Ms. Guided asks:

What do you think of the original game concept of having to eventually battle the opposing Pokemon yourself should all of yours be defeated?

I think it might be…

mis-guided?

…okay, you have to let me have that one; you were asking for it.

So, I don’t think we actually know for sure that trainers were going to take part in combat.  That’s one interpretation of some of the old concept art for Red and Green and all the trainers from Generation I who use whips, but as far as I know no-one from Game Freak or Nintendo has told us “yeah, we were thinking of letting you fight them yourself.”  Regardless… I think if you include that, Pokémon has to be a fairly different game and world from what it ended up being.  Mechanically, the trainer is going to end up acting like a seventh Pokémon, but it’s one that you can’t change or do anything interesting with, which is weird and jarring in a game that’s otherwise about building a team from hundreds of choices.  So, in order for it to not be a drag, you have to build a whole bunch of new systems and options for trainer combat, or maybe systems where you can optimise your trainer for either direct combat or other things.  That sounds interesting, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve even had a bunch of ideas for different abilities that trainers might have (haven’t we all?), but it sounds like it would be a nightmare to balance, especially if you want trainer combat to be a last resort, and you probably need to devise a whole separate experience system.  And do you use any of this in battles against other trainers?   If not, then it’s going to be a minor enough part of the game that you might as well not bother (because how often do you expect players to lose their entire teams to wild Pokémon?), but if you do, then what on earth does that do to the concept of what a Pokémon battle is?  If you beat your opponent’s Pokémon after yours have already lost, do you fight your opponent hand-to-hand?  Even if you aren’t fighting other trainers one-on-one, the world clearly feels  a lot more dangerous this way; like, in the games we have, your Pokémon are knocked out and you run back to a Pokémon Centre with them, and wild Pokémon don’t pursue you at that point.  If you’re fighting a vastly more powerful opponent by yourself as a last-ditch effort, what does that imply about the stakes?  Like, I don’t know if the Pokédex quest was a thing at this point in development, but is Professor Oak sending you out into the wild to catch Pokémon, knowing full well that they will try to kill you?  Clearly this isn’t something you can just plug into Pokémon as it exists; you have to start from the beginning and I think there’s potential for the end result to turn out either better or worse.

Mr. Rustworthy asks:

If you were a gym leader, what would your gym experience be like,?

So I have a really old thing somewhere, where someone asked me a question that was not this, but I answered this question instead by outlining a gym that specialised in nocturnal Pokémon where you had to find your way to the leader by reading glowing constellations painted on the floor.

Yeah, here it is:
https://pokemaniacal.com/2012/12/11/imagine-that-you-have-been-hired-to-become-a-gym/

Therefore, I will now continue the cycle by leaving that old answer there, then answering a slightly different question that someone else will ask me seven years from now, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

(look, if you’re going to follow this blog you’re going to have to accept that time and causality are not always super-firm in my presence; deal with it)

Continue reading “Mr. Rustworthy asks:”

Lilycat asks:

Doesn’t Raihan look like Garchomp? Considering his sandstorm…weather team….do you think it was a wasted opportunity that he didn’t have a Garchomp?

I mean I suppose they’re saving him for the rumored diamond pearl remakes…but what are your thoughts?

Yeah, I guess I can see it?  Like, those particular shades of navy blue and scarlet, together with the white “spikes” on his hoodie… seems like it could be a deliberate stylistic reference.  I can think of reasons not to give him a Garchomp, but not fantastic reasons.  Like, as you said, if they were planning to release Pokémon: Timey Diamond and Spacey Pearl or whatever in 2020 or 2021, then those games would definitely have Garchomp, so there’s a decent argument for leaving it out of Sword and Shield, but I think you are allowed to put it in both; there are several Sinnoh-native Pokémon in Sword and Shield, including the iconic Rotom and Lucario, so there is going to be overlap anyway.  You could also argue that gym leaders almost always have a signature Pokémon that’s new in their own generation – in Raihan’s case, Duraludon – and putting a “pseudo-legendary” Pokémon like Garchomp on his gym team would overshadow his star player, which is clearly undesirable.  However, his Champion Cup team actually does include a pseudo-legendary Dragon, namely Goodra.  I don’t think it was necessarily a mistake to leave Garchomp out of the Galar Pokédex and thus deny Raihan the opportunity to use it, but I do think it was a weird choice to do that and then lean into what seems like a Garchomp-inspired character design, rather than picking one of the many other Dragon Pokémon that do exist in Galar, like Haxorus or Noivern.

Then again, I can see an argument for that being kind of the point.  The Pokémon that are missing from Galar aren’t gone for good, and they even have fans in Galar; maybe Raihan loves Garchomp but has never had the opportunity to catch one.  Arguably his costume would look… well, over-the-top if it matched a Pokémon he actually used, but comes across a bit more subtle as a reference to a foreign Pokémon that he likes but doesn’t have.

Tapu Wooloo asks:

Could the Chairman Rose arc be a commentary on modern-day capitalism? Real-world competitive sports is a lucrative business full of shady sponsors. And Dynamaxing seems to be an investment that is extremely gimmicky yet highly profitable (larger stadiums and audiences become necessary), so it would make sense for the chairman to invest in it. Like the decisions of many real world corporations, the decision to put Dynamaxing front and center has left behind towns like Spikemuth. And like real world corporate bosses, Chairman Rose is willing to risk destroying the entire world in pursuit of his investment.

Just giving a very quick and brief answer to this here because I’m actually working on my article on Chairman Rose right now, and am working through how I want to do my full-length take on this. The short answer, though, is “yes, that is absolutely how I see this story as well.”

Leo M. R. [Patreon Cultist] asks:

Let’s have a fun, not-serious Pokémon discussion, shall we? Which of the newer Pokémon do you think would go well with Trainers from older generations? For example: Toxtricity so obviously belongs on Roxie’s team, and the same goes with both Lurantis and Erika, and Primarina and Wallace (side note: why does Primarina get the Fairy typing but not Milotic, huh Game Freak?). Would a Coalossal for Roark or Heliolisk for Volkner be too typecasting based on their cities? Other examples I can think of are Karen with a Mandibuzz, Wikstrom vibes with Corviknight, Drake (Hoennese Elite Four, not Orange League Champion) would probably like a Dragalge, and Cynthia goes well with a Cofagrigus/Runerigus.

Then you have the Trainer-Pokémon pairs that would be fun and cool outside of combat situations, à la Jasmine and her Ampharos. Potential pairs include Phoebe dancing with a Bellossom, Koga/Janine training with a Greninja, and Brawly surfing with an Alolan Raichu, while Crasher Wake + Hawlucha + Incineroar sounds just like the kind of recipe for disaster that would make for a good Friday night. Any other ideas?

Continue reading “Leo M. R. [Patreon Cultist] asks:”

jeffthelinguist asks:

Why do Pokemon post game stories suck (aside from Johto’s, and even that doesn’t have much for story)? The more casual fans might stop after the credits so really they should be for the hardcore fans; it’s really a chance for Game Freak to step up their storytelling and give us some good lore. Instead we get Looker (arguably the best thing other than Johto’s and that says a lot), Team Rainbow Rocket (minor nostalgia dump with huge plot holes), and now Squidward and Sherbet (I refuse to ever use their real names).

Well, I should start by saying that I actually quite like Sword and Shield’s post-championship storyline in spite of Swordface and Shieldbutt (who are clearly not meant to be sympathetic characters), as detailed here (this question landed in my inbox before that entry was published). Their enmity towards Sonia for “changing history” actually does feel to me like a natural continuation of her story and an interesting perspective on the events of the main plot. So I sort of disagree with the premise of the question, which is a thing I do a lot.  I also liked Fire Red and Leaf Green’s Sevii Islands storyline, and while I consider Looker himself a personal enemy who should be flung into outer space, I don’t actually have any issues with the Lumiose City storyline featuring Emma and Xerosic in X and Y.  I have problems with the endgame stories that feel tacked onto a game that was already finished – the worst offenders in my view being Platinum’s Charon subplot (the main plot is about ancient mythology and seizing control of terrible cosmic powers to rewrite reality and change the nature of life, the universe and the soul; and then Charon, who’s been built up as this incredible genius for the entire game, just wants to blow up a volcano in order to extort lots of money from the people of Sinnoh) and the Team Rainbow Rocket saga of Ultra SMoon (which… well, we’ve been there). Also, frankly, even though this isn’t actually postgame material, I think the Ultra Recon Squad subplot counts as this too; it’s not actually bad in isolation but it doesn’t belong in the story it’s attached to.  And, well, that’s kind of the answer to your question: because they’re tacked onto games that were already finished, in some cases (as I understand it – fact-check me on this) by different writers than the ones responsible for the original story.  I’m inclined to blame the rampant corporate greed that dictates an annual release cycle for Pokémon, whether there’s actually a worthwhile game to be made or not – but then, I blame a lot of things on rampant corporate greed these days, so you can argue this is just my baseline.

N asks:

Are bad dads a constant in the Pokémon Universe? Like i can’t remember for the life of me a single good father in the franchise. Hell, the entire plot of the Detective pickachu movie hinges on a son being unable to recognize his own father’s voice.

Well, I can think of… a couple of good dads: Professor Birch, in Ruby and Sapphire, seems to have a very strong relationship with his child, May/Brendan (whichever one isn’t the player character), while Norman, the player character’s father, is away all the time because he works in a different city but seems like a decent enough parent when we actually get to see him.  Bianca’s dad in Black and White… doesn’t really “get it,” but he’s at least trying not to be a $#!tty dad.

There is a standard explanation for this one, and there will always be one person who brings it up, which is: “absent fathers are a theme in Japanese fiction because Japanese fathers work 500 hours a day and are never around.”  That’s… true, and it explains a lot of the $#!ttiness of many Pokémon fathers – like Palmer in Diamond and Pearl being so distant from Barry, or Hau’s unnamed father in Sun and Moon being off in Kanto somewhere doing god knows what.  I think a lot of it really is just Pokémon’s own priorities, though, and a general lack of interest in the families of the player or other major characters (it would be fair to say, I think that the plots of these games are not what you’d call “character-driven”).  Like… fathers who are absent or distant because they work all the time are also a theme of American fiction; American fiction has practically created entire genres out of emotionally stunted men’s obsession with their $#!tty father figures.  But that’s not what the fathers of Pokémon’s main characters are like; they’re just not there, with no explanation and no relevance to anything.  Plenty of other characters have fathers who clearly exist, even if they’re not around very much or aren’t very good parents.  It’s also fairly common for both parents to be equally absent (as in Brock and Misty’s cases; I don’t think we ever meet Hau’s mother either).  I think the presence of the main character’s mother in each game is, in most cases, something of an admission that, at a bare minimum, it would be weird for a child to grow up completely alone.

Anonymous asks:

What did you think of the change to Lusamine’s motivations in USUM? I kind of preferred her SM version, but that’s mostly because Lillie telling her why she was wrong was Lillie’s best moment to me.

Iiiiiiiiii have mixed feelings.  I don’t want to go into it in too much detail now because a full article on Lusamine and the Aether Foundation is on my to-do list for after I finish my Pokémon reviews, but I think both versions of Lusamine’s story get at aspects of her character the writers wanted to show.  There’s an argument that a better writer would have been able to do that with a single cohesive plotline rather than two alternate versions, but I think there’s also an argument that showing how the same character’s story could have progressed in two different ways as a result of fairly minor changes in circumstance is kind of interesting – we’ve seen Lusamine both as the story’s primary villain and as an arguably heroic supporting character, and each portrayal is true to the other.  I quite like the anime’s characterisation of Lusamine and its portrayal of her experiences with Nihilego in Ultra Space, but unfortunately it doesn’t get Lillie’s fantastic “the reason you suck” speech either.

Analytic Mareep asks:

One thing I’ve noticed about Bianca and Cheren: Bianca always ends up being the more useful of the pair. In the Relic Castle sequence, Cheren just tags along behind you, ultimately adding nothing to the situation. Bianca, meanwhile, gets ahold of Juniper–which turns out to be really important since they find the dark/light stone. In the Elite Four sequence, the same thing happens. Cheren tags along and beats the Elite Four as well (not contributing much of anything to your predicament) while Bianca rounds up all the Gym Leaders (who save your ass). I think this was probably intentional, and it sheds light on how the writers wanted us to view Bianca and Cheren.

Hmm.  I think that’s a little unfair to Cheren; he does fight alongside you against Team Plasma on multiple occasions, and fighting usually makes up most of the player’s contribution to advancing the plot.  And I don’t… think Bianca is responsible for getting Professor Juniper involved in looking for the Dark/Light Stone, or at least I don’t believe anyone ever says that’s what she’s doing.  I’d be more inclined to assume that that was the elder Professor Juniper, who is present at the Dragonspiral Tower when the player confronts N, and works together with his daughter to identify the stone.  There is a general point to be made about Bianca and Cheren as foils to each other, though.  The early part of the game kind of sets up Cheren as more organised, more ambitious, a better trainer, more… well, frankly, more competent, whereas Bianca doesn’t really know what she’s doing or what she wants.  Over the course of the game, though, Cheren comes to realise (through Alder’s example) that his ambitions are basically hollow, leaving him somewhat listless at the end of the story; Bianca, on the other hand, grows into herself, figures out what she wants to do with her life, and becomes a researcher.  She’s ultimately the one who comes out of it with a stronger conception of her own goals and identity.  I think the message is supposed to be about taking time to explore life, and figure out what your goals are gradually and organically, rather than focusing on the single-minded pursuit of just one aim in the belief that it will complete you as a person (Cheren actually credits Bianca, as well as the player, Alder and N, with helping him realise this).

N asks:

What would be the biggest culture shocks for someone that comes from the world of Pokémon to ours?

listen if you’re thinking of making the move I don’t recommend it

but… well, I’m gonna guess the absence of Pokémon would be the big one, to be honest.

People in the Pokémon world rely on their Pokémon for all kinds of things, and it often seems like it’s kind of unusual to be a person who doesn’t care about Pokémon and isn’t in any capacity involved with Pokémon.  Like, in the real world, telling someone you don’t have pets is not a big deal.  In the Pokémon world, sure, not everyone is a trainer exactly, but almost everyone has Pokémon in their lives in some capacity, maybe as pets or co-workers or even spiritual advisors.  How big a change this is might depend on when and where you landed – people in real rural societies do “live with animals” in a fairly meaningful sense, while urbanites tend to be largely oblivious of even the animals we eat (and actually, this is a total tangent but my IRL friend Flint Dibble, who is a zooarchaeologist, talks a lot about this stuff on Twitter and is very good at making compelling stories of his work).  Of course, maybe then the culture shock is “you eat your animals!?” (but then, are we so sure they don’t eat Pokémon too?).  They would probably be confused at how far animals, other than pets, are kept at arms’ length in their involvement in modern society – and might think that we must be very disconnected from nature on account of that.

The dependence of children on their parents is probably the other big thing.  In the Pokémon world, it’s generally seen as pretty safe for kids to travel on their own if they have Pokémon, who can provide both protection and emotional support.  Adults are not necessarily better trainers than children either, so Pokémon are a big equalising factor in the face of any dangers you might face.  In the absence of that security and freedom, modern childhood (even modern life in general) in the real world would probably seem stifling.