Larry asks:

What are your thoughts on Pokémon evolution as a biological process instead of as a gameplay feature?

Larry has no shortage of his own thoughts so I’m gonna break this up.

Most evolutionary lines are very clearly meant to be not only progressions of power, but also of physical maturity and aging. There are outright “baby pokémon”, but it’s not like those are children and the rest are all adults. Most first stages in three stage lines, and some in two stage lines, are made to look and act like children, small and playful.

Right, but at the same time, most unevolved Pokémon are viable on their own, which is interesting.  Pidgey can survive and reproduce without evolving into Pidgeotto; you can have a whole community of Pidgey without a single Pidgeotto and they’ll probably manage.  With the exception of “baby” Pokémon, who can’t lay eggs (presumably because the designers saw them as “too young” to reproduce – it’s weird that Gold and Silver didn’t extend this restriction to a few other pre-existing Pokémon, like Caterpie), an unevolved Pokémon is a “complete” organism.  So I think in a lot of cases it’s not just maturity as such but maybe a social and/or hierarchical thing.  More evolved Pokémon might need more space and more food or other resources, so maybe it’s advantageous to the whole community if only a small number of them evolve.

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TooMuchTime asks:

Knowing what we do of Pokémon and Trainer culture in setting do you really think modern armies like what Lt. Surge seemed to be apart of would actually make sense in the Pokémon world? I figure any kind of military they’d develop would be more warrior-like than soldier-like given the strength a single skilled trainer can wield with their team.

This has sort of come up a little bit before, and the short answer is that my take on it is… very different.  Mostly, I don’t think we should underestimate the degree to which one powerful Pokémon could be fµ¢£ed up by many weaker Pokémon with intelligent leadership and strategy.  It seems to me like warfare is basically a thing of the past in the utopian setting of the Pokémon world (except in Ransei, the setting of Pokémon Conquest, which is, like… somehow canonically contemporary with all the other Pokémon games, even though Ransei is clearly based on sengoku-era Japan and uses mediaeval technology; look, I don’t fµ¢£in’ know), and I honestly doubt they’ve ever had a large-scale war with truly “modern” technology (i.e. post-World War II, because Lt. Surge is definitely a WWII veteran and definitely came to Kanto during the post-war American occupation of Japan, which is another whole… thing).  I also truly don’t know how Pokémon would stack up against, like, modern firearms and explosives.  I think you probably could persuasively argue, depending on which sources and portrayals you look at, either that humans with modern weapons are more reliably lethal than Pokémon and would just shoot them, or that Pokémon would render all human weaponry obsolete.  Like, can Psychic Pokémon use telekinesis to block sustained machine gun fire?  Will a Steel Pokémon’s skin stand up to a bazooka? (If they could, would those weapons even be used?)  I have genuinely no idea, but honestly… my instinct is “probably not.”  What’s more, I think if you really pressed Game Freak on it, they’d probably say that it hasn’t come up in a long time because their world is now peaceful (like modern Japan is), and that modern trainers wouldn’t put their Pokémon in harm’s way like that anyway.  The point is, I don’t think we’ve ever had a good look at what mass combat involving Pokémon trainers is actually like (again, except Ransei, which honestly seems more like Pokémon trainers LARPing warfare than an actual war – I think deliberately), so anything we say is going to be extrapolation. But let’s assume we’re thinking about war being fought mainly between Pokémon trainers, using Pokémon attacks rather than human weapons.  I think the actual rules of the games probably give us reason to be fairly pessimistic about the odds of super-elite Pokémon trainers taking on large numbers of mid-level chumps.

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Kyle the Dragon asks:

If you were a dragon, what would you hoard?

To be honest, I’m not really a hoard-y person; maybe it’s because I spent most of the last 7 years living in a foreign country not wanting to collect too much excess stuff I’d eventually have to pack up and ship a long distance, then had to come home at short notice and left behind most of the things I did own.  Maybe books… but books are heavy and take up a lot of space, y’know, and who doesn’t have an e-reader these days, even as a dragon?  Actually, I think dragon-Chris might hoard maps.  Maps of real places and imagined ones; maps that lead to buried treasure; maps of the body, mind and spirit; maps that are scrupulously accurate and maps that are half-dream; maps that help people conceive of the shape of their world and their own place within it.

Bi guy asks:

If there was one Pokemon character (aside from Milo) that you could go out on a date with, who would it be?

I suppose it probably doesn’t count if I say Team Skull Grunt B from my dramatised playthrough of Moon Version, does it?  Besides, I already dated him.

So… hmm.  I like N a lot but he’s been through some $#!t and probably needs friends more than anything else.  I like people who are into fun science or esoteric history, like Roark or Morty, and those common interests might be a nice foundation for a relationship.  Cilan is a baker, which is a nice shared hobby, but I think the constant food puns would make me want to kill myself.  Honestly, Norman… like, he would never leave his family so there’s almost no point even bringing him up, but you ever hear the expression “DILF”?  Look, being a good dad is attractive; I’m only human, what do you want from me?

Gsgdgd asks:

If there were one show you wanted your entire audience to watch, what would it be?

I’m not sure there is one; I don’t watch a lot of TV.  Um, I’m watching Schitt’s Creek right now and enjoying that; a little while ago I watched Bojack Horseman, which I thought was fantastic.  I watched the first season of Bridgerton with my mum; that was fun.  I don’t think any of those amount to “my entire audience should watch this.”  Jim the Editor and my brother both want me to watch One Punch Man, but I have yet to start it.  None of this answers your question.  Um.  I dunno, probably Black Books, honestly.  It’s a British sitcom about a misanthropic Irish drunkard who owns a bookshop in London (3 seasons of 6 20-minute episodes each).  It’s all on Netflix, or here on Youtube if you don’t have Netflix (whoever owns the rights, they don’t seem to care about getting it taken down).  The humour is… very 90s/early 00s British, in a way that has not seemed to resonate with Americans I’ve attempted to share the series with in the past, so I wouldn’t guarantee that everyone will like it, but… y’know, give it a go.

hugh_donnetono asks:

What’s your opinion on the Beta Sinnoh Pokemon? (especially arceus)

I’m not sure I have an opinion on them, or feel I need to.  I mean, a lot of them are placeholders, right?  Many of the leaked sprites are just… clearly unfinished; that’s what a beta is.  Arceus especially; people meme on beta Arceus, but it seems pretty clear to me that no one ever planned for it to go into the finished game looking anything like that (likewise Rotom).  They knew they wanted Arceus to exist, and they had a rough idea what they wanted it to look like, but they hadn’t finalised the design or done proper sprites yet.  The only Pokémon that seem to me like they had a genuinely different design in the leaked beta materials – not just unfinished art – are Rampardos, maybe Hippowdon, Lumineon, Lickilicky (back sprite only), Togekiss and the Garchomp line, and most of them… well, yeah, they just kinda look like first drafts of the Pokémon that they are.  Beta Rampardos seems a bit less naturalistic, maybe a touch more manic?  Beta Togekiss has shades of Latias and Latios, and I do think it looks pretty cool, but I’m not sure it works as an evolution from Togepi and Togetic.  Beta Gible, Gabite and Garchomp have different colour palettes and are… I guess my instinct is maybe a bit simpler, a bit more gen I-II-like?  They’re fine, I suppose; I think the final designs are more visually interesting. 

The one thing I do think is kind of interesting is the mystery Pokémon, Kimairan, that seems to have occupied Giratina’s slot, whose sprite is clearly a draft but looks like a kind of six-legged griffin thing.  My guess is, Game Freak knew they were going to have another legendary Pokémon in that slot, but hadn’t quite figured out what the third piece of Space/Time/??? ought to be, or what role they wanted this Pokémon to have in the mythology of Sinnoh.  Even the final release of Diamond and Pearl is, in my opinion, pretty noncommittal about what Giratina actually represents (compared to, say, Rayquaza in Ruby and Sapphire or Kyurem in Black and White), so I honestly wonder how much, if any, of Giratina’s role in Platinum was sketched out in advance.  Kimairan might have represented… dreams, maybe, or the world, or life, or a fixed point of reference within space-time.  Maybe at this stage of the beta they didn’t even know they wanted this mystery Pokémon to be part of a trio with Dialga and Palkia yet, and it was just something completely different.  The point is, I think they probably ditched Kimairan and created Giratina because something clicked about the way they wanted to tell the story of generation IV, and they realised that the Pokémon they’d made wasn’t right for the role they needed.

[This question was promoted to the front of the queue because the submitter is supporting me on Patreon!  If you enjoy my writing and like getting my answers to cosmic dilemmas like this one – or just think I deserve something nice for my work – consider visiting https://www.patreon.com/pokemaniacal and signing up!]

James Crooks asks:

React to this: https://www.sbnation.com/secret-base/22177214/which-pokemon-would-make-the-best-basketball

“Which Pokémon would make the best basketball?”… hmm…

Well… the answer’s obviously Jigglypuff, right? Round, bouncy, probably about the right size?

I guess it’s worth further investigation…

This article only examines five Pokémon, which… I mean, I think there are many other possible choices not considered here, but they do correctly assess that Jigglypuff is a good choice. Yes, technically Ditto can just Transform into a basketball, but I don’t think that’s really in the spirit of the exercise. Even if we allow it, there are better choices – Mew can also Transform, but is much less likely than Ditto to faint and lose its shape, while Arceus might be able to just conjure a real basketball from the void. These suggestions are unworthy, in my learned opinion. Disqualified.

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particle asks:

What would you think about scalar-typing? To keep it simpler you could have half, normal, and double value typings. STAB, weaknesses and resistances just get multiplied by .5 or 2. Girafarig could be normal & half-psychic, golem could be double-rock, maybe something like bibarel could be strictly half-water.

My worry is that it sort of… makes the game more complicated without adding any actual strategic depth.  You’re still multiplying together a bunch of factors to figure out whether you can KO a given Pokémon with a given attack in one shot, or two, or three; there are still going to be some Pokémon that survive particular super-effective attacks and others that don’t.  The decision-making processes, both in team building and during battles, are going to be the same; there’s just more variables to keep track of.  I’m not sure there’s any compelling reason for it either; I don’t think there are any Pokémon that really need half- or double-strength types to properly express their identity.  Also, double STAB would be crazy powerful and the idea makes me nervous.  Pokémon already has some pretty big damage multipliers and I don’t think we need bigger ones.

P.S. Merry Christmas to readers who celebrate it, and happy solstice to those who don’t.  I’m just sitting here in my made-up paradise country enjoying the summer sun and the freedom to gather in groups with people outside my household, so… uh… don’t worry about me, and stay safe, everyone – especially those in the US and UK.

x asks:

Was Coalossal created for the industrial revolution, after the revolution, or did it inspire the revolution? Actually, did the revolution happen at all?

Well, the Pokémon world resembles the modern world in enough important ways that I think there has to have been an industrial revolution; like… they have mechanised agriculture, they have coal power, they have mass-produced textiles, they have modern urbanisation.  Maybe those things didn’t happen all at once and in the same place, the way they did in 18th and 19th century Britain, though?  I don’t believe that anyone at Game Freak – or indeed anywhere in Pokémon’s corporate structure – has a detailed idea of what the history of the Pokémon world looks like, outside of the explicit lore of each region (and even then, I’m not altogether convinced they care much about fitting the history of different regions into a single overarching narrative); maybe they used to, because a lot of early stuff suggested that the Pokémon world has the same history and geography as the real one, but much of that is overwritten or contradicted by later media.

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creamCloud asks:

Something that i’ve noticed recently is that despite pikachu being technically weaker than all the other pika-clones in later generations [BST 320 as opposed to the others floating somewhere around 400-430, raichu 485 for reference] functionally it’s better due to having more toys to play with: a larger base movepool and various event moves, light orb and other unique items, eviolite, ect… and while some do have their own unique traits still get overshadowed by the original, So my question is this: what would you give the other pika-clones that would allow each to stand out in it’s own way? such as an evolution, signature move or item, higher stats, new ability?

Well… I’m not gonna design evolutions for half a dozen Pokémon right here, but maybe there are some things we can sketch out here.

I actually did put together rough ideas for evolutions for Plusle, Minun and Pachirisu as part of the “top 10 worst Pokémon ever” series I did way back in 2012; you can find that here: https://pokemaniacal.com/2012/02/06/the-top-ten-worst-pokemon-ever-6-plusle-minun/.  I’m pretty lukewarm on the actual details of these now, but I think the basic ideas (other than just “evolve them to justify much higher stats”) were sound: buff the Plus and Minus abilities to emphasise Plusle and Minun’s teamwork ideal, and give Pachirisu a lot more trickery- and theft-themed moves to go with its cleverness and collection themes.  I was also grudgingly convinced to do the same thing for Dedenne when I reviewed the Kalos generation: https://pokemaniacal.com/2014/07/28/dedenne-2/.  Here, the main thing I wanted was for Dedenne to have a powerful signature move to make up for its lack of any decent Fairy attacks (this obviated to some extent in Sword and Shield with the addition of Dazzling Gleam to its movepool, but… well, Dedenne could still use a bit more oomph).  I think the important thing is to emphasise what makes each Pokémon interesting (to the extent that there, uh… is anything interesting about them).

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