds.  All the original Ultra Beasts, whom we first met in Alola in Sun and Moon, are encountered in Ultra Smoon by travelling through Ultra Space to their own worlds (while Poipole is involved in the story of the Ultra Recon Squad, and gets a major supporting role in the anime).  These two, we only ever meet in Alola, and we also get no information about them from Wicke, who is otherwise a fount of interesting (if occasionally dubious) intelligence.  As a result, there’s more I’d like to know about Stakataka that I just don’t, like what kind of ecosystem produces a creature like this, and how it behaves in its natural habitat – things that, for normal Pokémon, we tend to learn as a matter of course.  But we have the Pokédex, we have the design, we have Stakataka’s in-game types, stats and mechanics, and we have the anime episode it stars in, so let’s take a look and see what we can do.

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Nihilego

Nihilego

The Alolan archipelago has at last surrendered all (or, well, most) of its secrets – so now the time has finally come for us to leave behind the world we know.  The stars have aligned, the ritual is complete, the Dark Forces from Parts Unknown have imparted their mystic secrets, the Ultra Wormhole beckons, and the void opens before us, promising nothing at the price of everything.  Yep – we’re figuring out the Ultra Beasts.  There’s ten of these freaky bastards (not counting Lunala, Solgaleo and Necrozma), and they’re each getting their own entry.  My aim over the course of those ten articles will be not just to review the Ultra Beasts individually, but also to, hopefully, figure out… well, something about them as a group.  What are they?  What exactly is Ultra Space?  Why are they such a threat to Alola?  Are they really a group at all, or just a random sample of the variety of life that exists in an infinite multiverse?  All these questions, and more, will… honestly, let’s face it, probably not be answered here on Pokémaniacal, but we’ll bloody well give it a go – starting with probably the best-known Ultra Beast of all, Nihilego.

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Minior

250px-774Minior.png
Minior

Pokémon Sun and Moon are, as the names imply, games that always have one eye on the heavens. A lot of the time this manifests as a day/night theme, but they are interested in other celestial phenomena as well – Cosmog is a nebula that gives birth to a star, one of the games’ prominent locations is an observatory, and of course the Ultra Beasts have a certain sci-fi aesthetic to them and emerge from wormholes. A lot of Alola’s ordinary Pokémon draw on themes related to the real Hawaiian islands (or at least tropical islands in general) but today’s Pokémon is one that cares a lot more about Alola’s relationship with the sky. Meet Minior: the Meteor Pokémon. Continue reading “Minior”

Rockruff and Lycanroc

Rockruff.
Rockruff

Today’s Pokémon is Professor Kukui’s loyal partner, Rockruff, and his evolved form – or rather forms, as we’ll see – Lycanroc, the latest additions to Pokémon’s growing stable (or, uh… kennel) of dog Pokémon.  Physically, Rockruff’s design is very straightforwardly based on a domestic dog, perhaps an Akita Inu (a large Japanese dog breed with a wolf-like countenance and a fluffy tail).  Physically we’re looking at something quite close to Growlithe, with a different colour scheme and obviously very distinct powers, but very similar in terms of personality and behaviour.  Rockruff’s most distinctive feature is a “collar” (or “ruff”?) of stones, which apparently has a social function – Rockruff greet each other by rubbing their stony collars on each other’s bodies.  This little ritual apparently extends to their human friends as well, which can cause significant discomfort.  Nonetheless, Rockruff is one of the Pokémon most favoured for beginners in the Alola region because they have a friendly and loyal disposition that makes them easy to train and command, and are also extremely tenacious in battle.  In other words, they’re almost exactly like real dogs – energetic, devoted and affectionate to the point of being overbearing.  A bit generic, slotting in alongside Growlithe and Lillipup almost unnoticed, but that’s sort of to be expected for the basic stage of an early-game Pokémon, and the Rock element is incorporated in a neat way with the “collar.”  The meat of what this design is supposed to be doing comes with the evolved form: Lycanroc. Continue reading “Rockruff and Lycanroc”

Amaura and Aurorus

Amaura.
Amaura

DINOSAURS

YES

I think everyone has a dinosaur phase, right?  Mine was… longer and more educationally rigorous than most, put it that way (my parents claim to this day that my first words as a baby were not the traditional ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ but the often tongue-twisting names of dinosaur species).  There actually aren’t all that many Pokémon who seem to be based primarily on dinosaurs, funnily enough, although several of the big superstar ones are represented: we have ceratopids (Shieldon and Bastiodon), pachycephalosaurs (Cranidos and Rampardos), sauropods (Bayleef and Meganium, Tropius), and of course the famous birdlike theropod Archaeopteryx (Archen and Archeops).  There are also a bunch of Pokémon that are probably influenced by dinosaurs, like Tyranitar, who seems to be a tyrannosaur via Godzilla, Charmeleon, who has shades of a small theropod, Torterra, who owes as much to ankylosaurs as to tortoises, and Bulbasaur, who… well, to be honest I don’t think even Game Freak really know exactly what Bulbasaur is but the –saur suffix definitely strikes a particular note.  X and Y give us two more fossils: the brutal tyrannosaurs Tyrunt and Tyrantrum, and these two loveable goofs.  I probably wouldn’t have chosen another sauropod, myself – I kind of want to see a hadrosaur – but I’m not about to complain about more dinosaurs, so here we go.

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Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo

The time has come (largely because I’m running out of anything else) to think about some more legendary Pokémon, namely the so-called “legendary musketeers,” Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo.  These Fighting-type Pokémon have that name because, according to the designers, they are based on the eponymous French warriors of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, the Three Musketeers, though personally I think it would be more appropriate to say that they are, if anything, parallel to the musketeers.  You might be forgiven for not thinking that the connection is immediately obvious (in fact, I’m not convinced anyone could work it out without being told or simply getting very lucky with a wild guess) – both groups have (in brief) an old one, a fat one, and a gay one (Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, respectively), plus an annoying kid who hangs around with them because he wants to join their club (d’Artagnan).  They are also both renowned for swordsmanship – the Pokémon versions only in a figurative sense, in that they all learn Swords Dance and share a signature move called Sacred Sword; despite the name, they fight mainly by goring enemies with their horns.   Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo are, furthermore, motivated by their ideals of duty and justice, which likewise sounds like a reference.  Continue reading “Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo”

Tirtouga and Carracosta

7f208-tirtougaI need to be up-front with you about this one.  I really like Tirtouga and Carracosta.  These turtle Pokémon are two of the fossil species of Black and White (the other two are Archen and Archeops, whom I talked about ages ago and allowed to live – perhaps a little generously) and the latest in a long line of prehistoric Pokémon resurrected by the miracle of SCIENCE.  I think the artistic designs for Tirtouga and Carracosta are superb; Tirtouga is cute but also clearly strong enough to take care of himself, and Carracosta practically dares you to try attacking him.  Both channel the “ancient” quality fossil Pokémon are supposed to possess exceptionally well.  As well as having typical sea turtle qualities, like being able to safely dive to tremendous depths, they seem to be part-way through evolution into terrestrial turtles and can hunt prey on land as well.  Continue reading “Tirtouga and Carracosta”

Dwebble and Crustle

Just out of curiosity, does anyone remember which Pokémon from Red and Blue was referred to in the Pokédex as the “Hermitcrab Pokémon”?  That’s right: it was… Slowbro?

huh?

No, I don’t know either.  I guess Slowbro could be said to take inspiration from hermit crabs in that he uses another creature’s shell as his own, except that in his case the other creature is still living in it too and the shell is obviously too small to fit anything more than his tail inside it anyway… so yeah; I’m not sure what they were smoking when they came up with that one (but Slowbro is still awesome).  I only bring up Slowbro because today’s Pokémon, some thirteen years later, actually is a hermit crab.

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