Not Me asks:

If you could pick an animal to base the next pika-clone on, what would it be?

can I pick something that doesn’t exist so it doesn’t get made

uggggghhhhh fine

obviously there is only one animal in all the infinite cosmos that is worthy of this… dubious honour

and that is its majestic lordship the capybara

Pros:

  • It’s a fat sack of $#!t, which I strongly empathise with
  • Can swim, which is an excellent excuse to have it be Water/Electric
  • Big enough to stack all the other Pikachu clones on top of it
  • I admit I’m not sure how that would be helpful, but it seems like a plus
  • Mysterious gland on its snout can be adapted for dispensing electric death
  • Often has a bird sitting on its head
  • Good excuse to do a Brazil/Amazon-inspired region
  • Despite being literally an obese guinea pig, can run as fast as a horse
  • Skin grease can be used in traditional medicine

Cons:

  • Literally none???

EDIT: I will it so, and it is done! Here’s reader voltorb1993’s take on “Zapybara”!

SkarmorySilver asks:

I remember a few years back when I challenged you to come up with a viable Dedenne evolution, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked you about one for Togedemaru yet. Seeing as you got burned out fixing up the worst of the Normal/Flying birds recently, though, I’ll spare you the pain and provide an idea for one I thought of a while ago – In some some parts of Asia and the Middle East, the hedgehog is credited in myth with bringing fire to man, so I combined that with the principle of electric heating and came up with a glyptodont/hedgehog hybrid critter with a spiny shell like a cartoon sun which could learn Fire-type attacks on top of the stuff Togedemaru gets already; it attracts lightning to heat up its spines, so it can gently warm its surroundings and allow life to flourish in cold nights (as well as learn Flame Charge or maybe even Flare Blitz if you’re daring enough). I still don’t know how to fix Zing Zap though, since I only thought about the pitch for Togedemaru’s evolved form, rather than improving the move itself (a damage boost is obvious, but IDK what additional effects if any could be included on top of it, just in case).

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hugh_donnetono asks:

Out of all the early game rodents – Raticate, Furret, Linoone, Bibarel, Watchog, Diggersby, Gumshoos, and maybe Alolan Raticate too – which ones do you think are the most poorly-designed, both fluff-wise and gameplay-wise, and what would you change about those worst ones if you could? (I told you it’d probably be me.)

GOD DAMN IT HUGH

okay, let’s see

Diggersby is pretty much fine on both fluff and gameplay, to my mind.  Gumshoos is… fiiiiiine?  I mean, it’s weird, but I will concede there is something clever going on with the noir detective/mobster aesthetic between Gumshoos and Alolan Raticate.  It could do with an increase to its defences, and maybe a better priority move than Quick Attack (buffing the Stakeout ability would be nice too – maybe have it raise Gumshoos’ attack when something switches in against it?).

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Steven asks:

Hey, love the blog! Apologies if this has been asked before, but overall, looking back with 4 generations of hindsight, what are your feeling about how Gen 4 devoted a ton of space to new evolutions of older pokemon? I say that now because, at the time, it was a trendy idea that instead of new pokemon, they should go back and make cool new evolutions to old pokemon that deserve it. But looking back on Gen 4 which devoted 21 spots to new evolutions (20% of Gen4!) personally, its hard to see it as anything more than “well this was a mistake to never try again”. I personally only really find a couple really appealing (Weavile, Mismagius). What do you think? Was this an attempt better left in the past? Did they just not do a great job with those specific pokemon? Or heck, do you actually like these pokemon? I’m curious to see what you think.

Hmm; I count 22.  And don’t forget 7 baby Pokémon (damn it, Game Freak, did you really have to mock poor Chimecho with a baby form when other, already much better, Pokémon were getting evolutions?).  But… yeah, this is tricky.  I think it’s inherently more difficult to come up with a good addition to what was already a self-contained design than it is to come up with that design in the first place.  You’re constrained by the themes and aesthetics of the original design, but the original design “thought” that it was finished, so it’s going to fight against you.  The trouble is that evolving an old Pokémon is one of the most natural-feeling ways to give it a buff, and a lot of generation I and II Pokémon frankly needed it.  This is why I simultaneously hope Farfetch’d and Dunsparce will one day get evolutions and dread the possibility.  Farfetch’d and Dunsparce are both very self-contained, elegant designs; there’s not a lot of fluid, natural directions to take them because… well, if there were, they would have had evolutions in the first place.  And it’s not always like that; sometimes there is an interesting elaboration that you can make.  Ambipom… lives in my nightmares… but also is an unexpected yet somehow laterally logical step forward from Aipom’s design.  Mamoswine and Yanmega are the most interesting examples of generation IV’s mechanic of “Pokémon that evolve by learning certain moves” because they transform into “prehistoric” versions of themselves by learning Ancientpower.  Gallade and Froslass work because they’re split evolutions and are able to take their base designs in the opposite directions to their counterparts.  Roserade works because Roselia didn’t have that much personality to begin with (fite me IRL) and whatever else you might say about Roserade, it doesn’t suffer from a deficit of personality.  Honchkrow is… bizarre, because Murkrow had a pretty clearly defined aesthetic and Honchkrow just… fµ¢£in’… throws that out the window and is a mob boss instead, but I also kind of love Honchkrow anyway???  Most of the rest… for me lie on a continuum of “this is worse than the original design, but basically fine and I get that this Pokémon needed a buff” to “I know this Pokémon needed a buff, but… why???”  And I think that second reaction is why we don’t really see them anymore.  In the past two or three generations, Game Freak have realised they actually have a lot of different tools for buffing underpowered early-generation Pokémon that don’t force them to design new Pokémon they didn’t want in the first place.  There’s mega evolution, there’s regional forms, there’s movepool additions, there’s valuable new abilities, hell, there’s straight up literal stat increases.  I wouldn’t put money on new evolutions of old Pokémon being gone forever because, again, sometimes they are warranted and do turn out well, and I hope Game Freak recognises that, but I doubt we’ll ever see another generation that includes as many of them as II and IV did.

Poke the Bear asks:

Since you wrote at such length on Flying types…

god damn it; I knew it was a mistake to indulge that one

Do you think you could rank your favourite ghost-types by design?

I’d love to hear what you think of them…

So… there’s about twenty-seven Ghost-type Pokémon or evolutionary lines of Pokémon, give or take (depending on exactly who you count).  I think it’s reasonable to pick… let’s say a top five?  Does that seem fair?  I’m not sure there are any Ghost Pokémon that I dislike, because Ghost is a type that tends to attract the sort of antiquity/mythology/folklore-based Pokémon that I find really interesting – the ones that I’m the most “meh” on are probably… I guess Rotom and Gourgeist, which are perfectly fine.  That’s… like, honestly that’s a much better hit rate than Grass, which is ostensibly my favourite type.  But anyway, let’s pick some favourites.

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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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