Gym Trainer Jeff asks:

Pokemon Concept:
Mechanically, what would you think of a Dark-type Pokemon that functions like an “anti-Zoroark?” What I mean is: imagine a Pokemon that has high stats on average, but no/few moves it can learn or be taught/bred on its own. Instead, it has a unique ability that works like the move version of Zoroark’s Illusion, where it fills in any empty move slots it has with the moves from those slots on the last Pokemon in your party? This is why I’m calling it an “anti-Zoroark”—while with Zoroark it always has Zoroark moves but hides under the illusion of another Pokemon, with this “anti-Zoroark,” you always know the type of Pokemon it is, but it could come at you with almost any move, based on what’s in the party with it, and generally has the stats to make them work? Weirdly enough, it’s a Pokemon where forgetting moves is actually *encouraged* (more empty move slots to fill with its ability). I get that this is a super gimmicky idea to base a Pokemon around, but is it an *interesting* gimmick, or just dumb?


Without more details, my first instinct is that this is too strong – like, if it has good stats and a bad movepool, but its bad movepool doesn’t matter because it can have practically any moveset you want, then that seems extremely good to a degree that is probably dangerous. The fact that its type coverage is going to be redundant with something else on your team is a limiting factor, but it could also have other tricky bull$#!t that just doesn’t rely on fighting toe-to-toe; maybe it has Spore or something, which on a fast Pokémon has a lot of potential for abuse. Hell, maybe you just put Smeargle in your last slot; then “anti-Zoroark” can have literally anything you want, but on a body with actually good stats. That’s terrifying. Of course, you can’t ever make a Pokémon forget its last move, so this thing is always going to be stuck with one move of its own. If its natural movepool is really $#!t – like if there is nothing good in there whatsoever, not even a good Dark-type STAB move – you could design a Pokémon that effectively has only three moveslots, which might be interesting. Without actually diving into all the zillions of possible combinations of moves out there, or doing the calculus of whether this is good enough to be worth having a Smeargle on your team with a moveset designed for a high-statted Dark-type, I really don’t know where this falls from a balance standpoint. And, of course, in the post-Sword and Shield era, maybe you can just never allow this thing to exist in the same game as Smeargle; that’s probably safest. Still, my instinct is very much to assume this thing will be super overpowered unless someone can really convincingly prove otherwise.

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.

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.

KHM asks:

Have you considered that Ribombee’s Fairy Typing might be influenced by how you can connect bee flies’ reproductive habits with the trope of the Changeling (a fairy left in the place of a kidnapped human baby)?

Mmm, I’m not sure I see it, for three reasons.  One, nothing about Ribombee really seems like a reference to parasitism; it’s not an idea that the design or the flavour text or Ribombee’s mechanical abilities seem to be evoking.  Two, Cutiefly and Ribombee’s dainty, gossamer-winged physical appearance already gives us a pretty clear reason for them to be Fairy-types; we don’t need an explanation for that.  And three… well, I think there are better animal kingdom metaphors for changelings – namely brood parasitism, like what cuckoos do; they actually slip their eggs into the nests of other birds to trick them into raising the cuckoos’ chicks.  Personally, that’s where I’d go if I wanted to play with changeling mythology.  I suppose I don’t think it’s impossible that Ribombee is doing something along these lines, but I’m not convinced.

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 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:  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:  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:

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.