One lunatic's love-hate relationship with the Pokémon franchise, and his addled musings on its rights, wrongs, ins and outs. Come one, come all, and indulge my delusions of grandeur as I inflict my opinions on anyone within shouting distance.
You mentioned a while back that if you had your way, Pokémon would have less types, and Water would be one of the types on the chopping block. Can you elaborate more about which types you’d cut and why, and what would remain in your ideal type chart?
It goes through… iterations, depending on how much wild abandon I’m feeling from day to day, and what kind of scope I’m imagining for whatever hypothetical redesign of the Pokémon games that would give me this opportunity. The common thread of my logic is that (contrary, I think, to a lot of fans) I don’t believe more types actually make the game better. Once you have about seven or eight you’ve probably already exhausted 90% of the strategic depth they add to the battle system (compare the TCG, which originally had just seven, although it was more or less forced to expand to eleven by the introduction of new types in generations II and VI, as well as the proliferation of Dragon-types starting in generation III). Having more just makes it harder to memorise all the relationships, and makes the game harder to get into. Like, I get it because I had the bulk of it seared into my impressionable child brain when I was nine, changes in generations II and VI notwithstanding, but if I picked up my first Pokémon game today, in my late 20s, I’m not sure I’d think that was worth my time (though I admit it helps that recent games in the core series display the type effectiveness of your moves against your opponents). There’s an argument that more types enable a wider range of creature designs, but I think you can actually achieve the same result with fewer types more broadly defined. But let’s actually take a stab at answering this question.
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.
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?
How do you feel about the lack of single type Flying pokemon? I’ve always felt it was odd that there is only one pure Flying type.
I tend to think Game Freak’s notion of what the Flying type actually is has changed quite a bit since generation I, perhaps to the extent that no one has ever quite known what it’s supposed to be. All the generation I Flying-type attacks are bird-themed – Wing Attack, Drill Peck, Sky Attack (in Japanese, Goddo Bādo, a transliteration of the English “God Bird”) – which makes sense, since we have reason to suspect, on the basis of MissingNo and other bits of stray game data from Red and Blue, that it was originally called the “Bird type.” This, of course, is why Flying is strong against Bug. Gust was a Normal-type attack originally, and Whirlwind still is.
Pokémon Sun and Moon are, as the names imply, games that always have one eye on the heavens. A lot of the time this manifests as a day/night theme, but they are interested in other celestial phenomena as well – Cosmog is a nebula that gives birth to a star, one of the games’ prominent locations is an observatory, and of course the Ultra Beasts have a certain sci-fi aesthetic to them and emerge from wormholes. A lot of Alola’s ordinary Pokémon draw on themes related to the real Hawaiian islands (or at least tropical islands in general) but today’s Pokémon is one that cares a lot more about Alola’s relationship with the sky. Meet Minior: the Meteor Pokémon. Continue reading “Minior”→
I do not have a good record with anything capable of earning the title of “gimmick” Pokémon – Pokémon whose schtick is some unique move, ability or game mechanic that was so clever Game Freak felt they could stop there, and didn’t need to have the Pokémon be any good or the design make any sense. Today we decide whether Oricorio, the dancing honeycreeper Pokémon, fits that description. Four interchangeable and mostly cosmetic forms, a weird signature move, a weirder ability… the phrase “walks like a duck, quacks like a duck” comes to mind, but let’s take a closer look. Continue reading “Oricorio”→
Pikipek and Trumbeak are woodpeckers, one of the broad classes of bird that Pokémon hadn’t previously gotten around to making an early-game Normal/Flying-type out of. Let’s run through the checklist… Pidgey’s a waxwing, Hoothoot’s an owl, Taillow’s a swallow, Starly’s a starling, Pidove’s a pigeon, Fletchling’s a robin, and Spearow’s not a sparrow. With the exception of Hoothoot and Pidove, they’re all based – more or less loosely – on members of the songbird family (or, well, technically they’re a sub-order or something, but who’s counting?), and most of them gain more raptor-like traits as they evolve. Which… y’know… is fine; that reflects the huge diversity of the real songbirds, but it would be nicer if they weren’t all (with the exception of Hoothoot) Normal/Flying-types with fairly generic powers and a bias towards speed and physical attacks. Continue reading “Pikipek, Trumbeak and Toucannon”→
Bloody hell, if I don’t hurry this up they’re going to announce another damn generation before I’m done with this one; we’re already expecting whatever this bull$#!t is supposed to be and I’ve got eighty whole Pokémon to evaluate in the next couple of months, as well as talking about Team Skull and the Aether Foundation, and Hau, and maybe Lillie too, and whoever I decide counts as the Champion, not to mention answering the neverending tide of ridiculous banal questions that keep pouring out of my goddamn inbox (obviously, gentle reader, I’m not talking about any questions you might have submitted, which are of course consistently insightful and thought provoking; it’s all those other bastards that are the problem).
People wonder why Psyduck isn’t a Psychic-type, and I do too, but why isn’t it a Flying-type? It’s a bird, and all other generation I birds are part Flying-type (including Farfetch’d, who is also a duck, and Doduo/Dodrio, who are also flightless).
I think this may in fact be the best argument for thinking that Psyduck is not a duck at all, but a platypus, which I know people have suggested. There’s an important caveat here that even at the best of times Game Freak doesn’t quite seem to know what the Flying type actually is, and frankly neither do I, but other than the beak there’s not a lot which is especially ducklike about Psyduck. He has arms and webbed hands rather than wings (likewise Golduck), learns no Flying-type or bird-themed attacks aside from Aerial Ace (which… look, just f&$% Aerial Ace), and his body doesn’t really look feathery the way most bird Pokémon do.
Today I’m looking at the second of Black and White’s legendary trios, the ogre-like genies Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus. Why do these games have so many legendary Pokémon, anyway? Every set of games always introduces more of the things than the last (compare five in Red and Blue to thirteen in Black and White), and at some point you have to wonder how many we actually need… but I should judge them all on their merits, shouldn’t I? So, without further ado: the legendary genies, Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus.
As their astonishingly inventive names attest, Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus are spirits of wind, lightning and earth; Landorus is a Ground/Flying dual-type, Thundurus an Electric/Flying dual-type, and Tornadus the only single-typed Flying Pokémon in the entire game. Tornadus and Thundurus are chaotic and sometimes destructive storm spirits who zip around frying people, blowing them away, playing tricks, ransacking things at random, and occasionally beating the hell out of each other and laying waste to a few neighbourhoods in the process. Landorus, in stark contrast, is a benevolent figure associated with protection and fertility, whose role is to keep the other two in line and to encourage crops to grow healthily. When Tornadus or Thundurus (or both) makes trouble for the villages of Unova, Landorus shows up to settle things. Continue reading “Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus”→
I think I’m just about through the Pokémon that are genuinely bad now. A lot of what’s left is, for want of a better term, so-so – like the female counterparts to Rufflet and Braviary, the vulture Pokémon Vullaby and Mandibuzz. I see some initial sensible choices here. Vultures are a nice choice for a starting point; their associations are specific and evocative, and Dark/Flying makes sense and isn’t overdone; there’s only one other Pokémon of that type, Honchkrow, who’s sufficiently different from Mandibuzz that it doesn’t bother me. Honchkrow is into plots and schemes, while Mandibuzz is a far more straightforward opportunistic predator. She also has a macabre fashion sense: Vullaby and Mandibuzz ornament themselves with bones and even build their nests out of bones. This was Cubone and Marowak’s thing, of course, but that’s not such a problem; they wore skulls as (I think) some kind of creepy honour thing, whereas for Vullaby and Mandibuzz it’s mostly about protection and decoration. No, the thing that bothers me about Vullaby and Mandibuzz is how silly their bones make them look. Vullaby is known as the “diapered” Pokémon, so yes, that eggshell-shape around her lower body (which is actually made of plates of bone) is indeed meant to look like a nappy. I don’t know whether Mandibuzz is supposed to look like she’s wearing an apron but that’s certainly what I think of, and the domestic imagery of Vullaby’s nappy makes me think this is exactly what’s meant to be conveyed here. Continue reading “Vullaby and Mandibuzz”→