N asks:

Never have i seen a community turn around as fast as the pokémon community when they heard about gen 7. Things like having 2 games with slighlty different pokémon are now being touted as exploitative towards the consumer, critiques against the animations are aplenty. Your thoughts? Do you think the criticism is warranted or is the Internet being a bunch of crybabies again?

I don’t know if something specific prompted this question – “again” makes me think there’s been another change in the wind since I posted this, but I’m not aware of anything in particular?

The thing is… there are loads of legitimate criticisms of Pokémon, and I am totally here for criticising Pokémon; it’s what I do.  The whole “paired game” thing has always been weird and is frankly kind of obsolete, and the practise of releasing what amounts to an expansion as a full new game in (almost) every generation honestly is pretty consumer-unfriendly.  No one owes Nintendo and Game Freak their money or time, and we should all be prepared to criticise the media we consume.  The trouble is that the internet is a toxic cesspit that unfailingly reduces all human communication to corrosive bile sooner or later, which is why Jim the Editor should let me delete my Twitter account.  Even perfectly legitimate points just get subsumed into this appalling tidal wave of angry unreflective hot takes and reactions, because the internet is deathly allergic to nuance.  That’s not even the fault of any individual person involved in the discussion; it’s just the inevitable result of a structure that favours clickbait over substance and encourages us to outsource all our opinions to figureheads or group identities.  I’d like to decide what I think of this game after I’ve actually played it.  Not everyone can do that, because games are expensive and we don’t have infinite money, but you can pick a sensible reviewer, whose opinions on a range of other games are similar to your own, and wait for them to play it and decide what they think.  It’s okay if launch day arrives and you still don’t know whether you want to buy the game or not; I’ve never preordered a Pokémon game or started playing on day 1.  There’ll be plenty of time to make up our minds about what criticism is or is not deserved after that.

hugh_donnetono asks:

Hi! This https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGhpDOx0CMk ! Thoughts?

This is certainly a thing

The details of it are mostly ideas I agree would be good.  Probably the only thing I really dislike is separating the starter Pokémon over three different games, because I think being locked into one starter hurts replayability and doesn’t have much upside (other than we’re now explicitly encouraging people to buy three games instead of one, which… ehhhhhhh, I can see how Nintendo marketing would love it but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth).  I’d rather have the different themed starting locations being options within one game.  A lot of it has similarities to some things I’ve suggested myself in the past, some of it in my old “If I Were In Charge” series, some of it in miscellaneous question-and-answer posts – see especially here on mechanics that emphasise treating our Pokémon well, here and here on thematic gyms, here on paired games and the idea of separate ‘upgradeable’ hometowns for each game, and here on the role of legendary Pokémon.  I have some differences with the broad scope and aims of the project; given the choice, I would prioritise a complex story over an open structure and non-linear progression, and I think there’s a middle ground to be had between the massive-scope bad guys of generations III through VI and the “we’re just mobsters” bad guys of generations I and II.  That’s top-level design choices though; there’s not really wrong decisions there, just preferences, and subsequent decisions can serve those top-level choices well or badly.  I don’t think a Pokémon game can be everything that everyone in the fan community wants Pokémon to be, and do it well – design is about trade-offs, and mostly I can respect the ones made here.

Herald of Opera asks:

So, apparently the National Dex is going away. For all the Internet riots that have been going on about this, wasn’t it pretty much inevitable that the series would eventually create more Pokémon than it could fit in one game? And I’m saying all this despite knowing my personal favorite is almost certainly getting the axe (sorry Piplup, but you’re a non-Kanto starter, your animal basis doesn’t live in the same hemisphere as Britain, and your anime appearance was an obnoxious spotlight stealer)

Okay, I’m gonna hijack this question to get out everything I think about this and be the one and hopefully only time I talk about it, so here goes nothing:

Continue reading “Herald of Opera asks:”

Bradley_P15 [Patreon cultist] asks:

Read a thing on twitter recently that hypothesises that Gen V were the last mainline games that felt quote “Comfortable in their own skin”, since VI, VII and VIII all have big showy gimmicks whilst feeling the need to keep oldschool fans happy. What’re your thoughts on this as one of the internet’s prime Pokemon overthinkers?

Hmm.  It doesn’t especially square with my intuitions or experiences about those games – I didn’t enjoy V as much as VI or VII, in spite of it having what I still feel is the best story of the Pokémon games so far. I think I just disagree outright with the characterisation of Mega Evolution and Z-moves (I mean, I assume that’s what this is referring to; I don’t know what else it could mean) as showy gimmicks.  They never felt intrusive to me, and I always got the impression that most Pokémon players really liked Mega Evolution?  Certainly a lot of people are upset that it’s apparently not coming back.  They’re also fairly major additions to the battle system that come with a fair degree of strategic depth, and they’re part of the culture of each region in which they appear.  I don’t know whether all that’s going to be true of Dynamaxing, and frankly neither does anyone else, despite all the people lining up to declare otherwise. 

I think there is… let’s say a certain amount right now of people trying to fit their anger over the recent National Pokédex (ahem) “issue” into an overarching narrative of why Pokémon has been in decline ever since… since whichever generation they thought was best.  That’s not necessarily a wrong thing to try to do, but it rarely comes with arguments that I find convincing on the basis of my own experience of the games, and at the moment it seems like it’s tied to a desire to pre-judge Sword and Shield, which I just think is silly.  I mean, for heaven’s sake, even after a Pokémon game comes out, it takes me months to decide whether I liked it (and only some of that is because I don’t usually pick up the game on launch day).

Ash’s abandoned Pidgeot asks:

I was reading old reviews and chuckled at your disgust for Ash and Pikachu’s magical friendship bull$h!t but it made me curious as to your feelings on Let’s Go incorporating aspects of it into gameplay (Pokemon curing themselves if status conditions, enduring one shots, i.e.)

I haven’t played Let’s Go (maybe it does something new I’m not aware of), but those things have been in the games since X and Y, haven’t they?  Pokémon with high affection stats from Pokémon Amie (in generation VI) or Pokémon Refresh (in generation VII) can cure themselves during battle, endure attacks, dodge attacks, score extra critical hits, maybe a couple of other things I’m forgetting.  I actually kind of like it, since it gives us a reason to care about our relationships with our Pokémon – something that, up until generation VI, didn’t really have much gameplay effect outside of some fairly niche things like Return/Frustration and a handful of evolutions (of course now we have to figure out what the hell the difference between “friendship” and “affection” is supposed to be, since they sound like pretty much the same thing and are broadly characterised the same way, but are apparently totally independent).  I think one of the big challenges for Pokémon’s game design is the disconnect between the fantasy of partnership, spiritual bonding and, frankly, magical friendship bull$#!t that’s always been core to the series’ ethos, and the… well… somewhat interchangeable, even disposable nature of individual Pokémon as gameplay elements (how many baby Pokémon have you hatched and then immediately released into the wild while IV-breeding?  I have no idea – which in a way is kinda the point – but I’m pretty sure I’m in quadruple-digit territory).  I’m glad that the last few sets of games have seen efforts to try and resolve that tension.

jeffthelinguist asks:

I am the true Jeff, not that impostah. By the way, you can’t prove I am him also indeed….you could ask him and he’d say no, but how do you know he’s not messing with you and he and I aren’t one and the same.

But for reals though, here’s a legit question:. Do you think Ultra sun/moon was a proper goodbye to all the handheld games? (If we don’t count the switch as a handheld game)

Listen, I’m not here to adjudicate who gets to be Jeff.  If there are multiple Jeffs-claimant, you should settle it like adults: in a secret death battle in a remote swamp, fought while under the influence of potent psychedelics, with no witnesses, no safeguards and no remorse.  To be clear, I have no interest whatsoever in knowing the course or outcome of this challenge.

Anyway.

Don’t we count the Switch as a handheld?  I mean… I know it’s not just a handheld, but it is designed to be usable as one.  I’m not sure what would constitute a proper goodbye, or really even what there is to say goodbye to.  I didn’t expect anything in particular from Emerald as a farewell to the Gameboy Advance.  Conversely, expecting something special from the last game on a particular console kinda seems like it’s letting all the other games off the hook.

jeffthelinguist asks:

So… armored evolution. I think it’s not gonna be a thing and I think it’s stupid but… what do you think about the rumor? How would you feel if that was implemented?

I wouldn’t rule it out, honestly.  For those not following, the place this rumour comes from is a 4chan post from a few days before the announcement of Sword and Shield, which correctly predicted the names of the new games, and that they would be set in a region based on Great Britain, so it’s not wildly improbable that this person had some actual insider information (of course, even if they did, they might have had real information on the names and region, but then just made up other stuff to troll everyone, because… like… it’s 4chan, guys, come on).  One of the other predictions made therein is that Sword and Shield will introduce “armoured” evolutions, of Pokémon including Zeraora, Charizard, Flygon and Mewtwo.  And, I mean, you know you’ve wanted armoured Mewtwo since 1999, and Nintendo has just filed for the Japanese trademark on “Armoured Mewtwo,” and oh hey, they’re remaking that movie in 3D this year for some goddamn reason, and my respect for the Pokémon Company is just tenuous enough to believe that they would do that solely to plug an “armoured evolution” of Mewtwo.  A further prediction from the 4chan post is that Meltan will somehow be involved with all this, which… I mean, honestly, yeah; Meltan should start pulling its fµ¢£ing weight already.

Continue reading “jeffthelinguist asks:”

Mega Bidoof asks:

Do you think Game Freak will continue to add new evolutions to existing Pokemon now that mega evolutions exist?

I think the two are largely unconnected.  Think about it: generation V had no new evolutions of existing Pokémon, before Mega Evolution was introduced, and generation VII featured neither.  In fact, the only new evolution of the past three generations – Sylveon – actually coincided with the introduction of Mega Evolution.  It’s true that both serve a similar thematic purpose; they both give a new generation of games a more concrete link to Pokémon’s past.  I agree that new evolutions seem to be on the way out, but I think the “replacement” concept to fill that role, if any, is much more likely to be the continuation of regional variant Pokémon.  Mega Evolution is generation VI’s mechanic and tied to the history of Kalos and Hoenn, just as Z-moves are generation VII’s mechanic and tied to the history of Alola, just as the Dream World was generation V’s and has not returned (though the hidden abilities it unlocked remain).  The concept of regional variation, by contrast, doesn’t carry mechanical or worldbuilding baggage, and innately lends itself to being reused again and again through new forms that express the personality of each new region.  Even that, though, is not certain; the designers may have liked regional variation as a feature of Alola specifically, expressing the unusual paths that evolution can take on archipelagos in the real world.  To me it’s most plausible that generation VIII will feature no new evolutions of existing Pokémon, no new Mega Evolutions, and no new species-specific Z-moves (I’m 50/50 on new regional variations), instead spotlighting some other entirely new mechanic that will be tied to the history of the new region and the plot of the new games.

All of this is, of course, as likely as not to be proven completely wrong within the next couple of weeks (heck, maybe even days).  I don’t do predictions; it makes me ill-tempered.

Dosidicus Giygas asks:

There’s an interesting parallel in Gen I between Eevee’s three original evolutions and the three Legendary Birds in terms of typing. Fire, ice, and lightning are common elemental distinctions in RPGs with magic/energy/psionics/whathaveyou, so it makes sense that Pokemon would draw from this tradition for inspiration, though it’s a little odd that there is a discrepancy between Vaporeon (Water Type) and Articuno (Ice Type). Any thoughts on why that is? Furthermore, why didn’t Game Freak apply this logic to the starters, who are halfway there anyway? For something more varied/interesting? For a better justification of type balance?

Type balance isn’t exactly right, because I don’t think it’s about fairness, or at least not entirely, but it’s something like that.  Grass/Fire/Water has this nice rock/paper/scissors relationship that serves as an easy and intuitive introduction to one of Pokémon’s core mechanics, which is a pretty valuable thing for new players.  It doesn’t really work if you try to shoehorn Electric in there, because thematically there just isn’t an obvious relationship between Electric and Fire.  Other games that use Fire/Ice/Lightning don’t usually have “type advantages” in the same way as Pokémon does; several iterations of Final Fantasy, for example, have Fire and Ice being strong against each other, with Lightning doing its own thing (often being strong against mechanical enemies); Final Fantasy X adds Water as a fourth element to form another opposed pair with Lightning.  Pokémon just has different needs to those games.

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Sid-cada asks:

Occasionally, once in a few generations, Game Freak will take the time to go back to the older Pokémon’s Pokédex entries and take the time to update and add new information to them, rather than recycle the same facts. My question is, do you think that it is worthwhile? How much effort do you think it takes to add new facts to an older Pokémon? Would that time have been better spent on refining the newer things? Or are the new Pokédex entries really not that important and noticeable?

I like it a lot, mostly because one or two Pokédex entries aren’t really enough to cover all the angles on what might make a Pokémon interesting or fully develop the concept.  The fact that Pokédex completion, as of generation VII, is now decoupled from any one save file (Pokébank can now display all possible Pokédex information of all the Pokémon you’ve captured on any of the games you own) I think helps to put all of this stuff front-and-centre a bit more, and emphasise the accumulation of information across multiple generations.  A lot of this stuff really helps to fill out the world and give us a sense of its ecology and culture – especially in Sun and Moon, where many old Pokémon (even those without Alolan forms) have Pokédex entries that describe how they live in Alola or relate to Alolan Pokémon, in keeping with generation VII’s greater focus on world-building and developing the character of the region itself.  I’ve been thinking about doing a sort of “Pokédex appreciation” series – trawling the Pokédex for interesting bits of trivia we’ve learned about Pokémon over the years, because frankly I do regularly learn new things about old Pokémon that surprise and delight me.  Would that appeal to anyone?