I’m probably supposed to have to opinions on Pokémon Go by now, so we should talk about that. Obviously if you know my writing then you know that I tend to be more interested in things like story and characterisation and world-building than in strategy and mathematics and the inner workings of the game, because frankly there are loads of other people on the internet who are just much better equipped than me to deal with the hard-core mechanical stuff. And Pokémon Go, although I am having a lot of fun playing it, doesn’t give me a whole lot to pick apart, in the way that I like to pick apart episodes of the anime or whatever. But I would clearly be in dereliction of my solemn duty as an Internet Pokémon Guru if I did not produce some form of rambling commentary on the bits of this game that have managed to catch my interest – namely, the three teams and their competing philosophies.Continue reading “Thoughts on the Pokémon Go Teams”
Right. We should talk about this. Probably. I suppose.Continue reading “Sun and Moon things”
Well, first of all, I’m going to have to insist that you all start by watching this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GWSxMm05vg [EDIT: the video I originally linked to has been taken down, so I’m changing this to a different one]
Okay; now that we’re all in the appropriate mood… Mega Evolution!
What exactly is it?
To be honest, I really do think ‘digivolution’ sums it up surprisingly nicely, or at least sums up how it differs from the Pokémon evolution we know and love: it’s temporary and therefore almost entirely related to combat, it explicitly relies on a sort of nebulously conceived spiritual unity between trainer and Pokémon, and it requires the use of a special artefact (which I’m stubbornly going to continue calling a ‘Digivice,’ on the grounds that there actually isn’t an official name for the broad class of objects – the cores are called Key Stones, but the device itself can be a Mega Ring, Mega Pendant, Mega Anklet, Mega Pocketwatch, Mega Toaster, whatever). How does it work, first of all? In short: while using a Pokémon who is holding a Mega Stone in battle, a trainer may activate his or her Digivice, usually by touching his or her fingers to the Key Stone (in the anime special about Mega Evolution, Steven rather flamboyantly touches the stone to his lips – either way, contact with bare skin seems to be the key). The vaguely-defined mystic energies of the Key Stone prompt a reaction in the Mega Stone which, provided it is of the appropriate type for the Pokémon’s species, causes it to transform into a much more powerful version of itself, with enhanced versions of whatever skills it possessed. As in the case of ordinary evolution, the Pokémon’s stats increase and its type and ability may change, though unlike ordinary evolution, Mega Evolution never grants access to any new attacks. The Pokémon will return to its normal form when the battle ends, or if it is defeated, and a trainer may only Mega Evolve one Pokémon in a battle. That, I believe, covers the quick and dirty mechanics of what happens when we Mega Evolve Pokémon in the games – but we all know that. Gotta sum up the basics first, though. Let’s see if we can’t come up with something more interesting.
First things first, then: vaguely-defined mystic energies. Mega Evolution is supposed to be powered by the bond between a trainer and a Pokémon. It’s repeatedly emphasised that the technique is only possible through deep, absolute trust (I mean, this isn’t actually true in terms of game mechanics; you can Mega Evolve a Pokémon you’ve only just met with no difficulty, but let’s take them at their word here). This is kind of important. It means that Mega Evolution, the ultimate, transcendent state of being which Pokémon can attain, is only possible through partnership with humans; wild Pokémon can’t usually do it. This in turn gives us at least one reason to consider this partnership inherently desirable for Pokémon and at least one irreplaceable benefit that humans bring to the table, which has important implications for the debates in play in the generation V games, and indeed throughout the franchise if you choose to read things that way. The fact that the Power of Friendship is apparently a real, tangible and measurable source (or at least conduit) of energy in the Pokémon world should hardly surprise us; this is, after all, a world where a wide variety of telepathic abilities can be observed and documented. However, I do believe it is meaningful that humans in particular should be associated with this ability to share power and elevate the abilities of others, since I’ve long thought that humans’ place in the ecosystems of the Pokémon world is heavily reliant on the fact that they can do just that, and not just through Mega Evolution either.
Despite all of this, it’s obvious that the Power of Friendship alone isn’t enough to make Mega Evolution work; there’s no way of getting around the fact that you need the stones. What are they? The events of Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby lead us to believe that those found in Hoenn are fragments of meteorites. No one is quite sure where Kalos’ stones come from, but Professor Sycamore conjectures that they’re the result of evolutionary stones (like Fire Stones, or Dawn Stones) being irradiated by the light of AZ’s Ultimate Weapon when it was used three thousand years ago to end the Kalosian civil war. This light is the same energy that is manipulated by both Yveltal and Xerneas – the life force given up by the thousands of Pokémon that AZ sacrificed to power the weapon, turned to destructive ends. If life exists throughout the Pokémon universe – and it seems likely that it does, in some form or another – the ultimate origins of these two groups of Mega Stones may have more in common than we realise, but to suggest anything specific would be groundless speculation at this point. Each species of Pokémon capable of Mega Evolution has its own particular Mega Stone. A Salamence can’t do anything with an Alakazite, nor does an Alakazam have any use for a Blastoisinite. Why should this be so? Is one Pokémon’s life force somehow different from another’s? That seems unlikely, not just on the face of it, but because effects like Heal Pulse exist and work equally well on all Pokémon. Probably the strongest possibility I can come up with at the moment is that some part of the Pokémon who were killed by the Ultimate Weapon was somehow ‘imprinted’ onto the stones when the massive flood of raw life energy severed their souls from their bodies, and so the stones’ power is only useful to Pokémon of the same species. That doesn’t explain Hoenn’s meteorites, though. I don’t think there’s any way for those to make sense unless the type of Mega Stone is only set after the meteorite lands, because otherwise we’ve got extraterrestrial objects whose properties are miraculously tailored to the biology of specific terrestrial organisms, so perhaps these things – being charged with life energy already, and having no need for the Ultimate Weapon’s power – are just inherently ready to be imprinted with the powers of the first Pokémon to come across them.
The other tricky question is how the Key Stones fit into all this, and why you even need one when you have a Mega Stone – it seems clear that the Mega Stones are potent sources of life energy on their own. Is a Key Stone just a Mega Stone for humans? Humans’ particular ‘special power’ in the Pokémon world is being able to make Pokémon better at what they do – that’s the whole point of Pokémon training – so it does make a kind of sense that, instead of Mega Evolving ourselves, we would be able to supply the energy that allows others to do so. That would make the whole thing fairly simple, because then we can just say that the Key Stones were imprinted with the souls (or whatever) of humans who were killed in the Kalosian civil war, or who touched newly-landed meteorites in Hoenn. The trouble is that I’m sort of relying here on the assumption that a Key Stone is essentially a Humanite, and the only way I can think of to test that assumption would be to see whether one Pokémon can use a Key Stone to help another to Mega Evolve. Think about it. It would make perfect sense if they could – Pokémon can be friends with and trust in one another; Pokémon can even teach and mentor each other. There’s nothing about the bond between Pokémon and trainer that couldn’t also exist between two Pokémon. If it doesn’t work, then I think we’d have to conclude it’s because Key Stones are specific to humans in the same way as, say, Charizardite is specific to Charizard. Unfortunately, the game gives us no way to try it, and somehow I doubt the anime is going to indulge me. I don’t think it’s an altogether unreasonable conjecture, though.
It might also be profitable to think about Mega Evolution in contrast to the other extraordinary state of heightened energy that we see in generation VI – namely Primal Reversion, which behaves similarly to Mega Evolution in game terms but is very explicitly called out on multiple occasions as a different process. Primal Reversion doesn’t count as your one allowed Mega Evolution during a battle, nor are you limited to only one Primal Reversion if you happen to have both Kyogre and Groudon. I would conjecture that this is because Primal Reversion isn’t reliant on the presumably limited power of your Digivice. Primal Reversion also happens automatically as soon as Kyogre or Groudon enters play, provided they are holding the appropriate orbs; unlike Mega Evolution, no command is required, nor is it possible to delay Primal Reversion until a later point in the battle. Again, this process is not reliant on a Digivice, or indeed on any sort of input at all from the human ‘partner;’ it’s something they do on their own. The explicit difference presented to us by the games is that Mega Evolution is fuelled by the bond between trainer and Pokémon, while Primal Reversion is fuelled by energy drawn from the world itself. It also tends to be described as Groudon and Kyogre ‘regaining’ their true, original forms, suggesting that the forms we know from generation III are diminished, altered states that they have had to adopt in order to deal with the less energised world they now live in, not unlike the way Giratina’s ‘altered’ form allows it to exist in the ‘real’ world. When Zinnia describes the Primal Age, the time when the people of Hoenn lived in fear of Kyogre and Groudon, she says that the world was then filled with natural energy, which the two primal Pokémon fought over – energy which seems to have ebbed in subsequent ages, apparently because it tends to pool in locations like the Cave of Origin. Defeating Groudon or Kyogre in the Cave of Origin releases that energy and revitalises all of Hoenn, allowing the ecosystem to support Pokémon that haven’t been seen there in millennia (but who apparently did live there once). Based on this, I believe two important things: 1) that Groudon and Kyogre actually had a vital role in the ecology of the Primal Age which Zinnia’s people never understood, causing natural energy to circulate rather than stagnating and thus allowing Hoenn to support far more life than it could in subsequent eras, and 2) that this ‘natural energy’ is actually the same ‘life force’-type stuff that we’ve been dealing with all along; it’s just that Kyogre and Groudon have a unique ability to absorb it from the world around them and can manipulate it in ways that other Pokémon can’t, including being able to ‘Mega Evolve,’ effectively, without the help of a Key Stone.
Now… let’s see if we can’t tie this all together with some especially virtuoso nonsense on my part…
One of my current pet ideas holds that Pokémon and all their ludicrous abilities are able to function as organisms because they’re adapted to extremely high-energy environments (compared to the real world, that is), and that animals other than Pokémon, including the ancestors of modern humans, are able to survive and compete because our own metabolic needs are almost ridiculously frugal by comparison. Another of my current pet ideas suggests that no Pokémon have more than three evolutionary levels because reaching a fourth stage would be such a rare occurrence that possessing genes for one would confer no selective advantage. Maybe though, in a world overflowing with life energy – creatures are born more often and live longer, all food is more nutritious, disease is less crippling – Pokémon would be able to develop their powers to a greater extent than they can today, perhaps even evolving more quickly. Now, if we were to try putting two and two together and coming up with five for a moment, might Mega Evolution have originally been something that Pokémon were able to do on their own, using the boundless life energy of the Primal Age? Modern Pokémon have lost the ability, because under normal circumstances they would simply never be able to use it, and ‘use it or lose it’ is something of a rule in Darwinian evolution. Two thousand years is almost certainly too little time for those forms to vanish from the genome completely, especially for long-lived Pokémon like Blastoise (for whom two thousand years might only be three generations or so), but it’s probably enough time to lose the regulatory genes that activate them, so that it takes the echo preserved in the Mega Stone to remind their physiology of what it’s theoretically capable of. Even then, they can only find the energy to do it with the help of the uniquely human ability to amplify a Pokémon’s strength (which raises a further question – is that something humans could once do without a Key Stone?).
Now we just need to deal with the exception to all the rules: Rayquaza. Rayquaza doesn’t need a Mega Stone because it just eats meteorites in the atmosphere, and as such there is no ‘Rayquazite,’ no Mega Stone specific to Rayquaza (which makes sense, if my previous speculation about how Mega Stones are formed is correct – at Mount Chimney, Archie mentions being able to turn the meteorite he got from Professor Cozmo into “maybe a Mega Stone, or maybe… even a Key Stone,” which might imply that it, along with the other meteorites Rayquaza feeds on, is still in a raw, undifferentiated state until Rayquaza consumes it). Not just any meteorite will do, because apparently it hasn’t had any in the last thousand years – it’s only this particular once-every-thousand-years meteor shower that does the job, and repeated use over several centuries has drained the ones Rayquaza ate last time. Back then, presumably, it was able to Mega Evolve because the shower had already happened and it was newly ‘charged up;’ Zinnia’s problem was that she had to pre-empt the present shower. Not only does Rayquaza not need a Mega Stone, it doesn’t need a trainer either – when it Mega Evolved for the first time, one thousand years ago, the catalyst for that was the prayers of the entire Draconid tribe and their wish for salvation. The faith they placed in Rayquaza then was every bit as effective as the faith trainers place in their own Pokémon today, although for them it seems to have been more of a religious experience. That’s all straightforward enough. Feeding on magic meteorites even makes a sort of sense for Rayquaza – living in the upper atmosphere as it does, it’s just a ridiculously specialised organism. There are no plants or other animals to eat up there, and I never really bought the original games’ line that it survives entirely on water and “particles in the atmosphere.” Rayquaza has to consume these incredibly powerful sources of life energy because there’s literally nothing else in its habitat, and it doesn’t even get to feed often. Because of this, it uses those energy sources somewhat differently to the way other Pokémon do; most of the time it needs the power of the meteorites just to sustain the way it lives normally. The poor thing may well have been on its last legs (um… figuratively speaking) when Zinnia summoned it at the Dragonhark Altar. Mega Evolution only comes into the picture in times of absolute and dire necessity, since Rayquaza’s Mega form is just so much more powerful than… well, anything else in the known universe. It probably can Mega Evolve without the assistance of humans or a Key Stone – as I suspect other Pokémon once could as well – but it won’t unless there’s absolutely no choice, because that would consume energy it will need for the centuries that might pass before it finds another suitable meteor storm.
…hmm. Well, I suppose that just about wraps it up… I mean, I was also planning to talk about how Mega Evolution affects gameplay and what it does to the format Game Freak has to work within to tell stories, because I think in some ways it’s actually rather problematic in that regard, but to be honest that all feels like it would be rather frightfully prosaic in comparison to that intense speculative stuff we just had about the nature of life and evolution in the Pokémon universe. Let’s, um… let’s maybe just leave it for now, shall we? I think I’ve spent quite enough on this for one week.
Pokémon are, almost by definition, creatures with incredible abilities, often ones which exceed the boundaries of what we believe to be possible. Normally I like to make a fuss of the aspects of the Pokémon world that have nothing to do with the powers, like history and ethics and society and culture and all the rest, but let’s face it, I’m at least partly in it for the thrill of having a flying murder-dragon with four different kinds of exploding death lasers. What you can do and what you can’t is fundamentally a part of who you are, and what Pokémon can and can’t do is expressed in the games through their stats, their abilities, and in perhaps the greatest variety through their moves. I like to say that Pokémon “should be good at the things they’re good at” – that is, they should possess the skills we would expect them to, based on their designs, and those skills should in turn contribute to the way we see them and use them. Mechanics and flavour should work together – well, at least that’s what I think. Let’s talk about how that works (or fails to).
As of the release of X and Y, there are 609 moves in the Pokémon games: 609 effects which are available in various combinations to different species. Some are basic, and others are complicated. Some are effective in a wide variety of situations, others require a great deal of forethought to be useful at all (with varying degrees of payoff). Some are powerful, others are weak. Some are available to many Pokémon, or to almost all of them, others to only one or two. All of them say something about the Pokémon capable of using them – and that includes the ones that would never see any use competitively, or even in a normal playthrough! Let’s take as our first example the unanimously agreed worst move of all: Splash, which has no effect whatsoever, and is useful only in the most contrived of situations (say, if your opponent is trying to stall you down to Struggle, and Splash’s 40 PP allow you to sit on your butt for longer without running out of moves, or something). For all that, only a handful of Pokémon are actually able to learn this non-technique; indeed in Red and Blue it was unique to Magikarp, hailed in-universe as the weakest Pokémon of all – the only one so pathetic it had a move that allowed it to flop around doing absolutely nothing. Since then the move has been bestowed (either as a level-up move or a hereditary one) upon Poliwag, Horsea, Hoppip, Cleffa, Delibird, Azurill, Wailmer, Spoink, Feebas, Wynaut, Luvdisc, Buneary, Finneon, Mantyke and Clauncher. What is the common thread with these Pokémon? Like Magikarp, some of them are portrayed as being particularly helpless, like Poliwag, who can barely walk on land, Hoppip, at the mercy of the breeze, Wynaut, whose evolved form is unable to take spontaneous action, or Spoink, whose heart actually stops if he doesn’t continually keep bouncing around uselessly. Most of them are on the cute end of the spectrum as well, adding to the impression of vulnerability. The enduring message is that these are Pokémon who require particular nurturing and attention in order to grow and succeed (although they won’t necessarily be helpless forever – Gyarados certainly proves that, as does Kingdra). One of these things is not like the others, though – what’s Clauncher doing on this list? To me, the fact that Clauncher starts with Splash conveys a certain weakness that would not otherwise be immediately apparent from his design – and it’s not entirely inappropriate, since he isn’t exactly a physically imposing Pokémon. I would also suggest a link with the fact that Clauncher is incapable of learning many of Clawitzer’s most powerful attacks, like Dark Pulse and Aura Sphere; more than most Pokémon, he has a lot of growing to do, and is especially vulnerable in his infancy.
X and Y added a lot of moves with very specific uses; in particular, there are a number of support moves which seem like they would only be useful in a triple battle, and only then with a fair amount of planning. Take Rototiller, for instance, which raises the attack and special attack of all Grass Pokémon in battle. To begin with, only two Grass Pokémon – Paras and Cacnea – are capable of learning this move (and even them by chain-breeding via Buneary), so for most Pokémon it can only be useful in a double battle. Even then, a Rototiller boost is functionally equivalent to the boost provided by Growth… which, y’know, most Grass Pokémon can learn… so really in order to get the proper bang for your buck you want to set things up in a triple battle so that two Grass Pokémon at once are getting the bonus. As contrived a situation as it takes to make Rototiller useful (and believe me, as a card-carrying Grass Pokémon Master, my next project is to contrive the heck out of it for a Battle Maison triples team), as a move that expands what we know about the Pokémon who learn it, it’s solid gold, because it conveys the ecological function that the Pokémon who possess it – Sandshrew, Dugtrio, Onix, Rhyhorn, Linoone, Bibarel, Lopunny, Watchog, Excadrill, Dwebble and Diggersby – have in aerating soil and helping plants grow. In the case of Dugtrio and Excadrill, we knew that already, but for the others it’s neat new information (although one does wonder how important a desert Pokémon like Sandshrew would be in that capacity). For a Pokémon like Rhyhorn, who doesn’t really dig tunnels habitually, it even prompts me to imagine early human farmers hitching up their first rudimentary ploughs to domesticated Rhyhorn. Another bizarre little trick is Vivillon’s signature move, Powder, a priority attack that causes a Pokémon to explode and take damage if it tries to use a Fire attack during that turn. There are numerous disadvantages here – 1) you have to predict an incoming Fire attack, 2) it’s unlikely to work more than once in a battle, especially given that Vivillon’s defences are so bad it doesn’t really take a super-effective attack to bring her down, and 3) it requires you to actually use Vivillon in the first place. On the other hand, I feel like all that is totally worth it to see an attack backfire in such a spectacular fashion, and it does establish Vivillon as a clever, tricky Pokémon who will take no $#!t from anyone. Probably my single favourite ‘WTF’ attack in X and Y is Ion Deluge, another priority technique which turns all Normal attacks used that turn into Electric attacks. Again, it seems like this could only be useful in double or triple battles, because although most of the Pokémon that learn it do have some kind of ability that lets them absorb Electric attacks, you still have to predict an incoming Normal attack, and even then the benefit you get is not huge. Even in doubles or triples, I have difficulty imagining a situation (let alone thinking of a reliable way to set one up) where it would not be equally useful just to… y’know… use an Electric attack, something all Pokémon with Ion Deluge can do. I’m not sure what kind of ‘characterisation’ Ion Deluge is supposed to create either, which is a shame.
Other times, we get Pokémon whose techniques conspicuously fail to express what they’re supposedly all about. My favourite example is probably Gigalith, whose ‘thing’ is his ability to store, magnify and direct solar energy using the crystals on his body, creating devastating blast attacks that can destroy mountains. Great, except that Gigalith needs a TM to learn Solar Beam, and has a very discouraging special attack stat to back it up. Drowzee and Hypno, famously, still require human intervention to learn Dream Eater after all these years, despite the fact that eating dreams is literally how they survive. In Red and Blue this almost made sense because the Dream Eater TM could only be used by Hypno, Gengar and Mew anyway, so it was sort of an unlockable signature move like Softboiled (which no Pokémon learned on its own, but could be taught to Chansey with TM 41). Now, though, there are literally hundreds of Pokémon, including some who can’t even induce sleep like Ambipom, Lickilicky and Aurorus, who are just as good at eating dreams as the dream-eater Pokémon themselves. Just as strange is Sceptile, introduced in the last generation before moves started to be assigned “physical” or “special” individually rather than by type. By now, Game Freak had gotten the hang of the way their own system worked. Sceptile seems like a physical Pokémon but, like poor Feraligatr, all his best flavour-appropriate attacks – Leaf Blade, Dragon Claw and Crunch – were special, so they made Sceptile a special attacker. Things became very weird when Diamond and Pearl rolled around, though; all Sceptile’s favourite moves were suddenly keyed to the wrong stat. As a result, he now favours Dragon Pulse, Focus Blast and Leaf Storm, and is actually quite bad at using his own signature move. Would it not have made more sense if, when Sceptile’s entire movepool flipped from special to physical, he had flipped with it? A happier example is Lickitung, whose key characteristic is his enormous tongue. The obvious problem with Lickitung, in the mad old days of Red and Blue, was that he couldn’t actually learn Lick. The interesting problem was that although he got Lick in Gold and Silver, it was much longer before he gained effective attacks that could be visualised as using his tongue. Slam was his mainstay from the beginning, but Slam is terrible. Wrap, which he got in Gold and Silver, is scarcely worth mentioning. Knock Off in Ruby and Sapphire was an improvement, but it was really Diamond and Pearl that gave Lickitung and Lickilicky properly useful attacks that fit the way we’re supposed to imagine them fighting: Power Whip and Wring Out, which relatively few other Pokémon learn. They’re not the best attacks around, but both can argue for a place on a serious moveset, and they provide a good example of updating an old Pokémon in an appropriate and interesting way.
Then there are attacks that everything learns, or almost everything, at any rate: Hyper Beam, the ultimate expression of a fully-evolved Pokémon’s might, Protect, the standard “no” technique, and Hidden Power, whose universal availability hints at a kind of soul energy that can be drawn upon by all living things. There are also things which are… harder to explain or justify. All Pokémon can learn Toxic. What? I’ve actually been asked to explain this before, and settled on the idea that since Toxic is supposed to be a ninja technique – that is, a human technique – it probably uses principles that are accessible to humans, and to all Pokémon. Pokémon who’ve been taught Toxic can recognise, collect, store, and use poisonous substances that they might not actually be able to secrete on their own. A bit unfortunate, perhaps, for the poor Poison-types, who have to live down the fact that their most powerful ability is available to nearly every Pokémon in existence, but at least X and Y threw them a bone by giving Toxic perfect accuracy when used by a Poison Pokémon. It gets worse, though; most Pokémon can create illusionary duplicates of themselves, with varying degrees of substance – almost all can learn Double Team and Substitute. Weather manipulation, too, is shockingly common; Sunny Day and Rain Dance are normally denied only to Pokémon who would specifically be disadvantaged by them in some way. I have to imagine that, in all but a few cases, these techniques are more like prayers (to Groudon or Kyogre?) than actual exercises of a Pokémon’s own powers – think of the connotations that the phrase “rain dance” has in English, and the fact that Rain Dance’s Japanese name, Amagoi, refers to a prayer for rain – while the rarer and seemingly effortless Drought and Drizzle abilities imply a real connection with the weather on some level.
Other moves available by TM are not quite so universal, but in general they are still far more often seen than most Pokémon techniques. Many of these are go-to attacks for competitive movesets – staples like Thunderbolt, Ice Beam, and Surf. Being so widely available means that these moves don’t tell us all that much about the specific Pokémon who learn them, but their prominence in strategy means that they contribute something to how the types themselves are portrayed. When we think of the Ground type, for instance, we don’t just think of Ground-type Pokémon – we think of the ubiquitous Earthquake, one of the best physical attacks in the game. When we think of Fire, we think of Flamethrower, but also of Fire Blast, which, being more accurate than Thunder or Blizzard and often a better choice than Flamethrower, is much more likely to come to mind than its Ice or Electric equivalents, so that Fire becomes a type associated with overwhelming power (Overheat only adds to the effect – Grass has an equivalent attack, Leaf Storm, but very few Pokémon can learn it, while Overheat is widely available). The closest thing Psychic has to a go-to physical attack isn’t a physical attack at all, but a special attack which hits the target’s physical defence, Psyshock, thus reinforcing the typical view that Psychic types do not rely on their bodily strength. Conversely, Rock has no common special attack at all. The popularity of U-Turn and Volt Switch, accessible to many Pokémon through TMs, links Bug and Electric with speed, cleverness and changeability. Sometimes I am concerned that the steady proliferation of techniques with every generation will eventually erode the differences between the types completely; we’re moving steadily closer to a situation where every type has both a physical and a special attack with a power rating of 80-90 and 100% accuracy, which would rather be throwing the baby out with the bathwater as far as establishing balance. On the other hand, if only a few Pokémon get to flout the stereotypes of their elements – like Lucario and Beartic do, like Gigalith could have – then what we’re really getting is opportunities for specific Pokémon to be awesome in specific ways, which is the primary virtue that should be kept in mind here.
Finally, since we’re talking about TMs, we inevitably come to my pet hate, a move that not everything can learn, by any stretch of the imagination, but available to a truly bizarre selection of Pokémon who seem as though they should have no business learning it: Aerial Ace. I offer first the usual disclaimer: I know Aerial Ace in Japanese is called “Turning Swallow Cut” and is named after an old katana technique. Fine. I have no problem with this move being available to Pokémon who can’t fly. However. The move’s description implies that it involves great speed and agility, which is why it never misses. Also, it’s a Flying-type move and the Pokémon who learn it on their own are mostly birds, continuing that theme (the exceptions being Heracross, who can fly, Honedge, who is a living sword, and Gogoat, who… um… yeah, I got nothing). And indeed, many of the Pokémon who learn it out of TM 40, as well as favouring cutting or slashing attacks, possess either great speed or flight… but then there’s Slaking. Bouffalant. Tyranitar. Shelgon. Ferrothorn. Mr. Mime. Crustle. Aggron. Regigigas, of all things.
And, of course, my favourite: Slowbro, but not Slowking.
Mechanically, very little separates Slowbro and Slowking. Slowking’s special defence is higher, and he can learn Nasty Plot, Swagger, Power Gem, Quash, and Dragon Tail. Slowbro’s defence is higher, and he can learn (in addition to a few moves that Slowking could get as a Slowpoke by delaying his evolution) Aerial Ace. That’s the one move Slowbro has that Slowking can’t mimic. Think about this in the context of everything else I’ve talked about in this over-long entry, and it all adds up to one thing.
Someone over there has a very strange sense of humour.
So. How ‘bout that new element, huh?
When Nintendo announced that there would be an eighteenth type in Generation VI, I was one of the Pokémon fans who were neither excited and joyful about it nor annoyed and upset (there are, at the last count, seventeen of us in the world, one of whom is quite old and could die any minute). Before X and Y were announced people used to ask me sometimes what new type I would add if I could, expecting that of course I would add one or more if I had the chance, and naturally I was difficult with them because I enjoy being difficult, and I was minimalist because I enjoy being minimalist, and I would say “well, actually, there’s one or two that could stand to be taken out…” and if pressed I would babble a bit about having a ‘Holy’ type or some such, although my heart wasn’t exactly in it. It’s not that I disliked the idea; I just had a different view of how to do the things that a new type would do. A new type means rebalancing the type chart – well, you can fiddle with the relationships of the existing types without adding new ones (though people might feel cheated by that). A new type means new design opportunities – but really, what gaps were there in the existing set? A new type means a new class of Pokémon, linking species that were previously disparate – is that good or bad? In short, having a Fairy-type does all sorts of things that I probably would have chosen to do without it, but they’re done now, and Dragon and Steel no longer rule the universe, and there are probably lots of different new Pokémon that will happen now who wouldn’t have happened before, so let’s see what we can come up with to say about these critters.
Game Freak have rebalanced the type chart before, of course; they added Dark and Steel, way back when, because they wanted to break the stranglehold of the Psychic-types over the world of Red and Blue (apologies if this next part bores you; some of us old f%$#wits, of course, remember what Psychic-types were like in Red and Blue, but not everyone was there, so shut up and let them listen). With their attacks resisted only by other Psychic Pokémon, vulnerable only to the pathetic Leech Life, Pin Missile and Twineedle, immune to Ghost attacks (i.e. Lick – Night Shade worked, but dealt static damage anyway) because of a mistake in the type chart, and thereby dominating over the poor Ghost/Poison Pokémon who were somehow supposed to counter them, Psychic was hands-down the best element in the game. The addition of Pokémon who actually resisted their attacks changed all of that, and Psychic-types are now better known for supporting roles than for the devastating special attacker positions they tended to occupy in the first generation. The fourth and fifth generations had a somewhat different situation going on: there were two types ruling the roost the way Psychic Pokémon once had – Dragon, because they had some of the most powerful attacks that could be relied upon (notably Outrage and Draco Meteor) and could only be resisted by one other element, and Steel, because they were that element (and also because they resisted literally two thirds of the type chart). Thus we have Fairy Pokémon. Fairy Pokémon, as I’m sure you’re all aware by now, are completely immune to Dragon attacks. This spells disaster for Outrage, because it locks the user into using the same move again for two or three turns, it spells disaster for Dragons with Choice items, which have a similar effect and remain among the most popular ways of getting the biggest bang for your buck, and even Dragons who use neither are none too happy. They now find themselves in a similar position to that Psychic Pokémon did in Gold and Silver, though admittedly not quite as serious: their near-perfect neutral coverage is now blemished, forcing them to confront the fact that, actually, their attacks hit for super-effective damage against very little (only other Dragon types, in fact). Lesser Dragon-types like Druddigon and Altaria are going to be feeling that one for a while, but Pokémon like Dragonite and Hydreigon still enjoy the advantage of… y’know, being Dragonite and Hydreigon, with the attendant versatility, power and all-around magnificence, so they can come through just about anything smelling of roses, but now that the most terrifying thing about them can be wished away with the wave of a magic wand, their lives are going to get a lot more… interesting.
An aside on how the other types feel about all this, purely because it’s the only chance I’ll have to talk about that (and throughout all this, it’s also good to remember that the availability of Dazzling Gleam via TM adds a completely new trick to the repertoires of a lot of Pokémon who can now stand up to Dragon-types). Steel-types didn’t come through the changes entirely unscathed – they lost two of their resistances, to Dark and Ghost, which is important because there were so few types that did even neutral damage to Steel before, much less super-effective, that many Pokémon found they were utterly incapable even of learning anything Steel-types didn’t resist, through no fault of their own. Steel also got a huge bonus, though – they’re one of the two elements that can hit hard against Fairy Pokémon (the other being Poison, which desperately needed the boost), a benefit which also comes with another bloody resistance, so honestly I think they probably win as much as they lose here. I just want to point out, at this juncture, that no other type in the game has more than six resistances (the runner up, surprisingly, is Fire; Poison has five, and none of the others exceeds four). Steel has ten, plus Poison immunity. Just saying. Meanwhile, Fighting loses out by being one of the elements resisted by Fairy-types, but I’m pretty sure they can take it; a lot of things resist Fighting attacks, but almost as many are weak against them. For some reason, Game Freak also felt that Bug needed to suffer in the same way, which seems kind of unfair, given how awful an element Bug was already, but maybe they thought that Grass was feeling lonely being the only type resisted by seven others. What I seem to be getting at is that I don’t think the type chart is now ‘fixed’ by any stretch of the imagination and that more aggressive changes would not have hurt, but this isn’t really what I’m supposed to be talking about. Back to Fairies.
Most of the ways Fairy Pokémon interact with the other types make some sort of thematic sense. The overpowering advantage against Dragon-types is controversial, but, well, what do dragons do in fairytales? “Get slain,” seems to be the pattern. Rarely does one find a terrible fire-breathing damsel who must be slain in order to rescue the pure and virtuous dragon, though I’m sure it would make a good story. The posture of abject surrender which they adopt when facing Steel-types, likewise, makes sense – it is well-attested in European folklore that creatures of the Fey are repelled by cold iron (often any metal will do, but cold iron – iron forged by pure bludgeoning force, without the application of heat – seems to get the most consistent results). Fire, similarly, is universally known for its ability to repel magical threats, while Fighting-types stand little chance against Fairies for much the same reason as they are defeated by Ghost- and Psychic-types; all the martial skill in the world just doesn’t help much against magic. The remainder are trickier. Fairies beat Dark-types, I suspect, by virtue of being associated with goodness and purity, where Dark Pokémon are connected with treachery and outright evil. Weakness to Poison was obviously necessary for balance reasons but thematically, as far as I can tell, it’s probably something about purity and corruption, perhaps mixed with the idea that Fairies, being otherworldly and having their origins in a place without sickness or disease, are particularly vulnerable to these earthly difficulties. I’m afraid on Bug they’ve lost me, which is doubly infuriating because resistance to Bug is probably the one thing about the Fairy-type that makes me wonder, from a purely mechanical perspective, just what on earth they were thinking. Maybe because traditional fairies often have the ability to control insects, as mounts and the like…? I’m not sure I buy it. Honestly, the reverse, much more kindly to the poor Bug-types, could have been easily justified: fairies react to bugs with a girlish shriek in the tradition of Misty. While I’m on the subject of unfairness, I also think this would have been a wonderful opportunity to give the downtrodden Normal-types some love by making them strong against Fairy Pokémon, on the grounds that they are normal, firmly rooted in the real world, and don’t care so much about magic (which I think is the same reason they’re immune to Ghost attacks) – but no; no-one cares about Normal-types. Anyway, the sense we get here, overall, is that the type relationships of Fairy Pokémon mark them out as being representative of fairytale goodness in general, and all things bright and beautiful – although their relationships with Steel- and Fire-types might hint at a connection to older folklore in which fairies, elves and the like, while enchanting and beautiful, are also dangerous.
Before the Victorian authors (and to a lesser extent Shakespeare, most notably in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) got to them, fairies in European folklore were a curious mix of old Celtic nature gods and Christian ideas about demons. Even more recent characters like J.M. Barrie’s Tinkerbell, who can be jealous, spiteful and possessive, don’t entirely leave this behind. They’re not necessarily malevolent, but they come from a place where humans really don’t belong and can easily get lost. They play tricks, they lie, cheat and steal, they dispense good luck and bad on a whim. They steal children and raise them as fey, leaving stunted, dumb Changelings in their place. They’re known to kidnap adults too at times, which can be great until they quite innocently forget that humans need to eat, or just don’t realize that we age. Terry Pratchett said it best:
“Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder. Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels. Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. Elves are terrific. They beget terror. The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning. No one ever said elves are nice. Elves are bad.”
The kinds of Pokémon who have been awarded the Fairy-type so far seem to bear out a more standard ‘fairytale’ interpretation – I mean, really, how much more saccharine can you get than a literal sentient ball of candyfloss? Like Puck or Tinkerbell, there are some mischievous ones in the bunch, like the famously unpredictable Clefairy or the cheeky Whimsicott, but mixed in with sweetness-and-light Togekiss, and loyal, pure Gardevoir. Perhaps the only one who hints at the really dark side of the fey is Mawile, based on a treacherous Japanese monster. In fairness, though, when we start getting further into that style of fairy, there’d be a lot of overlap with Dark in terms of what the type means… which brings me to the next question: does the Fairy type blaze such new ground that we needed it to accommodate new designs?
Jim the Editor is adamant that there are no Pokémon in X and Y or anywhere else that actually need a new type in order to express what they can do, and that there is no reason any hypothetical Fairy Pokémon you care to come up with would not be equally well served by some combination of Normal, Psychic, Dark and possibly Grass. Ultimately there aren’t that many to account for because, of course, most of the Fairy-types that exist now are Pokémon who already had types or type combinations that served them well enough. All we’re left to deal with are Flabébé and co. (Grass or Grass/Psychic), Aromatisse, Slurpuff and their associated spawn (and honestly, Normal has so much in it already that stuffing in perfume and candyfloss as well would hardly hurt it), Dedenne (who is just Pikachu again for the fifth time; face it), Carbink and Diancie, whatever their relationship is (pure Rock would work, actually, since Power Gem has established that gems and crystals fall under Rock, but Rock/Psychic would surely be fine too), Klefki (Steel/Psychic), Xerneas (why not Psychic, really?), and Sylveon, who was the first hint anyone got that there would be a new type – but be honest, if not for the fact that a Normal-type Eevee evolution would have been weird, is there anything about Sylveon that would have said to you “no; can’t be a Normal Pokémon”? If all those other Pokémon had been part of the pre-release hype and Sylveon had been kept hidden, would you really have thought to yourself “gotta be a new type there”? Perhaps the existence of the Fairy-type will stimulate the creation of more folklore-based Pokémon, who are often among my favourites. On the other, perhaps it will only give us more pink fuzzballs. I am uncertain.
The other question I’m left with is why certain other Pokémon are not Fairy-types, because I’ve always found that an equally useful way of thinking about what a type means and where its unity comes from. Why isn’t Chansey a Fairy-type (aside from the fact that no-one wants Blissey running around with Dragon immunity)? What do Wigglytuff and Azumarill have that she doesn’t? Why should Gallade have remained Psychic/Fighting rather than switching to Fairy/Fighting? Doesn’t his ‘chivalry’ thing fit right in with the fairytale theme, and isn’t it arguably more important than “I have MIND SWORDS”? Personally, I also would have loved to see Snorunt and Glalie become Ice/Fairy, because they’re straight out of Japanese folklore just like Mawile, and because I’m fond of malevolent fairies. Jim the Editor wants Tangela to be Grass/Fairy, because of its deceptive and tricky nature, Milotic to be Water/Fairy, because of her aura of serenity (and what’s more ‘fairytale’ than a magical lake with a beautiful fairy guardian?), and Rapidash to be Fire/Fairy, because… y’know, unicorn (although admittedly Rapidash lacks the purity-and-magic ideas associated with the unicorns of folklore and is more about fire and horsiness). This might be a good place to return to Dragon-types, because Dragon is an element that is similarly difficult to pin down, for similar reasons – both are subsets of “Pokémon inspired by folklore,” and both represent a particular kind of creature with representatives of one sort or another in multiple cultures, ensuring that the names evoke a wide range of different ideas in the real world, and as a result, both have lines that are very difficult to draw. I’m not sure anyone knows what a Dragon-type is anymore, living as we are in a world where Altaria and Dragalge are Dragons while Gyarados and Charizard are not. The fact that there are Dragon and Fairy breeding groups, which overlap with their namesake types, but not exactly, makes life even more confusing. Probably the best we can hope for is some vague thematic statement: both are magical creatures (more magical than most Pokémon, that is) with powers that place them above mere mortal concerns, Dragons being generally monstrous in nature, Fairies generally sweet and kind (or at least appearing to be), and superficially more human-like.
Fairy is hardly the only type with blurred edges – I’ve long contended that Ground melts into Normal on one side and Rock on the other, and I think everyone has one or two retypes they want to see happen. It also isn’t going to create a neat balance between the types, though it’s certainly a valiant effort. It mostly makes sense, but in some ways is very weird. I don’t think it really needed to exist, but since ‘fairy’ Pokémon have been a legitimate classification for a long time now, it sort of makes sense, in a way, that we now finally have Fairy-with-a-capital-F Pokémon. I guess ultimately that puts me right back where I started: it’s not good or bad; it’s just new. One way or another, the game will never be the same again – which is exactly what we really want out of a new generation, isn’t it?
In memory of the recent astonishing victories of Twitch Plays Pokémon, now you too can experience the frustration and insanity of the hit stream on your very own Nintendo 3DS! (If someone with more programming skills than me actually wants to make this into a hacked rom, I will love you forever)
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– Communism – All Pokémon share experience equally, including those in Bill’s PC, you cannot earn money or buy items, and gameplay speed is reduced by 60%. Unlock Communism mode by evolving Eevee into Flareon!
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A gripping psychological plot, focusing on Red’s spiral into insanity as he loses control over his own actions and watches his friends perish!
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So, about five months ago, someone apparently wrote a very angry and disjointed rant in the comments section of one of my old entries (this one, about Plusle, Minun and Pachirisu) which I never actually noticed at the time. I’m not sure what exactly I was busy with five months ago that would have occupied my attention to such a degree, but I tend not to prioritise responding to comments on entries that are almost two years old. I doubt this person ever returned to check for a reply anyway, so it’s no great loss. Also, I honestly think it wasn’t really directed at me (it says, at the beginning, “I wrote this rant a while ago,” but that would imply that this was something the writer had actually put thought into, which is perhaps even worse), and strongly doubt the author actually read the whole entry. I wrote a reply for posterity’s sake, and that would be that, except that Jim the Editor found the original comment so hilarious he convinced me to post it here and rebut it in detail – which, come to think of it, is a good opportunity to reflect upon what I value in Pokémon designs and why, in preparation for when I have to discuss all of the X and Y generation. So, here we go…
I wrote this rant a while ago, I’ll just post it here… :<
I’ll start out by saying that Plusle and Minun are both equally my favorite pokemon! :la: I do love them both for their reasons, though. I’ve seen and heard a lot of people say really bad things about these two, calling them pikachu look-alikes. That’s the first topic I’ll cover.
Face the facts, there will be some sort of electric rodent every generation, and just because Pikachu was the first doesn’t mean every other is copying it.If you dismiss pokemon like that, you’d be being awfully close-minded… :< The electric rodents in these generations look like the rodents they’re based off of, not Pikachu. Pokemon like Pachirisu, Emolga, Pichu and Plusle and Minun is what they call that. Yes, electric rodents have cheek patches that store electricity, it’s not trying to capture that pikachu feel all over again. That’s just how electric rodents work! Plusle and Minun don’t even look all that much like Pikachu, and if you think all of these electric rodents do then you’re sticking with the ‘if it has long ears and cheek patches it’s a pikachu twin’ thing. Honestly, Plusle and Minun, like every other electric rodent besides emolga, have that. Their bodes have different structure than Pikachu! They’re alot more rounded! In fact, they look way more like bunnies than mice!
[This person evidently didn’t realise that Disqus comments can’t deal with html tags, and never bothered to check after posting. Either that or they are stylistic and supposed to add to the amateurish impression of the piece.]
If they were standing up it would be the exact same anatomy! Also, that’s more of why you shouldn’t dismiss them so quickly as lame or useless pokemon and not why I like them so much. These pokemon are what I like to call sister pokemon, that’s what makes them so special! These two were literally made for each other, and still 2 completely different pokemon! I just can’t get over that fact. I love them so much. There is probably only one more pair of pokemon in existence like that(That I don’t know the name of). That’s something very special! Yet there are haters that cling to the fact that they are electric rodents, and try to think that they’re trying to be new pikachus. It’s plus and minus, more like a pikachu town in half into two amazing twinsies! The red and blue scheme they have is even more amazing. I’ve never seen that! These two are opposites whom attract, just like twins. But less on personalities, let’s talk about their design… Red and blue are opposite colors so it goes perfectly, but again, that’s not why I love them the way I do. It’s the whole theme of interspecies teamwork that really makes me love these pokemon. The fact that they work together endlessly in the anime, that they depend on one another and remain loyal and helpful to each other that is natural for them as a species… In the anime, they were depicted this way, and in the games too! I have never seen that theme anywhere, of interspecies teamwork and just the two red and blue pokemon being meant for each other. No other pokemon are like that in all honesty, besides maybe a few that aren’t made so closely the way they are. That whole theme of friendship is just beautiful! These two are insanely adorable too!
I think now I’ll talk about how I feel about the other rodents so you don’t make any assumptions. Even though they don’t have as much of a deep and very special meaning like plusle and minun do, I still love pokemon like that. Marill looks nothing at all like pikachu except the cheek patches.[img]http://imageshack.us/a/img255/4790/pikablu.png[/img]
[img]http://lh4.ggpht.com/-WqUhzv1JbLE/TTSNeSZuNCI/AAAAAAAAAOo/Yd_UG0T6IbA/MINI-troll-face.png[/img] The fact that people even ever thought that proves that this pokemon fandom is prone to judging a pokemon so insanely easily. I also love pichu. Pichu basically is pikachu, stop complaining! Pichu is Pikachu’s unevolved form guys. It’s like complaining that Plusle and Minun looking alike just means one of them shouldn’t exist. [b]NO!![/b]
As you’d guess, because I admire these twinsies for what I do, I really don’t like when people try and combine them two into a single pokemon like Minusle. I hate that!! And when they try to add more like Equalla. [img]http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2011/278/7/a/fake_plusle_minun_additions_by_avenraichuxx0-d4bxktf.png[/img]
[b][i][size=150]^HATE SO MUCH!![/size][/i][/color][/b] That completely removes what I love about them so much, and what separates the pair from any other pokemon out there. It’s proving the bad things they say about these two true… ;u; I suppose they may be weak pokemon, but base stats don’t define pokemon. They define how they do in battle, but not the pokemon. It’s like saying a rather weaker physically compact person is less than someone who’s buff and capable. That’s why I still like pokemon like magikarp and unown. People hate these pokemon for not having strong abilities and basically being useless in battle and games, but that doesn’t make them less or worthless pokemon. They’re still creatures, or at least I think of pokemon like creatures and animals and less like a game mechanic or an object like people who say that do. The ‘less’ pokemon unown has very, very poweful roles in the anime. In one of the first movies they could control time and space… Plusle and Minun also have been in many episodes! Don’t dismiss the two pokemon as nothing but additions to show off the double battle feature, either. Don’t be so close minded!! In the anime they had several episodes that revolved all around them. If you’d dismiss a pokemon with this kind of special theme as just being a novelty pokemon, then that proves again how quick the pokemon fandom can be in shoving pokemon! (In a general sense, not saying that everyone part of the fandom is like that..)
But anyways, that’s why I think plusle and minun are more than just weak when separated. I love them both, even when separated, but perfer them together, not because they’re stronger, but because they’re a [b][i]team[/i][/b].
I’m not finished yet, far from it in fact, so I’ll be adding more about everything I love about plusle and minun later! There’s alot!
Again, this is more for a rant, and just me jotting down why I care about them alot, but feel free to say something in return if you think they shouldn’t be loved… ;w;
Honestly, I love these two like the world…
[Here the author pauses for breath before posting a second comment. In spite of the earlier assertion that “there’s alot” more to add, the second comment is far shorter and contains few new points.]
Also, if you’ve watched any of the many anime shows they actually have been in they fight. ALOT. Really good. With trainer help. .-. Try to know more about pokemon besides their pokedex entries before bashing them around like that, especially plusle and minun…
I’ll also say that pokemon are animals. They’re monsters to us, but they’re basically the animals of their world. There are rodents that are alike… Rats and mice don’t copy off of each other… x3 Just like no pokemon copies off of one another. They’re based off real animals… That should make it clear enough?
You… You just hate everything don’t you? xD If it’s a cute cutie pokemon, you hate it. I’m sorry you think like that. It’s really sad. Maybe you shouldn’t be so angry at so many of the pokemon. It really doesn’t make anyone feel better when you’re mad. And yeah, hate comes from anger, so you’re mad.
Also, if you’re trying to argue these are bad then you’re doing an awful job because I’m no where near convinced. :3 These are all just opinions, and if you’re bash your opinions around like this you should keep them to yourself. These are sweeties that people love and there’s nothing you can do about it! -w-“
Probably the most entertaining part of all this is how long it takes before the author suddenly realises that I am, in fact, a monster who cannot be reasoned with. Everything in that paragraph is, of course, completely true. I instantly despise all cute Pokémon the moment I lay eyes on them and cannot bear the thought of anyone taking pleasure in anything so sickening. This is a serious problem for me in my day-to-day life because, as we know from the words of Jedi Grand Master Yoda, anger leads to hate. I am consumed by boiling rage every minute of every day, which often leads me to lash out against innocent bystanders with whatever brutal improvised weapons I can seize. My friends will attest that this has placed serious strain on my personal relationships, excepting of course those with other sociopaths. Luckily, this comment’s insight has caused me to have an epiphany, and I am finally seeking the psychological help I so badly need to become a functioning memb-
BAHAHAHAHA sorry; I just couldn’t get through that part with a straight face. Why would I try to be a less hateful person when I can just drag everyone else down with me into my bleak, horrible pit of loathing and despair and feed on their tears for the rest of time?
I think the only thing I really, genuinely find offensive about these comments is the seemingly innocuous assertion, near the beginning, that I am dismissing Plusle and Minun. It seems to me that I actually spent a good deal more time thinking and talking about Plusle and Minun for the sake of that article than their valiant defender here did, and offered a number of suggestions for fixing what I, if no-one else, perceived to be problems with them, in spite of my own conviction of their illegitimacy. This is, and I must be blunt here, unequivocally not dismissal. I know what dismissal looks like; it’s what this comment is trying to do to me. However, there are in fact two important and worthwhile points in here, even disguised as they are by the author’s questionable spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, vocabulary and logic. While obviously I disagree with these, I think they represent legitimate concerns about the sort of thing I do when I review Pokémon, and so I would like to draw them out to a more readily comprehensible form and respond to them.
The first, in essence, is an argument that having more electric rodents every generation is not bad. Part of what the writer is saying here seems to be drawn from a delusion that electric rodents are a real-world phenomenon, as expressed here: “Yes, electric rodents have cheek patches that store electricity, it’s not trying to capture that pikachu feel all over again. That’s just how electric rodents work!” The fact that “electric rodent” is even a recognisable trope in Pokémon design at all is due to Pikachu’s success; I don’t think there’s any point trying to deny it, nor do I see any merit in pointing out that Pikachu is a mouse while Plusle and Minun are rabbits when (and I did make a similar point in the original article) Pikachu himself looks as much like a rabbit as a mouse anyway. As I said, though, there is a legitimate point here: the suggestion that having multiple very similar Pokémon is not a bad thing. I believe that it’s lazy and shows an inability to prioritise, but it can be said, fairly, that the real world works like this too – there are many different kinds of mice, and many different kinds of rabbits, and many different kinds of squirrels, and so on and so forth for any other animal you care to name. The electric rodents possess a unique ability to draw my vitriol because they are unsatisfied with simply being based on similar animals and must also have the same elemental powers, the same distinguishing design feature (the cheek pouches), the same general battle strengths, and even similar colour schemes (with the notable exception of Pachirisu). That, quite simply, is recycling an idea because it worked so well the first time. It is, in fact, entirely possible to do Pokémon based on the same animal in very different ways. Take, for instance, Blastoise and Torterra: both tortoises, one a Water-type with literal cannons on his back, the other a Grass-type who draws on the mythological ‘world tortoise’ motif. Try Politoed and Toxicroak: both frogs, one an indolent Water-type with sonic powers related to a frog’s croaking, the other a Fighting-type with poisonous skin like an Amazonian poison arrow frog. Or perhaps Tentacruel and Jellicent? Both jellyfish, both dangerous Water-types, one a vicious marauder, the other a cold, enigmatic stealer of souls. Hopefully I may be excused for thinking that “that’s just how electric rodents work” is an extraordinarily uninspired line of thinking.
Electric rodents are hardly the only class I complain about, though – I also like to bitch about the Normal-type rodents, the generic birds, and really anything else that I see as derivative of an earlier design. I’ll have more to say on this when I talk about Diggersby and Talonflame, but my general stance is this: why, when you already have multiple Pokémon which are based on small, common birds and have wind powers, would you add another Pokémon which is based on a small, common bird and has wind powers when you could instead add, say, a Pokémon based on a cassowary that has earth powers, or a Pokémon based on a hummingbird that has electric powers, or a Pokémon based on a quetzal that has plant powers, or any other permutation of the many very different and quirky kinds of bird out there that Pokémon has never covered? The world has lots of animals that are similar, sure, but it also has lots of animals that are completely different, and one of Pokémon’s great strengths is in its capacity to capture that variety. But hey, why spend time and effort playing to that strength when you can just rehash the same idea every generation?
Before we get to the author’s second worthwhile point, I need to talk about some of the nonsense in here first, as well as some things that (apparently unbeknownst to this person who, again, probably did not read the original article) I actually agree with. The suggestion that Plusle and Minun have an interesting design focus in the theme of teamwork and co-operation, for instance, is entirely fair (most of my ideas for potential evolutions of Plusle and Minun are based heavily on this idea). The comment that “I have never seen that theme anywhere, of interspecies teamwork” on the other hand, is astonishingly oblivious because interspecies teamwork is a central theme of the entire Pokémon franchise. Furthermore, Plusle and Minun aren’t even a very good example of it, as it’s sort of questionable whether we are meant to understand them as being different species – personally, I wouldn’t, but then Pokémon has always been extremely hazy on what constitutes a “species” (I’m pretty sure in Pokémon a juvenile and an adult are considered different species, which is a little weird) so I suppose that one can slip by. There also seems to be a very insistent belief in there that Plusle and Minun are unique in being ‘paired’ Pokémon designed to complement each other – in that respect they are, of course, not even unique within their own generation (Volbeat and Illumise, anyone?). The similarly oblivious “the red and blue scheme they have is even more amazing. I’ve never seen that!” is even more bizarre, since red and blue are extremely common colours for ‘opposite’ characters, as we can in fact see in Throh and Sawk, and are even standard colours in science textbooks for illustrating the poles of magnets, which is precisely why they appear in Plusle and Minun’s colour scheme. The irritation at people who try to add extra members to the Plusle/Minun family, like Dividi, Multiko and Equala, I can get behind (although notice I say “irritation,” and not “[b][i][size=150]^HATE SO MUCH!![/size][/i][/color][/b]” – after all, no internet argument is complete without a dash of hypocrisy), because it misinterprets the + and – signs in their designs as mathematical operators when they in fact represent electric charge (appropriately, for Electric-types) – although I wonder whether similar spleen would be justified against, say, Neutri here, who is based on charge neutrality.
The other really interesting idea in here (there are two lines of argument, but I think they’re closely related), is that being weak doesn’t make a Pokémon bad, and that you can see in the anime how powerful Plusle and Minun really are. Fair enough. I agree completely. That doesn’t excuse the fact that they’re terrible in the games. Another central theme of Pokémon is that all Pokémon can be powerful, in their own way, if trained with love and care. The fact that this isn’t actually true is a failure of the way the games work, not of the individual Pokémon themselves. The set of weaknesses, resistances, attacks, abilities and stats a Pokémon has are an expression of what that Pokémon is about (something I want to talk about in more detail in another upcoming article), just like its art, its Pokédex entries, and its anime characterisation. If a Pokémon like Bibarel were actually, say, a Ninjask-fast special attacker with electrical powers and access to Hi-Jump Kick, that would be a failure of the game mechanics to express what Bibarel is about (even if the result were actually very powerful!). To take a real example, when Darmanitan is given an ability which expresses the unique nature of the powers described by his design but is ultimately inferior to his more standard options and actually detrimental in the vast majority of cases, that is a failure of the game mechanics to express what Darmanitan is about. When a Pokémon like Plusle or Minun has appalling stats, a unique but incredibly situational ability and a narrow movepool, to the extent that it can’t actually do anything useful, that too is a failure of the game mechanics to express what Plusle and Minun are about – more specifically, they’re about teamwork, particularly in double battles, but there are dozens of Pokémon who do teamwork better in both double and single battle contexts (Pokémon with weather-influencing abilities, for example). This is the whole reason I spent a chunk of every “Top Ten Worst Pokémon Ever” entry trying to come up with ways to make them mechanically better while still expressing what those Pokémon were supposed to be good at. It’s not their fault they’re bad (they’re fictional beings who had no hand in their own creation); it’s the game’s fault – but where we locate the blame doesn’t stop it from being true, or from being a problem.
Was this strange individual just trying to troll me? Perhaps. I don’t think so; the flaws in the argumentation seem too bizarre, too random, too haphazard to be intentional and stylistic. However, the internet has produced some trolls of remarkable proficiency in its lifespan, and at the highest levels of skill there is no sure way to tell. Does it really matter though? I feel like I got a lot out of it. I had an odd but invigorating opportunity to talk about design philosophy and why I judge certain Pokémon the way I do, which is kind of important given the next big project looming on my horizons – and I feel pretty good about that.
I don’t feed the trolls. The trolls feed me.
Does everybody know what day it is? That’s right; it’s “Chris educates his readers whether they like it or not” day!
So slavery has come up in discussions in this blog’s question-and-answer section lately – specifically, whether or not the concept of “slavery” necessarily entails lack of consent. My judgement on the subject was that, technically, it doesn’t make a difference – legally owning another intelligent being is still slavery even if the slave is totally okay with it – but that this doesn’t really have much of a bearing on how we think about Pokémon because the idea of consensual slavery is just so unusual in the real world that we aren’t necessarily justified in extrapolating our own beliefs about it. In fact, I couldn’t think of any examples at first – someone brought up slavery laws in ancient Jewish society, which are interesting (take a look at the comment section on that post), but I’m still not convinced that really gives us the comparison we need because slavery in that culture seems to have been intended as a punishment normally (as I currently understand, it basically takes the idea of debt-bondage that exists in a lot of ancient societies and extends that to a wider range of offences), and I don’t think that really qualifies as consent. Anyway, my friend Jim pointed out that I’ve actually been overlooking something in the culture we study, ancient Rome, and suggested I get into the whole idea of slavery in the classical Mediterranean in a bit more detail to provide some context for all of this nonsense, so this is what I’m going to try to do.
I think the difficulty with talking about slavery today is that for a lot of people it tends to get conflated with racism, one of the cardinal sins of progressive modern society, and for Americans in particular it just hits too close to home (it’s not quite as sensitive a subject for New Zealanders since we weren’t officially colonised until 1840, by which time Britain had already outlawed slavery, so we don’t have the same historical baggage). I certainly don’t mean to trivialise the horror of what was inflicted on African slaves in 18th and 19th century America, but I do think that becoming too fixated on a single cultural context for slavery is not particularly helpful when we’re trying to think about how our moral axioms would function in a fantasy world, which is why I want to spend a bit of time talking about a second, very different one. I therefore want to emphasise first that the concept of using a racist ideology as a justification for slavery, as the Confederate States once did, is actually quite unusual in wider history – I’m sure there are other examples, but in many ancient societies it’s just a fact of life that anyone can be enslaved if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. In classical Greece, for example, most city-states legislated to keep their own citizens from being enslaved within their borders (eventually – in the archaic period it was common for debtors to be enslaved when they couldn’t pay up), but didn’t much care about the citizens of other Greek cities. Slaves could be taken in war, or by pirates and bandits, and in the earlier part of Greek history this sort of thing is even regarded as a respectable activity for members of the aristocracy. The Romans were a lot more liberal about sharing their citizenship around than most Greek states were, which notionally protected more people from enslavement, but they were also quite a bit more keen on conquest than the Greeks generally were, and conquest always brought in large numbers of slaves from defeated populations (there’s actually a long and complicated debate running about whether the introduction of massive quantities of slave labour was ultimately the catalyst for the fall of the Republic and rise of the Empire, but I’ll spare you). Under the first few emperors, the Romans did begin introducing laws to ensure humane treatment of slaves, and eventually a class of expert freed slaves became a central component of imperial bureaucracy, but that’s complicated stuff; for the most part, slaves were simply the primary source of manual labour in the ancient Mediterranean. There are some weird ideological beliefs that go along with this, notably the fact that the Romans, traditionally, seem to have regarded working for a wage as demeaning, because it means being dependent on someone else for your day-to-day sustenance, like a slave would be. That’s not to say poorer Romans didn’t do it, but it was definitely regarded as a socially inferior option – for the lower classes, growing your own food as a farmer was regarded as the ideal; for the upper classes, investing most of your money in land and living off rent was seen as the most respectable way to stay wealthy. Traditionally, people have even tended to think that slavery was actually the reason the Romans and Greeks never industrialised (despite having the technology for it – Alexandrian inventors are known to have experimented with primitive steam engines, but used them to build toys!) – there was no real pressure to develop in that way, since they didn’t have a huge need for labour-saving innovations.
The reason I didn’t bring up Roman slavery earlier was that, in the vast majority of cases, slavery in the Roman world is a pretty rotten deal, and not what any sane person would describe as consensual. Most slaves were probably better off than the African slaves on American plantations, but that’s not exactly saying much (and the worst-case scenario for a slave in the Roman world – working in the mines of Syracuse – is basically a death sentence). Many of them could expect to be freed, though probably fewer than 1/3, and even freedmen still had some obligations to their former masters. Depending on their situation, they might receive pocket money or (if they lived in a city) be allowed to run small businesses, but they were still entirely under the thumbs of their masters (that in itself needs some context, though, since Roman society placed an unusual emphasis on the authority of the patriarch as head of the household – a father basically had the same rights over his children as a master over his slaves, and was even allowed to kill them if he chose, though this right was rarely exercised in the historical period). In short, Rome is emphatically not an example of a society where slavery is normally a consensual arrangement… but it does provide two prominent exceptions.
One is the professional gladiator. Most gladiators were prisoners of war or condemned criminals, and some were born into slavery, but a few people choose the arena as a career – which entailed selling oneself into slavery. Gladiators were slaves by definition. Why would anyone do this? Well, people of noble birth wouldn’t – it would bring tremendous shame upon one’s family, which for a high-born Roman is pretty much the worst thing you can possibly do. Even to fight in the arena without becoming a true gladiator, as some of the emperors did, was regarded as a fairly serious offence against one’s own personal dignity (and if the emperor was doing it, the dignity of all Roman citizens by extension). For a lower-class citizen, though, it could be the only practical route to fame and fortune, since Roman society wasn’t exactly progressive in terms of class mobility. Successful gladiators who lasted long enough were paid, and could potentially buy back their own freedom (if they ever felt like it!) – and were also immensely popular with the common people, partly because of the stigma attached to their position by ‘traditional’ codes of civic virtue. It’s not hard to understand how this might be attractive to a few people dissatisfied with lower-class Roman life. It’s also a very interesting comparison for Pokémon, simply because of the nature of what a gladiator is and does.
The other, and perhaps even more curious, example we have in mind is that of the educated Greek slave (I will emphasise, again, that like the professional gladiator this is a very small subset of the Roman slave population). Romans, of course, had absolutely no problem with enslaving Greeks, but unlike slaves from Gaul, or Spain, or Africa or wherever, Greek slaves came from a culture which the Romans regarded as basically equivalent in stature to their own. This was particularly important if the slave in question was educated, high-born, or capable of speaking Latin (imagine a minor French nobleman as a slave in 18th century England). Slaves like these would be wasted on manual labour – instead they were typically used to fill the professions which Roman education did not normally prepare people for. As a result, many teachers and doctors in Rome were in fact well-paid, well-treated and highly respected slaves. An educated Greek who sold himself to an upper-class Roman family in such a capacity could expect not only a sizeable lump sum when he first became a slave, but a generous allowance, free food and board, instant access to the upper echelons of Roman society, an easy way out of any legal difficulties that might arise from being a resident foreigner, and a good chance of ultimately being freed again anyway (which would probably secure Roman citizenship for his children or grandchildren). All in all, a pretty attractive package – whether it’s worth the sacrifice of becoming another person’s legal property is surely a matter of opinion, but there was no shortage of Greek professionals in Rome willing to make the trade. There’s even some evidence for perfectly well-off Greek freedmen selling themselves again (although that’s from the Roman satirist Juvenal, who is a very strange man, so take it with a grain of salt).
Why do I think these examples are important? Well, it shows that from at least some points of view, the idea of being owned by another person is not actually all that horrifying, per se, to the point that some ancient Greeks and Romans even regarded it as a viable career choice. The things that are horrifying about slavery are how easy it is to abuse the power that comes with that, how extensive that abuse can become, and how hard it is to prevent – but, for whatever reason, the Pokémon world does not appear to have these problems (EDIT: or rather, they don’t appear to be systemic – that is, Team Rocket are the exception, not the rule). For me, the real puzzle here is how it manages to escape them, and I think the answer must have its origins in a similar relationship to that of the Greek doctors – a widely-held and strongly-defended ideological stance that Pokémon are in some senses equal to humans, which attaches a major stigma to any conspicuous mistreatment of Pokémon. To wrap up, I still think that calling Pokémon training ‘slavery’ is unjustified because that chains it to a whole slew of connotations that aren’t necessarily inherent in the idea of slavery but tend to go along with it; however, provided we’re careful with our terminology and try to maintain a detached view, I think slavery can produce some very interesting comparanda for our ongoing meditations.
So this image was doing the rounds a little while ago.
It’s a bit compressed by the format of my blog, so here’s a link where you can see it full-sized: http://i.imgur.com/mbPDZ94.jpg
I vaguely recall promising someone I would talk about this at some point, since I agree with some of what it says, but think that other parts are a bit simplistic, and others based on faulty assumptions.
So, basically – obviously enough – this purports to be a ‘family tree’ of sorts, showing the connections between all known legendary Pokémon and the way they relate to each other. The basic concept is more or less sound. I think it’s debatable whether the content of the Pokémon world’s myths can be, or is intended to be, taken as fact – in some places, Game Freak seem to imply that Arceus isn’t actually the creator of the universe, just a very powerful Pokémon who was worshiped as the creator by the people of ancient Sinnoh, while in other places they seem to state quite unequivocally “yes Arceus is god shut up.” I think it’s debatable. Most of what we know about Arceus is in-universe information from the perspective of modern humans, who (as they freely admit) don’t know much about anything. Still, setting that particular debate firmly aside for the moment, since it’s clearly beyond the scope of what this schema aims to deal with anyway… Some of the ideas are interesting, but I take issue with some of the specifics, which I shall discuss herein:
– I am mystified by the author’s choice to connect Latias and Latios with Dialga. I can only assume that this stems from the twins’ species designation – the Eon Pokémon – since an eon is a period of time (an extremely long one). However, they don’t actually have any time-related powers, or any obvious connection with time other than that name. The only convincing explanation I’ve ever seen for the designation “Eon Pokémon” is that it’s a reference to the Gnostic concept of the Aeons, a series of divine beings understood as ’emanations’ of God (this is a… complicated idea that goes back to Neoplatonist movement of the third century AD, and ultimately has its routes in the doctrine of creation put forward by Plato’s Timaeus, where all reality is thought of as an expression of the mind of the creator, but let’s not go there). The fact that they exist as a male/female pair (the defining characteristic of Gnostic Aeons, who are unable to fulfill their proper functions in the absence of their counterparts), along with their Psychic typing, are what makes this theory attractive to me. In short, I don’t think time has anything to do with it, and I don’t think Latias and Latios are directly subordinate to Dialga. In fact, I think it’s really very difficult to say anything about Latias and Latios other than that they are extremely powerful and intelligent Psychic Pokémon, since there are no stories about them. They are explicitly said to be herd animals (even though we never actually see them in herds) and they are especially good at sensing emotion, but that’s about it. I honestly suspect they have no part in the mythology at all. If they do, and if they are intended to recall the Aeons of Gnosticism, they have some very strange implications for the nature of the Pokémon universe since Gnosticism is based around the idea that the creator (i.e. Arceus) is actually imperfect, and that the physical world is a result of the creator’s flawed nature and acts as a barrier to union with the true divine force. The Aeons themselves, however, are above that, which would make Latias and Latios, theoretically, a more pure version of what Arceus is supposed to be. Again, though, in the absence of any firm evidence, I’m hesitant even to give them a place in the cosmology.
– I likewise dispute associating Deoxys with Palkia, since I think this just relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of the word ‘space.’ We often use ‘space’ to refer to everything outside of our own planet, which I think is the sense being employed here – Deoxys is believed to be an alien life form, so must therefore fall under the domain of the ruler of ‘space.’ The trouble is that, when we say that Palkia controls ‘space,’ a very different sense of the word is meant – the three dimensions of space, the x, y and z axes, if you will, the kind of ‘space’ which is occupied by things that have volume. This ‘space’ does not end at the earth’s atmosphere; everything on Earth exists and moves in these three dimensions, including us. Deoxys does fall under Palkia’s domain, this is true – but so does every other Pokémon, just as everything that is, was, and will be is within Dialga’s sphere of influence. There is absolutely no reason to suggest a particularly close link between Deoxys and Palkia, any more than there is to suggest a link between Palkia and Sentret. What is interesting about Deoxys is that, since it doesn’t seem to be from earth, it’s clearly outside the traditional influence of most other legendary Pokémon. Deoxys is clearly not descended from Mew, for instance (we know it grew from a virus). It presumably has no connection with Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf. Is it even part of the creation of Arceus at all? I’m not sure.
– The association of Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza with Palkia, I can only assume, is to be taken as an assertion that Palkia created the physical world – since it exists in space? This, again, seems like a faulty link – the earth, sea and sky exist in time as well, so why not connect them with Dialga? For that matter, since Arceus supposedly created the world, doesn’t it make more sense to assume that those three primal forces were his creations as well?
– I am skeptical of giving Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion and Keldeo a special role in the cosmology. Their backstory very much seems to suggest that they were reacting to what they saw as human aggression and recklessness. They weren’t set up as guardians by Arceus at the beginning of time or anything like that; they took on that role themselves. Dispute Cobalion, Virizion and Terrakion if you must, but Keldeo is definitely a late addition to their group, and nothing suggests that he was anything special before deciding to join them. The interesting implication here is that they were not born as legendary Pokémon, but achieved that status later in life.
– I am extremely skeptical of the notion that Regigigas was created by humans. True, Regigigas and its subordinate creations do have a complicated relationship with humanity (to wit: Regice, Regirock and Registeel were sealed away by humans who feared their power, and Regigigas’ own eternal sleep is presumably – though not necessarily – a result of that same action against them) but the mere fact that Regigigas is supposed to have towed continents (an aetiology for continental drift) surely implies that it is far, far older than humanity.
– Although the belief that Giratina was banished by Arceus is clearly what is supported by the extant mythology, I can’t help but think that a more critical reading may be necessary here. The events of Platinum version make it clear that Giratina and the Distortion World actually serve a vital purpose in maintaining the balance of forces in the real world. The Distortion World stabilises our own reality – and, indeed, is so effective at doing so that Dialga and Palkia, the masters of time and space, working in tandem, are unable to destroy it as long as the Distortion World exists. In fact, the way Cynthia describes it, the Distortion World almost seems like a kind of photo negative to the real world – a backup copy that can be used to repair any damage done to the fabric of existence. Giratina, it is implied, guards and protects that universe. Responsibility for an entire universe seems like an awfully important job to give to a being that was “banished for its violence.” I think it’s more likely that Giratina gained that reputation later on, based on accounts by humans who encountered it for one reason or another and fell afoul of its territorial nature, and that its actual role in Arceus’ creation was originally quite different.
– Finally, I have my own interpretation of Mew, although I’m aware that this one is rather idiosyncratic and many will disagree. See, I don’t believe that Mew is the ancestor of all Pokémon at all. I believe that the scientists who originally came to that conclusion prior to the events of Red and Blue were using very faulty logic. The evidence for this claim is that Mew appears to contain the DNA of all Pokémon, which is how she is able to Transform into any of them and use all of their powers – but that is simply not how evolution works. The whole point of evolution is that organisms change; an ancestor wouldn’t have all of its descendants’ DNA. The ‘canon’ explanation of what Mew is just doesn’t make sense. You can read about what I think is really going on in this entry.
That’s just what jumps out at me. I might come up with some other points to disagree with if I ever try to examine all of the legendary Pokémon in detail, as I have with Mew. But that’s another rant entirely.
Still not listening to me, Game Freak? No?
Yeah, okay, I thought not. Nice of you to remind me once in a while, though.
Since I know someone is going to ask me: I think it’s a Bug-type. Butterfly ribbons, big glassy alien eyes, and I am led to understand that its name (Ninfia in Japanese) may very well translate into Nympheon in English (nymphs, in biology, being the water-borne larvae of a number of insect families). Least buggy Bug-type I’ve ever seen, but hey, whatevs.
Not that I have any interest in arguing predictions with anyone. Like, seriously, if you think Ninfia is a Rock-type based on opals or whatever, that’s fine by me.