Poke the Bear asks:

Since you wrote at such length on Flying types…

god damn it; I knew it was a mistake to indulge that one

Do you think you could rank your favourite ghost-types by design?

I’d love to hear what you think of them…

So… there’s about twenty-seven Ghost-type Pokémon or evolutionary lines of Pokémon, give or take (depending on exactly who you count).  I think it’s reasonable to pick… let’s say a top five?  Does that seem fair?  I’m not sure there are any Ghost Pokémon that I dislike, because Ghost is a type that tends to attract the sort of antiquity/mythology/folklore-based Pokémon that I find really interesting – the ones that I’m the most “meh” on are probably… I guess Rotom and Gourgeist, which are perfectly fine.  That’s… like, honestly that’s a much better hit rate than Grass, which is ostensibly my favourite type.  But anyway, let’s pick some favourites.

Continue reading “Poke the Bear asks:”

VikingBoyBilly asks:

Are there any unevolved pokémon that are so adorable you just don’t want to evolve it? My list is magby, teddiursa, munchlax, tirtouga, and phantump. (I am DETERMINED to make a kickass eviolite phantump. BTW, do you think phantump is a Tiyanak (Also see wikipedia)? Pretty disjointed comment but I can kill multiple questions in one stone with this)

Hmm.  Well, nothing really jumps to the forefront of my mind… I’m scrolling down Smogon’s Little Cup tier list (that being the only place I could think of that just lists all the unevolved Pokémon) looking for possibilities but I’m having difficulty.  I mean, I like the cute ones, don’t get me wrong, but in most cases I find that that’s outweighed by the sense of realisation of potential that comes with evolution.  I’m half with you on Magby, I suppose, in the sense that I do like Magmar but Magmortar looks pretty stupid.  Perhaps Glameow a little, because Purugly is just so grumpy and surly-looking.  Koffing, definitely, because it’s a shame that Koffing is so happy and Weezing so… lung-cancer-y.  Patrat, I guess, insofar as Watchog is that much more unspeakably nightmarish.  And… Ralts, but only to spare her from the ravages of Rule 34.  The internet is a dark and terrible place.

Regarding the tiyanak… hmm.  Well, the biggest objection I can see is that tiyanak normally do look like children.  In the absence of any strong, specific tip-off that this is what they mean (e.g. in the name), it seems plausible that there could be some other similar myth, closer to Japan, that I just plain don’t know about.  But it makes sense; I don’t think it can be ruled out.

Phantump and Trevenant

Phantump.

Ghost/Grass – another of those never-before-seen combinations that always make me so excited.  What’s more, we get not one but two interpretations of it – Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist, whom we’ll probably be looking at next time, and today’s Pokémon, Phantump and Trevenant.  These two Pokémon go for ‘sinister,’ and boy, do they nail it (I… immediately regret using the expression ‘nail it’ to describe a vengeful Pokémon made of wood).  Ghost Pokémon get to play with some of the most evocative ideas in the book, balancing between life and death, on the edge of the great unknown – let’s see where Phantump and Trevenant can take that.

As far as I know, these Pokémon aren’t based on any specific folkloric creatures (though Trevenant’s body shape and English name do seem to reference the treants of modern fantasy), just on more general ideas, fears and superstitions about old, dark forests.  How many fairy tales centre around dark and dangerous creatures that lurk in the deepest part of the woods?  The theme is a particular fixture of northern and eastern European tradition – Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Baba Yaga, to name a few – but is far from unique to that region.  Phantump aren’t really dangerous as far as we know, but their origins are pretty sinister and sound a lot like the bad ending we’re supposed to be scared of in some of those dark forest fairy tales.  Like Yamask, these Pokémon are explicitly believed to have once been human (raising all kinds of questions even more thorny than usual about the ethical position their trainers are in) – Phantump are said to be born from rotten tree stumps possessed by the spirits of children who died lost in the forest.  In fact, Phantump’s spiritual form, a thin black wisp, does look a lot like poor, haunted Yamask, as well as giving it a somewhat childlike appearance, helped by those wide, staring eyes.  As with all Ghost Pokémon, it may be worth questioning how seriously we’re supposed to take the ideas in the Pokédex – which is not above reporting myth and folklore as fact – but whichever way you slice it, Phantump is pretty creepy.  I see it quoted everywhere that Phantump can imitate the sound of a child’s voice, although I can’t figure out where that information is supposed to come from (no, internet, “[Source: Bulbapedia]” is not helpful); it’s not in the Pokédex, and Phantump hasn’t appeared in the anime yet.  It certainly sounds plausible, though, and it would explain how, rightly or wrongly, people came to believe that they were the spirits of lost children – if a mysterious creature with spiritual powers lives in the forest where your kid got lost and never came home, and sounds exactly like him or her, a grieving parent isn’t going to have a lot of time for scepticism.  The more worrying question is why Phantump have this ability.  Are they really just lost souls calling out for help, are they malicious spirits luring others to their deaths in the dark heart of the forest, or are they just pranksters looking to have a little fun?  None of these options, on the surface, strikes me as particularly implausible.

 There is one tree in this picture.

When they mature, Trevenant take on the role of protectors and avengers of the forest, and fill that role with a much more frightening tone than Phantump.  Where Phantump is maybe a little cute if you look at it in a certain light – or at the very worst, pitiable – Trevenant is like something out of a nightmare; crawling spider-legs, long, grasping claws, a single glaring red eye, and darkness obscuring the inside of its rotting wooden body.  They can curse people who harm the forest and cause them to become trapped there forever… which, as a reader pointed out to me a while ago, could potentially mesh with Phantump’s origins in a slightly horrifying way: this is how they reproduce.  Phantump are the spiritual remains of children who did something to attract the ire of powerful Trevenant.  Well, okay, they are a gendered species, so we know they can also produce eggs, but there’s no reason both couldn’t be possible, and this way is much cooler; besides, it’s not like anyone has ever claimed that the basic concept of Pokémon breeding makes a whole lot of sense.  If it’s true, it lends a lot of weight to a more malicious interpretation of Phantump.  There’s a lighter side to these Pokémon, though.  Trevenant also possess the ability to control the trees in its forest by connecting to them with its roots.  At a glance, this is just a really cool power that explains how it can trap people in the forest; by controlling trees, it can rearrange and obscure pathways at will, weaving branches together to block safe routes while creating appealing trails that just lead you spiralling into a thicket.  Perhaps even cooler though, it also sounds like it could be a reference to colony-trees like Pando in southern Utah – things that look like huge forests made up of hundreds or thousands of trees, but are actually single organisms, genetically identical and connected by enormous interlinked root systems.  These colonies are among the largest and oldest living things on the planet, and a potent symbol of the interconnectedness of all life.  Like Torterra, Trevenant is also said to provide homes to smaller Pokémon that live in its leaves, branches and hollows, and is supposedly very kind to them despite its fearsome exterior.  Trevenant are deadly when called upon to protect their homes, but as always in Pokémon, we shouldn’t necessarily take their actions towards humans as the whole picture.  Powerful Grass Pokémon are often portrayed as mediators of the balance of nature, and even rot is just another form of life.

 Trevenant.

On the face of it, Trevenant looks like it should be a fairly lacklustre Pokémon to use, because it seems to be basically a slow, fairly tough physical attacker.  Its Ghost/Grass typing comes with some nasty common weaknesses, but useful resistances and immunities too (including the new Grass-type immunities to things like Sleep Powder), so it’s not terrible.  The problem with being a Ghost-type is that physical Ghost attacks remain few and relatively poor – their new attack, Phantom Force, which is effectively a powered-down version of Giratina’s Shadow Force, has decent power behind it and is perfectly fine for fighting AI opponents, but because it takes two turns to use (even if you are invulnerable on the first turn), it means giving a human opponent a turn when they know exactly what you are going to do, without question, and that is rarely a good idea in this game.  Unfortunately, the next alternative, Shadow Claw, is almost unacceptably weak; pick your poison.  Wood Hammer, its strongest Grass attack, is much more powerful, but on the other hand it’s, y’know, a Grass attack.  Trevenant’s physical coverage options aren’t great either – Earthquake is always nice to have, but beyond that… well, Rock Slide is relatively weak, X-Scissor has quite a bit of redundancy with Grass attacks, and Poison Jab is Poison Jab.  It’s not really good at being a physical attacker – Grass-types usually aren’t.  This brings us to Trevenant’s real niche, though: again like many Grass-types, it can actually put together very nice support-oriented sets.  Will’o’Wisp makes Trevenant much more difficult and dangerous for physical attackers to take down by threatening to burn and cripple them.  Leech Seed is a Grass-type staple that needs no introduction.  Horn Leech isn’t a powerful attack, but it adds nicely to Trevenant’s survivability.  Reflect is an option, though Will’o’Wisp will usually be a better choice for dampening physical attackers since you don’t have to keep setting it up again and again.  Trevenant is also capable of using Trick Room, which is unusual enough to be worth consideration, and benefits from it quite a bit too since it’s quite slow.  It’s not an incredibly tough Pokémon, though Will’o’Wisp helps a lot and allows you to focus on its special defence.  Its poor speed is also detrimental.  It’s not an amazing Pokémon, but it’s certainly not bad either, if you stick to what it’s good at.

The real draw to Trevenant is that it has two fairly rare and rather lovely defensive abilities, both of which can make it a lot harder to kill.  Natural Cure heals a Pokémon’s status problems when it switches out, which is just generally useful since it means you don’t care about Will’o’Wisp, Thunder Wave, Toxic and the like, and also adds Rest to Trevenant’s list of usable healing options.  The other one is Harvest, which is Trevenant’s hidden ability and worth mentioning mainly because so few Pokémon get it – it’s shared only by Tropius and Exeggutor.  What it does is give Trevenant a 50% chance every turn (100% under Sunny Day) to regenerate a berry that it has previously used during the battle – the most obvious applications are self-replacing Sitrus Berries for extra healing or self-replacing Lum Berries for instant Rests and status recovery.  There are probably weirder options out there to explore, involving things like resistance berries and stat boost berries, but for the most part you probably want to go with something that increases your survivability, since Trevenant is giving up Natural Cure for this.  The fact that Knock Off got a huge damage buff in Generation VI (with an extra bonus for hitting an item!), and is also strong against Ghost-types like Trevenant, also makes Harvest a little more iffy since you can swat Trevenant’s berry and deal horrible damage in one move, but it’s still not like everything uses that.  Phantump and Trevenant, like many of X and Y’s Pokémon, also come with one more thing worth talking about: a nifty little signature move called Forest’s Curse.  Like Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist’s signature move, Trick or Treat, this thing works by adding an extra type to its target, namely Grass, until that Pokémon switches out.  The target keeps its original type, and in fact will be treated as having three types at once if it was a dual-type already.  Unfortunately, while it’s fairly easy to see how Trick or Treat can be useful – Ghost-types are weak to Ghost attacks, which of course Gourgeist uses – the only things Trevenant has that can take advantage of giving a Pokémon Grass-type traits are X-Scissor and Poison Jab.  Turning something into a Grass-type also confers Leech Seed immunity (it won’t remove an existing seed, though).  This is another one of those moves that has its greatest potential in doubles, where you can easily set up a partner to take advantage of its effects; in a single battle I’d stay away from it.

I love these two.  They hit all the right notes and are some of the creepiest Pokémon we’ve seen yet, with stunningly eerie design, chilling backstory, and potential for a complex portrayal with strong positive and negative aspects.  Their battling abilities are kind of niche, but they have an interesting combination of skills, and I’m curious to see whether anyone’s been able to make anything clever out of Forest’s Curse.  All in all, they’re definitely among my favourites from X and Y (and no, I’m not just saying that because they’re Grass-types.  Well… okay, maybe a little bit).

Cold Darkness of the Cosmos

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

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

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

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

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

…wait…

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

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

Ridiculous quote log:

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

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