Veteran Shaun asks:

By the way, what’s your opinion of Eusine?

Eusine and Morty have this… “the magic has gone out of the world, and I can bring it back” vibe.  Generation II was still kinda working through exactly what legendary Pokémon were and meant, and how they were going to fit into the world, because the original games didn’t really lock that down very clearly.  A lot of that work happens with Suicune, Entei, Raikou and the way their story is tied into the history and atmosphere of Johto.  Something was lost, the towers burned, a miracle was witnessed, but the Pokémon vanished and were never seen again, and the world is a little less magical for their absence.  But they still have these… well, for lack of a better word, these prophecies, and Morty’s visions, that tell them someone will bring the legendary Pokémon back.  Eusine’s attitude varies a bit between portrayals – original games, remakes, anime, his Generations short – sometimes he’s arguably just chasing personal glory, other times it seems like he has more of a “mission” in mind, something he wants to do for the world.  I think the common thread is that he’s thrilled by the idea of finding and experiencing something that exists on the outermost edge of human knowledge… which, ultimately, is what legendary Pokémon are, I think.

I dunno if that constitutes an “opinion of Eusine” but that’s what you’re getting.

Chronos asks:

So, do you have any thoughts on some of the more “loose” interpretations of moves in the new Pokemon Unite? For example Defense Curl, Hex and the three different Surfs?

I haven’t actually looked at Unite.  I don’t really enjoy MOBAs as a genre; I kinda find the design of character abilities interesting from an abstract perspective and I can see why people like them, but the fast-paced team combat just doesn’t play to the things I enjoy about games or have any aptitude with.  So, yeah, I haven’t looked at it.  I was thinking maybe I should, specifically so I can talk about this kind of thing with reference to the portrayals of specific Pokémon across different media, but I doubt I’m going to get really into it.

The other thing on my mind at the moment is that I’m hearing Pokémon Unite is extremely microtransaction-heavy, even more so than Pokémon Go or anything else in the franchise.  Which… well, given that Pokémon (even though it now has a lot of adult fans) has always consciously marketed itself as being for preteen children and still makes a lot of major decisions from that perspective… seems a little bit on the evil side, and maybe represents something that I shouldn’t be giving oxygen to?  I dunno; I am willing to be guided by my readers on this.

Seronimo asks:

Since Gen 7, the Pokedex has been getting more liberal in talking about predator/prey relationships between Pokemon. However, they’ve stopped making sure these relationships are reflected in type effectiveness. Before, you had Heatmor being 4x effective against Durant, and Zangoose with its two poison-related abilities. But now, we’ve got Talonflame preying on Wingull, both Gabite and Sableye chasing wild Carbink, and the Poison-type Mareanie devouring the Rock-type Corsola. Idk, how do you explain that?

I’d imagine that – much like predators in the real world – predatory Pokémon go out of their way to make sure that any fights they get into with prey are deeply unfair.  Just like Pokémon with a type disadvantage against their prey, a lot of real predators are genuinely kinda fµ¢£ed if their target manages to fight back.  Think of, for example, big cats, who go for the throat at the first opportunity, preferably from ambush, and usually back down pretty quickly if that fails because they can’t afford to expend the energy, or sharks, who famously tend to retreat if you give them a good punch in the snout or gills, because they’re just so stunned at the concept of food that tries to hurt them.  You want to stack the deck.

Continue reading “Seronimo asks:”

Leo M.R. asks:

Let’s make the most cursed concept design for a Fire starter ever! A bipedal bovine that:
– fights by getting enraged and charging at its opponents (shamelessly ripping off Tauros and Bouffalant, because we’re being as unoriginal as possible),
– is a fast physical attacker with Anger Point as its Hidden Ability, just to drive home the Tauros comparisons,
– has Fire/Fighting as its type in reference to the practice of bullfighting (a morally-questionable blood sport, and also calling back to Blaziken & cockfighting, because we’re being as unoriginal as possible),
– draws visual cues from oxen just to further reinforce the idea of Fire starters being based on the Chinese zodiac.

So, how cursed is this whole idea? Can we make it even more cursed?

oh no

so, this is a good effort, but I don’t think it’s cursed enough yet

We need to spit on the game balance somehow – make it either heinously overpowered, like Speed Boost-Blaziken overpowered, or find a way to make it really bad.  Fire/Fighting is so strong offensively that, I think, in order for a Fire/Fighting starter to be bad, it almost has to be really slow with one garbage defence stat and a signature move that does something pointless (maybe it scores more critical hits against burned targets).  Even then, though, starters have such high stats that it’s hard to make them truly awful without doing something totally obtuse, like mismatching their attack and special attack stats with their movepools.  If you want to go in the other direction, just make its hidden ability Huge Power and give it access to Agility.

On the zodiac angle… well, for me personally, to make it as cursed as possible, you have to make it like Cyndaquil or Fennekin, where it’s not actually based on an animal from the Chinese zodiac, but it’s close enough to make people keep repeating the theory anyway.  Not sure what the best direction for that is – maybe a bison?

The trouble with the cockfighting/bullfighting analogy is that it feels almost clever.  I think if you want to make it as cursed as possible you should just make it an angry wrestler.  With tights, except that the Pokédex makes it clear that they’re only skin/fur markings that look like tights for no obvious reason.

Oh, and… obviously it has to learn Curse.

Digidestined asks:

We all know that if you were in pokemon, you would be a grass and psychic trainer with an ace Vileplume, but what would be your digimon partner if you were a digidestined? Keep in mind even neglectful or neutral tamers have bonds on par with ash and Pikachu, so add in the digimon’s personality to compliment your own if you can.

so… I know this is a bit of a cop-out, but there is a Digimon that is a literal kiwi, and it’s in a line of plant-type Digimon, and I always thought as a kid “yes, that one.”  I dunno if any of those Digimon have ever had enough screentime to have an established personality.  In the games Kiwimon is usually the champion-level form of Floramon (Digimon evolution is a lot less fixed than Pokémon evolution and most Digimon have multiple documented paths across various games – I think Kiwimon’s ultimate form can be either Blossommon or Deramon, both of which I like), but from what I can remember, when both of those Digimon appear in the anime they’re two different individuals and have radically different personalities. Floramon is kinda ditzy and fun-loving, whereas Kiwimon is very taciturn and stoic. So honestly I think there is room to just say that individual Digimon of the same species can have totally different personalities, and mine would be something that drives me up the wall in exactly the right way to make me improve myself somehow.

a people asks:

Do you think the people of the pokemon universe consider Yveltal and other destructive pokemon evil? Affection for legendary pokemon works the same way it does for others, should we have to earn their trust in a different way? And they still do things like play minigames with you and make cute faces when you pet them. Why?

I don’t get the impression they do.  They might be scared of certain Pokémon that have dangerous powers or that humans don’t know much about, but I’m trying my hardest to think of anyone who says a Pokémon is “evil” and I’m really not coming up with much (not counting phenomena like the Shadow Pokémon from Gale of Darkness and Pokémon Go, who have been transformed by an external force and can be “purified” to return them to their peaceful natural state).  Individual Pokémon can certainly be evil, like the Malamar from the X and Y anime or Meowth from Team Rocket (maybe Meowth is debateable as he has several redeeming qualities, but he certainly self-identifies as “evil”), but species of Pokémon aren’t inherently evil.   When Yveltal appears in the games, it’s a pawn of Lysandre, and in the Diancie movie, it’s treated as extremely dangerous but not really malevolent, more like a living natural disaster than a villain.  Tyranitar and Hydreigon are much the same, destructive forces of nature more than evil beings.  Mewtwo is, I think, intended to be more complex than just outright “evil”; Necrozma is destructive because it’s diminished and broken; most Dark Pokémon that are mischievous or violent are treated as being dangerous in an animalistic way.

The only ones I can come up with, the only Pokémon that I think are ever implied to be by nature actively and deliberately malicious, are a few of the Ghost Pokémon that literally represent “evil spirits” – Banette and Spiritomb and the like.  And even then, the inspirations behind Spiritomb’s design imply the possibility of redemption: the 108 demons of Water Margin become heroes; the 108 temptations that lie between mortals and Nirvana can be overcome.  For Spiritomb, the same has to be possible.  We’re told by the Ultra Moon Pokédex that Banette’s curse can be broken by treating it with kindness.  And I suspect that this should be the default assumption – that even when Pokémon are violent or destructive or malevolent in nature, there is a way in.  And that way in commonly involves macarons, doughnuts and/or curry.

I think fundamentally, Pokémon are animals, and Pokémon the series takes the view that humans have a responsibility to be the enlightened stewards of the natural world.  We’re supposed to show them the difference between right and wrong (or, in some cases, accept that they are beyond our understanding of right and wrong).  What we’re not in a position to do – what I don’t believe the series ever endorses us in doing – is judge them.

Except for Drapion; Drapion’s a piece of $#!t

Anon asks:

If you were transported to the pokemon world but as a pokemon, which one would you be (barring legendaries and mythicals) also, keep in mind, this isn’t about which one is your favorite, it is about which one has the best chance for survival based in different criteria.

For survival?

Well, that’s easy.  Carbink.

I mean, yeah, you’re rubbish at fighting, truly bottom-tier ludicrously bad.  On the other hand, you basically don’t age, you’re composed primarily of diamonds and, consequently, you’re thoroughly inedible, impervious to most environmental hazards and, for all intents and purposes, indestructible.  There are Carbink out there that are almost a billion years old – not the species, but individual CarbinkIn Kalos, mind you, which means they’ve slept through Yveltal’s tantrums before.  Time itself can’t kill these little fµ¢£wits, and it has tried.

Leo M.R. asks:

I think the execution of Solar Power is bizarre. It’s understandably given to various Pokémon who are supposed to draw power from the sun (e.g. Sunflora or Heliolisk) but the HP loss means that these Pokémon would actually be *harmed* from being in intense sunlight. Sure, they get that Sp. Atk boost but is it worth the drawback? The current mechanics of Solar Power would actually incentivize them to not be in the sun, unless they’re feeling particularly suicidal and want to go out in a solar blaze of glory. I wonder two things:

1) Must there even *be* a drawback to Solar Power? Other weather-dependent Abilities don’t have drawbacks (compare Chlorophyll, which just freely doubles your Speed); I feel like Solar Power giving Pokémon a free Sp. Atk boost wouldn’t break the game; 2) If there *must* be a drawback, why not have it so that it increases your Sp. Atk in sunlight but decreases it in rain/any other weather condition? Making a Solar Power Pokémon wholly dependent on the weather – their own preferred weather – makes more sense to me than the current ‘they lose an eighth of their health every turn even though it’s their preferred weather’ thing.

I dunno if I’m with you on this.  There’s not no precedent to the way Solar Power works – it’s unlike the other weather abilities, sure, but its drawback is pretty similar to the way a Life Orb functions.  You get more power, you lose health every turn.  Solar Power seems worse: it takes more of your HP (1/8 per turn rather than 1/10), only benefits special attacks and doesn’t work without the weather support, but its bonus is larger (50% rather than 30%).  I think the trade-off is more interesting than a pure buff, although there’s certainly an argument that Solar Power isn’t strong enough to make up for the damage it does to you.  I would also suggest that thematically it makes sense for the Pokémon that get it; Charizard is all about burning up in a blaze of glory and Mega Houndoom has a certain self-destructive cast to it, while for Grass Pokémon like Sunflora and Tropius, their weakness to Fire attacks has always made fighting under the sun a bit of a double-edged sword.  Actually, it really reminds me of the energy-burning effects that Charizard and other Fire Pokémon tend to have in the TCG, where you have ridiculous power on tap, but you have to win quickly and efficiently because you’re destroying so much of your own resources. It’s like the sheer CELESTIAL POWER of the BLAZING SUN is too great for your mortal body to contain and it will BURN YOU FROM THE INSIDE if you try to channel it for too long.

Chlorophyll and Solar Power aren’t really comparable, in my opinion, because speed works differently to all the other stats; once you’re 1 point faster than the competition, you already have everything you’re going to get out of extra speed.  Extra special attack only stops being useful when you’re already powerful enough to one-shot everything that matters, which is a much higher threshold.  The other consideration is that most Pokémon with Chlorophyll are pretty slow to begin with (the major exceptions being Jumpluff, who can’t actually do anything, and Whimsicott, who gets more out of Prankster anyway); the ability bumps them up to merely “acceptable.”  Apart from Tropius, all the Pokémon that get Solar Power have quite high special attack stats already.  They still aren’t very good, but it’s not specifically a lack of power that lets them down, so I’m not convinced that buffs to Solar Power would change their fortunes.  Sunflora and Tropius are bad because they’re slow and have garbage movepools; Heliolisk’s problems are that it’s ludicrously fragile and it can’t figure out which weather condition it wants to synergise with; Charizard historically has mostly been fµ¢£ed over by its double weakness to Stealth Rock, but hey, at least we have Heavy Duty Boots now.  Dynamax that $#!t, you can really easily set up your own weather support with Max Flare and go to town.

I’m also… honestly not even sure Solar Power is a bad ability? Like, a 50% buff to special attack, on top of any bonuses your moves already get from bright sunlight, really is quite a lot! It’s a bigger bonus than Sand Force, which is the only other ability that gives you extra damage from weather. I think the only reason we don’t see more of it is because most of the Pokémon that get it are so terrible. I mean… Sunflora? I’m not even sure Wonder Guard would make Sunflora good. Tropius is less awful but still pretty ineffectual; Heliolisk has pretty nice stats for a weather-based sweeper but also has basically no Fire attacks and is better under rain with Dry Skin (despite being a Pokémon with a solar energy theme and the Greek word for “sun” in its name). The only Pokémon you’d ever really expect to see succeeding with Solar Power is Charizard, and that genuinely kinda works, even with Charizard’s iffy special movepool and the Stealth Rock weakness that makes it nearly impossible to take a Life Orb (or really any item other than Heavy Duty Boots).

what was the question?

yeah, no, I think Solar Power is actually fine

Osprey asks:

What are your opinions on the current state of the monarchy? (Of the Commonwealth, I mean. Although, feel free to share your opinions about the Galarian monarchy as well…)

uh

to be honest I don’t really give a $#!t one way or another, and I especially don’t give a shit about Henry and Maggie or whatever their names are

Like, theoretically the Queen of England is my head of state here in New Zealand, but her power is even more vestigial and ceremonial than it is in the UK; nothing she decides actually affects anything.  I reckon when Lizzie 2 eventually kicks the bucket (which feels right now like it could happen pretty soon, given the recent death of Phil the Greek, but bear in mind that her mum lived to 101; I think Lizzie might just never die), the existential horror of King Charlie 3 will probably jolt people out of complacency a bit, but actually doing anything about it constitutionally just seems like so much of a hassle.  I mean, we’d have to change the curtains, and take down a bunch of plaques, and figure out what the hell the Governor General actually does so we can make someone else do it, and who has time for that $#!t?  At the very least, I think people probably won’t be terribly keen to put Charlie 3 on our coins and $20 note in Lizzie’s place, so I think that practice will most likely end with her death.  Something that possibly isn’t immediately apparent to non-Commonwealth people is that, even though the British monarchy basically does nothing, Lizzie is kind of a cultural landmark in her permanence and omnipresence.  We’ve technically had the same head of state since my grandparents (three of whom are now dead) were teenagers.  I think people are a lot more attached to her personally than to the monarchy as a concept now.  There’s this old joke about Oprah being the “queen of America” but I think it’s actually kind of a useful way of thinking about it: imagine if Oprah died, but she had a dramatically less charismatic son who’d once been recorded in a phone conversation daydreaming about what it would be like to live as his girlfriend’s tampon, and everyone in the United States was supposed to just treat him as “the new Oprah” and let him run the talk show and the book club, et cetera, et cetera, and everyone had to pretend he was just as good.  Even if you don’t give a $#!t about Oprah, something about that situation might seem a little off to you.

In some ways it would make a lot of sense to declare New Zealand a Republic with no constitutional ties to the UK; the trouble I have with that – and this is sort of specific to New Zealand – is that quite a few of our big political issues still hang off the Treaty of Waitangi, which is an agreement between the native Māori tribes and the British Crown, and… look, it’s a long story that probably isn’t worth getting into here.  The point is that I suspect there are a lot of people in this country who would like to use a clean-slate Republic of New Zealand to declare that the new government no longer has to honour any of the Crown’s previous commitments and obligations to our indigenous population under the Treaty, and I don’t like that notion one bit (not that the Crown ever has honoured them, mind you, but it’s the principle of the thing).  But then again, it’s… complicated.  We do also, like, have a king, here in New Zealand; we have the Māori King, Te Wherowhero VII.  We could totally replace the impotent ceremonial colonist monarchy with an impotent ceremonial indigenous monarchy.  I’m sure that wouldn’t be controversial at all (not least because the Kīngitanga movement is a development of the colonial period, not a traditional political structure, and doesn’t represent all Māori; Ngāpuhi in particular hate the Kīngitanga).

The other thing is that people in New Zealand just… reflexively don’t like having strong opinions about anything.  We had a referendum a couple of years ago to change the flag to something without a Union Jack on it, but the main finding of that whole exercise was that no one really cares what the flag looks like and none of us can think of anything worth replacing it with.  Which, with a rather elegant cyclicality, brings me back to my original point: I don’t give a $#!t

The Dag asks:

Which of the 7 Ancient Wonders would you pick to see in its prime?

Oh, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, easy.  That’s the one we know the least about.  The Pyramids are still there (albeit past their glory days); we have bits of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the great temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the Pharos lighthouse was still there for most of the Middle Ages and we have the foundations; we can make a lot of educated guesses about the Colossus of Rhodes and Pheidias’ chryselephantine statue of Zeus because we have so much other Greek sculpture (I think we have some artistic depictions of the statue of Zeus too?  The Byzantines hung onto it for a while after the Pagan temples at Olympia were shut down).  For the Hanging Gardens, we literally have nothing to go on but second- and third-hand written descriptions.  To be honest, we’re not even completely certain they were in Babylon – a good chunk of Babylon has been excavated and there’s no sign of them, and I don’t think they’re mentioned in any known Babylonian cuneiform texts.  I’ve seen it argued that they were actually in Nineveh (near modern Mosul), the capital of the Assyrian Empire, which was kinda like… Babylon 2.0 for a while (that could conceivably have caused our Greek sources to get a little muddled).  Or perhaps they were just the rooftop gardens of the royal palace, and the Greeks got a little carried away in describing them.

But despite everything we don’t know, I think they must have been pretty special.  Building a rooftop garden, the size of a palace, in Baghdad, full of plants that don’t naturally grow there, with pre-industrial technology, shows a damned impressive command of irrigation and water management.  And besides that, what we’re describing is basically a botanical garden, a place you can go to see exotic plants that require special care.  To my mind, that’s a special moment in the history of science as well as engineering and culture, one that shows a real interest in understanding and controlling the variety and beauty of the natural world.  The Greeks saw elaborate gardens full of exotic plants as major distinctive features of Babylonian and Persian culture, and even though they sometimes looked down on their eastern neighbours for being “soft” or “effeminate,” they couldn’t deny the beauty and grandeur of their cultural achievements (our word “paradise” comes, through Greek, from the Persian word for garden).  The inclusion of the Hanging Gardens in the traditional “seven wonders” attests to that (although, admittedly, that list is mostly just one dude’s… like, opinion, man – honestly, what gets to be a “wonder” is a pretty interesting topic in itself).