Pikachu

Pikachu

Somehow, after writing on this blog for nearly 10 years(!!!) and having reviews of individual Pokémon be a pretty big part of my schtick, I’ve never actually talked in depth about Pikachu – the beloved mascot, the one Pokémon everyone knows, even people who have never played a Pokémon game or seen an episode of the TV show; heck, I’d wager there are people who don’t even know what a Pokémon is who’d recognise Pikachu.  But no more, for I have been commanded by the mysterious cloaked figures of my Dark Council to write next about the most famous Pokémon of all.  So… what exactly is Pikachu’s deal, anyway?  Where did it come from, and what makes the design so effective?  Whence Pikachu?  Read on, as we delve into the history of Pokémon’s favourite child.

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jeffthelinguist asks:

Maybe this answer exists somewhere online and I’m dumb, but… what benefit does Sudowoodo have using mimicry to appear as a tree? It seems like that is a poor choice for a rock type given it’s weak to water (which intelligent creatures will naturally pour on it).

uh

well, it

um

I suppose my first instinct is to say that, on an evolutionary timescale, creatures who see plants and immediately think to pour water on them are probably a recent enough arrival in the world that they wouldn’t have had much impact on Sudowoodo’s physiology or evolved instinctive behaviour yet.  But we don’t really know that’s true; there are Pokémon that modify and curate their environments; there are even Pokémon that tend gardens.  The Pokédex says that Sudowoodo looks like a tree to avoid predators, and that does make sense to me; I have no problem with that.  So I suppose the best answer is probably that looking like a tree does work really well for its intended purpose – well enough that it’s worth accepting the unfortunate side effect of sometimes having water poured on you.

Tapu Wooloo asks:

Would it be possible for Pokemon to retire the concept of “fainting”? Originally, Game Freak wasn’t even sure what fainting even meant–when you tried to send out a fainted Pokemon it said “there’s no will left to fight,” and in the early anime trainers simply withdrew a Pokemon when it clearly couldn’t fight anymore. So what if “[Pokemon] fainted” could be replaced with “[Pokemon] gave in” or something?

I’m not sure that it matters, particularly?  I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with changing it, but “fainted” isn’t a terrible word for what they use it to mean, and the condition itself is simple enough – the Pokémon can’t battle, full stop – that I don’t think it’s all that important to have precise language for describing it.  You could do away with the entire concept, and replace it with a range of more specific ways a Pokémon can be debilitated, each caused by particular attack types, requiring specialised forms of care and having different lingering effects after the Pokémon is healed.  I think you could build an interesting system out of that, although it wouldn’t be a very good fit with Pokémon’s general direction over the last several generations; it’s more of a “darker and grittier” mechanic.  If it’s just changing the name to slightly better reflect what we already imagine is happening, I could happily go either way.

Leo M.R. asks:

I watched a Pokémon video on YouTube where the guy pointed out that, for all the hype Mega Evolutions got prior to the release of XY, you actually only ever fight three Mega Evolutions throughout the course of the main story: Korrina’s Mega Lucario, Lysandre’s Mega Gyarados, and Diantha’s Mega Gardevoir. He argued that 1) the first one doesn’t even count because it was just a Mega Lucario battle, and 2) this is a big reason why XY felt too easy, especially since you can Mega Evolve after the third Gym. He suggested that, since you fight Lysandre before the final Gym, Wulfric and the Elite Four should all have been given Mega Evolutions, something the anime actually does (sans Drasna). It’s an excellent point and I… don’t know why Game Freak didn’t do this in the first place, now that I think about it. The final rival battle at Victory Road should probably also have given them their eventual Mega Absol, if Wulfric should have a Mega. What do you think?

…huh

Y’know, I never really thought about that – when I played X for the first time, I never used Mega Evolution unless my opponent did as well, because it seemed “unfair,” so I guess I just wasn’t thinking about it very hard.  But yeah, considering that Mega Evolution is generation VI’s flagship mechanic, it’s… not actually in there very much.  Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby are kinda light on it as well, at least in the main story; there’s… what, Archie/Maxie, Wally and Steven?  But then there are a lot more in the postgame: May/Brendan, Matt/Courtney, Zinnia and all of the Hoenn Elite Four.  X and Y don’t really have that.  This seems doubly weird considering how much work must have gone into designing the Mega Evolutions.  Wouldn’t you want to show them off?  I can see a perspective where finding all the Mega Evolutions is mainly meant as an end-game side-quest for the player, a little challenge for the 100%-completionists, but a) the Pokédex already provides plenty of that, and b) it would make a lot more sense if Pokémon had, like, Final Fantasy-style “bonus bosses” where you really needed the right Mega Evolution to win.

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A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXII: Come into Our Parlour

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

How do you deal with the poachers?
– Use your Bug Pokémon to create snares and set up an ambush.

If you get into a fight, which Pokémon will you use?
– Scallion, the Bulbasaur
– Nancy the Negator, the Minun

[AUTHOR TIEBREAK: Nancy can cheer for our other Pokémon from the sidelines, so let’s have Scallion take point.]

You think about the problem for a minute.  Yeah, all things considered, Dane has a point; the five of you with all your Pokémon probably could take these clowns with a good battle plan, even if they do turn out to be a bit stronger than you individually.  But why risk it?  You all have Bug Pokémon that can spin silk (except maybe Ellis?  You glance at him questioningly and he confirms that, yes, his Beedrill is still young enough to remember String Shot) – you can use them to create nets and webs, string them up between the trees, then lure the poachers into a trap.  With any luck, you won’t even have to fight.

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Regional Variant Pokémon: Galarian Meowth and Farfetch’d

Let’s do some more Galarian forms!  Today I want to look at the two “warrior” regional variant Pokémon of Galar: Galarian Meowth and Farfetch’d, and their evolved forms Perrserker and Sirfetch’d.  Like many of the Alolan forms we’ve already talked about, these forms are to some extent less about “adaptation” and more about regional culture, history and folklore.  Let’s get into how they use those things…

Meowth and Perrserker

Galarian Meowth

This is Meowth’s second regional alternate form, and where Alolan Meowth is refined, elegant, royal, accustomed to luxuries, Galarian Meowth is… not that.  It and its evolved form, Perrserker, are shaggy and wild with prominent teeth, claws and horns.  Kantonian and Alolan Meowth and Persian are associated with gold, coins, gems, wealth and good fortune in finance, because of their links to Japan’s lucky “beckoning cat” figurines, or maneki-neko.  Galarian Meowth and Perserker are Steel-types, and their coins aren’t gold, but black iron – transformed by “living with a savage, seafaring people.”  A savage, seafaring people, in a region based on England, can only be a reference to the Vikings – the Scandinavian raiders who plagued the coast of Great Britain throughout the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, and even ruled most of northern and eastern England for a while under a regime known as the Danelaw.  They’re particularly famed for their elite warriors known as berserkers (hence Perr-serker) – literally “bear-shirts,” perhaps because they wore bearskins into battle.  It’s a little unclear exactly what these guys’ deal was; they may have had something to do with some ancient Germanic animal cult and channelled animal spirits in battle to fight more effectively, and also they may have used some kind of psychoactive mushroom or herb to “enhance” their abilities.  Animalistic and more than a little crazy, is the general vibe.

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Osprey asks:

The most important Pokemon move, in terms of its centralizing impact on the competitive metagame (at least in singles), is probably Stealth Rock. Having a Stealth Rock setter on your team is essentially mandatory in serious competitive singles play, and Pokemon like Volcarona and Charizard are singlehandedly dropped several tiers of competitive viability by their 4x weakness to Stealth Rock.

On the one hand, it does seem useful to have some way to check endless switching. But on the other hand, this one single move being Rock type has a really unfortunate impact on the competitive metagame for those of us who favor types that happen to be weak to Rock. The changes to Defog in Gen VI seem to have been intended at least partly as a SR nerf, so Game Freak seems at least somewhat inclined to agree, but several generations later, the impact of Stealth Rock is still enormous.

In your view, is this something that needs fixing? If so, how would you fix it? Remove type advantage/disadvantage from Stealth Rock damage? Add other mutually-exclusive entry hazards of other types (“Stealth Ice???”), forcing teams to decide which they’ll run in a way similar to Terrain? Other ideas?

So, mutually exclusive entry hazards of different types have been my go-to solution for this in the past, but I think there’s several things you could do – some of which Game Freak has done.  You mentioned Defog, which I kind of like, since it’s a much more widely available counter to entry hazards, but comes at a cost that Rapid Spin doesn’t have (clearing your own hazards as well), and there’s also the new Heavy-Duty Boots item in Sword and Shield that just makes a Pokémon straight-up immune.  Those are both a little blunt for my liking, though; they hit all entry hazards, when we really just want to hit Stealth Rock.  I remember Smogon’s very first Create-A-Pokémon, Syclant, was a Bug/Ice-type with an ability that made it immune to Rock-type damage on the turn it switched in, which is an interesting response, but more a cool toy for that Pokémon in particular than a real nerf to Stealth Rock.  You could just reduce Stealth Rock’s damage directly, but honestly its neutral damage output is probably fine; you could take away its ability to do more or less damage based on the target’s weakness or resistance to Rock, but that’s the most interesting thing about the move.  That’s why I like the idea of having several competing options for that slot, with different type properties; it actually introduces an additional interesting decision (which one is most helpful for your team composition?), while also reducing the victimisation of Pokémon who are weak to Rock attacks in particular.  On the other hand, it’s clunky – why are these moves mutually exclusive, when Spikes and Toxic Spikes aren’t?  And what’s the best way of communicating that to a new player?  My latest idea is to have Stealth Rock actually wear out over time; it can do a total of eight (or twelve, or some other number) “ticks” of damage, each of which is equal to 1/8 of the target’s health (Stealth Rock’s standard neutral damage).  Pokémon with a Rock weakness still take a lot more damage, but they also wear the rocks out faster, which turns an unfair-feeling punishment into an additional strategic calculation.  It’s another thing players then have to keep track of during battles, but you could probably add a counter or something to the battle UI (which has already been picking up some useful extra functions over the last few generations).

Pokémon I have cooked and eaten

If you have ever made the dreadful mistake of paying attention to my Twitter feed, which you should be able to see in the sidebar on the right side of my main page, you may have seen instructions for cooking and eating several Pokémon. These are my submissions to a podcast I listen to, I Chews You, where the hosts compete each week to come up with the most appetising and creative recipes for cooking a predetermined species of Pokémon (because I think we all know deep down that, just as Pokémon are smarter and more powerful than real animals, they also taste better). I’m normally not really a podcast person at all – it’s just not a format I particularly enjoy – but Pokémon and food represent a… very specific combination of my interests that don’t normally intersect. I Chews You is nothing intense or super-analytical, just good relaxing fun and generally pretty zany: four friends chatting about Pokémon and food, $#!t-talking each other and, for some reason that I honestly think even they have forgotten, discussing the pros and cons of La Croix sparkling water.

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to have all my recipes in one place, where they might provide some passing amusement to any of my readers who haven’t come across them before. If you enjoy these, maybe give I Chews You a listen, and if your own creative juices are stimulated, you can always send in your own recipes (on Twitter to @ichewspod or by e-mail to ichewspod@gmail.com) for their Wailord’s Mail Hoard segment – next week’s dish of the day is Walrein. I usually submit something each week, and it’d be nice to hear someone from my own audience join in now and again.

So, let’s get cooking:

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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.

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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.

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