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.
As part of my eternal contract of service to the Dark Council of my highest-tier Patreon supporters (to whom special thanks, and a mighty tribute of souls and magic, are as always due), I regularly solicit topics from them to discuss in longer articles – and once again, that time has come. Today I’m supposed to be talking about the (so far) three generational flagship mechanics of the Pokémon games – X and Y’s Mega Evolution, Sun and Moon’s Z-Moves and Sword and Shield’s Dynamax – in all their aspects, both how they practically work in the game and how they influence the story and lore of their worlds. “Flagship mechanics” is my own term for these, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else say it, but I like it better than “gimmicks” because I think it’s a better reflection of what the developers seem to want them to be, so I’m gonna keep using it, and you all just have to deal with that because… it’s my blog, so shut up.
Let’s start with a summary for people who might not be familiar with one or more of the games that introduced and featured these mechanics:
A while back, you cautiously played with the idea of replacing the physical/special split with a spectrum, where Flare Blitz would be 80% physical and 20% special for instance. You said this would probably be too radical. But what if there were just a “mixed” category of moves (50% physical and 50% special)? You could change some moves to mixed (like Rock Throw, Razor Leaf, Earthquake etc) and in exchange buff their power a bit.
On second thought, “mixed” attacks wouldn’t need a power buff, since they’d be as hard to defend against as to attack with. But my question remains the same otherwise.
So… it’s been a while and I can’t testify with 100% certainty to my state of mind when I wrote that, but I think when I said “such a radical change I’m not even sure I’d want to do it,” I didn’t mean “this is too much of a departure and the fan base would never buy it,” so much as “I am worried this might break some important aspects of the game’s strategy in a way that isn’t immediately obvious to me and can’t be balanced out in a straightforward way.” If you have this category of mixed moves, then the whole concept of “wall” Pokémon changes quite significantly, because it’s much less viable to focus on just one type of defence, which in turn shifts the balance of the game significantly towards offence. That may be totally fine, but I don’t know, and I don’t really have the capacity to find out. It’s a sufficiently foundational change to the battle system that I’m nervous about unreservedly declaring that it’s a good idea, and I’m not sure that it’s possible to work that out theoretically. On the other hand, we do have Psyshock, a special attack that does physical damage, which hasn’t broken anything, and “mixed” attacks would be more demanding of attackers as well, who’d need to invest in both attack stats. So maybe it’s completely fine? I don’t know. That’s all that means; I still don’t know.
The details of it are mostly ideas I agree would be good. Probably the only thing I really dislike is separating the starter Pokémon over three different games, because I think being locked into one starter hurts replayability and doesn’t have much upside (other than we’re now explicitly encouraging people to buy three games instead of one, which… ehhhhhhh, I can see how Nintendo marketing would love it but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth). I’d rather have the different themed starting locations being options within one game. A lot of it has similarities to some things I’ve suggested myself in the past, some of it in my old “If I Were In Charge” series, some of it in miscellaneous question-and-answer posts – see especially here on mechanics that emphasise treating our Pokémon well, here and here on thematic gyms, here on paired games and the idea of separate ‘upgradeable’ hometowns for each game, and here on the role of legendary Pokémon. I have some differences with the broad scope and aims of the project; given the choice, I would prioritise a complex story over an open structure and non-linear progression, and I think there’s a middle ground to be had between the massive-scope bad guys of generations III through VI and the “we’re just mobsters” bad guys of generations I and II. That’s top-level design choices though; there’s not really wrong decisions there, just preferences, and subsequent decisions can serve those top-level choices well or badly. I don’t think a Pokémon game can be everything that everyone in the fan community wants Pokémon to be, and do it well – design is about trade-offs, and mostly I can respect the ones made here.
Guilty confession time: I’m warming up to Greninja’s battle bond ability, and think that the concept is something Pokemon should continue to explore. Hear me out. I know Ash-Greninja specifically is pure pandering to anime fans. But the implementation of the concept is, in my opinion, mega evolution done right. Mega Evolution was supposed to be about a strong bond between Pokemon and trainers making the Pokemon stronger, which would strengthen the franchise’s partnership concept. But of course, mega stones simply became an OP held item that you could use as soon as you obtained them. Battle Bond, on the other hand, really emphasizes the participation of the trainer (I think Ash feels pain when his Greninja does or something?) and occurs in the heat of the battle, once the Pokemon has already started taking out foes. What if in a future generation, all the starters’ final evolutions had battle bond as an ability? It might need some adjustments, like needing to be at a certain level to activate, and maybe a friendship or affection requirement as well. But overall, I think Game Freak could really work with this.
What if Ability capsules were expanded to be more like TMs? E.g., there’s ACs for Static, Guts, Chlorophyll, etc. and any pokémon that’s compatible with that ability will learn it. There might need to be some “base” or “blank” capsule to get their original ability back in that system, ‘cuz we can’t be giving out Wonder Guard, Water Bubble, or Levitate ACs… maybe those pokémon will just be unable to use ACs.
I’m a little iffy on this, purely because abilities are able to define how Pokémon work much more completely than moves (usually) can. Like, you raise Pokémon with abilities that are too overpowered to give out indiscriminately, but what about the Pokémon that originally had those abilities? There’s no point in a Furfrou without Fur Coat, or a Darmanitan without Zen Mode, let alone some of the really mad stuff like a Wishiwashi without Schooling or a Shedinja without Wonder Guard. A bunch of Pokémon have abilities that don’t particularly matter or aren’t very interesting, but I’m not convinced the implementation of a TM-like system that would be basically unusable by a pretty large fraction of all Pokémon is the way to fix that.
For moves like Hyper Beam, Giga Impact, Frenzy Plant, etc… How do you like the sound of them being changed so that, rather than forcing the user to recharge and waste a turn after use, they simply fail if used in succession?
Hmm. I rather like this one. Probably the most important thing is that it all but prohibits using these moves with Choice items, which presents a trade-off in min-maxing potential that strikes me as an interesting choice. The moves will still force you into awkward situations quite often, so their power comes with a cost, but they’ll no longer f$#& you over so consistently as to make them unusable.
Why do you think Rest is a Psychic move? What’s so psychic about taking a nap?
I suppose because it involves a certain (fairly impressive) degree of command over your own mental state. I can’t go to sleep at will even if I’m in bed in the middle of the night; Pokémon can do it while being violently attacked.
Assuming you’ve met every new pokemon of alola, what do you think of the addition of signature move/ability for each pokemon(evo line) ? I think it’s very cool since it’s a good way to make them more unique
I think I’ve met almost all of them now (I’m further through than my write-up suggests; I’ve actually finished the Elite Four now). I hadn’t realised they all had something like that, but yeah, I like it – I’ve kinda always had a habit of wanting to give signature moves to everything, and I think there is a point at which you just plain run out of unique ideas. One of my old mantras, though, is that Pokémon “should be good at the things they’re good at” – that is, if we’re told a Pokémon has a certain lifestyle and fighting strategy, then those things should actually be a part of what it can do, and do well, and signature moves/abilities are usually a good way of doing that.
What if, instead of an EV cap, there was a total stat cap? As in, “some Pokemon are naturally good at fighting, but all can achieve the same level of expertise through training” taken literally?
I think this has consequences beyond what you immediately intend. For one thing, under this system evolution and higher base stats are a bad thing, because they mean less flexibility – more of your stat cap is taken up by things you can’t change. For another, unless you have some sort of equivalent to the EV system – some limit to how far a Pokémon can advance beyond its basic capability in each stat – you’re going to end up eroding the differences between species of Pokémon. What’s the point of Alakazam if it can push its defence just as high as anyone else can, or everyone else can push their special attack just as high as it?
You should give Z-Splash a try. Use Normalium-Z on the move Splash and see what happens. 😉
Oh my god I hadn’t even thought of that
I’m doing it right now
Huh. I’m… not sure what I was expecting, but… hmm. I guess I figured either it would turn into a devastating super-move, or it would still just be completely useless. +3 attack isn’t even bad, though – just not really worth using your Z-power. I feel like this is a missed opportunity for some really kooky easter egg.