Anonymous asks:

What would happen to the meta Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina get signature Z-moves in a potential DP remake, which activate the Room effects? They fit quite well thematically- especially Inverse or Wonder for Giratina and Trick for either D or P

Well, I’m fairly confident the ubers meta can withstand damn near anything you throw at it, and a Z-move is a fairly costly thing to give a Pokémon, since the Z-crystal expends your item slot – especially considering that Dialga, Palkia and Giratina all have fairly powerful signature items (their respective Orbs) that they might prefer to use (unless they break the rules of Z-moves, the way Rayquaza breaks the rules of mega evolution, which doesn’t seem implausible – if they get signature Z-moves, the Orbs might enable them).  Besides, auto-Magic Room and auto-Wonder Room don’t strike me as particularly game-breaking effects.  Auto-Trick Room, maybe, especially if you give it to Dialga, who’s one of the slower uber-tier Pokémon (not that that’s saying much) – but then, if this hypothetical Z-move also forces Dialga to give up a move slot to Roar of Time, which seems likely, maybe that’s balance enough.

The Pokémon Power Bracket – Round 2b

I can’t believe Phione got voted out!  This is SO UNFAIR!

Hmph.  Whatever.  I suppose I’d better make the best of it…

Deoxys vs. Mew


Mew and Deoxys both have interesting implications for the question of what a ‘Pokémon’ actually is, which contradict each other in places…

Mew is – and always has been – held up as the ancestor of all Pokémon (or, if you accept my interpretation, the ancestor of all Pokémon except the ones who feature in the Sinnoh creation myth).  This theory is based on the belief that “[Mew’s] DNA is said to contain the genetic codes of all Pokémon,” which is not how genetics and evolution work.  Like, at all Evolution is ‘descent with modification’ – that is, organisms gain new features that are distinct from those of their ancestors.  As you follow the family tree backwards, you should start seeing Pokémon that have fewer and fewer of those distinguishing traits, becoming more and more similar, until you’re left with the basic genes common to all Pokémon, where we should expect to find Mew.  I can think of two ways Mew could possibly have anything like a complete genetic library of all Pokémon: either she is not their common ancestor but their common descendent, the end result of millions of years of crossbreeding between formerly distinct Pokémon species (which probably requires us to assume that she is from the future), or she was the seed from which Arceus intended all the extant species of Pokémon to spring, and was given all the necessary genetic material in advance (which I suppose finally answers that question: no, Pokémon don’t ‘evolve’ in the traditional sense; every species was planned from the start and programmed into Mew’s DNA).  I’m pretty sure neither of these is actually what Mew’s designers had in mind.

Then, of course, we get Deoxys, who is a shapeshifting psychic virus from outer space, and blithely turns the whole thing on its head.

Deoxys resulted from a mutation in a virus from space that was struck by a laser beam, which… well, okay, first of all, that is not how mutation works either, but there’s something else I’m much more interested in.  Deoxys demonstrably is not descended from Mew.  It is more closely related to the common cold than it is to Pikachu.  It’s debateable whether viruses are technically even ‘living things’ at all (to my knowledge, viruses do not respire); Deoxys clearly seems to have moved beyond that, but it must deserve, at the very least, its own taxonomic domain.  So why, in the name of all that is good and holy, is it considered a Pokémon?  Any traits it has in common with other Pokémon are plainly coincidental and not the result of shared descent, so calling Deoxys a Pokémon makes no more sense than calling a hornet a bird simply because it happens to fly.  The only objective defining factor I can think of is that Deoxys, like all other Pokémon, can be captured in a Pokéball… so is that what makes it a Pokémon?  The way it happens to interact with a particular piece of human technology?  That seems like a rather arbitrary definition.  Then again, perhaps I’m going about this the wrong way… what I’ve been saying about Mew seems to suggest a radically different set of founding principles for evolution in the Pokémon universe, so…

…phylogenetics…Jean-Baptiste Lamarck…finches and fruit flies…Archaea, Bacteria, Eukarya…William bloody Paley’s watch…

…mmm?  What?



Ho-oh vs. Groudon


I am running out of things to complain about.

Let’s recall my last words on these two.  Ho-oh I like because she’s one of the only unambiguously benevolent legendary Pokémon, which I think is a necessary role one of them should fill, and also because of her part in the origin story of the Johto beast trio, which is one of my favourite Pokémon legends because – in my opinion, anyway – it doesn’t get too crazy, like the Sinnoh stories where Dialga and Palkia’s souls are tied to the physical properties of the universe itself, but there’s an actual story to it, unlike for Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, who are just really mysterious and enigmatic.  Honestly, of all the legendary Pokémon remaining in the top 16, I think Ho-oh is the one who comes closest to getting that balance right (if you’re interested, I also think that Thundurus, Tornadus and Landorus, who aren’t in this tournament, do quite well).  The only real downside to Ho-oh, for me, is that she gets a little bit one-dimensional with the life-light-and-happiness theme.  This, actually, is one point on which I think Groudon and Kyogre are relatively strong; when we meet them in Ruby and Sapphire, we experience their full potential for destruction, but – as their Pokédex entries very deliberately point out, and as Team Aqua and Team Magma never stop telling us – they have tremendous creative potential as well.  Groudon, for instance, is remembered in myth for saving people from catastrophic floods, and, of course, humanity could not have come to exist in the Pokémon world without the creator of the continents.  Groudon’s dual characterisation helps to hammer home the essential message of the plot of Ruby and Sapphire: that ‘nature’ isn’t a single force but a complex balance of conflicting impulses held in a delicate equilibrium, each of which can be beneficial in its proper place, but harmful when thrown out of balance.  This is all great stuff, and it’s the reason I do like Kyogre and Groudon.  Their weakness in my eyes is their position on the slippery slope that led to capturing the creator of the universe in a tiny plastic ball.  Groudon and Kyogre escalated the events of the plot of Ruby and Sapphire to near-apocalyptic proportions, threatening to parch or drown the whole world, respectively.  Try as I may, I cannot accept that it makes sense for a ten-year-old kid to be in control of this kind of power.  Ho-oh and Lugia straddle the boundary a little – Lugia can create storms that last for weeks, and Ho-oh raised the dead (once) – but building and sinking continents is something else entirely.  The closest I can get to making sense of any of this is through a statement Cyrus makes in Diamond and Pearl, which seems to imply that legendary Pokémon captured in Pokéballs lose many of the more cosmic aspects of their power.  Why?  We don’t know.  What effect does this have on the delicate balance between the earth and the sea?  We sure as hell don’t care!

My vote goes to HO-OH!

Latias vs. Lugia


I like Latias.  I do.  I really, honestly do.

I just don’t think there’s anything ‘legendary’ about her at all.

When I covered Latios, I mentioned a list of the characteristics he and his sister share that don’t, in themselves, imply or necessitate ‘legendary’ status, so I won’t do that again.  I’ll just point out that they are explicitly herd animals, which seems at odds with both the norm for legendary Pokémon (who are solitary and often implied to be unique, although for some this is contentious) and their own portrayal in Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, where a single Latias or Latios wanders Hoenn alone.  No explanation has yet been offered for the fact that these social Pokémon are only ever encountered alone, and I doubt one ever will be.  Against this, Latias has a number of interesting powers, including the ability to render herself invisible by bending light, as well as an odd but inventive physical design.  Add just a little bit of detail about the relationship between Latias and Latios, who are imagined to be females and males of the same species, and I think you’d have a really excellent design… it’s just not a design for a legendary Pokémon.  Lugia, of course, is as legendary as you get.  Rumour and folktale connects Lugia with the terrible storms that are created by the flapping of his great wings, so it’s odd that dragging Lugia up from beneath the Whirl Islands doesn’t cause the same kind of catastrophe as awakening Kyogre does in Sapphire.  It’s easier to accept, though, for two reasons; first, no-one has ever claimed Lugia can actually sink continents; second, we never actually see Lugia cause storms of the magnitude we hear about, which makes it easier to chalk it up to exaggeration in the stories (we experience Kyogre and Groudon’s powers firsthand, and all the characters involved with that part of the story take the myths absolutely seriously; there’s much less room for interpretation).  Lugia does begin to slide in the direction of ‘this Pokémon is a cosmic lynchpin which MUST NOT BE CAPTURED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES’ in the Power of One, where his role is actually to calm and contain storms, as in his Pokédex entry for Crystal version.  My eventual conclusion has been that Lugia’s actual ecological role is a bit more complicated than we’re told and probably involves both causing storms and quieting them to manage the development of ocean ecosystems in his territory, and that although he certainly could cause one of those mythic forty-day storms we’ve heard about if he really wanted to, it would take a lot more exertion than simply flapping his wings.  I’m worried that I may be getting to the point where I’m judging my interpretation of Lugia more so than what we’re actually shown, simply because what we’re shown isn’t totally consistent.  However, my issues with Latias stand, so I’m fairly comfortable siding with him against her.

My vote goes to LUGIA!

Rayquaza vs. Palkia


Everyone remembers, from the last round, why I think both of these Pokémon were terrible mistakes?



So, my issues with Rayquaza, in and of himself, are not all that great compared to those I have with Groudon and Kyogre.  Kyogre has the power to flood continents.  Groudon has the power to dry oceans.  Rayquaza has the power to make both of them shut the hell up.  He is as mysterious and powerful as any legendary Pokémon should be, but as far as cosmic ridiculousness goes, he’s fairly low-key – his special relationship with Kyogre and Groudon is pretty much it; he doesn’t have the ability to reverse gravity or turn forests into ozone or anything.  My problem with Rayquaza is solely in the way he figures into the plot of Emerald version, where he reduces the player’s role in the climax to an extremely simple fetch-and-carry assignment, which I shall here dramatise for your enjoyment.

Wallace: “Where the hell is Rayquaza?”

Player: “I don’t f*cking know!”

Wallace: “Of course; that must be it!  Now go get Rayquaza!”

Player: “Oh, hey; that was easy.”

Rayquaza: “LOLZ GO BAK 2 SLP GAIZ”

Kyogre and Groudon: “kk lol”

Rayquaza: “kthxbai”

The anticlimax is much the worse for the fact that, up until this point, Emerald is so much better-done than Ruby and Sapphire in many ways.  So, that’s what’s wrong with Rayquaza.  Now let’s talk about what’s wrong with Palkia.  This, of course, is the old “I just captured a god!” chestnut.  Supposedly, catching Palkia (or Dialga, for that matter) in a Pokéball will somehow cut her off from her cosmic powers to some extent, which is the reason Cyrus creates the Red Chain on Pearl version instead of just capturing Palkia with his Master Ball.  This explains why you can’t subsequently use Palkia to destroy the universe, like Cyrus wanted to, although there’s no word on the long-term effects (Palkia is supposedly responsible for the stability of space, so I’m not entirely sure capturing her is really the best idea if it will weaken her powers…).  Moreover, no-one ever hints at how a Pokéball can do this.  Even if the explanation raises as many questions as it answers, though, I am glad they at least tried to handwave it, since we can retroactively apply the same vague rationalisation to Kyogre and Groudon, and probably stick it onto Arceus too, for all the good it will do him.  Back to Palkia herself, because there’s one more thing I had a conversation about with a reader a few days ago and I think it deserves a mention: her element.  When I first met Palkia, I thought Water was a pretty weird element to give her, but when I think about it, ‘space’ isn’t exactly an easy concept to squish into an element.  I remain convinced that Dark does not fit, since Dark Pokémon are almost universally associated not with actual darkness but with treachery, malice and fear.  Short of jamming both her and Dialga into Psychic, on the grounds that Psychic covers everything weird, I think Water probably is the best choice to represent a vast emptiness… so, yay Palkia?

Anyhow, Palkia bothers me, but she hasn’t offended me as directly as Rayquaza has, so purely out of spite towards Rayquaza…

My vote goes to PALKIA!

Interlude: The Pokémon Power Bracket – Round 1b

This week’s Pokémon will be all those involved in the tournament who didn’t compete last week, so we’re looking at a completely different set of match-ups, some interesting, others… a little bit one-sided (although, with both Kyogre and Arceus on the other side of the table, the most absurd ones have already been decided).  Here we go…

Deoxys vs. Suicune


I never liked Deoxys.  Maybe I was just annoyed at not being able to get one (Nintendo rarely bothered to hold events in New Zealand, so event-exclusive Pokémon were pretty much off the menu until the Wi-Fi age), but that hasn’t tarnished my opinions of Mew or Celebi.  Maybe the whole “shapeshifting psychic virus from space” thing was too weird for me, but normally I like quirky designs.  Did I hate it for being so gimmicky?  Usually I hate gimmicks because Game Freak think they’re a valid excuse for a Pokémon to be terrible (see: most of my Top Ten Worst Pokémon Ever), which Deoxys isn’t.  Anyway.  All of Deoxys’ four forms are quite superior to Suicune, though she’s certainly not a bad Pokémon either.  Possibly the strongest of her trio, Suicune, like Raikou, is known for Calm Mind tactics, though hers tend to emphasise gradually building power while absorbing hits with her brilliant defences (unfortunately for Suicune, Rest has lost its lustre in Black and White).  I’ve mentioned already why I like the Johto beasts, so I won’t rehash it, and Suicune, the embodiment of the north wind, has always been my favourite, but even though it makes me vaguely uncomfortable for reasons I can’t put my finger on, I have to admit that Deoxys is a really interesting Pokémon who dares to be different, and you could probably do a lot of cool stuff with the concept if you wanted to.  I actually like Suicune better, but objectively…

My vote goes to DEOXYS!

Heatran vs. Mew


Mew is sort of a problematic Pokémon, because she’s supposedly the common ancestor of all Pokémon, which clashes rather unfortunately with Arceus, the Original One and creator of the universe, whose first children were Dialga, Palkia and Giratina, followed by Mesprit, Uxie and Azelf.  All of these are Pokémon, Arceus definitely came before Mew, and the others probably did as well.  My working theory is that Mew was the first creature to be born with a complete soul consisting of intellect, emotion and will, courtesy of the lake trio, and that the seven primordial Pokémon are either ‘soulless,’ or possess something else fundamentally different from a soul.  Anyhow.  Heatran’s story, mercifully, is contradicted by nothing because there is nothing there to contradict.  I think he’s something of a throwback to the days when “legendary Pokémon” just meant “Pokémon with ludicrous stats” but even Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres had the decency to be mysterious creatures, spoken of in hushed tones, whose existence remained a subject of conjecture.  Heatran just kinda chills in his volcano being awesome, with his phenomenal Fire attacks and incredible toughness.  Mew, of course, can traditionally do everything and do it well, but she’s stayed a jack of all trades and master of none while other Pokémon around her have been mastering more and more as the generations roll by.  She remains a brilliant Pokémon, though, and although her flavour is hard to reconcile with the creation myth, I sort of prefer a problematic story to none at all, because it at least provides fodder for speculation (besides, she was there first; it’s not her fault Game Freak disregarded her established backstory).

My vote goes to MEW!

Groudon vs. Regigigas

Oh, Regigigas, you poor sad creature.  You towed continents in your time!  You shaped the face of the earth as we know it!  Or… wait, wasn’t that Kyogre and Groudon?  Ah, whatever.  Regigigas, master of the legendary golems, has clearly fallen far from his glory days.  He is utterly useless in a fight, with his Slow Start ability making him totally unable to use his ludicrous attack and good speed unless he stays in play for five turns straight… which, without any healing (no, not even Rest) and without Protect, just isn’t going to happen.  Though his physical design is more complex and interesting than his rather bland progeny, he has none of their intriguing backstory; he’s just a great big Pokémon who dragged continents in ancient times, presumably for reasons, created three other Pokémon in his own image, presumably for other reasons, and then went to sleep far beneath the Snowpoint Temple, presumably for further reasons.  Against this, we have the creator of the continents, Groudon.  Like Kyogre, he has a powerful presence, as well as a fascinating dual characterisation in his Pokédex descriptions, being portrayed as a destroyer in his own game, Ruby, and as a saviour (from flooding) in Sapphire.  He is, almost unarguably, weaker than Kyogre, because he gets relatively little direct benefit from the brilliant sunlight he creates around him – his Fire attacks are mostly for backup, while Solarbeam is at best a gimmick.  Still, though… are you really going to argue with him with Ho-oh and Reshiram at his side?

My vote goes to GROUDON!

Ho-oh vs. Uxie


Little Uxie is probably my favourite of the lake trio, partly because his sleepy eyes and large, creased skull give him a little character-appropriate differentiation that his siblings, sadly, lack.  What I really love about Uxie, though, is his frightening hidden power.  “It is said,” the Pokédex notes, “that it can wipe out the memory of those who see its eyes,” leaving them totally lost, not even knowing who they are or where they come from.  This also clues us in on how to interpret one of the myths found in the Canalave library, so we learn that anyone who touches Mesprit’s body will lose all emotion, while anyone who harms Azelf will slip into a coma.  Sadly, none of these abilities come up in fights; Uxie is sadly underwhelming in battle, as a supportive tank whose excellent defences are undermined by his difficulty with healing.  Ho-oh not only has obscene special defence, as well as Recover to rid herself of Uxie’s problems, but also packs a huge punch with her Sacred Fire.  Ho-oh’s flavour seems pretty one dimensional – the rainbow phoenix is a source of joy to all who see her, a being of absolute purity, goodness, and light.  Actually, though… there’s no other Pokémon like this.  Most legendary Pokémon are portrayed as primal forces; Cresselia and Shaymin are possibly the only others who are unambiguously benevolent towards humankind.  Ho-oh does fill a necessary niche, and I feel that she also represents the ‘sweet spot’ after the designers started making legendary Pokémon that were really ‘legendary’ but before they decided every game had to include an ‘avert the apocalypse’ plotline and started creating Pokémon with the power to unravel the universe or what-have-you.  I love Ho-oh just for that.

My vote goes to HO-OH!

Lugia vs. Manaphy


So, two rival ‘guardians of the sea’ – Lugia, who despite being an ocean spirit is not a Water-type but a Psychic-type, and Manaphy, who despite having notable psychic abilities is not a Psychic-type but a Water-type.  Hmm.  The thing to get out of the way straight off is that Lugia is possibly the toughest Pokémon in the game, though Manaphy can be pretty damn dangerous if he gets a free turn to cast Tail Glow, which sends his special attack score through the roof.  One-turn Rests as long as it’s raining, courtesy of Hydration, is great too.  I don’t think there’s really enough to choose between them to decide this contest on battling ability.  Lugia’s place in the world is… odd.  It’s stated repeatedly that he stays hidden beneath the ocean to protect others, since his power is so great he can inadvertently cause storms when he surfaces.  Then again, he’s also said to have the ability to calm storms.  I’m left imagining that Lugia’s relationship with storms and the ocean is actually rather complicated; possibly he’s the lynchpin of some sort of fragile balance, and has to create and calm storms to regulate the climate of large areas.  If Lugia has oddly large-scale powers, Manaphy’s are oddly low-key.  His one significant ability is that he’s really good at making friends.  I’m sort of left feeling that he’s a little out of place in a game that gives only cursory attention to emotions and relationships, as Pokémon does – which is a shame because that’s one of the very things that I think Pokémon should give more attention to.  Theoretically this is a game about partnership, and I think Pokémon with abilities like Manaphy’s are quite underutilised… so, much to my own surprise…

My vote goes to MANAPHY!

Latias vs. Phione


…wait, what?


Game Freak, what is Phione doing here?

Phione… Phione isn’t just bad, she’s barely even usable; her stats would be average even on a mortal Pokémon; her movepool is pretty bland, with all the Water-type standards and nothing of real interest bar U-Turn; Hydration is great, but Lapras, Vaporeon and arguably even Dewgong do it better (and when you’re being outclassed by Dewgong, it’s time to pack up and go home).  Heck, I’m not sure Phione is even officially a legendary Pokémon!  Apparently Game Freak have both confirmed and denied her legendary status at different times.  She’s inexplicably banned from the Battle Frontier and Battle Subway, as well as from most official tournaments, which pretty much eliminates most of the chances she ever gets to do anything.  I don’t think she’s ever been the star of anything, and she has no interesting powers, other than the ability to dissolve her body into water, which she shares with Vaporeon.  She’s basically just Manaphy’s useless, gimmicky little sister, and Game Freak have tossed her into the Pokémon Power Bracket and put her up against one of the bloody Eon Twins, for goodness’ sake, probably just so they can laugh at her.

Ah, you know what?  Screw it.  If any other Pokémon wins this tournament, it’ll be “just another awesome thing I did.”  If Phione wins, it’ll be the one and only moment in the sun she’s ever likely to get. 

My vote goes to PHIONE!

Palkia vs. Regirock


(I’m coming to think I gave Registeel a bit of a raw deal in the last entry, so take everything here as going for Registeel vs. Dialga as well)

I don’t actually hate Regirock, Regice and Registeel.  I think the concept is very interesting.  The fact that they were entombed by humans to keep them controlled has fascinating implications for the history of the relationship between humans and Pokémon.  Even the fact that they’re so inscrutable and alien arguably helps by emphasising the divide between them and humanity… but that’s something of a double-edged sword.  It’s hard to look at them as living things, near impossible to relate to them as we can to more expressive Pokémon designs.   Other Pokémon pull it off, somehow; maybe it’s because most of them have eyes and humans are obsessed with eyes, but Staryu and Starmie have none, and manage to be mysterious but also attractive.  Honestly I think I would really like the legendary golems if Pokémon were less of a breeding-training-fighting game and more of an exploration-discovery game, but we are where we are.  Against this, we have Palkia.  Apart from undeniably being ludicrously powerful in comparison to Regirock, she, like Dialga, represents the way Diamond and Pearl pushed the boundaries of sanity to their absolute limit by introducing Pokémon that might actually be legitimate divine beings.  I’ve always been a little annoyed by this because I feel it’s symptomatic of Pokémon’s irrational need to be ‘epic’ when ‘epic’ is neither inherently desirable nor a particularly good fit for the basic premises of the franchise… that’s a discussion for another time, though.  For now, the point is that Regirock and Palkia each annoy me in their own ways, but Palkia clearly blows Regirock out of the water as far as battling goes.

My vote goes to PALKIA!

Rayquaza vs. Azelf


Undeniably the strongest of his trio, Azelf, the embodiment of will, is good at blowing things up.  That includes himself, because Azelf has always been quick to pull an Explosion when things start looking bad.  He’s noted for using his excellent attack and special attack to commit serial murder, but also has a useful support movepool and can use it quite well thanks to his great speed.  Rayquaza is a similar idea on a grander scale, with his fundamentally ridiculous offensive scores, access to Dragon Dance, and wide offensive movepool.  Rayquaza is stronger, obviously, but I’ve always maintained that mechanical strength matters to me much less when analysing legendary Pokémon, since power is their birthright anyway, and I care more about their background and story.  Rayquaza, unfortunately, has offended me: I must doggedly insist that, as I suggested long ago, his presence in Emerald is actually detrimental to the storyline, rendering the events of the Sootopolis crisis upsettingly anticlimactic and denying the player agency in their resolution to a large extent.  Deus ex machina stopped being trendy when Euripides died, people.  Azelf and his siblings do something similar in Diamond and Pearl, but there the player still has to fight Cyrus and Palkia/Dialga to resolve the climax, and the lake trio are implied to have shown up in the first place because of their gratitude to the player for saving them earlier (and possibly because the player has a special bond with Mesprit).  To get Rayquaza to help you just have to show up and say “yo.  Ray-dogg.  Shiz be goin’ down.”

…I’m paraphrasing, but you see what I’m getting at.

My vote goes to AZELF!

Pokémon: the Rise of Darkrai (Part 2 of 2)

So, Alamos Town is surrounded by thick fog, no-one can leave, most of the town’s Pokémon trainers have just been summarily crushed by a living nightmare, and apparently there is an extradimensional god/pink magic dinosaur hanging out somewhere in the town.  Also the local baron is a Lickilicky.

That’s great odds.

 The Space-Time Towers, which are almost certainly not going to be vitally important to the climax of the movie.  This screenshot is swiped from Bulbapedia.

Once Ash and his friends learn that Palkia is in Alamos Town, they rush out to the square, where Darkrai has managed to detect the Spatial Pokémon hiding invisibly inside a little pouch of folded space above the Space-Time Towers.  Darkrai begins to attack Palkia with his freaky shadow powers, so Palkia bursts out of hiding and banishes the fog enveloping the town – revealing that the whole place has been yanked into a pocket universe and is now floating in space.  They can still breathe and stuff because physics is having an off day.  Palkia will do that to you.  Also, all of the freaky dream things stop happening, the victims of Darkrai’s Dark Void wake up and Alberto is no longer a Lickilicky, because… I don’t know.  I don’t think the movie ever really gave a reason; it just sort of happened.  Palkia and Darkrai throw explosions at each other for a bit, until Palkia’s enemy the blue magic dinosaur (alias Dialga, the god of time) shows up, bearing even more explosions, and all hell breaks loose.  With every blast they lob at each other, the fringes of Alamos Town begin to disintegrate as their space- and time-warping powers destabilise Palkia’s pocket universe.  Alice runs out into the middle of the square and tells the two combatants, in what I imagine to be her very sternest voice, to “stop fighting right now!”  This, predictably, has absolutely no effect and Darkrai has to rescue her when Dialga and Palkia nearly fall on her head.  To be fair to Alice, no-one else seems to have any better ideas.  They just watch the two magic dinosaurs blowing each other up and taking the town with them, while Darkrai flies around intercepting any attacks that endanger the Space-Time Towers, until both Dialga and Palkia get annoyed and blast Darkrai to the ground.  This leads to a scene where Darkrai mistakes Alice for her grandmother, Alicia, and a touching little flashback in which a young Alicia encounters an injured Darkrai in the gardens, sees past his fearsome exterior, and heals him with the music of her leaf whistle (okay, okay, it’s clichéd, but “the healing power of music” isn’t exactly out of place in a setting like Pokémon), encouraging him to stay as long as he likes because “this garden is everyone’s.”  Ash apologises for assuming Darkrai was the bad guy, and Darkrai just gives him a dirty look (I’m not sure whether this was intentional but it’s hilarious).  Once he’s gotten his breath back, Darkrai flies back to the battle.

It’s at about this point, I think, that Tonio starts reciting the description from Godey’s journal of his nightmare, which seems to be playing out right in front of them, as well as the part about “leaving Oración for the world.”  The name Oración rings bells for Alice, since it’s the name of the song her grandmother taught her to play on the leaf whistle – the one that magically calmed down the squabbling Pokémon in the first act (odd that she hasn’t tried this song already, come to think of it, since it was her go-to option earlier in the movie – and even odder that Tonio hasn’t already asked her whether she’s heard the word before).  Light bulbs start coming on in everyone’s heads.  The Space-Time Towers aren’t an insanely extravagant and recklessly impractical tourist attraction… well, okay, they are, but they’re also Godey’s way of “leaving Oración for the world” – his contingency plan for the prophetic nightmare Darkrai sent him.  There’s no music disc labelled “Oración” in Tonio’s rooms beneath the towers, but Alice manages to find it hidden amongst the relief sculptures on the ground floor.  She, Tonio, Ash and Dawn head for the control room on her balloon, which doesn’t last long in the crossfire of Dialga and Palkia’s battle.  Ash and Dawn somehow manage to jump over to the control tower without shattering their legs, while Alice and Tonio fall, but are rescued by Tonio’s Drifblim and Alberto’s Lickilicky.  Unfortunately, Ash and Dawn now have to climb the rest of the way up the control tower… which is starting to disintegrate, like the rest of the town… and here I have to stop and talk about this disintegration business because it really bothers me.  Whatever dimension-twisting power is causing the effect has obviously reached the towers by this point, but it isn’t causing them to collapse, even as their foundations begin to dematerialise.  What’s more, Ash, Dawn and their Pokémon suffer no harm at all (apart from the obvious danger of falling as the steps vanish from beneath their feet), while the objects around them are being taken apart at a subatomic level by the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  Because it’s Pokémon, my suspension of disbelief will just about stretch to accommodate that, but to crown it all, the other trainers in Alamos Town are attempting to slow the progress of the advancing wave of disintegration by attacking it with their Pokémon.  I… honestly can’t even articulate how little sense that makes.  Luckily for the movie, I couldn’t tell whether it was supposed to be working.

For the first time in recorded history, a Lickilicky almost does something useful (yeah, almost - he actually drops her, and Tonio and Drifblim grab her at the last minute).  Screenshot from

Anyway, Tonio’s computer decides (using SCIENCE) that one more collision between Palkia’s Spatial Rend and Dialga’s Roar of Time will collapse the pocket universe and destroy everyone.  Darkrai seems to have worked out the same thing and pours all his strength into trapping both of them in a swirly energy thingy, defiantly shouting, in his deep, booming voice, the strangest battle cry I have ever heard: “THIS GARDEN IS EVERYONE’S!”  The swirly energy thingy doesn’t last long, and Darkrai is quickly annihilated for daring to intrude, but he’s bought Ash and Dawn enough time to get the song disc to the control room.  Pikachu and Dawn’s Pachirisu have to supply the towers with electricity, since the dematerialisation has cut off their power source, but the delicate mechanisms that create the towers’ music seem totally undamaged.  Oración plays, and Dialga and Palkia suddenly think “wait… why were we fighting again?”  This scene… this scene bothers me.  I think it would have been a perfectly effective scene if it had just focussed on the dragons’ reactions to the sound of Oración as the song played… but this is the climax to a Pokémon movie, which means that sparkly things need to happen.  A bunch of extra protrusions, which remind me of the hands of an old-fashioned clock, unfold from the sides of the towers (this I can deal with).  The towers start glowing.  The clock hands actually start to grow and blossom.  Finally, two enormous golden wings of light unfurl and bathe the entire town (or what’s left of it) in their radiance.

…I’m guessing no-one has ever actually played Oración on these things in the hundred years since they were built, ‘cause that really would have given the game away.

 The Space-Time Towers play Oración.  Notice all the extra frilly bits springing out. (Again, swiped from Bulbapedia)

Seriously, though, this climax has a perfectly respectable age-old theme – “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” – which can stand on its own two feet just fine, thank you very much.  Invoking extraneous sparkly things and making the whole business literally magical just puts more distance between reality and an idea that isn’t at all out of place there.  Isn’t the monumental architecture of the Space-Time Towers themselves spectacular enough?

Not that anyone ever listens to me.

Dialga shrugs and flies off back to his own dimension, leaving Palkia to clean up the mess.  Ash and Dawn give Palkia a very stern talking to, commanding her to put Alamos Town back the way it was… and Palkia is like, “whatevs,” does it, and flies away.  Ash and his friends are all distraught that Darkrai is dead, and have a little mourning scene complete with a greyscale montage of their memories of Darkrai… which is quite poorly done, if you ask me; the music playing is slow and sentimental, exactly as you’d expect from a scene like this, but since they have no soft, gentle memories of Darkrai, the montage is mainly comprised of the coolest explosions Darkrai was involved in during the battle.  Honestly, it feels like a parody of eulogistic montages, but I think they mean it.  None of that really matters though; as they very quickly learn, Darkrai isn’t dead at all, because Pokémon movies have a huge difficulty with allowing their heroic sacrifices to stick.  It actually does make sense with reference to the movie’s internal logic; when Palkia restored Alamos Town, she restored everything – including all the living things that were destroyed, like the trees – so it stands to reason that Darkrai would be back too.  I just find the effect on the movie’s emotional tone unnecessary and irritating, especially after that godawful montage – did Victini get one of those in movie 14?  I’m not sure, but I don’t think he did.

Then the movie ends.  During the credits we see footage of the Pokémon Contest they came to Alamos Town for in the first place, but it’s basically over.  Rise of Darkrai… has its moments; I’ll give it that (not all of them are good moments, mind you).  I quite like the idea that the Space-Time Towers had been Godey’s defence against his nightmares all along (although I question the wisdom of some of his decisions, like not explaining the towers’ true purpose to anyone, storing the unclearly-labelled Oración disc in a completely different place from most of the other songs, and putting the control room halfway up the towers).  I’m also generally pleased with Darkrai’s characterisation, which is almost a complete one-eighty from the way he’s portrayed in the games.  On the other hand, the movie is very prone to putting funny words in Tonio’s mouth and expecting you to accept them because he’s a scientist.  Also, although the movie’s obsession with sparkly things isn’t noticeably greater than that of any other Pokémon movie, it definitely bothers me more, simply because of the way it manifests.  Finally… what’s up with the name “Rise of Darkrai”?  Darkrai doesn’t really do anything in this movie that could be described as “rising” in the sense that the title implies.  I realise “a Film with Darkrai in it” doesn’t have quite the same punch but, honestly, it would have made more sense.  On balance, I think I’d probably rate Victini and Zekrom higher, but Jewel of Life remains immovably upon its last-place throne (no; I’m not writing a review of it, so don’t ask me to – this means you, Jim).

Gonna do some other stuff for a while, then Giratina and the Sky Warrior when we eventually get around to watching it.  Stay tuned.

EDIT: I WAS MISTAKEN.  Darkrai’s characterisation in the games is similar to this movie’s.  I APOLOGISE TO ALL THOSE I HAVE MISLED.

Pokémon: the Rise of Darkrai (Part 1 of 2)

This movie…

Oh, this movie…

My so-called “best friend,” Jim, gave me the DVD for this movie, the tenth in the series, (along with the eleventh, Giratina and the Sky Warrior) for Christmas.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to make him watch it with me.  This movie…

It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, because it does eventually, it’s more that the whole first half of it is one great big long “what the hell is going on and why do I care?” It opens with a scientist guy reading cryptic nonsense from a dead person’s journal, intercut with scenes of the nightmare the journal describes: two enormous magic dinosaurs fighting in the middle of an electrical storm in space, a place the narration calls the “space-time rift.”

One quickly learns that in Rise of Darkrai it’s generally best just to go with it.


The pink magic space dinosaur gets the blue magic space dinosaur in a headlock (I think this actually happens later in the movie but I found the picture too hilarious to leave out).
 The pink dinosaur is injured by the blue dinosaur and attempts to flee, as they continue to lob explosions at each other.  The scientist’s hourglass falls and shatters.  This is SYMBOLISM; I’m pointing it out because it’s very subtle and I was worried you might not catch it.  We then cut to our dearly beloved heroes Ash and Pikachu, and their current minions, Brock and Dawn.  Like Iris and Cilan in Victini and Zekrom, these two don’t really contribute a lot to the movie but you can tell the writers were still trying on this one.  Ash’s quest for Pokémon ‘mastership,’ to use the narrator’s ‘word’, has taken the trio to a place called Alamos Town.  On the way, they meet a young woman named Alice who can play music with a leaf (this is actually a thing, apparently) and, to Brock’s astonishment, is not in his “little blue book of babes” (presumably a journal of his life as an incredibly creepy stalker).  She gives them a lift into town on her hot-air balloon, during which they experience a strange and disconcerting but apparently harmless shockwave of some kind, and points out Alamos Town’s major landmark, the Space-Time Towers.  Team Rocket show up in their own hot-air balloon but are blown out of the sky by a group of Drifloon without even managing to attract the attention of the real cast.

When they land, Alice shows them around, they have some battles, and then they visit Alamos Town’s public gardens, which were built by the same architect who designed the Space-Time towers, a fellow named Godey.  There are some cute scenes where the team’s Pokémon play with the wild Pokémon that live in the gardens and get into a fight over an accident, but Alice uses her mad leaf whistling skillz to calm everyone down.  While the kids are complimenting Alice’s music, a wild Gallade shows up to warn her about something.  They all follow Gallade to an area of the gardens where some stone pillars have been twisted out of shape somehow, which the local pompous aristocrat, Baron Alberto, is quick to blame on Darkrai, a mysterious Pokémon associated with nightmares.  Alberto notices a rustling in the bushes and, sensing Darkrai, sends out his Pokémon partner – a Lickilicky (proving once and for all that Nintendo know the easiest way to make the audience hate their designated antagonist is by giving him a Lickilicky).  Alberto’s strategy with Lickilicky throughout this entire movie is to Hyper Beam everything, and this is just what he does here, but the rustling unfortunately turns out to be a man named Tonio, the scientist from the prologue and Alice’s sort-of-boyfriend, who is… doing science things… to investigate the distortion effects.  While he recovers from this wacky misunderstanding, there is another shockwave and Ash spots the real Darkrai appearing in the shadows.  Alberto is quick to aim a Hyper Beam at him but fails to understand how massively outclassed his Lickilicky is against the embodiment of all nightmares.  Darkrai evades Lickilicky’s attacks without effort by turning into a shadow and then hurls a sphere of darkness back at Lickilicky, but misses and hits Ash, causing him to trip out and have a vision of the enormous magic dinosaurs from the prologue.

 "My god!  The levels of SCIENCE in this area are off the charts!"

Hours later, Pikachu manages to shock Ash awake in the local Pokémon Centre, where Nurse Joy explains that anyone who falls asleep near Darkrai suffers from terrible nightmares, so he is shunned by just about everyone.  While they’re talking about this, Tonio obsesses over what looks to me like a knot in the wood of the floorboards, which he is convinced is another space-time distortion, and runs off back to his study beneath the Space-Time Towers.  He spends the night there reading the journal, which belonged to Godey the architect (Tonio’s great-grandfather), and recounts how Darkrai appeared in the gardens long ago and was befriended by Alice’s grandmother, Alicia, when she was a little girl.  Tonio then finds an early schematic of the Space-Time Towers, accompanied by Godey’s statement that his nightmare had made him understand “for the future, I needed to leave Oración for the world.”  The journal fails to explain what Oración actually is, though.  Tonio falls asleep in his study and is found in the morning by Alice, who is giving Ash, Brock and Dawn a tour of the Space-Time Towers.  While Alice berates Tonio for sleeping on the floor and Tonio goes over his discoveries of the previous night, Pikachu and Dawn’s Piplup discover a shelf of heavy brass discs, about the size of film reels, filled with clockwork mechanisms and dotted with complex patterns of holes like the punch-cards used to program the first computers.  Tonio explains that these ‘music discs’ are used to make the towers play songs and, at Dawn’s insistence, leads the group up to the control room that sits between the two towers, about halfway up.  When an impressive-looking machine is activated with a disc in its slot, an array of enormous hammers positioned up and down the insides of the towers play the music encoded on the disc by striking a series of taut cables, like a ludicrously oversized piano.  THERE IS SURELY NO WAY THIS COULD POSSIBLY BE IMPORTANT LATER IN THE MOVIE.

 Darkrai.  Artwork by Ken Sugimori.

Shortly after the group leaves the Space-Time Towers and Tonio returns to his lab, Alamos Town experiences more shockwaves.  We cut back to the space thunderstorm for a minute and see the pink magic dinosaur trying to escape the blue magic dinosaur by diving through a tear in space, through which the Space-Time Towers are visible.  This is accompanied by an especially impressive shockwave, which Tonio, down in his lab, realises is emanating from “between the dimensions”…whatever that means (for something to be between dimensions it’d have to be outside them, and does the word “outside” even have meaning when excluded from physical space, and how the hell does Tonio measure this nonsense, and I don’t think they even really know what the word “dimension” means, and you know what I’m just going to go with it).  Without warning, Darkrai appears in the town square, where Ash and his friends are enjoying more battles against the trainers they met the day before, and gives the terse command “go away!”  Alberto and his Lickilicky are on the scene instantly (accompanied by Team Rocket, who are pretending to be reporters doing a story on him) but fail just as spectacularly as before to make any impact on the mysterious Pokémon, who puts a dozen Pokémon in the square to sleep with his Dark Void attack and then flees.  Ash and Alberto pursue him, but he quickly escapes after putting Lickilicky to sleep.  They are then confronted with a hallucination of a Bibarel floating in the air and walking through walls… which… is weird, don’t get me wrong, but the movie’s just getting started, because Alberto then turns into a Lickilicky.  He can still speak normally for some reason, despite now having a tongue twice the length of his body; in fact at a later point in the movie he even manages to talk while using his tongue to restrain Darkrai with Wrap.  Like I said at the beginning, it’s best just to go with it – especially as it prompts Alberto to wail what is easily the best line of the movie: “MY ROYAL TONGUE!!!”  When Ash, Team Rocket and Alberto arrive back at the gardens, they learn that images of all the Pokémon Darkrai put to sleep are running around them in circles.  Tonio deduces – through SCIENCE – that the space-time distortions are merging their dreams with reality, and suggests that Lickilicky is dreaming about being Alberto.  I’m pretty sure this makes no sense at all.  Shouldn’t there just be an image of Alberto wandering around nearby making Lickilicky noises?  Besides, if all the other dream effects are just illusions, why does Alberto actually gain all of Lickilicky’s powers?  All this aside, I am delighted by the implication, which Jim pointed out after the movie had ended, that Lickilicky’s worst nightmare is being Alberto.

The other trainers discover that the town has been surrounded by a thick, impassable bank of fog, which prompts Baron Lickilicky (as Jessie of Team Rocket quickly dubs him) to start a witch-hunt for Darkrai.  Alice isn’t sure Darkrai’s behind it all, though, and Tonio agrees, recounting a day from their childhood when (he suspects) Darkrai saved Alice from a fall in the gardens, though she had always believed Tonio saved her.  They return to Tonio’s lab and review some video footage of the biggest shockwave, collected by Tonio’s Drifblim.  Zooming in and enhancing the image, Tonio sees, for a fraction of a second, the pink magic dinosaur from the prologue appearing at the epicentre of the shockwave, and identifies it as Palkia, an ancient godlike Pokémon that rules over the spatial dimensions.  Darkrai’s earlier command, “go away!” was directed at Palkia, and, after dealing in short order with Alberto’s phenomenally poorly-conceived witch-hunt, Darkrai is now on his way to enforce that command…

Dun-dun DUNH!

Team Galactic

Okay, everyone, take a deep breath because this one’s a doozy. Team Rocket’s evil plans threatened first a major corporation and then an entire nation. Team Aqua and Team Magma’s climate shenanigans threatened the whole world. When Game Freak went to make Diamond and Pearl, they looked at the villains they had written in the past… and apparently thought something along the lines of “now, how can we top that?” Answer: a villainous team whose evil schemes threaten – I kid you not – reality itself. And they plan it all whilst wearing the kind of bizarre silvery jumpsuits you expect of aliens in dated sci-fi movies and sporting ridiculous turquoise bowl-cuts.

 This is going to be great. Continue reading “Team Galactic”