Pokémon Trainers of Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Part 1: Black Eagles)

I’m dramatically late to the party for doing anything related to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but I’m going to write something anyway because I loved this game and its characters and story.  Because I’m a Pokémon person, I think the best way for me to talk about it is through the medium of creating Pokémon teams for all the characters!

If you haven’t played this game, the setup is that you are a mercenary (your character can be either male or female, and their default name is Byleth) in a continent loosely inspired by late mediaeval/renaissance Europe, divided between three major nations that are historically rivals but share a common language, culture and religion, and have united against external threats in the past.  Shortly after the beginning of the game, you visit a sword-and-sorcery academy, located in neutral ground at the centre of the continent, where nobles of all three nations send their kids to learn how to be JRPG badasses.  The academy is part of a monastery where the Fantasy Pope, Archbishop Rhea, lives.  She decides, unexpectedly and despite your total lack of relevant qualifications, to appoint you to a teaching position; thus the plot begins in earnest.  The students are organised into “houses” according to which nation they come from (so the “Three Houses” of the title are, like, school “houses,” but also noble “houses;” the word “house” is beginning to lose all meaning for me), and this year just happens to be the year the future rulers of all three nations are starting their training, so they get to be class president of each house.  You’re asked to pick a house to be in charge of, and mainly interact with the eight students of that house, but can become friends with others and get them to transfer to your class as well.  You then guide them through the plot, gaining their confidence and affection, teaching them to be fantasy RPG protagonists, fighting bad guys, traumatising them and yourself through exposure to the horrors of war, and so on and so forth.  As a real-life educator this premise scratches a very specific “I am so proud of all of you” itch that I have.  I’ve played through the entire game at the head of all three houses, but in case you haven’t played it and think you might, I’m going to avoid revealing details of the plot or any character development past roughly the first third of the story.

So, without further ado, here’s the first instalment: the students of the Black Eagle House, who come from Adrestia, which is the Fantasy Holy Roman Empire (used to rule the entire continent but has since lost a lot of its power; founded with the blessing of the church but has fallen out with them over time; looks to the past and tradition for its authority and strength).

Edelgard von Hresvelg

  • Future Emperor of the Fantasy Holy Roman Empire
  • Natural leader; charismatic, decisive, supportive
  • Progressive socio-economic agenda
    • I mean, she still plans to rule as an absolute monarch and everything, but they’re a mediaeval empire whose hierarchy appears to have been largely unaltered for about 1000 years; baby steps
  • Has a Dark and Tragic BackstoryTM but channels it into determination to save the world
  • Extremely scary if she gets her hands on a battle-axe; capable of wearing five times her own body weight in plate armour
  • She is perfect and I love her

Favoured types: Fire, Steel, Dark
Fire for spoilery reasons; Steel because she wears about a ton of it; Dark because she can use dark magic and isn’t afraid to achieve her goals by… questionable means.

Disfavoured types: Dragon, Water, Ice
Dragon for spoilery reasons; Water because she can’t swim and is afraid of the ocean; Ice as an opposite element to Fire.

Partner: Heatran
As one of the house leaders, Edelgard deserves a legendary Pokémon as her partner, and Heatran’s Fire/Steel typing, heavy armour plating and willingness to either rule the world, or watch it burn, make it a perfect fit.

Other Pokémon: Emboar, Umbreon, Corviknight, Coalossal, Drapion

Edelgard favours bulky Pokémon with powerful physical defences that aren’t afraid to wade into the middle of a brutal melee.  Emboar, Coalossal and Drapion share her imposing physical presence and ability to dominate in close combat.  Corviknight gives her a “black eagle,” the insignia of her house and the empire she is heir to.  Umbreon is just as tough as her other Pokémon, but fits in better at court.

Continue reading “Pokémon Trainers of Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Part 1: Black Eagles)”

Staryu and Starmie

Staryu.

The Dark Forces from Parts Unknown whose occult powers sustain my life and strength have anointed new emissaries to convey their terrible will!  By which I mean, I have two new Patreon supporters pledging $12/month, the amount required to bribe your way onto my Dark Council.  The Dark Council can vote once a month on any topic (I mean, I assume Pokémon-related, but strictly speaking I suppose it doesn’t have to be) for me to write about at length, and this month I’m writing on the suggestion of Miame Irohara (thank you so much for your support!) whom I have named my new Chancellor of Fate.  By the authority vested in the Council, she has requested that I write about her favourite generation I Pokémon (and some of mine as well): Staryu and Starmie.

This is actually pleasantly topical, since Staryu and Starmie are among the Pokémon who weren’t previously in Sword and Shield but have become available in the Isle of Armour expansion (reminder: even if you haven’t bought the expansion, you can still trade for Staryu, or transfer it from an earlier game via Pokémon Home), and as any veteran trainer knows, they are some seriously kickass Pokémon.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of training one, maybe give this article a read, pick one up and take it for a spin (…literally).  But first, let’s talk about starfish.

Continue reading “Staryu and Starmie”

Isle of Armour time!

Okay; the first expansion for Pokémon: Sword and Shield is out today, so let’s do this thing! Same as with my initial playthrough of Shield, in the interests of being timely I’m not going to spend time writing a super detailed or analytical write-up; I’m just going to bullet-point things as they occur to me, and if there’s something I want to write an article on, we’ll figure it out later (at the very least, we know there’s at least one extra regional form, which will have to be tacked on the end of the series I’m currently writing [also the next one of those is almost done; I know it’s taking ages and it was probably a mistake to try and do four Pokémon at once, but it won’t be much longer]). Anyway, here we go!

Continue reading “Isle of Armour time!”

The original dragon from Unova asls:

I know remakes are going to be a thing forever, but what are your thoughts on games using the same region, but with an entirely different plot, and entirely new Pokemon. For example, before Let’s Go P/E was revealed, there were all these wild rumors about a Kanto Region in the future with all new Pokemon, Gorochu, submerged Pallet Town, a snake legendary, etc.

I dunno that I have “thoughts” on it, exactly.  It’s a thing you could do.  I mean, it’s a thing Black and White 2 did, and those games are pretty well regarded in the fan community, from what I’ve seen (there probably isn’t much merit in using an existing region and deliberately keeping no connections at all to the previous plot – if you’re not using the background, then the freedom of a new setting is probably more valuable).  I don’t think it’s necessarily better or worse than setting a game in a completely new region; the latter gives you a blank slate for developing new ideas and themes, and the former emphasises continuity.  I honestly do think there is a lot to be said for the blank slate, but sometimes having a pre-existing developed setting with dense lore and history can also be useful for storytelling – that’s why fan fiction is a thing.  I probably wouldn’t do a whole new generation’s worth of Pokémon designs for a new game set in an existing region, though.

AceTrainerAlvaro asks:

IV-training and competitive battling aside, sometimes I feel training your Pokémon in battle is too straight-forward and controlled. I’d like to see a mechanic where even a wild-caught Pokémon occasionally disobeys its trainer’s command (maybe it “slacks off” or uses a different move altogether) or feels overwhelmed / flinches and returns to its Pokéball for an ally to replace it. And this becomes less likely the more trust (higher friendship value) a given Pokémon has towards its trainer until it fades away once High Friendship (value 200) is achieved. Keep in mind each Pokémon species is assigned a base friendship level when caught so disobedience could be more pronounced for certain species (which naturally feature a lower baseline friendship value when caught) than others. I’d especially like to see this play out in pseudo-legendary lines, legendary/mythical Pokémon, and maybe special versions of certain species – regardless of how many badges you have (obedience according to your number of collected badges could remain a separate mechanic specific to traded Pokémon).

Thoughts?

So, I think this changes the “vibe,” if you will, considerably.  I suspect if you just implement mechanics like this in the core Pokémon games as they currently exist, and don’t also add some kind of additional systems for developing your relationship with your Pokémon that come with associated benefits, players would unreservedly hate it.  It’s a whole extra mechanic standing between us and what we already understand to be “normal” battling, which makes the game much harder – but in a random and frustrating way, not in a way you can be strategic about.  I appreciate the goal here, making your friendships with your Pokémon something you really have to work at, but there’s got to be more to it, carrots and not just sticks, and ways of working around the disadvantages.

Having said all that, if you wanted to rebuild Pokémon to be a much more punishing and painful game all around – something in the spirit of the Nuzlocke challenge, for instance – this mechanic might be an interesting addition as it stands; something that will, from time to time, just randomly cause you to lose a Pokémon and force you to adapt to that loss. Throw in Nuzlocke staples like permanent death and limited, randomised Pokémon choice; reduce access to Pokémon Centres and sharply limit healing items (maybe lock high-quality healing behind some kind of crafting system); add some permanent debilitating conditions (so, like, less experienced Pokémon might disobey you, but more experienced Pokémon might also have picked up scars or developed phobias that give them specific weak points); remove some of the quality-of-life stuff from the last few generations like easy EV training methods… maybe then we’ve got a game on our hands. Either way, it’s got to be part of a package of mechanics with a definite theme and feel, is the point.

X asks:

Recently, the new episode of Twilight Wings focused on Hop and his bond between Wooloo. This made me think, how do kids under 10 have pokemon? Bonnie has Dedenne, Hop has Wooloo, and I’m pretty sure there are others. Would there be any law about this? Also, how do you think it will work if the kid won’t become a trainer?

Well, the anime has said you become a trainer when you turn 10, but the games have also had trainers who are pretty clearly younger than the player (who in Red and Blue we usually assume to be about 10) from the beginning.  There also seem to be people who have Pokémon companions but aren’t trainers (like, think even of Professor Oak’s opening monologue in the very first games; trainers are just one of several groups of people who live alongside Pokémon); you could probably weasel your way around a lot of rules if, say, your family has a Pokémon pet that technically “belongs” to your parents, but likes you enough to fight for you and take commands.  I think the situation is much more flexible than, like, getting a formal license on your 10th birthday, without which you are at risk of having a Pokémon confiscated, or regulations to that effect.  I also doubt all regions have the same rules.  There might only be age limits for the gym challenge, or for leaving on a journey with your Pokémon; some kids might have known their partners for years before “officially” becoming trainers.

(Besides, I don’t think we know Hop’s age? He might not be 10 at the beginning of the story of Sword and Shield; he clearly hasn’t finished growing but I could believe he’s, like, 13 or 14?)

The Unholy Offspring of Gigantamax Garbodor, Alolan Muk and Galarian Weezing asks:

What’s something you hope to never see in the franchise? Aside from me of course?

I dunno if there is anything… like, my first thought is “microtransactions in a core Pokémon game” but even then, well, I don’t think I’d mind that for cosmetics like trainer clothing or fancy hairstyles, which make a lot of economic sense for the developers and don’t actually hurt the experience of players who don’t buy them.

I think it’s genuinely difficult to come up with a really unsalvageable idea that is bad in all circumstances without regard to specifics.  Generally when someone suggests a hypothetical feature for a future Pokémon game to me (which is sort of a genre of question that I get here quite often), it’s possible to imagine good and bad ways it might be executed.  Maybe I don’t think it works for what I currently understand as the direction of Pokémon’s worldbuilding and ethos, but it could be great as part of a totally new creative direction.

You could imagine something really specific, like… well, some kind of fusion of Gigantamax Garbodor, Alolan Muk and Galarian Weezing… but that also seems so specific and unlikely that “hope to never see it” is… not really the right phrase? 

Update on the Oncoming End of the World

so, I had what you might describe as “two weeks”

Shortly after my last post, I had a long conversation with my father, who is a doctor and sees the worst-case scenarios of the COVID-19 pandemic with frightening clarity. On the same day, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly advised all New Zealanders travelling overseas to return home as soon as possible, since commercial flights might not be available for much longer. Now, that advice was clearly meant for tourists and people who were spending a few weeks in a foreign country, not so much people like me who have a home and a foreign bank account and so on, but our confidence in the United States’ ability to handle this crisis is… sufficiently low that the idea of getting stuck there was still worrying. Besides, all of my university’s courses are now being taught remotely and our libraries are closed, so all my teaching and research has to be online until further notice anyway. Long story short, in the space of 48 hours I went from sitting in my apartment in Ohio, talking to my parents about whether maybe I should fly back to New Zealand, to actually landing in Auckland. I am now quarantined alone in my grandmother’s empty house (she’s staying with my parents) and New Zealand has entered a full month-long lockdown. Frankly I don’t know what happens next, but in principle I’ll return to the US in August.

Anyway, I’m fine! How are you?

I’ve written an article on Hau, Lillie and Gladion, which I’m very happy with and will go up later today (the mood among my mysterious dark Patrons favours finishing up some more Alola stuff in preference to diving into Galar Pokémon reviews – if you want to influence those decisions, you can always join up; nudge nudge, wink wink). I’ll also be returning to reader questions in the next few days and mayyyyybe to A Pokémon Trainer Is You next week? IN OTHER NEWS, Jim the Editor is once again posting things on his Youtube channel, for the first time in, like, a year. He’s started a playthrough of Final Fantasy X, one of his favourite games of all time, with discussion and commentary, and he’s also posting videos of some kind of cricket-related game which frankly I don’t understand, playing with avatars of all the players in his university cricket club in St. Andrews (who have had to call off the rest of their real-world season on account of… y’know, the plague).

Oh, and if you foolishly pay attention to my Twitter you will have seen this already, but I’ve also recently written an article for PokéJungle about how Sword and Shield approach the history and mythology of Galar, which touches on some stuff I’ll probably continue to talk about if/when I write a character study of Sonia. It’s a bit shorter than a lot of my articles here, but talks about some themes that I really think Sword and Shield handled well, and might be a jumping-off point for future discussions of how other Pokémon games have handled their regions’ ancient past. If that sounds interesting, take a look!

Good luck, everyone, and remain indoors!

Gigantamax Garbodor asks:

As punishment for your sins, you are now condemned to be transformed into a stage 1 Com Mon. But you do get to choose which one. What do you choose and why?

Also, isn’t it great that I exist?

okay I know you’re joking, but Garbodor is the only Pokémon not from generation I or VIII that has a Gigantamax form (aside from Melmetal, who is, like… generation VII and a half/honorary generation I), and I really did not need another reason to suspect that someone at Game Freak reads this blog and is actively trolling me

(I SEE YOU, TURNER, AND I STILL THINK VANILLUXE IS DUMB; YOU CAN’T STOP ME FROM DYING ON THIS HILL)

anyway, even if you were sent from hell specifically to torment me I guess I still have to answer your question, huh

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Everyone asks:

Hi Chris, so after reading your commentary/essay/novel on Chairman Rose, did you know his battle theme says “Go Rose, go save everyone!” over and over?

Just an interesting tidbit.

I’m not… quite sure I hear it?  But it makes sense; like, that is definitely what he thinks he’s doing.  “Save everyone” is very much core to his motivation, and not even in a bull$#!t “create a beautiful world through Malthusian genocide” way like Lysandre was doing; he really does mean everyone.  It’s just unfortunate that he’s chosen an insane self-aggrandising way of doing that.