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:
I watched a Pokémon video on YouTube where the guy pointed out that, for all the hype Mega Evolutions got prior to the release of XY, you actually only ever fight three Mega Evolutions throughout the course of the main story: Korrina’s Mega Lucario, Lysandre’s Mega Gyarados, and Diantha’s Mega Gardevoir. He argued that 1) the first one doesn’t even count because it was just a Mega Lucario battle, and 2) this is a big reason why XY felt too easy, especially since you can Mega Evolve after the third Gym. He suggested that, since you fight Lysandre before the final Gym, Wulfric and the Elite Four should all have been given Mega Evolutions, something the anime actually does (sans Drasna). It’s an excellent point and I… don’t know why Game Freak didn’t do this in the first place, now that I think about it. The final rival battle at Victory Road should probably also have given them their eventual Mega Absol, if Wulfric should have a Mega. What do you think?
Y’know, I never really thought about that – when I played X for the first time, I never used Mega Evolution unless my opponent did as well, because it seemed “unfair,” so I guess I just wasn’t thinking about it very hard. But yeah, considering that Mega Evolution is generation VI’s flagship mechanic, it’s… not actually in there very much. Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are kinda light on it as well, at least in the main story; there’s… what, Archie/Maxie, Wally and Steven? But then there are a lot more in the postgame: May/Brendan, Matt/Courtney, Zinnia and all of the Hoenn Elite Four. X and Y don’t really have that. This seems doubly weird considering how much work must have gone into designing the Mega Evolutions. Wouldn’t you want to show them off? I can see a perspective where finding all the Mega Evolutions is mainly meant as an end-game side-quest for the player, a little challenge for the 100%-completionists, but a) the Pokédex already provides plenty of that, and b) it would make a lot more sense if Pokémon had, like, Final Fantasy-style “bonus bosses” where you really needed the right Mega Evolution to win.
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…
[Okay this question is really, really long, so I’m going to cut it down to a few salient points. No judgement on the person who submitted this, but I am starting to receive longer and longer questions, and there is a theoretical point at which I’m basically hosting other people’s articles with no filter or editorial process; I would rather say “no” to that before it happens.]
This is mostly just idle curiosity, but since I stumbled back into your piece on the Norse mythology theory for the Kalos mascots, I was curious to know if your opinion on them has changed at all since we saw Zygarde’s alternate forms.
[Basically this question brings up the “children of Loki” interpretation of Zygarde’s forms; 10% = Fenrir, 50% = Jormungandr, 100% = Hel. It’s all on Bulbapedia if you’re not familiar with it. The short answer is that I have indeed revisited the topic since those forms were revealed (though not actually in response to them) and still thought it was abject nonsense.]
I was reading old reviews and chuckled at your disgust for Ash and Pikachu’s magical friendship bull$h!t but it made me curious as to your feelings on Let’s Go incorporating aspects of it into gameplay (Pokemon curing themselves if status conditions, enduring one shots, i.e.)
I haven’t played Let’s Go (maybe it does something new I’m not aware of), but those things have been in the games since X and Y, haven’t they? Pokémon with high affection stats from Pokémon Amie (in generation VI) or Pokémon Refresh (in generation VII) can cure themselves during battle, endure attacks, dodge attacks, score extra critical hits, maybe a couple of other things I’m forgetting. I actually kind of like it, since it gives us a reason to care about our relationships with our Pokémon – something that, up until generation VI, didn’t really have much gameplay effect outside of some fairly niche things like Return/Frustration and a handful of evolutions (of course now we have to figure out what the hell the difference between “friendship” and “affection” is supposed to be, since they sound like pretty much the same thing and are broadly characterised the same way, but are apparently totally independent). I think one of the big challenges for Pokémon’s game design is the disconnect between the fantasy of partnership, spiritual bonding and, frankly, magical friendship bull$#!t that’s always been core to the series’ ethos, and the… well… somewhat interchangeable, even disposable nature of individual Pokémon as gameplay elements (how many baby Pokémon have you hatched and then immediately released into the wild while IV-breeding? I have no idea – which in a way is kinda the point – but I’m pretty sure I’m in quadruple-digit territory). I’m glad that the last few sets of games have seen efforts to try and resolve that tension.
Steven stone’s mega Metagross hits like a truck doesn’t he?
do. No Earthquake, though, unlike in the
original Ruby and Sapphire, which makes him substantially easier to
outmanoeuvre in terms of type coverage.
Giga Impact also creates a lot of openings for your Pokémon to come in
and hit him hard before he can recover.
I have memories of much greater difficulty with the old non-mega
Metagross, but that’s partly because on my first playthrough of Sapphire I had
no idea what type the damn thing was, and pre-generation VI Steel-types resist
pretty much everything (also I had a Sableye in my party because I didn’t
understand the game very well yet).
Do you get the impression Gen VI was cut short? Looking back there’s a lot about it that seems unfinished. I’m not the first to think that Zygarde should have had its own game, but the Gen VI events for Diancie, Hoopa and Volcanion are really underwhelming; all they unlock in XY/ORAS is a bit of extra dialogue. Feels like a lot of wasted potential. The fact that Gen VII only has two event Pokemon (and hackers haven’t found a Marshadow event in S/M yet) makes me think this gen will be short too.
A little, yeah. Mostly what I think is strange is that they built such a unique subsystem for Zygarde with so many interesting little features, and then never really did anything with it. Clearly some of it was already planned when they produced X and Y; Thousand Arrows and Thousand Waves are both in the code for the generation VI games but were never made obtainable, and Zygarde’s Pokédex data hints at a really important role that it ought to have in the conflict of X and Y. Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”→
Greetings fellow Pokémaniac. First of all id like to say i love the blog, your thoughts, ideas and stories can keep me reading and thinking for days on end. Keep up the good work. So I’ve played every Pokémon gen, unfortunately haven’t got round to playing black/white 2 yet, and im only part way through Moon as it hasn’t grabbed me like i thought it would. In my opinion though, X and Y have been the best games to come so far (I’dtellyouwhybutI’mrunningoutofcharacters) Your thoughts on this? Ty.
Glad you’re enjoying it!
So obviously I’m still not done with Moon, because my writing process makes me play so slowly, and not ready to offer a final assessment or ranking. I really like everything I’ve seen so far though – the worldbuilding is excellent, the story is shaping up to be quite interesting, there are some cool characters, and although I still like generation VI’s Pokémon designs better, VII’s seem like they’re fine. My official position – subject to change in weeks to come – is that V has the best story, but VI was better overall. VII still has a shot at overthrowing either or both.
Are you going to do the series where you decide whether a Pokemon is actually good or not for Alola?
Good question. I mean, I’ll do some sort of individual review for each Pokémon once I’ve played the game, definitely. I don’t know how much I want those to look like what I did for Unova and Kalos, though. I think that depends on how I react to the overall feel of the whole group of 7th generation Pokémon. Like, when I did Unova, a lot of the way I wrote those reviews was the result of my being frustrated about one particular decision and its consequences – namely, that Game Freak chose to use no pre-5th-generation Pokémon in Unova, but simultaneously undercut that decision by including so many designs that felt like one-for-one replacements for 1st-generation Pokémon (this one is here because they couldn’t have Pidgey, this one is here because they couldn’t have Geodude, this one is here because they couldn’t have Muk… etc). And that’s why I did the whole “I hereby affirm/deny this Pokémon’s right to exist” thing, of course, because I had really strongly polarised feelings about… well, really everything in Black and White, not just the Pokémon designs. I had very different feelings about Kalos; the Pokémon were… not better, Unova at its best is just as good as Kalos, but more consistent; I had trouble finding anything to seriously dislike in Kalos. Well. Except Dedenne. But f%&k Dedenne.
So yeah, we’ll see what I think of Sun and Moon as a whole and go from there. Honestly I’m even kind of toying with doing something really weird, like some sort of in-universe in-character discussion of the different Pokémon that just totally jumps off the deep end with respect to, like, being a review. But I would have to see if I can make that work, or if I even like it.