Steven asks:

Hey, love the blog! Apologies if this has been asked before, but overall, looking back with 4 generations of hindsight, what are your feeling about how Gen 4 devoted a ton of space to new evolutions of older pokemon? I say that now because, at the time, it was a trendy idea that instead of new pokemon, they should go back and make cool new evolutions to old pokemon that deserve it. But looking back on Gen 4 which devoted 21 spots to new evolutions (20% of Gen4!) personally, its hard to see it as anything more than “well this was a mistake to never try again”. I personally only really find a couple really appealing (Weavile, Mismagius). What do you think? Was this an attempt better left in the past? Did they just not do a great job with those specific pokemon? Or heck, do you actually like these pokemon? I’m curious to see what you think.

Hmm; I count 22.  And don’t forget 7 baby Pokémon (damn it, Game Freak, did you really have to mock poor Chimecho with a baby form when other, already much better, Pokémon were getting evolutions?).  But… yeah, this is tricky.  I think it’s inherently more difficult to come up with a good addition to what was already a self-contained design than it is to come up with that design in the first place.  You’re constrained by the themes and aesthetics of the original design, but the original design “thought” that it was finished, so it’s going to fight against you.  The trouble is that evolving an old Pokémon is one of the most natural-feeling ways to give it a buff, and a lot of generation I and II Pokémon frankly needed it.  This is why I simultaneously hope Farfetch’d and Dunsparce will one day get evolutions and dread the possibility.  Farfetch’d and Dunsparce are both very self-contained, elegant designs; there’s not a lot of fluid, natural directions to take them because… well, if there were, they would have had evolutions in the first place.  And it’s not always like that; sometimes there is an interesting elaboration that you can make.  Ambipom… lives in my nightmares… but also is an unexpected yet somehow laterally logical step forward from Aipom’s design.  Mamoswine and Yanmega are the most interesting examples of generation IV’s mechanic of “Pokémon that evolve by learning certain moves” because they transform into “prehistoric” versions of themselves by learning Ancientpower.  Gallade and Froslass work because they’re split evolutions and are able to take their base designs in the opposite directions to their counterparts.  Roserade works because Roselia didn’t have that much personality to begin with (fite me IRL) and whatever else you might say about Roserade, it doesn’t suffer from a deficit of personality.  Honchkrow is… bizarre, because Murkrow had a pretty clearly defined aesthetic and Honchkrow just… fµ¢£in’… throws that out the window and is a mob boss instead, but I also kind of love Honchkrow anyway???  Most of the rest… for me lie on a continuum of “this is worse than the original design, but basically fine and I get that this Pokémon needed a buff” to “I know this Pokémon needed a buff, but… why???”  And I think that second reaction is why we don’t really see them anymore.  In the past two or three generations, Game Freak have realised they actually have a lot of different tools for buffing underpowered early-generation Pokémon that don’t force them to design new Pokémon they didn’t want in the first place.  There’s mega evolution, there’s regional forms, there’s movepool additions, there’s valuable new abilities, hell, there’s straight up literal stat increases.  I wouldn’t put money on new evolutions of old Pokémon being gone forever because, again, sometimes they are warranted and do turn out well, and I hope Game Freak recognises that, but I doubt we’ll ever see another generation that includes as many of them as II and IV did.

VikingBoyBilly asks:

Why are mamoswine and relicanth not fossils? Also, Relicanth should evolve into a Dunkleosteuss pokemon. Cool idea, no?

Well, the whole point of Relicanth is being based on something that’s actually not extinct but just looks like it should be.  Making Relicanth a fossil would sort of defeat the purpose, in a way.  I mean, you could have Relicanth available as both a fossil and a wild Pokémon, which I think would be a cool way of emphasising its unusual status, but from Game Freak’s perspective, why would you do that?  And would most players actually like that, or would they feel cheated by getting a ‘fossil’ Pokémon that they could just catch normally?  Dunkleosteus… eh.  Sure?  It is again kind of defeating the purpose of Relicanth, but it’s not like evolutionary history in the Pokémon world makes any damn sense anyway.

As for Mamoswine… well, one of the ideas I have about fossil Pokémon is that they’re all Rock-types because Rock-type skeletons are unusually robust, and so representation in the fossil record is overwhelmingly skewed towards Rock Pokémon.  Fossils of prehistoric Pokémon of other types – including Mamoswine – are rare enough that we just never come across them in the games.

Cold Darkness of the Cosmos

Before entering Dendemille Town, I turn south for a look at the route leading back towards Lumiose City.  This whole north-eastern area seems to be in a state of perpetual autumn, in contrast to the permanent summer of the rest of Kalos, and has inhabitants to match; in addition to several of the same Pokémon as I found on the last route, I find Foonguss and two new Ghost/Grass Pokémon: Phantump, a dark wisp inhabiting a tree stump, and Pumpkaboo, the floating pumpkin I encountered in Lumiose City.  Seeing two new Pokémon with the same previously unseen type combination in the same area initially makes me think that they probably influence each other’s evolution in some way, like Shelmet and Accelgor, but I am informed that this is not the case – they just evolve when traded.  Doing so results in Trevenant, an utterly terrifying undead tree with a single glowing red eye and six splayed insect-like legs, and Gourgeist, a jack-o’-lantern with some kind of vaguely-feminine looking eel-like head and a pair of pink things that could easily be hair, arms, tentacles, or all three.  This adorably creepy little specimen “enwraps its prey in its hairlike arms [and] sings joyfully as it observes the suffering of its prey.”  So… that’s fun.  The route’s only other notable feature is a network of jetties built out over a lake to maximise the area available for fishing; here I am given a Super Rod, but come across nothing of particular interest in testing it out.  Satisfied that this route has nothing more for me at the moment, I return north.

If Dendemille Town’s surroundings are trapped in autumn, the town itself is locked in an eternal winter.  Snow falls on hardy evergreens as stubborn farmers try to coax life from frozen soil.  The town’s most prominent feature is a huge windmill surrounded by some kind of massive fortification wall, so presumably they do manage to produce something here (not much point in a windmill without grain).  Shortly after entering the town, I am met by Professor Sycamore, with Right in tow (Left, presumably, is off fighting crime).  Sycamore rambles incoherently about journeys and cafés for a while, before slipping into a brief eulogy of Kalos’ amazing legendary Pokémon, Xerneas, who “resembles the letter X.”  No-one knows anything concrete about Xerneas, but Right promises to do some research.  They both leave, giving me the chance to check out more of Dendemille Town and find what is perhaps its most important feature from my perspective: the home of the move deleter and move relearner.  At last, I can experience the true glory of Clawitzer’s movepool – Mega Launcher-boosted Dark Pulse, Dragon Pulse and Aura Sphere.  I only have three Heart Scales and I want to teach Dragon Pulse to my Lucario as well, so I greedily snatch up Dark Pulse and Aura Sphere and move on.  Dendemille Town doesn’t appear to have a Pokémon Gym, but the next route is impassable: nothing but huge drifts of snow all around.  The inhabitants inform me that there is normally a Mamoswine who carries travellers through the snow, but this Mamoswine is currently “distracted by something” in the Frost Cavern north of Dendemille Town, so I suppose there’s nothing for it but to go and find the damn thing myself… and maybe pick up some nifty new Ice Pokémon in the process.

It doesn’t take long for me to find Mamoswine, in the company of a boy whom I assume is its trainer, in the stark snowbound mountains north of town.  Apparently Mamoswine is worried about something going on in the cavern, but either can’t or won’t do anything about it.  Trevor, who wants to investigate species distribution in the Frost Cavern, volunteers to look into it, but my confidence in Trevor’s abilities has never been high, so I head into the cave along with him to find out what’s wrong.  The Frost Cavern is giving me flashbacks to the Ice Path of Gold and Silver, with all its ‘icy floor’ puzzles and, of course, its Ice-type fauna – Beartic, Cryogonal, Piloswine, Jynx, and a weird little pyramid-shaped Ice Pokémon called a Bergmite, a sort of physical tank whose main strength appears to be “being a block of ice.”  The fact that X and Y allow diagonal movement becomes quite important here, because it means you can slide diagonally across the ice floors – I think there’s only one part of the area that actually requires this, but I must have stared at the screen for about ten minutes before I thought of trying it (so much for my vaunted lateral thinking skills…).  In the depths of the cave, I locate the problem: surprise, surprise; it’s Team Flare.  A pair of grunts and a blue-haired woman wearing a visor, presumably another scientist, are tormenting a huge Abomasnow, apparently to test the limits of its power before they capture it.  Trevor arrives and orders them to stop, which they predictably ignore.  The scientist, Mable, explains that they’re collecting Pokémon and energy for their dastardly plans, which apparently involve destroying everyone who isn’t part of their group.  She has only one Pokémon, a powerful Houndoom, which I dispatch with my Clawitzer.  Defeated, she and her grunts flee.  Trevor departs in relief, and I turn to go as well – but feel a tap on my shoulder.  Well, I say a ‘tap,’ it’s more of a heavy, blunt ‘thunk,’ but a tap seems to have been the intention.  It’s Abomasnow, who wants to thank me with a gift: a green-and-white Abomasite orb.  Mega Abomasnow, huh?  Could this be what uplifts Hail to equal status with the other major weather effects?  Eh, probably not, but we’ll see.

Mamoswine is now back on duty.  According to his trainer, Mamoswine first came to Dendemille town when he was gravely injured and rescued by an Abomasnow.  It was probably the same one, and Mamoswine was likely refusing to work because he was worried about his friend.  D’aww… you know, there is something incredibly endearing about inter-species friendships.  Anyway, with Mamoswine back, I have my ride through the snow to Anistar City.  Mamoswine is capable of ploughing through drifts of snow that cover him almost completely, and even smashing submerged boulders.  I feel a sudden pang of regret for never having trained one of these things.  A few more Ice Pokémon – Delibird, Sneasel, and Snover (better evolve him later to check out Abomasnow’s mega form…) appear on the way, but I reach Anistar City without much more excitement, and receive a call from Serena challenging me to a battle by the Pokémon Gym.  The bitter cold softens a little as I reach Anistar City and look around.  Left shows up to inform me that Right has learned of a person in this city who is an expert in the lore of Kalos’ legendary Pokémon, and that it would be a good idea for me to find him.  Of course, cities in the Pokémon world being what they are, this doesn’t take long.  I learn that Xerneas appeared in Kalos 800 years ago, bringing energy and vitality to the entire region.  Supposedly, it lives for a thousand years and releases all of its remaining power at the end of its life to enrich everything around it.  Another story relates that 3000 years ago, another Pokémon which might have been Xerneas saved many people and Pokémon from a terrible war, before turning into a dried-up tree, which is still hidden somewhere in Kalos.  Hmm.  I’ve heard about this war; I think this is the same terrible war Lysandre’s ancestor was supposedly involved with – the one that still scars the history of Kalos even today…

Anistar City has one major attraction: the Anistar Sundial.  Not really a ‘sundial’ at all in the traditional sense of the word, this is a massive and exquisitely cut translucent pink crystal which (I think) tells the time by refracting sunlight onto a series of concentric golden rings.  According to the locals, no-one is sure how the thing was made, since it’s thousands of years old and even modern technology couldn’t cut such an enormous crystal so perfectly.  The whole set-up is on a platform which juts out over… the… sea…

…wait…

I pull out my town map.  Anistar City, which is surrounded on three sides by water, is nowhere near the ocean.

There’s something very strange about this city, and it makes me uneasy.  I’m heading for the Gym.  I deal quickly with Serena, who has added a Jolteon to her team and become much more powerful since our last fight, but is still lagging behind (and seems to be developing self-esteem issues), and enter the building.  It’s… empty.  It’s just a perfectly normal room, with a couple of sidetables, a fireplace, and two windows with long purple curtains.  In the centre is a large rug with a design of stars and circles.  No trainers.  No Gym Leader.  I slowly walk forward, looking around, and step onto the circular pattern on the rug… and the world explodes.  I give a started yelp as the room around me dissolves into nothing, and I find myself in space.  Walkways of light criss-cross in a three-layered sphere, with stars and comets flying past in the background.  One of the Psychic Pokémon trainers here tells me “don’t be distracted by your surroundings.”  “EASY FOR YOU TO SAY,” I screech back.  Not a moment too soon, I come to the centre of the sphere, where the Gym Leader, Olympia, is waiting.  Olympia is a strange, distant woman who wears a white cloak with a night sky pattern in its lining (or… it could be lined with the actual night sky, for all I know…), who speaks as though her mind is in a dream… but is perfectly wakeful while battling.  Her Sigilyph, protecting itself with Reflect and scoring a few opportune flinches with Air Slash, deals pretty heavy damage to my Malamar, Photia, before going down, leaving Olympia’s second Pokémon, a powerful Slowking, to finish her off.  I send in Orion the Lucario to start blasting away with Dragon Pulse, but Slowking boosts up with Calm Mind and blows away Orion’s mind with Psychic.  Finally, I bring out the big guns: Odysseus the Clawitzer.  Dark Pulse breaks through even Slowking’s boosted special defence.  Olympia’s final Pokemon, disappointingly, is a Meowstic; a high-level one, to be sure, but not nearly as powerful as a Sigilyph or a Slowking, and Odysseus makes short work of it.  Olympia rewards me with a Calm Mind TM, a golden badge in the shape of a curling wisp of smoke rising from a violet pearl (the Psychic Badge – awesome name there; really inventive, Olympia), and a prophecy: “Power that grants life awakens – voices of woe.  That is your future."  She then waves her hand and teleports me back to the entrance of the Gym.  I find myself back in the plain room.  I’m honestly not sure the Anistar Gym, its trainers, or Olympia even exist at all; my Pokémon and I may have hallucinated the entire experience… but the Psychic Badge is still in my hand, and that’s all I need.

Ridiculous quote log:

“Windmills rotate just like the wheels of destiny!  So Rotation Battles are like windmills!  Ah… I mean destiny!
You know what else rotates like the wheels of destiny?  You, strapped to a windmill.

“I hope I still have Pokémon when I grow up.  ‘Cause when I have kids, I want to trade Pokémon with them.”
That is some nice marketing there, Nintendo.  Real subtle.  There are now, of course, people who picked up Pokémon as children or teenagers and are now having kids of their own…