N asks:

What would a pokémon based in New Zealand be like?

Well, New Zealand has a lot of unique native birds, and I’d love to see Pokémon based on some of them.  Kiwi are the obvious choice, because they’re adorable and weird and iconic, but I think you could also do something fun with kea (mountain parrots that dismantle people’s cars for fun), moa (extinct giant emu-things), kākāpō (flightless nocturnal parrots with a booming mating call that can be heard several kilometres away) or pūkeko (wading swamp birds with beautiful blue and black plumage and red beaks that adapt easily to living near humans).  We’d need something for pāua, which are a kind of abalone with an iridescent shell that’s used a lot in Māori art.  I’d love a regional form of Shelmet with rainbow armour, that kept its armour instead of losing it to Karrablast and evolved into a warrior with a taiaha or mere.  There should probably be some kind of bat Pokémon, because bats are New Zealand’s only native mammals, but I don’t know exactly what to do with it beyond that.  And we’d need a giant wētā – they’re these huge bugs, like spiky crickets the size of your hand (if you choose to search for images of them, don’t be scared; they look terrifying but they’re completely harmless).  You maybe don’t even need to do much with that one; just make it a huge, tanky pure Bug-type.

Jim the Editor had this idea that I absolutely love, which was to have a Solrock regional form based on the legend of Maui slowing down the sun (aside: I love that the existence of the movie Moana means we can talk about Maui and Americans will more or less know who that is), possibly also building in some kind of reference to the ozone hole, which has always been a particularly acute problem for New Zealand.  Maybe they normally live in the sky but have been driven closer to the ground by air pollution and are terrorising land Pokémon.  I think there’s a lot of cool possibilities.

At the risk of sounding like a wet blanket, though, I do want to repeat some stuff I’ve said before about designing Pokémon regions, namely that I would not be super comfortable about Game Freak doing this stuff without hiring some Māori artists and designers as consultants.  I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to take material from indigenous cultures to inspire new media, but money from that commodification should flow back to those communities and they should have a voice in how it’s done.  It would be… really personally unpleasant for me if this were something I had to get mad at Pokémon about.

Larry asks:

Hey, are you worried about regional variants making the OG mons get sidelined? Because while I love the new versions, both from a bio nerd standpoint and a creature design standpoint, I look at variants getting evolutions, OGs getting nothing, and get… concerned

What if the answer to “how to deal with pokémon who need buffs” simply becomes “replace them with clones?”

If I’ve merely missed Hoennian Obstagoon from avoiding SwSh spoilers, I’m sorry to bother, but I’m kinda scared. Thoughts?

So… I think there may actually be a reason for this, and it’s a dumb reason.  Game Freak think they’re not allowed to give new evolutions to old Pokémon unless it’s through regional variation, because it would create an inconsistency in how the Eviolite works.  If Hoennese Linoone could evolve, then it would be able to use an Eviolite, which it can’t in generation VII.  Therefore, we can never let it evolve.  Now, personally I think that whether or not to give new evolutions to old Pokémon is a top-level design choice with no inherently right or wrong answer, and I would actually be fine with never seeing it again (incremental moveset/ability buffs or even flat base stat buffs to older Pokémon are another matter, and I think we have every reason to imagine that those will continue; Jim the Editor would like to recommend a YouTube series on the subject that you can find here).  However, “we accidentally painted ourselves into a corner by introducing a weird item during a generation that consciously downplayed older Pokémon” is the dumbest possible reason I can imagine for making that choice.  I hope that’s not actually something that Game Freak’s designers have in mind – or, if it is, that they get over it – but it is kind of consistent with their actions.  New evolutions stop in generations V-VII, with the sole exception of Sylveon (who is allowed, because Eevee can already use an Eviolite), and reappear in VIII, but restricted to Pokémon that got Galarian variations, who can therefore be treated as a blank slate. Mega Evolution and Gigantamaxing, although they have other functions, can also be seen as a replacement of sorts for new evolutions (with the added bonus that you can give them to Pokémon who’ve already evolved twice, such as the obvious best Pokémon that is everyone’s favourite and may not be questioned, Charizard).  It also feels like the same kind of logic that dictates that old Pokémon who get new evolutions must always evolve in new, increasingly obscure ways that weren’t available in previous generations (can’t evolve Seadra in Red and Blue because Pokémon couldn’t hold items until generation II; can’t evolve Piloswine in Gold and Silver because it couldn’t learn Ancient Power until generation IV). On the other hand, they have also now stopped holding to some of those, because it’s just a huge pain when you can’t have Leafeon in the game unless you build an area with a Mossy Rock, and if some godawful pedant wants to ask “so why can’t I use a Leaf Stone on Eevee in Red and Blue?”… well, honestly, fµ¢£ ’em.

So I guess I would say yeah, be scared because the thing you’re describing is definitely happening and can only be stopped by Game Freak choosing to abandon an arbitrary nonsense rule that they’ve held for three generations now.  However, also don’t be scared because Pokémon don’t need to keep getting new evolutions to be valid, there are other ways of buffing them that the developers definitely know about and use, and anyway they’ll probably see the light eventually.