A Pokémon Trainer is You! XLI: Perchance to Dream

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you dream about?

  • Your Pokémon
  • Blue

As the mountain cave fades away and the Clefairy’s strange song fills your head with fog, you come to realise, all of a sudden, that you’re back home, in Pallet Town.  You’re at school, on your lunch break – and so is Blue, who is mid-sentence saying something about why studying Pokémon scientifically is dumb.

You were never close with Blue, back in Pallet Town.  Obviously you knew him – you were at school together and he’s related to the Professor, so it would have been hard not to – you just didn’t feel like he had the qualities you wanted in a friendship.  And, I mean, fair play to you; he’s a piece of $#!t.  But you remember this day.  Your Pokémon Studies teacher had asked the class why people become trainers, and you and Blue had gotten into a fairly spirited argument about how much trainers should value strength and power, which spilled over into lunchtime.  You think it was about six months before you both left home.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XLI: Perchance to Dream”

Chronos asks:

So, do you have any thoughts on some of the more “loose” interpretations of moves in the new Pokemon Unite? For example Defense Curl, Hex and the three different Surfs?

I haven’t actually looked at Unite.  I don’t really enjoy MOBAs as a genre; I kinda find the design of character abilities interesting from an abstract perspective and I can see why people like them, but the fast-paced team combat just doesn’t play to the things I enjoy about games or have any aptitude with.  So, yeah, I haven’t looked at it.  I was thinking maybe I should, specifically so I can talk about this kind of thing with reference to the portrayals of specific Pokémon across different media, but I doubt I’m going to get really into it.

The other thing on my mind at the moment is that I’m hearing Pokémon Unite is extremely microtransaction-heavy, even more so than Pokémon Go or anything else in the franchise.  Which… well, given that Pokémon (even though it now has a lot of adult fans) has always consciously marketed itself as being for preteen children and still makes a lot of major decisions from that perspective… seems a little bit on the evil side, and maybe represents something that I shouldn’t be giving oxygen to?  I dunno; I am willing to be guided by my readers on this.

Seronimo asks:

Since Gen 7, the Pokedex has been getting more liberal in talking about predator/prey relationships between Pokemon. However, they’ve stopped making sure these relationships are reflected in type effectiveness. Before, you had Heatmor being 4x effective against Durant, and Zangoose with its two poison-related abilities. But now, we’ve got Talonflame preying on Wingull, both Gabite and Sableye chasing wild Carbink, and the Poison-type Mareanie devouring the Rock-type Corsola. Idk, how do you explain that?

I’d imagine that – much like predators in the real world – predatory Pokémon go out of their way to make sure that any fights they get into with prey are deeply unfair.  Just like Pokémon with a type disadvantage against their prey, a lot of real predators are genuinely kinda fµ¢£ed if their target manages to fight back.  Think of, for example, big cats, who go for the throat at the first opportunity, preferably from ambush, and usually back down pretty quickly if that fails because they can’t afford to expend the energy, or sharks, who famously tend to retreat if you give them a good punch in the snout or gills, because they’re just so stunned at the concept of food that tries to hurt them.  You want to stack the deck.

Continue reading “Seronimo asks:”

Leo M.R. asks:

Let’s make the most cursed concept design for a Fire starter ever! A bipedal bovine that:
– fights by getting enraged and charging at its opponents (shamelessly ripping off Tauros and Bouffalant, because we’re being as unoriginal as possible),
– is a fast physical attacker with Anger Point as its Hidden Ability, just to drive home the Tauros comparisons,
– has Fire/Fighting as its type in reference to the practice of bullfighting (a morally-questionable blood sport, and also calling back to Blaziken & cockfighting, because we’re being as unoriginal as possible),
– draws visual cues from oxen just to further reinforce the idea of Fire starters being based on the Chinese zodiac.

So, how cursed is this whole idea? Can we make it even more cursed?

oh no

so, this is a good effort, but I don’t think it’s cursed enough yet

We need to spit on the game balance somehow – make it either heinously overpowered, like Speed Boost-Blaziken overpowered, or find a way to make it really bad.  Fire/Fighting is so strong offensively that, I think, in order for a Fire/Fighting starter to be bad, it almost has to be really slow with one garbage defence stat and a signature move that does something pointless (maybe it scores more critical hits against burned targets).  Even then, though, starters have such high stats that it’s hard to make them truly awful without doing something totally obtuse, like mismatching their attack and special attack stats with their movepools.  If you want to go in the other direction, just make its hidden ability Huge Power and give it access to Agility.

On the zodiac angle… well, for me personally, to make it as cursed as possible, you have to make it like Cyndaquil or Fennekin, where it’s not actually based on an animal from the Chinese zodiac, but it’s close enough to make people keep repeating the theory anyway.  Not sure what the best direction for that is – maybe a bison?

The trouble with the cockfighting/bullfighting analogy is that it feels almost clever.  I think if you want to make it as cursed as possible you should just make it an angry wrestler.  With tights, except that the Pokédex makes it clear that they’re only skin/fur markings that look like tights for no obvious reason.

Oh, and… obviously it has to learn Curse.

a people asks:

Do you think the people of the pokemon universe consider Yveltal and other destructive pokemon evil? Affection for legendary pokemon works the same way it does for others, should we have to earn their trust in a different way? And they still do things like play minigames with you and make cute faces when you pet them. Why?

I don’t get the impression they do.  They might be scared of certain Pokémon that have dangerous powers or that humans don’t know much about, but I’m trying my hardest to think of anyone who says a Pokémon is “evil” and I’m really not coming up with much (not counting phenomena like the Shadow Pokémon from Gale of Darkness and Pokémon Go, who have been transformed by an external force and can be “purified” to return them to their peaceful natural state).  Individual Pokémon can certainly be evil, like the Malamar from the X and Y anime or Meowth from Team Rocket (maybe Meowth is debateable as he has several redeeming qualities, but he certainly self-identifies as “evil”), but species of Pokémon aren’t inherently evil.   When Yveltal appears in the games, it’s a pawn of Lysandre, and in the Diancie movie, it’s treated as extremely dangerous but not really malevolent, more like a living natural disaster than a villain.  Tyranitar and Hydreigon are much the same, destructive forces of nature more than evil beings.  Mewtwo is, I think, intended to be more complex than just outright “evil”; Necrozma is destructive because it’s diminished and broken; most Dark Pokémon that are mischievous or violent are treated as being dangerous in an animalistic way.

The only ones I can come up with, the only Pokémon that I think are ever implied to be by nature actively and deliberately malicious, are a few of the Ghost Pokémon that literally represent “evil spirits” – Banette and Spiritomb and the like.  And even then, the inspirations behind Spiritomb’s design imply the possibility of redemption: the 108 demons of Water Margin become heroes; the 108 temptations that lie between mortals and Nirvana can be overcome.  For Spiritomb, the same has to be possible.  We’re told by the Ultra Moon Pokédex that Banette’s curse can be broken by treating it with kindness.  And I suspect that this should be the default assumption – that even when Pokémon are violent or destructive or malevolent in nature, there is a way in.  And that way in commonly involves macarons, doughnuts and/or curry.

I think fundamentally, Pokémon are animals, and Pokémon the series takes the view that humans have a responsibility to be the enlightened stewards of the natural world.  We’re supposed to show them the difference between right and wrong (or, in some cases, accept that they are beyond our understanding of right and wrong).  What we’re not in a position to do – what I don’t believe the series ever endorses us in doing – is judge them.

Except for Drapion; Drapion’s a piece of $#!t

Anon asks:

If you were transported to the pokemon world but as a pokemon, which one would you be (barring legendaries and mythicals) also, keep in mind, this isn’t about which one is your favorite, it is about which one has the best chance for survival based in different criteria.

For survival?

Well, that’s easy.  Carbink.

I mean, yeah, you’re rubbish at fighting, truly bottom-tier ludicrously bad.  On the other hand, you basically don’t age, you’re composed primarily of diamonds and, consequently, you’re thoroughly inedible, impervious to most environmental hazards and, for all intents and purposes, indestructible.  There are Carbink out there that are almost a billion years old – not the species, but individual CarbinkIn Kalos, mind you, which means they’ve slept through Yveltal’s tantrums before.  Time itself can’t kill these little fµ¢£wits, and it has tried.

Leo M.R. asks:

I think the execution of Solar Power is bizarre. It’s understandably given to various Pokémon who are supposed to draw power from the sun (e.g. Sunflora or Heliolisk) but the HP loss means that these Pokémon would actually be *harmed* from being in intense sunlight. Sure, they get that Sp. Atk boost but is it worth the drawback? The current mechanics of Solar Power would actually incentivize them to not be in the sun, unless they’re feeling particularly suicidal and want to go out in a solar blaze of glory. I wonder two things:

1) Must there even *be* a drawback to Solar Power? Other weather-dependent Abilities don’t have drawbacks (compare Chlorophyll, which just freely doubles your Speed); I feel like Solar Power giving Pokémon a free Sp. Atk boost wouldn’t break the game; 2) If there *must* be a drawback, why not have it so that it increases your Sp. Atk in sunlight but decreases it in rain/any other weather condition? Making a Solar Power Pokémon wholly dependent on the weather – their own preferred weather – makes more sense to me than the current ‘they lose an eighth of their health every turn even though it’s their preferred weather’ thing.

I dunno if I’m with you on this.  There’s not no precedent to the way Solar Power works – it’s unlike the other weather abilities, sure, but its drawback is pretty similar to the way a Life Orb functions.  You get more power, you lose health every turn.  Solar Power seems worse: it takes more of your HP (1/8 per turn rather than 1/10), only benefits special attacks and doesn’t work without the weather support, but its bonus is larger (50% rather than 30%).  I think the trade-off is more interesting than a pure buff, although there’s certainly an argument that Solar Power isn’t strong enough to make up for the damage it does to you.  I would also suggest that thematically it makes sense for the Pokémon that get it; Charizard is all about burning up in a blaze of glory and Mega Houndoom has a certain self-destructive cast to it, while for Grass Pokémon like Sunflora and Tropius, their weakness to Fire attacks has always made fighting under the sun a bit of a double-edged sword.  Actually, it really reminds me of the energy-burning effects that Charizard and other Fire Pokémon tend to have in the TCG, where you have ridiculous power on tap, but you have to win quickly and efficiently because you’re destroying so much of your own resources. It’s like the sheer CELESTIAL POWER of the BLAZING SUN is too great for your mortal body to contain and it will BURN YOU FROM THE INSIDE if you try to channel it for too long.

Chlorophyll and Solar Power aren’t really comparable, in my opinion, because speed works differently to all the other stats; once you’re 1 point faster than the competition, you already have everything you’re going to get out of extra speed.  Extra special attack only stops being useful when you’re already powerful enough to one-shot everything that matters, which is a much higher threshold.  The other consideration is that most Pokémon with Chlorophyll are pretty slow to begin with (the major exceptions being Jumpluff, who can’t actually do anything, and Whimsicott, who gets more out of Prankster anyway); the ability bumps them up to merely “acceptable.”  Apart from Tropius, all the Pokémon that get Solar Power have quite high special attack stats already.  They still aren’t very good, but it’s not specifically a lack of power that lets them down, so I’m not convinced that buffs to Solar Power would change their fortunes.  Sunflora and Tropius are bad because they’re slow and have garbage movepools; Heliolisk’s problems are that it’s ludicrously fragile and it can’t figure out which weather condition it wants to synergise with; Charizard historically has mostly been fµ¢£ed over by its double weakness to Stealth Rock, but hey, at least we have Heavy Duty Boots now.  Dynamax that $#!t, you can really easily set up your own weather support with Max Flare and go to town.

I’m also… honestly not even sure Solar Power is a bad ability? Like, a 50% buff to special attack, on top of any bonuses your moves already get from bright sunlight, really is quite a lot! It’s a bigger bonus than Sand Force, which is the only other ability that gives you extra damage from weather. I think the only reason we don’t see more of it is because most of the Pokémon that get it are so terrible. I mean… Sunflora? I’m not even sure Wonder Guard would make Sunflora good. Tropius is less awful but still pretty ineffectual; Heliolisk has pretty nice stats for a weather-based sweeper but also has basically no Fire attacks and is better under rain with Dry Skin (despite being a Pokémon with a solar energy theme and the Greek word for “sun” in its name). The only Pokémon you’d ever really expect to see succeeding with Solar Power is Charizard, and that genuinely kinda works, even with Charizard’s iffy special movepool and the Stealth Rock weakness that makes it nearly impossible to take a Life Orb (or really any item other than Heavy Duty Boots).

what was the question?

yeah, no, I think Solar Power is actually fine

Leo M.R. asks:

In many ways I think Glacia from RSE and Flint from DP are polar opposites, pun semi-intended. Not only are their personalities the reverse of each other (Glacia is cool, elegant, and reserved; Flint is passionate, boisterous, and a little unhinged), their situations are also reversed (Glacia is an Ice-type specialist in a hot region; Flint is a Fire-type specialist in a cold region). Despite all that, they’re both penultimate Elite Four members with only two fully-evolved Pokémon of their chosen type specialties available in their respective regions (Glalie and Walrein for Glacia; Rapidash and Infernape for Flint), and yet they have the complete opposite approaches to team-building. My question is: whose approach do you think worked better? Glacia’s “Imma stock my team full of repeats if it means sticking to my type specialty!” approach or Flint’s, um, imaginative “these things are hot!” approach?

Obviously this doesn’t apply to Glacia from ORAS – where she gets to add a Froslass at least – and Flint from Platinum (and hopefully BDSP as well).

Bonus question: if Glacia from RSE were to do a Flint and fill her team with a Glalie, a Walrein, and three other non-Ice Pokémon, what do you reckon those three other Pokémon would be?

I suppose I prefer Flint in theory and Glacia in practice.  I like Pokémon teams that give a character a little bit of flexibility in responding to threats against their specialty type while still feeling thematic.  Flint’s Diamond and Pearl team is just so… all over the place.  Drifblim for hot air, Steelix for hot rock in the Earth’s mantle, Lopunny… is vaguely feminine in design and therefore “hot”?  Glacia’s team composition is boring, but her duplicate Pokémon still manage to have slightly different movesets and do slightly different jobs (as do Phoebe’s duplicate Banette and Dusclops, in the same Elite Four lineup) while contributing to a fairly coherent overall strategy (at least by the standards of generation III AI trainers).

For alternative Pokémon on Glacia’s team… well, let’s assume we have to pick Pokémon that are both among the 200 in the Ruby and Sapphire Hoenn ‘dex and able to learn at least one Ice attack.  Let’s also try not to load her up with just Water Pokémon; that’s just the easy way out of this kind of problem for Ice-type trainers.  Glacia has this vaguely Nordic look to her, she’s from another region that’s far away from Hoenn and much colder (she claims that Hoenn’s heat is good for training Ice Pokémon), her slogan is “flaming passion in icy cold” and she’s very serious, but also very elegant and poised.  Her existing team uses Hail in combination with defensive and disruptive effects like Attract, Encore, Light Screen and Body Slam paralysis to wear opponents down.  I think the Pokémon that most immediately jumps to mind as a possibility for her is Gorebyss, who signifies Hoenn’s tropical climate, is beautiful but deadly, and has access to moves like Confuse Ray and Amnesia that fit Glacia’s battle style, as well as Ice Beam.  Nothing else sticks out to me as such an obviously good fit, but I’d like to offer for consideration an Ice Beam Altaria (elegant, aloof, can paralyse with Dragonbreath) and Ice Punch Alakazam (poised and focused, can capitalise on the chip damage inflicted by Glacia’s other Pokémon; bonus points for giving it Ice Punch and Fire Punch).  Neither of those Pokémon can learn Hail, so we pretty much have to give it to Gorebyss, but I think I’m okay with that.  It’s just a shame Castform is so terrible or we could use that as an extra pseudo-Ice-type – then again, Phoebe does have a Sableye (in the pre-Mega Evolution days, mind you) so this Elite Four wasn’t above scraping the barrel a little.

[This question was promoted to the front of the queue because the submitter is supporting me on Patreon!  If you enjoy my writing and like getting my answers to cosmic dilemmas like this one – or just think I deserve something nice for my work – consider visiting https://www.patreon.com/pokemaniacal and signing up!]

whatever asks:

How tf is phione a legendary but not Volcarona, Rotom or Spiritomb????

Well, there is no real definition of what a legendary Pokémon is, other than “the ones we say are legendary Pokémon.”  It seems to me like the distinction has two parts.  There’s a real-world reason, related to how you, the player, go about obtaining the Pokémon practically, and there’s an in-universe reason, roughly related to how well-known the Pokémon is.

Continue reading “whatever asks:”

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVI: Conservatively Speaking

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you want to investigate?
– Visit Lexa, then go looking for the Super Nerd

You decide that Mal and Ellie’s comments about a “weirdo” who hangs out at the mountain’s peak are the best thing to follow up, so you head over to the tent where they said their fossil conservator, Lexa, is busy working.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXXVI: Conservatively Speaking”