Larry asks:

What are your thoughts on Pokémon evolution as a biological process instead of as a gameplay feature?

Larry has no shortage of his own thoughts so I’m gonna break this up.

Most evolutionary lines are very clearly meant to be not only progressions of power, but also of physical maturity and aging. There are outright “baby pokémon”, but it’s not like those are children and the rest are all adults. Most first stages in three stage lines, and some in two stage lines, are made to look and act like children, small and playful.

Right, but at the same time, most unevolved Pokémon are viable on their own, which is interesting.  Pidgey can survive and reproduce without evolving into Pidgeotto; you can have a whole community of Pidgey without a single Pidgeotto and they’ll probably manage.  With the exception of “baby” Pokémon, who can’t lay eggs (presumably because the designers saw them as “too young” to reproduce – it’s weird that Gold and Silver didn’t extend this restriction to a few other pre-existing Pokémon, like Caterpie), an unevolved Pokémon is a “complete” organism.  So I think in a lot of cases it’s not just maturity as such but maybe a social and/or hierarchical thing.  More evolved Pokémon might need more space and more food or other resources, so maybe it’s advantageous to the whole community if only a small number of them evolve.

Continue reading “Larry asks:”

TooMuchTime asks:

Knowing what we do of Pokémon and Trainer culture in setting do you really think modern armies like what Lt. Surge seemed to be apart of would actually make sense in the Pokémon world? I figure any kind of military they’d develop would be more warrior-like than soldier-like given the strength a single skilled trainer can wield with their team.

This has sort of come up a little bit before, and the short answer is that my take on it is… very different.  Mostly, I don’t think we should underestimate the degree to which one powerful Pokémon could be fµ¢£ed up by many weaker Pokémon with intelligent leadership and strategy.  It seems to me like warfare is basically a thing of the past in the utopian setting of the Pokémon world (except in Ransei, the setting of Pokémon Conquest, which is, like… somehow canonically contemporary with all the other Pokémon games, even though Ransei is clearly based on sengoku-era Japan and uses mediaeval technology; look, I don’t fµ¢£in’ know), and I honestly doubt they’ve ever had a large-scale war with truly “modern” technology (i.e. post-World War II, because Lt. Surge is definitely a WWII veteran and definitely came to Kanto during the post-war American occupation of Japan, which is another whole… thing).  I also truly don’t know how Pokémon would stack up against, like, modern firearms and explosives.  I think you probably could persuasively argue, depending on which sources and portrayals you look at, either that humans with modern weapons are more reliably lethal than Pokémon and would just shoot them, or that Pokémon would render all human weaponry obsolete.  Like, can Psychic Pokémon use telekinesis to block sustained machine gun fire?  Will a Steel Pokémon’s skin stand up to a bazooka? (If they could, would those weapons even be used?)  I have genuinely no idea, but honestly… my instinct is “probably not.”  What’s more, I think if you really pressed Game Freak on it, they’d probably say that it hasn’t come up in a long time because their world is now peaceful (like modern Japan is), and that modern trainers wouldn’t put their Pokémon in harm’s way like that anyway.  The point is, I don’t think we’ve ever had a good look at what mass combat involving Pokémon trainers is actually like (again, except Ransei, which honestly seems more like Pokémon trainers LARPing warfare than an actual war – I think deliberately), so anything we say is going to be extrapolation. But let’s assume we’re thinking about war being fought mainly between Pokémon trainers, using Pokémon attacks rather than human weapons.  I think the actual rules of the games probably give us reason to be fairly pessimistic about the odds of super-elite Pokémon trainers taking on large numbers of mid-level chumps.

Continue reading “TooMuchTime asks:”

x asks:

Was Coalossal created for the industrial revolution, after the revolution, or did it inspire the revolution? Actually, did the revolution happen at all?

Well, the Pokémon world resembles the modern world in enough important ways that I think there has to have been an industrial revolution; like… they have mechanised agriculture, they have coal power, they have mass-produced textiles, they have modern urbanisation.  Maybe those things didn’t happen all at once and in the same place, the way they did in 18th and 19th century Britain, though?  I don’t believe that anyone at Game Freak – or indeed anywhere in Pokémon’s corporate structure – has a detailed idea of what the history of the Pokémon world looks like, outside of the explicit lore of each region (and even then, I’m not altogether convinced they care much about fitting the history of different regions into a single overarching narrative); maybe they used to, because a lot of early stuff suggested that the Pokémon world has the same history and geography as the real one, but much of that is overwritten or contradicted by later media.

Continue reading “x asks:”

Weird question time asks:

Really REALLY out of left field thought on my part… but I’m curious to see how you’ll respond or interpret my potentially mad rambling. Since USUM, I’ve never really gotten over the alien-humans from the Ultra recon squad. And as I have now been replaying Pokémon Platinum and stumbled across the ye olde Sinnoh myth of Pokémon and people being one in the same at one point. Which got me to think like “do humans in the various Pokémon multiverse have types?”. Which isn’t too far-fetched in some cases given normal and ghost for alive and dead people, or psychic for those few individuals like Sabrina. But now that there are technically canonical people that took a different offshoot of human evolution AND how some Pokémon types are based on humanesque myth critters. The idea of people in universe being like the fae or fair folk akin to Fairy types or other types could potentially be a viable canon thing given how darn big and infinite multiverse shenanigans actually are. Here’s hoping what I’m sending somewhat makes sense or isn’t too off the deep end!

So… to my mind that depends on what you think type actually is.  If they’re somehow baked into Pokémon biology specifically, then the answer is obviously “no, that doesn’t even make sense.”  Humans aren’t Pokémon, at least, not in any meaningful way; there are several things that all Pokémon have in common which humans don’t appear to share (I’m not convinced that we’re supposed to literally believe that Sinnoh myth; there are real-world cultures that have similar myths, and we don’t believe those; there are also compelling ideological reasons for a culture that relies on Pokémon training to create a myth like that).

Continue reading “Weird question time asks:”

Camper Smoke asks:

I know you have said India is ideal, but how would you feel if game freak made a Pokemon region out of scandinavia?

I guess predominantly “fine”?  Like, I have multiple preferences ahead of that, and particularly if we’re thinking generation IX – that is, immediately following another northern European region – I don’t think it makes a lot of sense in sequence.  But I’m not sure I can think of any place on Earth that I’d be offended or upset or even really disappointed to see as the setting of a Pokémon game.  Scandinavia’s got a lot of affluent multilinguals who are part of Pokémon’s global community, it’s got distinctive modern aesthetics that fit in well with Pokémon’s distinctive blend of tradition and techno-utopia, it’s got Vikings, it’s got fjords, and what else do any of us really need in life, when we’ve got fjords?

Jim the Editor remarked on this that it could be interesting to have a very cold region, and it certainly would.  On the other hand, the cynic in me says that Game Freak would shy away from creating a region with very few habitats for desert and tropical Pokémon, and especially from having to deal with the polar day-night cycle, in favour of just putting in a few more snowy areas than most games in the series, and otherwise keeping the climate mostly temperate.  Which… I think is an issue not just with this idea in particular but more generally.  There are things that the Pokémon games like to keep formulaic – say, having a variety of biomes to slot a large number of existing Pokémon into, or having a certain ratio of small towns to big urban centres – and if a region doesn’t obviously have those things, I kind of suspect they would get shoehorned in anyway, potentially at the expense of its unique character.  Not that it wouldn’t be great just to see Poké-Stockholm and Poké-Copenhagen, but… y’know, I think if you want to have a Scandinavian region, you want the northernmost areas to experience midnight sun and polar night, and you want that to be mechanically and narratively significant somehow; you want big parts of the map to be sparsely populated like the Crown Tundra, and you want the player spending a lot of time in those areas and thinking about them; you want the ocean to be important as something you explore and learn about, not just travel through.  Honestly, now that I’m saying all this, can we have, like… a sprawling Pokémon region based on the whole Arctic Ocean, something with big environmental themes, maybe some light survival mechanics?  Can we just put that one on the list, after India and Brazil?  I’ll just pop over and let Shigeru Ohmori know that I want that on the list.

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?

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.

H20 asks:

What would your dream pokemon region be based off of?

I’ve answered basically this exact question a couple of times before, so I’m going to incorporate it with another question about Pokémon regions and go through some thoughts I have about this:

The Dag asks:

Which region so far do you think has best incorporated the history, mythology, geography, and biosphere of its real-world inspiration?

My traditional standard answer for “where do I want a region based on?” is India, just because it gives you so much to work with, in terms of environment, climate, fauna, history, culture, mythology, everything.  The feel of that region would also be distinctive and recognisable to an international audience, but still leave a lot of room for incorporating material that would be new and interesting to players in both Japan and the Anglophone “West.”  But let’s talk about that second question a bit.

Continue reading “H20 asks:”

The original dragon from Unova asls:

I know remakes are going to be a thing forever, but what are your thoughts on games using the same region, but with an entirely different plot, and entirely new Pokemon. For example, before Let’s Go P/E was revealed, there were all these wild rumors about a Kanto Region in the future with all new Pokemon, Gorochu, submerged Pallet Town, a snake legendary, etc.

I dunno that I have “thoughts” on it, exactly.  It’s a thing you could do.  I mean, it’s a thing Black and White 2 did, and those games are pretty well regarded in the fan community, from what I’ve seen (there probably isn’t much merit in using an existing region and deliberately keeping no connections at all to the previous plot – if you’re not using the background, then the freedom of a new setting is probably more valuable).  I don’t think it’s necessarily better or worse than setting a game in a completely new region; the latter gives you a blank slate for developing new ideas and themes, and the former emphasises continuity.  I honestly do think there is a lot to be said for the blank slate, but sometimes having a pre-existing developed setting with dense lore and history can also be useful for storytelling – that’s why fan fiction is a thing.  I probably wouldn’t do a whole new generation’s worth of Pokémon designs for a new game set in an existing region, though.

X asks:

Recently, the new episode of Twilight Wings focused on Hop and his bond between Wooloo. This made me think, how do kids under 10 have pokemon? Bonnie has Dedenne, Hop has Wooloo, and I’m pretty sure there are others. Would there be any law about this? Also, how do you think it will work if the kid won’t become a trainer?

Well, the anime has said you become a trainer when you turn 10, but the games have also had trainers who are pretty clearly younger than the player (who in Red and Blue we usually assume to be about 10) from the beginning.  There also seem to be people who have Pokémon companions but aren’t trainers (like, think even of Professor Oak’s opening monologue in the very first games; trainers are just one of several groups of people who live alongside Pokémon); you could probably weasel your way around a lot of rules if, say, your family has a Pokémon pet that technically “belongs” to your parents, but likes you enough to fight for you and take commands.  I think the situation is much more flexible than, like, getting a formal license on your 10th birthday, without which you are at risk of having a Pokémon confiscated, or regulations to that effect.  I also doubt all regions have the same rules.  There might only be age limits for the gym challenge, or for leaving on a journey with your Pokémon; some kids might have known their partners for years before “officially” becoming trainers.

(Besides, I don’t think we know Hop’s age? He might not be 10 at the beginning of the story of Sword and Shield; he clearly hasn’t finished growing but I could believe he’s, like, 13 or 14?)