One lunatic's love-hate relationship with the Pokémon franchise, and his addled musings on its rights, wrongs, ins and outs. Come one, come all, and indulge my delusions of grandeur as I inflict my opinions on anyone within shouting distance.
Are bad dads a constant in the Pokémon Universe? Like i can’t remember for the life of me a single good father in the franchise. Hell, the entire plot of the Detective pickachu movie hinges on a son being unable to recognize his own father’s voice.
Well, I can think of… a couple of good dads:
Professor Birch, in Ruby and Sapphire, seems to have a very strong relationship
with his child, May/Brendan (whichever one isn’t the player character), while
Norman, the player character’s father, is away all the time because he works in
a different city but seems like a decent enough parent when we actually get to
see him. Bianca’s dad in Black and
White… doesn’t really “get it,” but he’s at least trying not to be a
There is a standard explanation for this one, and there will
always be one person who brings it up, which is: “absent fathers are a theme in
Japanese fiction because Japanese fathers work 500 hours a day and are never
around.” That’s… true, and it
explains a lot of the $#!ttiness of many Pokémon fathers – like Palmer
in Diamond and Pearl being so distant from Barry, or Hau’s unnamed father in
Sun and Moon being off in Kanto somewhere doing god knows what. I think a lot of it really is just Pokémon’s
own priorities, though, and a general lack of interest in the families
of the player or other major characters (it would be fair to say, I think that
the plots of these games are not what you’d call “character-driven”). Like… fathers who are absent or distant
because they work all the time are also a theme of American fiction;
American fiction has practically created entire genres out of emotionally
stunted men’s obsession with their $#!tty father figures. But that’s not what the fathers of Pokémon’s
main characters are like; they’re just not there, with no explanation
and no relevance to anything. Plenty of
other characters have fathers who clearly exist, even if they’re not
around very much or aren’t very good parents.
It’s also fairly common for both parents to be equally absent (as
in Brock and Misty’s cases; I don’t think we ever meet Hau’s mother either). I think the presence of the main
character’s mother in each game is, in most cases, something of an admission
that, at a bare minimum, it would be weird for a child to grow up completely
With regional variants no longer restricted to gen I Pokémon, it might be a good time to consider which of the Unovan Pokémon you rejected you would like to give a regional vatiant?
There’s probably a fair bit you could do by building on the
industrial revolution theme that some of the generation VIII material we’ve
seen already seems to be going for. I
could see Heatmor getting some kind of region-specific evolution that builds up
to a whole steam engine, maybe changing its type to Fire/Water or Fire/Steel (although
the implied comparisons to Volcanion or Heatran would not be flattering). Or even a Galarian form of… [ahem]…
grbdr… that’s based on a sack of coal, making it a Fire/Poison-type that also
gets Rock attacks. Then, on another angle,
we could have a Steel/Fairy form of Pawniard and Bisharp based on white pieces
from the famous Lewis chess set from Mediaeval Scotland, to contrast the original
black Unovan ones. Possibly some sort of
“royal” form for Swanna, but I’m not sure where exactly to take that.
Type (re)Design 1: I doubt the logic of type differences will ever be rigorously explained in-game to satisfy veterans who grew up with the series but I am curious about tinkering with weaknesses/strengths from a design perspective. For instance, I think it’s a design flaw that Rock- and Ground-type – hardy “earthen types” if you will – have so many weaknesses in common because it that discourages these types from appearing together in future designs given how crippling a 4× weakness to both common Water- and Grass-type attacks can be. An early idea I had was to combine these types into a single Earth-type but I realize this is unlikely and would mean cancelling out some of the more interesting resistances/immunities of either Rock- and Ground-types. My other idea would be to remove Ground-type weakness to Water-type attacks (becoming 1× normal damage) and remove Rock-type weakness (also becoming 1× normal damage) to Grass-type attacks. That means the Rhyhorn and Geodude families for instance would only suffer 2× weakness to either Grass- or Water-type attacks.
Thoughts? Or is this plea overly specific?
I have… a bit of a history of badmouthing Ground as a type that doesn’t really have a point, or any thematic unity. You could get rid of it, I think, and we would manage without it. I tend to think that, all else being equal, a smaller and less complicated type chart is actually better, as long as it doesn’t restrict design space. There is an argument that we need some variable in the game that makes Flying Pokémon immune to Dig, Earthquake and Magnitude, but every other strength and weakness of the Ground type either overlaps with Rock (as you noted – weak to Grass and Water, strong against Fire) or doesn’t actually seem flavour-essential. Why do Ground attacks need to do extra damage to Poison-types? Or reduced damage to Bug-types? There are also plenty of Ground attacks that… don’t seem like Flying-types should automatically dodge them? Drill Run, Mud Shot, Sand Tomb, Earth Power… Bonemerang, for heaven’s sake. I think it would actually make more sense to have specific attacks flagged as “this doesn’t work on anything that flies or levitates.”
The details of it are mostly ideas I agree would be good. Probably the only thing I really dislike is separating the starter Pokémon over three different games, because I think being locked into one starter hurts replayability and doesn’t have much upside (other than we’re now explicitly encouraging people to buy three games instead of one, which… ehhhhhhh, I can see how Nintendo marketing would love it but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth). I’d rather have the different themed starting locations being options within one game. A lot of it has similarities to some things I’ve suggested myself in the past, some of it in my old “If I Were In Charge” series, some of it in miscellaneous question-and-answer posts – see especially here on mechanics that emphasise treating our Pokémon well, here and here on thematic gyms, here on paired games and the idea of separate ‘upgradeable’ hometowns for each game, and here on the role of legendary Pokémon. I have some differences with the broad scope and aims of the project; given the choice, I would prioritise a complex story over an open structure and non-linear progression, and I think there’s a middle ground to be had between the massive-scope bad guys of generations III through VI and the “we’re just mobsters” bad guys of generations I and II. That’s top-level design choices though; there’s not really wrong decisions there, just preferences, and subsequent decisions can serve those top-level choices well or badly. I don’t think a Pokémon game can be everything that everyone in the fan community wants Pokémon to be, and do it well – design is about trade-offs, and mostly I can respect the ones made here.