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!]

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).

Continue reading “creamCloud asks:”

RandomAccess asks:

The new Dreepy evolutionary line, to me, brings up some pretty interesting questions about the Pokemon world’s evolutionary biology. They’re apparently aquatic Pokemon that lived in the ancient past that became spirits once they became extinct, and now fittingly have the “ghost/dragon” typing in the modern day. What’s interesting about this is you must wonder, why isn’t this more common, that being why isn’t there a ghost type variant of every existing Pokemon, since all Pokemon are living creatures that shed their mortal coil eventually all the same. This seems to imply that becoming a distinct ghost-type pokemon is something only some are capable of, while the rest just become normal wraiths like Pikachu did in the Pokemon Tower episode and presumably eventually pass on. Might there be some “metaphysical” (or possibly just physical, since this is just how things work in this world) laws that determine how adaptive a Pokemon’s spirit is? And judging what we know of Pokemon that are suspected to have once been the departed spirits of humans (such as Yamask and Gengar) and how different they look compared to humans, how many ghost type Pokemon might be the result of the ghost of a known or unknown species of Pokemon? Hell, if we could somehow find the spiritual version of “genes” would it be possible to trace common ancestry with their mortal relatives, and add ghostly branches to the Pokemon tree of life? The implications of this are both overwhelming and exciting.

Yeah, it’s an interesting problem.  I really love the idea of a Pokémon that’s not a fossilised prehistoric creature, like so many we’ve seen before, and instead the ghost of an extinct creature, but it does raise that question – why this Pokémon?  Why is Dreepy unique (well, not quite unique; Galarian Corsola seems similar, but they’re obviously unusual)?  I would not actually default to thinking that Dreepy became lingering spirits because of something inherent to them, though.  In folklore, people become ghosts because of something about the way they died – maybe they have “unfinished business,” or weren’t given the burial rites their culture requires, or were killed by a particular monster, or just died in a particularly unpleasant way that somehow damaged their soul and prevented them from moving on to wherever spirits are supposed to go.  In Pokémon, we often aren’t explicitly told where Ghost-types come from, but when we are, my impression is that it’s more often a magical or spiritual cause than a biological or scientific one (of course, then the follow-up question is whether we’re supposed to believe what we’re told about Phantump, Sandygast, etc. or just see it as a mystery yet to be solved).  Given what little we know, my first guess would be that Dreepy exist in their current ghostly form due to something about the nature of the event (or competing species, or predator) that drove them extinct.  Maybe their species was wiped out by something unusually sudden or traumatic, or maybe there was some Ghost-, Dark- or Psychic-type predator (now extinct itself as well) that could manipulate and damage souls, or maybe – just maybe – they were the victims of some kind of spiritual calamity, like an eruption of the spirit world into the “real” world.  That’s the sort of place my mind goes when you raise the question, at any rate. I think in the absence of anything more explicit from an official source, the “correct” answer is probably whatever you feel is the more potentially interesting.

RandomAccess asks:

I just saw the YouTube video “Trope Talk: Dragons” from the channel “Overly Sarcastic Productions”. Basically a brief summary about how a dragon is defined (or rather how they lack a concrete definition) and how they play an important role throughout almost every human culture in the world. If you have seen the video (or probably more accurately, decided to see it after reading this) I’m curious if you have thoughts on it regarding how these ideas might apply to the variety of the dragon type in Pokemon.

Well, it’s a good video!  No corrections! (Here it is, for anyone wanting to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eXAPwjASEQ)

Continue reading “RandomAccess asks:”

Leo M. R. asks:

So, last time we talked a little bit about signature Pokémon and how (ever since Ruby/Sapphire) most Gym Leaders’/Elite Four members’/Champions’ signatures are always newly-introduced Pokémon. Let’s talk about that more. I’m of two minds about this paradigm.

On the one hand, I do think new generations *should* showcase new Pokémon in major battles, since that is the major draw of new Pokémon games. On the other hand, I feel like it’s gotten to the point where Game Freak design certain Pokémon specifically to fit a particular character they’ve come up with, regardless of the Pokémon’s own merits. XY was particularly bad with this: Vivillon was the only new Bug-type introduced in Gen VI and half of its raison d’être was just to be Viola’s signature. I would argue a similar case for Heliolisk/Clemont, Avalugg/Wulfric, and to a lesser extent Pyroar/Lysandre. SwSh may have begun moving away from this somewhat, but I still get the same impression with Drednaw/Nessa, Centiskorch/Kabu, Coalossal/Gordie, Alcremie/Opal, and like the entirety of Bede’s teams. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those are badly-designed Pokémon necessarily; I’m just saying it seems to me they only exist to be the signatures of their respective Trainers, and not much else. What are your thoughts?

Continue reading “Leo M. R. asks:”

The Dag asks:

Why do you think Poison-type Pokemon were so commonplace and widespread in Gen I and since then have been relatively scarce since?

Honestly, maybe the fact that it’s true is the reason for the thing itself?  Like, if balance of the number of Pokémon in each type is something that Game Freak cares about at all, then you could fairly look at the 33 first-generation Poison-types and say “okay, we have more than enough of these.”  Per Bulbapedia, Poison is still the 8th most common type out of 18, despite gaining only three new members in generation II, four in III and just two (Skrelp and Dragalge) in VI.

I think Poison is just… a weird thing to even be a type, frankly.  It’s like Flying, in that it’s more something a Pokémon does than something a Pokémon is (except arguably in the case of industrial waste Pokémon like Muk and Weezing), and it’s not hard to imagine its abilities being given fairly freely to Pokémon who aren’t actually members of the type.  And… well, think of other JRPGs.  Poison is always a status effect; off the top of my head I can’t think of any games that have a concept of status effects where poison isn’t one of them.  However, I think I’m justified in saying that it’s very rarely, if ever, a trait of monsters that affects their general strengths and weaknesses.  Having Poison as a type at all is a very weird decision, both conceptually and in terms of mechanical game design, and generation I also slaps it on several Pokémon for whom poison is… arguably not a very strong part of their identity – Bulbasaur, Golbat, Nidoran?  I’m really going out on a limb here, but it’s sort of plausible to me that Game Freak’s designers genuinely didn’t know what to do with the Poison type for quite a while after the first games.

A Particularly Persnickety Probopass asks:

What’s wrong with me?

listen, Probopass, we’ve been over this

you were the dumbest Pokémon of the generation for two generations running, which by all rights shouldn’t even have been possible

you’re a moai, but you’re also a compass, and you have a terrible moustache, and for some reason you have small flying noses, and I won’t say there’s nothing clever or interesting or redeemable in there, but at the end of the day you’re a big red nose with a stone idiot hanging off it

AceTrainerAlvaro asks:

Pokedex entries are psuedo-scientific at best but locomotion is a sorely abused biological concept in a lot of Pokémon designs. Other than Garchomp flying around at “jet plane” speeds*, what are some the most egregious examples in your opinion? For me, the two other worst offenders are A) Escavalier, which somehow “fl[ies] around at high speed” – I like to pretend it actually hovers on rapidly flapping insect wings, too fast for human eyes to see – and B) the Diving Pokémon Lugia – I cannot explain how a benthic organism can use those same large flippers to break the surface and move its body through the air using anything other than “psychic force propulsion”.

*in my mind, Garchomp has a modified swim bladder that has evolved allowing it to float in the lighter-than-water fluid that is air, but I still can’t imagine how Garchomp achieves lift to propel itself through the air.

Escavalier always really bothered me too, just because of how slow the damn thing actually is in the game; you see the same kind of thing with Donphan, Vikavolt, probably some others (EDIT: however, see here on what “speed” and other stats actually mean).  Honestly, I don’t even care that it doesn’t have wings, because I can totally imagine it just, like, levitating on magnetism or something – although of course the bastard thing doesn’t learn Magnet Rise either.  Speaking of Magnet Rise, though, Jim the Editor found a fantastic one, which is that Electrode can apparently become so bloated with electricity that it floats and drifts along on the wind.

All that said, though, off the top of my head I can’t think of anything that tops Garchomp being able to fly – and I will note here that it can’t actually learn Fly, which would have been a very easy move to give it in a practical sense, and not a serious game balance threat.  That’s actually what bugs me here, the lack of consistency, that Garchomp in the game doesn’t do anything that makes it seem like it should be able to fly.  ‘cause, like… the physics of flight clearly don’t work for a whole lot of Pokémon; I don’t really believe Charizard could fly with wings that size, and Dragonite sure as hell couldn’t.  But Charizard’s clearly a traditional European dragon, and they’re supposed to fly whether the physics works or not, and Dragonite’s all mystical and sacred and stuff.  Likewise, I’m not bothered by just about anything Lugia does because Lugia clearly is extremely magic.  There’s realism, and there’s verisimilitude, y’know?

N asks:

What would a pokémon based in New Zealand be like?

Well, New Zealand has a lot of unique native birds, and I’d love to see Pokémon based on some of them.  Kiwi are the obvious choice, because they’re adorable and weird and iconic, but I think you could also do something fun with kea (mountain parrots that dismantle people’s cars for fun), moa (extinct giant emu-things), kākāpō (flightless nocturnal parrots with a booming mating call that can be heard several kilometres away) or pūkeko (wading swamp birds with beautiful blue and black plumage and red beaks that adapt easily to living near humans).  We’d need something for pāua, which are a kind of abalone with an iridescent shell that’s used a lot in Māori art.  I’d love a regional form of Shelmet with rainbow armour, that kept its armour instead of losing it to Karrablast and evolved into a warrior with a taiaha or mere.  There should probably be some kind of bat Pokémon, because bats are New Zealand’s only native mammals, but I don’t know exactly what to do with it beyond that.  And we’d need a giant wētā – they’re these huge bugs, like spiky crickets the size of your hand (if you choose to search for images of them, don’t be scared; they look terrifying but they’re completely harmless).  You maybe don’t even need to do much with that one; just make it a huge, tanky pure Bug-type.

Jim the Editor had this idea that I absolutely love, which was to have a Solrock regional form based on the legend of Maui slowing down the sun (aside: I love that the existence of the movie Moana means we can talk about Maui and Americans will more or less know who that is), possibly also building in some kind of reference to the ozone hole, which has always been a particularly acute problem for New Zealand.  Maybe they normally live in the sky but have been driven closer to the ground by air pollution and are terrorising land Pokémon.  I think there’s a lot of cool possibilities.

At the risk of sounding like a wet blanket, though, I do want to repeat some stuff I’ve said before about designing Pokémon regions, namely that I would not be super comfortable about Game Freak doing this stuff without hiring some Māori artists and designers as consultants.  I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to take material from indigenous cultures to inspire new media, but money from that commodification should flow back to those communities and they should have a voice in how it’s done.  It would be… really personally unpleasant for me if this were something I had to get mad at Pokémon about.

Ace Trainer Fox asks:

How would you feel if game freak made a region based on Mexico or Spain, it has many of the same points as India for a candidate, a rich cultural history, interesting landscapes, heck, you could even have some really cool regional forms, like a water grass type maractus based on cacti that store water, or a chatot evolution based on a macaw, or even a fairy type happy phantump & trevenant based around a pokemon themed festival similar to the day of the dead. Sorry, I went off on a but of a tangeant there, but something like that would be rather interesting, just some food for thought.

Yeah!

Uh

I don’t know; I feel like I should have something to add to this but… um… well, yeah, there’s all kinds of cool things you could do with a Mexican region.  I’m a history and archaeology guy so obviously the first thing that occurs to me is that it would be cool to have some Aztec-, Toltec- and Olmec-inspired stuff; maybe a Nosepass regional form (or a totally new Pokémon) using the Olmec heads from La Venta, or an Aztec “jaguar warrior” Pokémon, or a legendary “feathered serpent” (or even just a resplendent quetzal Pokémon).  Modern Mexico would have a lot of cool natural and cultural inspirations for Pokémon too.