Osprey asks:

I know you get a lot of questions about type chart balance, and it seems like people are always trying to mess around with adding and subtracting weaknesses and resistances to improve their favored types (I’ll cop to a longstanding desire to see a defensive buff for Ice, my favorite type).

But recently on a forum, I ran across a suggestion that I found remarkable for both its simplicity and its potential to have a huge impact on game balance: reduce the super-effective damage multiplier from 2x to 1.5x across the board. What are your thoughts about this?

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Toucannon asks:

So, MegaEvolution is something of a base-breaking point for pokemon fans, but you’ve been known to mention it being a good thing for some pokemon (in terms of improved useability). Thus, I ask: which of the 50 or so existing megaevolutions would you say are necessary and worth keeping, and which ones are superfluous and shouldn’t have been introduced at all?

Well… based on that particular criterion, probably fewer than half of them were a good idea, maybe even fewer than a third, which is a pretty terrible success rate.  Terrible enough, in fact, that I think it’s pretty clear this rationale wasn’t really a major part of Game Freak’s process for deciding which Pokémon to give Mega Evolutions to (even though it’s something I like), and therefore arguably not a good way of judging them.  Particularly in the first round in X and Y, Mega Evolutions primarily went to Pokémon that were already fan favourites, like the Kanto starters, Mewtwo and Gyarados, and most of those were already at least decent.  But… well, you asked, so okay, let’s make a list…

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Herald of Opera asks:

So, apparently the National Dex is going away. For all the Internet riots that have been going on about this, wasn’t it pretty much inevitable that the series would eventually create more Pokémon than it could fit in one game? And I’m saying all this despite knowing my personal favorite is almost certainly getting the axe (sorry Piplup, but you’re a non-Kanto starter, your animal basis doesn’t live in the same hemisphere as Britain, and your anime appearance was an obnoxious spotlight stealer)

Okay, I’m gonna hijack this question to get out everything I think about this and be the one and hopefully only time I talk about it, so here goes nothing:

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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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Flareon asks:

Am I useful now that I finally can learn Flare Blitz?

Well, I’d say you’re arguably no longer the worst of your siblings, which is… something, right?  Your offensive movepool is still really bad, and that’s a problem that pretty much your entire family struggles with.  The best moves you all share are support techniques, so it’s your toughest siblings – Vaporeon, Umbreon and Sylveon – who are the most consistently useful.  Espeon gets a leg up from her ludicrous hidden ability, and Jolteon kinda gets by on his good offensive stat distribution and strong attack type.  Leafeon is pretty bad, but arguably still better than you because Swords Dance and Chlorophyll give him sweeping potential.  Now that you have Flare Blitz though, you can claim to be at least as good as Glaceon, who has a similar offensive power level but a very weak defensive type and generally poor abilities.  The problem with being you, Flareon, is you’ve got one hell of a Flare Blitz, but you’re lacklustre in both speed and defence, which makes you really easy to kill, and all of Fire’s weaknesses are to really common attack types (Water, Ground and Rock – including Stealth Rock).  In comparison with other physically-oriented single-type Fire Pokémon, well… Darmanitan is somehow faster, tougher and stronger, and has a better selection of physical attacks plus the ridiculousness that is Sheer Force; while Arcanine is faster, surprisingly tough, has Intimidate, is flexible enough for a physical/special mix, and can heal with Morning Sun.  Hell, even Rapidash is faster and has arguably a better physical movepool than you, but at least she has the decency to have bad abilities, average defences and a weaker attack stat.  You could go hang out with Rapidash, I guess?

Robin asks:

You already did a Top 10 worst/least favourite Pokémon, but is there any chance you’d do a Top 10 best/favourite Pokémon?

Probably not, mostly because I don’t think I would be able to come up with a good rationale for it. When I did that top 10 worst Pokémon list, I chose Pokémon that were both extremely weak and (in my estimation) poorly designed or bland – and there’s really not that many of those. If you set something like Kricketune as your standard for power, you’re eliminating the vast majority of Pokémon right off the bat, and then it’s fairly easy to sort through what’s left and decide which ones are interesting enough to be redeemed on design grounds. That doesn’t really work for picking the best ones. I could start by getting a list of all the most powerful legendary Pokémon – Kyogre, Necrozma, Mewtwo, Reshiram, and so on – and maybe a couple of other top-tiers like Blaziken and Aegislash, then pick ten that I think are well-designed, but… well, for one thing, at that point we’re basically doing a list of the top ten coolest legendary Pokémon, which I don’t think is really what you’re suggesting, and for another, I don’t believe those Pokémon are actually good for the game. Well, obviously then I should start by ruling out all the Pokémon that I think are unreasonably powerful and start picking the best-designed ones from the upper echelons of what’s left. The problem is, I don’t actually know where that point is – and even if I did, I’m not sure how I would convince anyone to agree with me. The “worst Pokémon” list made sense because it was a way of talking about what makes a Pokémon bad, and how to fix the kinds of problems those Pokémon had in common. A “best Pokémon” list… ultimately would probably just be a list of my favourite Pokémon, which I don’t actually think is particularly interesting.

A rambling chat about game balance

In lieu of a Pokémon review (because what even is my life right now, arghghghl; next weekend my students are handing in essays and I have to write an exam for the week after that), here is a message log with a conversation between me and Jim the Editor about game balance in Pokémon (and elsewhere).  This is the kind of thing I might post regularly to a Patreon page, if I ever actually create one?  So, comments would be useful.

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