Bradley_P15 [Patreon cultist] asks:

Read a thing on twitter recently that hypothesises that Gen V were the last mainline games that felt quote “Comfortable in their own skin”, since VI, VII and VIII all have big showy gimmicks whilst feeling the need to keep oldschool fans happy. What’re your thoughts on this as one of the internet’s prime Pokemon overthinkers?

Hmm.  It doesn’t especially square with my intuitions or experiences about those games – I didn’t enjoy V as much as VI or VII, in spite of it having what I still feel is the best story of the Pokémon games so far. I think I just disagree outright with the characterisation of Mega Evolution and Z-moves (I mean, I assume that’s what this is referring to; I don’t know what else it could mean) as showy gimmicks.  They never felt intrusive to me, and I always got the impression that most Pokémon players really liked Mega Evolution?  Certainly a lot of people are upset that it’s apparently not coming back.  They’re also fairly major additions to the battle system that come with a fair degree of strategic depth, and they’re part of the culture of each region in which they appear.  I don’t know whether all that’s going to be true of Dynamaxing, and frankly neither does anyone else, despite all the people lining up to declare otherwise. 

I think there is… let’s say a certain amount right now of people trying to fit their anger over the recent National Pokédex (ahem) “issue” into an overarching narrative of why Pokémon has been in decline ever since… since whichever generation they thought was best.  That’s not necessarily a wrong thing to try to do, but it rarely comes with arguments that I find convincing on the basis of my own experience of the games, and at the moment it seems like it’s tied to a desire to pre-judge Sword and Shield, which I just think is silly.  I mean, for heaven’s sake, even after a Pokémon game comes out, it takes me months to decide whether I liked it (and only some of that is because I don’t usually pick up the game on launch day).

Analytic Mareep asks:

One thing I’ve noticed about Bianca and Cheren: Bianca always ends up being the more useful of the pair. In the Relic Castle sequence, Cheren just tags along behind you, ultimately adding nothing to the situation. Bianca, meanwhile, gets ahold of Juniper–which turns out to be really important since they find the dark/light stone. In the Elite Four sequence, the same thing happens. Cheren tags along and beats the Elite Four as well (not contributing much of anything to your predicament) while Bianca rounds up all the Gym Leaders (who save your ass). I think this was probably intentional, and it sheds light on how the writers wanted us to view Bianca and Cheren.

Hmm.  I think that’s a little unfair to Cheren; he does fight alongside you against Team Plasma on multiple occasions, and fighting usually makes up most of the player’s contribution to advancing the plot.  And I don’t… think Bianca is responsible for getting Professor Juniper involved in looking for the Dark/Light Stone, or at least I don’t believe anyone ever says that’s what she’s doing.  I’d be more inclined to assume that that was the elder Professor Juniper, who is present at the Dragonspiral Tower when the player confronts N, and works together with his daughter to identify the stone.  There is a general point to be made about Bianca and Cheren as foils to each other, though.  The early part of the game kind of sets up Cheren as more organised, more ambitious, a better trainer, more… well, frankly, more competent, whereas Bianca doesn’t really know what she’s doing or what she wants.  Over the course of the game, though, Cheren comes to realise (through Alder’s example) that his ambitions are basically hollow, leaving him somewhat listless at the end of the story; Bianca, on the other hand, grows into herself, figures out what she wants to do with her life, and becomes a researcher.  She’s ultimately the one who comes out of it with a stronger conception of her own goals and identity.  I think the message is supposed to be about taking time to explore life, and figure out what your goals are gradually and organically, rather than focusing on the single-minded pursuit of just one aim in the belief that it will complete you as a person (Cheren actually credits Bianca, as well as the player, Alder and N, with helping him realise this).

Squidward Tentacles asks:

Who would win in a fight? Your vastly superior intellect, or all the Gen V Pokemon sentenced to cruel, horrible deaths all those years ago?

Oh, I would get destroyed.  This brain of mine?  This is an ideas brain; moreover, this is a humanities brain.  I’m not going to go all Home Alone on this $#!t; I’m just going to stand there, pompously explaining to them that criticism is part of the network of social relationships that give art its meaning, that a thorough understanding of a work’s flaws can actually deepen a sincere appreciation of it, and that we all have a responsibility to be critical of the media we consume, while they… y’know, variously incinerate, lacerate, electrify, putrefy, pulverise, exorcise, freeze and disembowel me.

[A Foursome with Chris Pratt, Grant Gustin and That Garbodor Evolution] asks:

I know this is pretty broad and vague, so no pressure to answer it super deeply and completely, but I’ve found it to be a pretty fun thing to think about and I’m curious to know what you would say to it.
Which specific set of Pokémon games do you think had the most missed opportunities, or could be some of the best games in the series but fell short? (That can be in terms of the story, the gameplay or anything else you think you’d want to be changed about them.)
And if you were put in charge, not of making a NEW set of games or changing the series as a whole but just of fixing up that one set of games, what would you want to do to it to take advantage of that potential?
(By “set,” I just mean a pair like Black 2/White 2 or a single game like Platinum, not a whole Generation or every game taking place in one region, haha.)

That is one confusingly recursive name you’ve given yourself there.

So… I feel like in almost all of them there’s something I would change.  Heck, in almost all of them there’s probably something the designers would change if they could; no one ever gets to put everything they want into their game because time and budget constraints exist, even for a franchise as successful as Pokémon.  And I have a really peculiar love/hate relationship with Black and White specifically, because those are the games that started me writing this blog, and I think they are in some ways the best games in the series but in other ways deeply “meh.”  I guess a lot of my old “If I Were In Charge” article series is kiiiiiind of a response to this question with reference to Black and White, but also not at all.  Assorted thoughts on why Black and White are interesting here, here, here, here, here and here, and although I don’t 100% stand by a lot of it anymore you can also pick up something of what annoyed me about Black and White from my assorted reviews of 5th generation Pokémon from 2011.

All that being the case, let’s talk a bit about a completely different set of games instead. Continue reading “[A Foursome with Chris Pratt, Grant Gustin and That Garbodor Evolution] asks:”

Squidward Tentacles asks:

I Could no longer….

Anyways, how do you think gamefreak would approach restoring Kyurem to the original Dragon?

My idea would be (as true to the seemingly benevolent natures of the protagonist in the games). Reshiram and Zekrom giving a piece of their essence, which would then be transformed into a mega stone for Kyurem

Well I am not Game Freak, as I have learned over the course of the last seven years, slowly, painfully and at great material and mystical cost.  What we actually know about any plans Game Freak may ever have had to release this Pokémon (let’s call it “Primal Kyurem” for the sake of argument – I think Primal Reversion is arguably a better analogy for what we’re doing than Mega Evolution) is that there is an unobtainable item lingering in the code of all the games from Black and White onwards, called the God Stone.  Aside from its grey colour, it looks exactly like the Light Stone and Dark Stone, the dormant forms of Reshiram and Zekrom, which are plot-critical items in the final versions of Black and White.  Not enough information is left in the finished games for us to deduce what the God Stone was intended to be for.  It might have been meant as a dormant form of Kyurem, but the name “God Stone” seems altogether too grand for a being as diminished and broken as Kyurem.  I suspect it is the item, created by somehow merging the Light and Dark Stones, that would be absorbed by Kyurem (as it absorbs the Light Stone or Dark Stone at the climax of Black or White 2) to restore it to its “primal” state.  But even if this is true, the notion was probably abandoned at a relatively early stage of the games’ development cycle. Continue reading “Squidward Tentacles asks:”

Anonymous asks:

Is it just me, or do Pokemon Black and White seem like they were intended to be a lot longer? Many Pokemon in the game reach their final stages well after they’d be useful (like Bisharp, Braviary, Hydreigon etc) and the ending sequence feels so rushed, with N’s castle popping up out of nowhere, and you catching your dragon in the very last scene. I know it’s a weird time to be talking about Black and White, but it’s always felt so odd…

Well, that is the only generation so far that included a direct sequel to its main title.  Purely as a practical reality of development cycles, Game Freak must have decided that they were going to do Black and White 2 as sequels long before Black and White were actually released, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if they had originally planned a more typical “Grey version” – Black and White with some extra bells and whistles – and changed course only when they realised there was too much material that wouldn’t fit in the initial release.  So it’s plausible that there was something unusual about the writing process in Generation V that could be responsible for that truncated feeling you’re sensing. Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Ultimasheir asks:

You denied Bisharp’s right to exist back when just Black and White were out. Now it’s a defining metagame pokemon, with exceptionally powerful options in Knock Off and Sucker Punch, as well as Dark/Steel being excellent offensive typing due to the changes to Dark and Steel in Gen VI. Are you satisfied with the pokemon, now?

Sure, I suppose.  I  mean, most of the stuff I said at the time about Bisharp’s design (on which I was fairly equivocal) still applies.  Rereading the entry, I feel like I could very easily have gone the other way on him if I’d found a little more to like in his flavour text or something – after all, I described him as “at least vaguely competent” in battle, which I still think is a perfectly fair assessment of Bisharp’s capabilities at that time (generation VI has been very kind to him).  So there are definitely things about Bisharp that I still feel decidedly ‘meh’ towards; it’s just that he’s now so obviously strong that I’m sort of forced to overlook them.

Continue reading “Ultimasheir asks:”

My Quest Concludes

On the last day of March this year, I set out to pass judgement on all one hundred and fifty-six of the new Pokémon of Black and White.  I have spent the intervening nine months whining constantly about the general incompetence of Game Freak’s designers and the total unworthiness of the name “Pokémon” of such creations as Unfezant, Emolga, and (shudder) Garbodor.  So, here’s the big question: what’s the final score?

Out of one hundred and fifty-six Pokémon, I have:
Condemned eighty,
Spared seventy-five,
And shaken my head in confusion and given up on one.

Wait, that can’t be right!  I’ve let almost half of them live!  I must have been far too nice!  Let me see those…

I let them keep Liepard?  What was I thinking? Continue reading “My Quest Concludes”

Kyurem

All right!  One hundred and fifty-five down, one to go!  I can do this!  Yeah!  Go me!  I’m awesome!  Now, let’s wrap this up, with Unova’s last remaining legendary Pokémon: the glacial Dragon-type Kyurem!

296c8-kyuremKyurem is a mysterious and powerful Dragon Pokémon who lives hidden in a crater known as the Giant Chasm, near Lacunosa Town in north-eastern Unova.  The people of Lacunosa Town don’t know what lives in the Chasm, but they regard it as a place of ill omen and are afraid to go near it.  The town is surrounded by a wall to keep out whatever lives there, and the people of the town normally stay inside their homes at night, since old legends warn of a monster that fell from the sky long ago and takes away people and Pokémon at night to eat them.  Their fear is understandable; Kyurem’s hard, almost skeletal visage is not a welcoming sight.  As far as I can make out, though, he just wants to lurk in his dark cave at the back of his meteor crater and be left alone.  The information we have on Kyurem from the Pokédex seems to suggest that he’s unwell – maybe sick, injured, or just plain old – and can’t control his own ice powers properly anymore.  His own body has long since been frozen by his own chilling aura, leaving him a shadow of his former self.  So, what was his former self like?  The air is thick with speculation.  Continue reading “Kyurem”

Genesect

Okay, guys, today we’re looking at the last Pokémon that has yet to be officially revealed by Nintendo: a killing machine of unfathomable power, created from the genetic material of an ancient Pokémon by an evil mastermind in order to create the most powerful of all-

…oh, they wouldn’t dare.

…I can’t believe this; they did it.  They actually did it.  They actually recycled Mewtwo’s backstory!  The fiends!

e2c8f-genesectOkay, sure, there are differences.  Genesect was the brainchild of Team Plasma (and presumably of their de facto leader, Ghetsis), the villains of Black and White, who enhanced the deadly prehistoric insect with metal armour and a devastating portable photon cannon, while Mewtwo, who was commissioned by Team Rocket’s shadowy master Giovanni, gained his incredible psychic abilities courtesy of a truly frightening amount of gene splicing (although, in the TV show, Giovanni does also equip him with a suit of armour designed to focus and augment his powers).  Also, it seems pretty clear that Genesect was always a vicious hunter even before Team Plasma got to it, whereas Mewtwo’s predecessor, Mew, is one of the most peaceful and carefree Pokémon you’ll ever find.  As I alluded earlier, though, the similarities are striking, to say the least.  The Genesect project was actually shut down, since Team Plasma’s spiritual leader, N, held a very different attitude towards Pokémon to Giovanni’s; specifically, N believes that Pokémon are perfect beings, and came to the conclusion that the technological enhancements made to Genesect by his scientists were a corruption of its natural purity.  The lab where Genesect was developed was not abandoned, though; a couple of scientists continued to haunt the place and eventually brought their creation to a state resembling completion.  Continue reading “Genesect”