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:
Today, for… some reason… I have decided to try to bridge the gap between Alola and Galar by reviewing all four of the Ice-type regional variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash, Alolan Ninetales, Galarian Mr. Mime and Galarian Darmanitan. This obviously took far too much time and the article is far too long, but I’ve written it now, and if I had to write it, then you all have to sit down and read it; that was the deal, that’s how this works. The Ice type is an interesting choice for regional variations, because real animals also kind of have Ice-type regional forms: as animals move into more extreme latitudes, they have to deal with longer and colder winters, and tend to adapt accordingly. Cold-adapted animals tend to be bulkier than their relatives living in temperate climates, with more compact limbs, thicker fur or feathers and often a white colour scheme to blend in with snow. Adaptation to different climates in Pokémon can be a mixed bag as far as realism goes, and we’ll see multiple different takes on that with today’s four Pokémon. Let’s get started.
The regional variant Pokémon we’re looking at today all evolve from Pokémon that do not have regional variant forms of their own – a Pikachu, Cubone or Exeggcute caught or hatched in Alola will look much the same as a Pikachu, Cubone or Exeggcute caught or hatched anywhere else. In fact, they don’t just look the same, they are the same; an Alolan Pikachu that is sent to Galar will evolve into a standard Raichu (even though Sword and Shield do know what an Alolan Raichu is, and Pokémon games do track each individual Pokémon’s region of origin), while a Pikachu that arrives in Alola from anywhere else will evolve into an Alolan Raichu. That’s weird, because other regional forms don’t work this way (with the exception of two Galarian forms, Weezing and Mr. Mime); you can take an Alolan Rattata to any region of the world and keep it there for as long as you like, it’ll still evolve into an Alolan Raticate. Let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on here.
In the second instalment of my exploration of regional variant Pokémon, we’re going to deal with two Pokémon whose regional forms are related to Alola’s geology: Alolan Geodude/Graveler/Golem and Alolan Diglett/Dugtrio. Geology, like archaeology and ecology, has always been in the background of Pokémon, but these games have never been the kind of stories that need a whole lot of scientific verisimilitude in those areas – or, to put it another way, who really gives a $#!t whether or not there are actually Cretaceous fossil deposits in the part of western France that corresponds to Ambrette Town? I could tell you that I care, and you’d probably believe me because, frankly, I give off a certain vibe, but the truth is I haven’t looked it up, and I’m not going to. Alola, in my opinion, cares more about the fact that it is Hawai‘i than any of the previous Pokémon regions cared about being each of those places, and at a guess maybe half of Alola’s new Pokémon are in some way influenced by that, but there are still limits – no one cares that there aren’t actually toucans or koalas in Hawai‘i, for instance, because Alola is also just a pastiche tropical paradise that should have whatever Pokémon, locations, characters and rocks seem fun. Today we have one Pokémon that cares a lot about having a specifically Hawaiian inspiration, and another that takes a somewhat more casual approach – let’s talk about that.
I think we should talk about regional variants, don’t you? I was going to do the Alolan forms at the end of generation VII, and the timing got so tight at the end, but now that we’ve got a bunch of Galarian forms as well, it seems like something we could do all at once. So here’s the plan: Alolan forms first, Galarian forms after that, and I dunno if I have all that much to say about each one individually but I could certainly take ‘em three at a time, trying as far as possible to put them into groups that are in some way thematic. Sound good? Okay. We’re going to begin with the Alolan Rattata and Raticate, Meowth and Persian, and Grimer and Muk – not because they are all Dark-types, which is a reason, but not a very good one; we’re putting them together because all three forms exist in Alola as the result of human intervention. Let’s discuss.
I dunno, should I say something else? I posted articles on Chairman Rose and Hop, we continued the epic saga of A Pokémon Trainer Is You by venturing into Viridian Forest with a group of bug catchers, and there were a bunch of reader questions about things like Dynamaxing, trainers fighting Pokémon, Acerola’s shiny Mimikyu, the nature of Ghost Pokémon and what I would do with a Pokémon gym. There are, as always, more to come. However, some sad news: I need to take break from Pokémon writing so I can put more time into my research (yeah, if you’re new or don’t pay much attention, I’m sort of doing a PhD in Roman archaeology; it’s a whole thing, I miiiiiiight write something about that since people usually seem to like it when I talk about my work, but no promises), so for the next month, don’t expect to see much from me. I’m working to answer all the questions currently in my inbox, so that those can be posted slowly over the course of the month. Also, Jim the Editor has suggested that he take over weekly updates to “A Pokémon Trainer Is You” for the moment, and we aren’t quite sure how that’s going to work yet, so there may or may not be one this Friday, but stay tuned. I’m thinking long-term I may have to bump that series to once every two weeks, since I have all my generation VIII articles to work on now, and it’s fun but it also can’t be my main thing – let me know if you have any opinions on that. I haven’t yet decided what my next article topic will be when I return, but the whims of my mysterious dark patrons are currently swaying me vaguely in the direction of cleaning up the tail end of generation VII by writing something on the rivals of Sun and Moon – Hau, Gladion and Lillie.
Thanks as always to my noble Patreon supporters – Don’t Call Me Bradley, Leo M.R., James Crooks, hugh_donnetono, Esserise and Hamish Fyfe – for their continued self-sacrifice in the face of cosmic oblivion. I posted about this on the Patreon page already, but in case some of you haven’t seen it, I’m suspending donations for this month since I’m not going to be writing, so Patreon won’t take any money from you at the start of March.
again, “Team Rocket is gay now” is pretty compelling
(what am I
saying, “now”? look at Jessie and James; they were always gay)
let’s try for a shorter one
aftermath of the resolution of the main plot in Ultra Sun and Moon, Team
Rocket appears out of nowhere and takes over first Festival Plaza and then the
entire Aether Paradise, renovating Lusamine’s mansion with a new menacing
black-and-red colour scheme. Only they
aren’t Team Rocket anymore – they’ve rebranded, are now Team Rainbow Rocket,
and are accompanied by a rogue’s gallery of villains from all the previous
Pokémon games. And they’ve got plans. Apparently.
I know a lot of my readers haven’t actually played Ultra SMoon
(which… well, fair enough; they’re not a big step up over Sun and Moon)
so let’s begin with a summary of what exactly happens.
This piece is in principle about the Aether Foundation, and we’ll start by talking a little about them. In practise, though, as I hinted last time in my review of Team Skull, it’s actually more a character study of Lusamine, since a lot of the real “villainy” happening in Sun and Moon is a result of her personal actions, either independently of the Foundation itself or abusing her position within it. The interesting thing about Sun and Moon is that, although Team Skull clearly aren’t the villains by the end of the game, the Aether Foundation aren’t really the villains either. In fact, I’m not even sure Lusamine is. Let’s talk about that.
Well, I finally got my act together and reviewed every Pokémon from generation VII, but we’re not done yet. While I was reviewing the Pokémon of Unova, I wrote a series on Pokémon’s villains – TeamRocket, Teams Aqua and Magma, Team Galactic and Team Plasma. Those articles… are fine. I mean, they’re not bereft of insight, but they’re from the first six months of this blog’s life and they’re far from the most interesting things I’ve ever written. Having written those, though, it seemed only logical that after finishing the Kalos Pokédex I should write about Team Flare and Lysandre, and that one holds up much better in retrospect. Which means that now… well, where would we be if I didn’t write about Team Skull (and, after them, the Aether Foundation)? My Team Flare review focused pretty heavily on Lysandre himself and his beliefs, because his characterisation is very important to the plot of X and Y and central to how I understood and reacted to a lot of the events of those games. That’s probably going to be true of my upcoming piece on the Aether Foundation as well, which I anticipate will concentrate on Lusamine, but I think Team Skull demands a different approach. The two named characters of Team Skull, Guzma and Plumeria, do matter, but Team Skull’s story isn’t really about either of them, in my opinion; it’s about Team Skull as a group, with Guzma and Plumeria exemplifying different facets of that group’s values and experiences. So let’s talk about that.