Alolan Bidoof asks:

If it were up to you, what would you give to the inevitable 1000th pokemon to commemorate it?

Hmm.  I suppose it feels as if there should be something special about #1000, doesn’t there?  You know, one thing you could do would be to have a contest to let a fan design a Pokémon – obviously with some tidying up by Game Freak’s design team in between the winning entry and the finished game.  I think if I were in that position I might restrict the contest to residents of Japan, just to keep the scale manageable and make it easier to get some back-and-forth between the winner and Game Freak over how the design would be interpreted for the final game (but you could have a bunch of other regional contests in the rest of East Asia, Europe, North America and so on for the #980, #990, #1010, etc. slots).  That, to me, would feel more special than any gimmick that could be added to the design of the Pokémon itself.

Toucannon asks:

You’ve often complained about the unoriginality of bird pokemon, and you did a great job of suggesting ways to increase the relevance of the two most original ones of the bunch, those being Farfetch’d and Delibird. 

So, suppose you had the freedom to redesign all of the flying/normal pokemon in the game (Pidgeot, Fearow, Noctowl, Swellow, Braviary, Unfeazant, Staraptor, Chatot) and possibly Svanna, Mandibuzz, Honchkrow and Dodrio (although the latter seems original enough to me, and the others have the benefit of their typing to make them stand out enough that they at least don’t look like mere copy-pasted concepts), how would you do it?

You’re free to do anything – suggest altered looks, change the stat-lineup and/or typing, create new moves or abilities, modify the amount of evolutionary stages – other than removing them; each species ought to remain as something that exists in the game.

And I know I’m leaving a handful of birds out (the legendary trio, Pelipper, Talonflame, Hawlucha, Dartrix), but I feel those are original enough, and/or sufficiently competitive, as not to need any redesign.

Really looking forward to how you’d do that – your series on “upgrading the worst 10 pokemon in the game” was a really interesting read.

Hmm.

So… cut me some slack here; I can’t do all of these, because… well that’s twelve Pokémon to review and redesign, and think of the precedent it sets if I signal that I’m willing to throw together a project like that every damn week. Game Freak has a whole team of people who design 60-odd Pokémon every two years, and I’m one disgruntled archaeologist with a termite-infested soapbox and no artistic skills.  So what we are going to try to do here is make it very clear that I don’t want to make a habit of this, and then address the question by prioritising: get some kind of ranking system in place to isolate the worst of the suck.  Who most needs a buff or redesign?

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Regular Bidoof asks:

What are some of your favorite underrated/overlooked pokemon?

Well, I suppose it depends on what we mean by underrated or overlooked… some Pokémon are “overlooked” in that they’ve never been competitively viable, but nonetheless have a sort of cult following, like Dunsparce, whom your mega-evolved counterpart asked about recently, and if allowed, Dunsparce would definitely go on my list.  Pokémon that are genuinely overlooked in that they have no fans whatsoever, I mostly kind of think deserve it, like Qwilfish.  For some reason I’m very fond of Delibird, who is legitimately terrible, but I don’t know whether there’s a fan following for Delibird.  Carbink may not qualify as overlooked because of its link to Diancie, but I do have a weird soft spot for Carbink because I have a pet theory that it’s the oldest of all Pokémon (I reject Mew’s claim on the position, in what I realise is a conflict with established lore).  Druddigon is, frankly, my spirit Pokémon, because I too aspire to live in a dark cave and hate everybody, and Druddigon has definitely never had the competitive spotlight and I don’t think has ever been especially popular, so I think “overlooked” is justifiable here.  And lastly, my favourite Pokémon is Vileplume, who… isn’t really overlooked or underrated, I don’t think, but has never been, like, top-tier super popular either.

Mega Bidoof asks:

What do you think about Dunsparce’s enduring appeal despite it’s arguable uselessness?

I’m a big Dunsparce fan myself, and honestly it’s hard to separate how much of that is appreciation for a legitimately neat Pokémon and how much is purely a nostalgia thing.  Dunsparce was a cool Pokémon in generation II; it was really rare, and as a kid with no independent internet access in 2000, it was pretty easy to just not know about it until I found one, after I’d already been playing the game for weeks and seen most of Johto (I don’t think there are any AI trainers in the original Gold and Silver that use a Dunsparce; unless you find one by sheer chance, your first hint at their existence comes from a phone call alerting you to a swarm).  Almost every time I started a new game on Silver, I made time to stumble around Dark Cave until I found a Dunsparce to catch; sometimes I still do on Soul Silver for old times’ sake.

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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.

Not Me asks:

The recent question about flying types got me thinking. What about fighting type? How does fighting type make any sense really? Isn’t fighting something that all Pokemon do anyway? And fighting types do not seem to be any better at it than other types…?

I have a long-standing claim that I make about Fighting-types, which is that they are not just Pokémon who fight – which, as you point out, is all of them – but Pokémon who take fighting particularly seriously, and more specifically, approach fighting with similar attitudes to humans, including a preoccupation with recognition and glory.  Fighting Pokémon, even in the wild, spend their time training to become better at fighting.  Many of them have codes of honour, which often extend to refusing to fight weaker opponents.  They desire competition with powerful rivals, whether of their own species or of another.  Aesthetically, almost all Fighting Pokémon (and most of their attacks) reference human warriors or martial artists, or more rarely athletes.  They are, essentially, Pokémon who fight like humans, both in style and in ethos.  I won’t go through all of them (or even claim to be able to), but for some illustrative examples, we have Pokémon based on specific martial arts (e.g. capoeira for Hitmontop, sumo for Hariyama, lucha libre for Hawlucha, karate for Sawk), Pokémon based on historical classes of human warriors (e.g. European knights for Gallade, French musketeers for Cobalion and co., Asian monks for Medicham), and Pokémon based on athletes (e.g. swimmers for Poliwrath, American footballers for Passimian).  In the Pokédex, explicit comparisons to the skills of human fighters are common, as are references to the Pokémon’s dedication to training.  Fighting-type attacks are regularly based on martial arts moves – Karate Chop, Submission, Reversal, Sky Uppercut, Force Palm, Circle Throw – while the only common special Fighting attack, Focus Blast, references the mastery of 気, ki (spiritual power or life force) supposedly attained by great martial artists (see also: Dragonball).  Fighting for them is more than a necessity; it’s a way of life.

Long time reader; first time questioner asks:

You like baking right? How do you feel about the various ‘food’ pokemon? What food do you think deserves a Pokemon adaptation?

Well, how many even are there?  Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe, Swirlix and Slurpuff… I think that’s kind of it, unless you count Grass Pokémon based on fruit and mushrooms and the like, which personally I’d class as a separate thing.  I have kind of mixed feelings about them, because I’m not fundamentally opposed to the idea of food-based Pokémon like some people are, but actually developing that idea in any moderately interesting way is something Game Freak would probably be uncomfortable with.  That’s why Vanillite isn’t really an ice cream Pokémon at all, just a fairly generic ice-and-snow Pokémon that happens to be shaped like an ice cream for obscure reasons of its own.  Swirlix does better, but still runs up hard against the awkward question – “do we eat Pokémon?” – that the Pokémon games have no intention of ever firmly answering.  So Slurpuff end up working for human pastry chefs, constructing grotesque effigies of themselves, whose flavours are inspired by the taste of their own sugary flesh, for human consumption.  And then you also run up against another problem that I tend to have with Pokémon based on modern culture generally, which is “are we supposed to believe that the Pokémon inspired the cultural phenomenon, and what on earth is the timeline with that?”  It’s easy to make that work with Pokémon based on myths and folklore because you can just push everything back into the misty past of “thousands of years ago” but if you have, say, a hamburger Pokémon or something, we eventually have to ask: what kind of colossally fµ¢&ed up soylent-green-ass cultural moment caused people to suddenly decide, in the last couple of generations, to start modelling meat sandwiches after these intelligent creatures that they’ve been living and working alongside since time immemorial?  Who does that?

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