Mega Bidoof asks:

What do you think about Dunsparce’s enduring appeal despite it’s arguable uselessness?

I’m a big Dunsparce fan myself, and honestly it’s hard to separate how much of that is appreciation for a legitimately neat Pokémon and how much is purely a nostalgia thing.  Dunsparce was a cool Pokémon in generation II; it was really rare, and as a kid with no independent internet access in 2000, it was pretty easy to just not know about it until I found one, after I’d already been playing the game for weeks and seen most of Johto (I don’t think there are any AI trainers in the original Gold and Silver that use a Dunsparce; unless you find one by sheer chance, your first hint at their existence comes from a phone call alerting you to a swarm).  Almost every time I started a new game on Silver, I made time to stumble around Dark Cave until I found a Dunsparce to catch; sometimes I still do on Soul Silver for old times’ sake.

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Long time reader; first time questioner asks:

You like baking right? How do you feel about the various ‘food’ pokemon? What food do you think deserves a Pokemon adaptation?

Well, how many even are there?  Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe, Swirlix and Slurpuff… I think that’s kind of it, unless you count Grass Pokémon based on fruit and mushrooms and the like, which personally I’d class as a separate thing.  I have kind of mixed feelings about them, because I’m not fundamentally opposed to the idea of food-based Pokémon like some people are, but actually developing that idea in any moderately interesting way is something Game Freak would probably be uncomfortable with.  That’s why Vanillite isn’t really an ice cream Pokémon at all, just a fairly generic ice-and-snow Pokémon that happens to be shaped like an ice cream for obscure reasons of its own.  Swirlix does better, but still runs up hard against the awkward question – “do we eat Pokémon?” – that the Pokémon games have no intention of ever firmly answering.  So Slurpuff end up working for human pastry chefs, constructing grotesque effigies of themselves, whose flavours are inspired by the taste of their own sugary flesh, for human consumption.  And then you also run up against another problem that I tend to have with Pokémon based on modern culture generally, which is “are we supposed to believe that the Pokémon inspired the cultural phenomenon, and what on earth is the timeline with that?”  It’s easy to make that work with Pokémon based on myths and folklore because you can just push everything back into the misty past of “thousands of years ago” but if you have, say, a hamburger Pokémon or something, we eventually have to ask: what kind of colossally fµ¢&ed up soylent-green-ass cultural moment caused people to suddenly decide, in the last couple of generations, to start modelling meat sandwiches after these intelligent creatures that they’ve been living and working alongside since time immemorial?  Who does that?

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Mr. F asks:

So there are octopus, squid, and ammonite Pokemon. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a cuttlefish to complete the bunch? Maybe a vampyroteuthis as well? Perhaps even a nautilus if Omanyte is too divergent. Come to think of it, the blanket octopus is so strange it could deserve its own Pokemon (maybe one with some of that extreme sexual dimorphism). There could even be an alternate version of Omanyte based on nipponites for some real bizarreness.

Well, as luck would have it, you have – purely by coincidence and the alignment of the planets – come to the right place, because when I got my readers to collectively design a Pokémon one time aaaaaaaaages ago, they came up with a lava lamp squid that attacks with boiling oil, which we named Krakentoa.  To put it another way – yeah, I’m kind of a fan of this.  Cephalopods are just inherently fun to play with, thanks to their alien intelligence and highly unusual abilities.  Although Omastar, Octillery and Malamar are all pretty cool and interesting Pokémon, there’s still a lot of unexplored creative space there, so even if we arguably don’t need more of them, I think there would be room for an eccentric designer to find some way of making additional cephalopod Pokémon conceptually distinct from their predecessors.  Camouflage, shape-changing, deep-sea adaptations, “vampire” traits for the Vampyroteuthis… I think it might be fun to have a nautilus Pokémon that somehow referenced the Nautilus, Captain Nemo’s submarine from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  Not sure of the best way to go about that, though.

Hyper Beam asks:

How would you…in glorious detail…imagine kyurem, zekrom, and reshiram finally combined?

(Disclaimer first: I’m not a designer or an artist, and a Google image search would give you multiple answers to this question that are better than anything you’ll get from me)

The thing is, I actually like that Game Freak never gave us a final realisation of this concept.  Whatever they came up with, it would not have lived up to our expectations or done justice to the idea.  The original primordial dragon represents the totality of all truths and the realisation of all ideals, the reconciliation of every pair of opposites and the resolution of every conflict.  I suggest, though I obviously cannot prove, that the reason it never appears in the games is because Game Freak realised that there is no satisfying way to depict that, and decided it was better left as a mysterious background presence in the lore.  Sometimes it’s more effective to leave things to the imagination; there’s a reason some horror movies never show the monster.  A big mass of black and white wings and scales and $#!t is not as evocative or meaningful as the vague suggestion, buried in layers of mythology, of a primordial being who symbolises the impossible unity of all divisions.  Frankly I think Pokémon could do with more of that kind of restraint, not less.

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jeffthelinguist asks:

Clownfish are all born male but in a group of male adult clownfish, one becomes bigger, meaner, and female. I’ve always thought clownfish would be a great fish Pokémon. (Granted we have a lot of fish Pokémon already but do we really need Basculim?) It could have an evolution method matching the gender changing and an anemone counterpart that it could mesh with in doubles. What do you think about this idea? How would you implement it?

First of all, an apology to this and dozen-odd other questions I have received over the past… month and a half, ish… which I will endeavour to answer over the course of the next week.

Now. I know one thing, and that is that we definitely do not need Basculin because Basculin is dumb.

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Robin asks:

You already did a Top 10 worst/least favourite Pokémon, but is there any chance you’d do a Top 10 best/favourite Pokémon?

Probably not, mostly because I don’t think I would be able to come up with a good rationale for it. When I did that top 10 worst Pokémon list, I chose Pokémon that were both extremely weak and (in my estimation) poorly designed or bland – and there’s really not that many of those. If you set something like Kricketune as your standard for power, you’re eliminating the vast majority of Pokémon right off the bat, and then it’s fairly easy to sort through what’s left and decide which ones are interesting enough to be redeemed on design grounds. That doesn’t really work for picking the best ones. I could start by getting a list of all the most powerful legendary Pokémon – Kyogre, Necrozma, Mewtwo, Reshiram, and so on – and maybe a couple of other top-tiers like Blaziken and Aegislash, then pick ten that I think are well-designed, but… well, for one thing, at that point we’re basically doing a list of the top ten coolest legendary Pokémon, which I don’t think is really what you’re suggesting, and for another, I don’t believe those Pokémon are actually good for the game. Well, obviously then I should start by ruling out all the Pokémon that I think are unreasonably powerful and start picking the best-designed ones from the upper echelons of what’s left. The problem is, I don’t actually know where that point is – and even if I did, I’m not sure how I would convince anyone to agree with me. The “worst Pokémon” list made sense because it was a way of talking about what makes a Pokémon bad, and how to fix the kinds of problems those Pokémon had in common. A “best Pokémon” list… ultimately would probably just be a list of my favourite Pokémon, which I don’t actually think is particularly interesting.

Katiecat asks:

I was reading your eeveelutions reviews. You mention the whole “adaptations” thing isn’t really done that well, since most of them don’t really match their environments all that well.
Theoretically, how would you design an octet of eeveelutions to go with different environments from scratch? I have my own but I wanna hear what you’d do first.
The other thing you mention is that they go for many different aesthetics, such as cute (flareon/sylveon), cool (jolteon), beautiful (vaporeon/glaceon), and mysterious, but kind of leave off a brutish aesthetic. I would also add they leave off the under-appreciated weird aesthetic- the dunsparces and exeggcutes of the world that end up in “top 20 worst pokemon” lists but a small number of us keep close to our hearts.

What catastrophically awful person puts Dunsparce on a Top 20 Worst Anything list?

So, some of the eeveelutions I actually am totally fine with; I’d just associate them with different environments to their canonical ones. For instance, although the core games don’t say much about Flareon’s habitat, spinoffs tend to put her in volcanic or lava areas with all the other Fire Pokémon, but if we’re thinking of eeveelutions in terms of being adaptations of Eevee to a specific type of environment, well, Flareon kinda looks to me like a cold-adapted form. Thick fluffy fur is useful in a cold place, and fire powers are useful if most of the other local Pokémon are Ice-types. Alternatively, and this is what I said when I discussed Flareon for my eeveelutions series years ago, I could buy that Flareon belongs in a temperate grassland habitat, using her fire abilities to scorch areas of dry vegetation and drive out prey. Whether Pokémon in general are actually suited to the kinds of biomes the games tend to put them in… is kind of a big and complicated question and not worth getting into at the moment, but I think if you’re going to do it, Eevee is the place to start, because her lore draws attention to the concept of adaptation and (arguably) to the problems with the way Pokémon portrays adaptation.

Which is my long-winded way of saying “this is too damn complicated to get right with a short post that I wrote in like an hour,” but fµ¢& it, let’s give it a whirl Continue reading “Katiecat asks:”