Pokémon’s Generational “Flagship Mechanics”

How you know $#!t just got real.

As part of my eternal contract of service to the Dark Council of my highest-tier Patreon supporters (to whom special thanks, and a mighty tribute of souls and magic, are as always due), I regularly solicit topics from them to discuss in longer articles – and once again, that time has come.  Today I’m supposed to be talking about the (so far) three generational flagship mechanics of the Pokémon games – X and Y’s Mega Evolution, Sun and Moon’s Z-Moves and Sword and Shield’s Dynamax – in all their aspects, both how they practically work in the game and how they influence the story and lore of their worlds.  “Flagship mechanics” is my own term for these, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else say it, but I like it better than “gimmicks” because I think it’s a better reflection of what the developers seem to want them to be, so I’m gonna keep using it, and you all just have to deal with that because… it’s my blog, so shut up.

Let’s start with a summary for people who might not be familiar with one or more of the games that introduced and featured these mechanics:

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A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXIV: At the Mountains of Moonness

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Who do you want to spend time with?
– Magikarp

You really need to hurry to reach your destination and get on with that… mission… thingy… or whatever.  I mean, not that I give a $#!t but it seemed important to you.  The going’s going to be much slower now that you’re climbing the mountain and trekking through caves.  Still, Mount Moon isn’t completely inhospitable.  Yeah, the cave floors are pretty uneven – lots of stalagmites and unexpected potholes – and gravel and dust keep falling on your head in a very unsettling way.  Your Pokédexes have GPS, but with so much rock over your heads they might as well be cardboard compasses.  On the other hand, you and Blue both have torches (plus the glowing tail flame of Blue’s new Charmander) and Brock’s map shows the layout of the caves on your direct route in fairly high detail.  There are even a couple of softly-glowing phosphor lanterns that must have been left by the dig team as waypoints.  You more than once trip over an unruly Geodude, but Scallion and Aura both have Grass attacks that can quickly send them packing; with Blue’s Squirtle on your flank, they’re no trouble at all.  There are also Zubat just… everywhere.  You love all Pokémon, Professor Oak groomed you to be a paragon young trainer and scientist, but if there were ever a Pokémon that could stretch your patience to breaking point, it’d be the one constantly trying to perch on your shoulder and give you a quick anaesthetic bite so it can suck your blood unnoticed while you walk onward through the dark caves.  Fortunately, Nancy the Negator isn’t having any of that bull$#!t.  On top of everything else, you have this uncanny sensation of being watched by something just outside your torchlight.  When you bring it up, the Pokémon just seem to think you’re being paranoid, but Blue bites his lip and mutters something about how it’s not paranoia if “they” really are out to get you.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXIV: At the Mountains of Moonness”

Unown asks:

There are rumors that (well by the time you answer this maybe it’ll be announced) this month will reveal diamond and pearl remakes. What would you hope to see implemented in the remakes?

So… I am on the record as not seeing any particular need for remakes of Diamond and Pearl, and I don’t think I’ve changed my mind about that.  But we’ll probably get them eventually, whether that’s this year or at some later point, so just for the sake of argument let’s talk about it.

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[Yes, I know it’s January] asks:

Is there a Pokémon version of Christmas? Is there, like, Arceus-mas or Arce-easter where people celebrate Arceus instead of Jesus? I’m pretty sure there was a winter festival about gifts or something in the anime.

Well, the Kanto series of the anime had a literal Christmas episode – like, they met Santa Claus and everything.  So the easy answer is yes, Christmas exists, takes place during the northern hemisphere’s winter and is associated with gift-giving.  Therefore, Jesus, St. Nicholas of Myra and the Christian faith all exist, therefore the Roman Empire existed and the date of Christmas was fixed at December 25th at some point during the reign of Constantine I in the 4th century (probably by the logic of that date being nine months after Passover, which was thought to be the date of Jesus’ conception, which in turn means that both Egypt and the Jewish people exist); in addition, if the birth of Jesus was a significant event we have to assume that his death was likewise significant and that Easter therefore also exists… and so on.

I said that was the “easy” answer, didn’t I…?

Continue reading “[Yes, I know it’s January] asks:”

KHM asks:

Have you considered that Ribombee’s Fairy Typing might be influenced by how you can connect bee flies’ reproductive habits with the trope of the Changeling (a fairy left in the place of a kidnapped human baby)?

Mmm, I’m not sure I see it, for three reasons.  One, nothing about Ribombee really seems like a reference to parasitism; it’s not an idea that the design or the flavour text or Ribombee’s mechanical abilities seem to be evoking.  Two, Cutiefly and Ribombee’s dainty, gossamer-winged physical appearance already gives us a pretty clear reason for them to be Fairy-types; we don’t need an explanation for that.  And three… well, I think there are better animal kingdom metaphors for changelings – namely brood parasitism, like what cuckoos do; they actually slip their eggs into the nests of other birds to trick them into raising the cuckoos’ chicks.  Personally, that’s where I’d go if I wanted to play with changeling mythology.  I suppose I don’t think it’s impossible that Ribombee is doing something along these lines, but I’m not convinced.

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXIII: Unconventional Acquisition

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you do?
– Follow Blue’s lead

Screw it, may as well ask what he has in mind.  You quietly gesture for Blue to continue.  He waits for the Magikarp seller to reach a crescendo of enthusiasm in describing the virtues of his “product” (his words, not mine, just to be clear).  Then, he presses something into your hand.  You glance down at it.  It’s… a plastic drinking straw?  From… the restaurant you had lunch at in Pewter City yesterday, you guess?  Has this just been in his pocket the whole time?  Why did he even keep this?
“Use that Pokémon you have,” Blue whispers to you under his breath.  “The one you used in the gym battle.”  Jane?  How-?  You look down at the straw again.  Oh.  You interrupt the Magikarp seller to cheerily ask him whether it would be all right for you to take a closer look at the merchandise.
“By all means!”  He waves a hand towards the tank.  “See for yourself how smooth and soft its scales are!” 
Blue clears his throat.  “So, uh, how exactly did you get into the Magikarp business, anyway?”
“Oh, my young friend, you shouldn’t be asking about my story, but about how you can get into the Magikarp business!  Let me explain…”

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXIII: Unconventional Acquisition”

Larry asks:

What are your thoughts on Pokémon evolution as a biological process instead of as a gameplay feature?

Larry has no shortage of his own thoughts so I’m gonna break this up.

Most evolutionary lines are very clearly meant to be not only progressions of power, but also of physical maturity and aging. There are outright “baby pokémon”, but it’s not like those are children and the rest are all adults. Most first stages in three stage lines, and some in two stage lines, are made to look and act like children, small and playful.

Right, but at the same time, most unevolved Pokémon are viable on their own, which is interesting.  Pidgey can survive and reproduce without evolving into Pidgeotto; you can have a whole community of Pidgey without a single Pidgeotto and they’ll probably manage.  With the exception of “baby” Pokémon, who can’t lay eggs (presumably because the designers saw them as “too young” to reproduce – it’s weird that Gold and Silver didn’t extend this restriction to a few other pre-existing Pokémon, like Caterpie), an unevolved Pokémon is a “complete” organism.  So I think in a lot of cases it’s not just maturity as such but maybe a social and/or hierarchical thing.  More evolved Pokémon might need more space and more food or other resources, so maybe it’s advantageous to the whole community if only a small number of them evolve.

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TooMuchTime asks:

Knowing what we do of Pokémon and Trainer culture in setting do you really think modern armies like what Lt. Surge seemed to be apart of would actually make sense in the Pokémon world? I figure any kind of military they’d develop would be more warrior-like than soldier-like given the strength a single skilled trainer can wield with their team.

This has sort of come up a little bit before, and the short answer is that my take on it is… very different.  Mostly, I don’t think we should underestimate the degree to which one powerful Pokémon could be fµ¢£ed up by many weaker Pokémon with intelligent leadership and strategy.  It seems to me like warfare is basically a thing of the past in the utopian setting of the Pokémon world (except in Ransei, the setting of Pokémon Conquest, which is, like… somehow canonically contemporary with all the other Pokémon games, even though Ransei is clearly based on sengoku-era Japan and uses mediaeval technology; look, I don’t fµ¢£in’ know), and I honestly doubt they’ve ever had a large-scale war with truly “modern” technology (i.e. post-World War II, because Lt. Surge is definitely a WWII veteran and definitely came to Kanto during the post-war American occupation of Japan, which is another whole… thing).  I also truly don’t know how Pokémon would stack up against, like, modern firearms and explosives.  I think you probably could persuasively argue, depending on which sources and portrayals you look at, either that humans with modern weapons are more reliably lethal than Pokémon and would just shoot them, or that Pokémon would render all human weaponry obsolete.  Like, can Psychic Pokémon use telekinesis to block sustained machine gun fire?  Will a Steel Pokémon’s skin stand up to a bazooka? (If they could, would those weapons even be used?)  I have genuinely no idea, but honestly… my instinct is “probably not.”  What’s more, I think if you really pressed Game Freak on it, they’d probably say that it hasn’t come up in a long time because their world is now peaceful (like modern Japan is), and that modern trainers wouldn’t put their Pokémon in harm’s way like that anyway.  The point is, I don’t think we’ve ever had a good look at what mass combat involving Pokémon trainers is actually like (again, except Ransei, which honestly seems more like Pokémon trainers LARPing warfare than an actual war – I think deliberately), so anything we say is going to be extrapolation. But let’s assume we’re thinking about war being fought mainly between Pokémon trainers, using Pokémon attacks rather than human weapons.  I think the actual rules of the games probably give us reason to be fairly pessimistic about the odds of super-elite Pokémon trainers taking on large numbers of mid-level chumps.

Continue reading “TooMuchTime asks:”

Bi guy asks:

If there was one Pokemon character (aside from Milo) that you could go out on a date with, who would it be?

I suppose it probably doesn’t count if I say Team Skull Grunt B from my dramatised playthrough of Moon Version, does it?  Besides, I already dated him.

So… hmm.  I like N a lot but he’s been through some $#!t and probably needs friends more than anything else.  I like people who are into fun science or esoteric history, like Roark or Morty, and those common interests might be a nice foundation for a relationship.  Cilan is a baker, which is a nice shared hobby, but I think the constant food puns would make me want to kill myself.  Honestly, Norman… like, he would never leave his family so there’s almost no point even bringing him up, but you ever hear the expression “DILF”?  Look, being a good dad is attractive; I’m only human, what do you want from me?

Galarian Stunfisk

Galarian Stunfisk

Well, it’s a bear trap.

I don’t think it’s more than that.

…I have to talk about it anyway, don’t I?

Stunfisk was… a Pokémon I had very mixed feelings about in 2011, then promptly forgot about for most of the next 8 years.  But now it’s back with a shiny new Galarian regional form, and I suppose I just have to deal with that.  Original recipe Stunfisk’s angle was that it’s a flatfish that hangs out on beaches and mud flats and zaps you if you step on it.  It’s like a flounder or plaice mixed with an electric eel – or like a stonefish, that kills you with horrifically painful venom if you step on it – or like a stargazer, which is a fat ugly fish with eyes on the top of its head that isn’t flat like Stunfisk but does bury itself in sand and can produce electric shocks – or like a torpedo ray, which is flat and lives on the sea floor and can zap you but doesn’t really look like a fish-fish – or like a mudskipper that can survive on land because it can breathe air through its skin.  It’s a rich tapestry of derpy fish that all come together to produce one supremely derpy derpfish, is the point.

New Stunfisk… is also still a fish, but in addition to being a fish, is a bear trap.  So, I guess, let’s talk about bear traps.

Continue reading “Galarian Stunfisk”