Hop

This one isn’t going to be super heavy on sweeping themes and allegory; I don’t have, like, a hot take about how Hop’s character arc is actually a commentary on British masculinity, or anything like that. Nor (thank Arceus) do we need to get especially deep into the lore of any particular legendary Pokémon to understand what Hop’s deal is; Zacian and Zamazenta are relevant to his story, but we can do this without them. That means I can just… talk about what Hop does in the story, then say what I think about it, like I used to do back when I was still pretending that my life made sense. The theme here isn’t even all that complicated or particularly unusual in a Pokémon game: Hop’s story is about growing up in other people’s shadows and learning to find your own path and excel in your own way, not comparing yourself to the achievements of others. It’s sweet, it’s uplifting, let’s talk about it.

Continue reading “Hop”

A Pokémon Trainer is You! XIX: The Larry Scenario

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

What do you want to do tomorrow?
– Explore the deep forest.

Part of you wants to focus on getting to Pewter City so you can get that whole gym challenge thing back on track after your frustrating false start in Viridian City.  On the other hand, though… this forest is fascinating to you.  People in Viridian City called it a “natural maze” because of the way the vegetation swallows any artificial path that isn’t constantly maintained, leaving a tangled mess of Pokémon migration paths, treefall clearings and hill crests as the only real landmarks.  No one alive really knows Viridian Forest, and even your new friends who’ve spent time here before are only truly familiar with a small part of the southern reaches.  Still, with your scientific knowledge, their wilderness skills and a bit of luck, you’re confident you can map out a sector of the forest and gain some valuable data about the ecosystem – maybe even find a cool new Pokémon or some kind of, like, lost treasure or whatever.  You all pack up your gear and set off northward, most of your Pokémon out of their balls and playing together as you move.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XIX: The Larry Scenario”

Ms. Guided asks:

What do you think of the original game concept of having to eventually battle the opposing Pokemon yourself should all of yours be defeated?

I think it might be…

mis-guided?

…okay, you have to let me have that one; you were asking for it.

So, I don’t think we actually know for sure that trainers were going to take part in combat.  That’s one interpretation of some of the old concept art for Red and Green and all the trainers from Generation I who use whips, but as far as I know no-one from Game Freak or Nintendo has told us “yeah, we were thinking of letting you fight them yourself.”  Regardless… I think if you include that, Pokémon has to be a fairly different game and world from what it ended up being.  Mechanically, the trainer is going to end up acting like a seventh Pokémon, but it’s one that you can’t change or do anything interesting with, which is weird and jarring in a game that’s otherwise about building a team from hundreds of choices.  So, in order for it to not be a drag, you have to build a whole bunch of new systems and options for trainer combat, or maybe systems where you can optimise your trainer for either direct combat or other things.  That sounds interesting, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve even had a bunch of ideas for different abilities that trainers might have (haven’t we all?), but it sounds like it would be a nightmare to balance, especially if you want trainer combat to be a last resort, and you probably need to devise a whole separate experience system.  And do you use any of this in battles against other trainers?   If not, then it’s going to be a minor enough part of the game that you might as well not bother (because how often do you expect players to lose their entire teams to wild Pokémon?), but if you do, then what on earth does that do to the concept of what a Pokémon battle is?  If you beat your opponent’s Pokémon after yours have already lost, do you fight your opponent hand-to-hand?  Even if you aren’t fighting other trainers one-on-one, the world clearly feels  a lot more dangerous this way; like, in the games we have, your Pokémon are knocked out and you run back to a Pokémon Centre with them, and wild Pokémon don’t pursue you at that point.  If you’re fighting a vastly more powerful opponent by yourself as a last-ditch effort, what does that imply about the stakes?  Like, I don’t know if the Pokédex quest was a thing at this point in development, but is Professor Oak sending you out into the wild to catch Pokémon, knowing full well that they will try to kill you?  Clearly this isn’t something you can just plug into Pokémon as it exists; you have to start from the beginning and I think there’s potential for the end result to turn out either better or worse.

Larry asks:

Hey, just something that’s been, pun very intended, bugging me- Paras and Parasect. We all know their deal, their horrible, horrible deal. But it’s weird, innit?

Why would a Paras let itself evolve, let its trainer do that to it? How come the Parasect *seems* to maintain all emotional bonds? (Saying that based on friendship/affection remaining.) If the Paras’ soul really gets sucked, and it’s a known fact, why isn’t it even frowned upon to evolve Paras?

This seems like one of the more trustworthy dex entries, the damp habitat thing seems realistic, Parasect’s eyes are too barren for comfort, but I can’t quite make up my mind.

This is on my mind specifically because now I’m playing soulsilver with a Paras, and I’m not sure if I can forgive myself if I evolve him. Thoughts?

(PS: I know there’s an anime episode about a girl who wants to evolve her Paras, but I couldn’t find your review, if there is one. All I know is that in the ep there doesn’t seem to be any drama OR soulsucking?)

So, Parasect is… a tricky one.  Just to get us all on the same page, here are (by my reckoning) all the relevant examples of how the Pokédex talks about Parasect and its mushrooms:

  • The mushrooms have “taken over” the host bug.
  • Staying in dark and damp places is “the preference not of the bug, but of the big mushrooms.”
  • The mushroom “extracts” nutrients from the bug until “nothing’s left.”
  • The mushroom “controls” the bug.  Notably, Ultra Moon also says this about Paras.
  • “The bug is mostly dead, with the mushroom on its back having become the main body. If the mushroom comes off, the bug stops moving.”
  • The mushroom “appears to do all the thinking.”
Continue reading “Larry asks:”

Lilycat asks:

Doesn’t Raihan look like Garchomp? Considering his sandstorm…weather team….do you think it was a wasted opportunity that he didn’t have a Garchomp?

I mean I suppose they’re saving him for the rumored diamond pearl remakes…but what are your thoughts?

Yeah, I guess I can see it?  Like, those particular shades of navy blue and scarlet, together with the white “spikes” on his hoodie… seems like it could be a deliberate stylistic reference.  I can think of reasons not to give him a Garchomp, but not fantastic reasons.  Like, as you said, if they were planning to release Pokémon: Timey Diamond and Spacey Pearl or whatever in 2020 or 2021, then those games would definitely have Garchomp, so there’s a decent argument for leaving it out of Sword and Shield, but I think you are allowed to put it in both; there are several Sinnoh-native Pokémon in Sword and Shield, including the iconic Rotom and Lucario, so there is going to be overlap anyway.  You could also argue that gym leaders almost always have a signature Pokémon that’s new in their own generation – in Raihan’s case, Duraludon – and putting a “pseudo-legendary” Pokémon like Garchomp on his gym team would overshadow his star player, which is clearly undesirable.  However, his Champion Cup team actually does include a pseudo-legendary Dragon, namely Goodra.  I don’t think it was necessarily a mistake to leave Garchomp out of the Galar Pokédex and thus deny Raihan the opportunity to use it, but I do think it was a weird choice to do that and then lean into what seems like a Garchomp-inspired character design, rather than picking one of the many other Dragon Pokémon that do exist in Galar, like Haxorus or Noivern.

Then again, I can see an argument for that being kind of the point.  The Pokémon that are missing from Galar aren’t gone for good, and they even have fans in Galar; maybe Raihan loves Garchomp but has never had the opportunity to catch one.  Arguably his costume would look… well, over-the-top if it matched a Pokémon he actually used, but comes across a bit more subtle as a reference to a foreign Pokémon that he likes but doesn’t have.

Leo M. R. [Patreon cultist] asks:

You know how you can’t freeze a Pokémon during intense sunlight? What if we did the reverse and have it so that you can’t burn a Pokémon when it’s hailing (which I think makes quite a bit of sense); do you reckon that’ll make hail a more competitively-viable weather condition, considering many Pokémon rely on either burning others or being burned themselves? Happy holidays, btdubs!

Hmm.  I like it as a subtle buff to hail. I am wary because Sun and Moon already nerfed burn significantly by reducing its damage from 1/8 per turn to 1/16, to balance it with poison (which does 1/8 per turn but doesn’t reduce the victim’s stats), but hail is probably still niche enough that this is fine.  More importantly to me, it feels weird for hail to have this effect without rain also getting it, since it’s usually rain that weakens Fire attacks and thematically it makes just as much sense (if not more) for rain to soothe burns.  I think the issues with hail hint at a broader problem of the Ice type struggling to find an identity distinct from Water, which kinda goes back to generation I.  In a way, it’s actually of a piece with my old complaint that “Grass-types Don’t Get Nice Things” – the type’s identity has always been defined in such a rigid way that flavour considerations rule out a lot of good mechanical possibilities for rebalancing it, particularly in the case of buffing the hail weather condition.

Also, happy thing and stuff to you too, and to everyone else reading!

Riddler asks:

You have a Fenniken, a Torchic, and a bag of Sitrus berries to take across the river on a boat, the boat can only transport one at a time, the Fenniken is hungry but won’t eat the berries, the Torchic will eat the berries but is a noticeable few levels lower than the Fenniken, how do you get them all across the river when, while testing for deepness, you threw your pokeballs into the river and you can’t swim?

why the fµ¢£ would I throw my Pokéballs into the river to test the depth when rocks are literally free

besides which, listen, if this Fennekin can’t be trusted not to eat my Torchic when I leave them alone together, then it can fµ¢£ing swim across; I don’t care if it’s a Fire-type

hell, why am I even training a Pokémon that wants to eat one of my other Pokémon?  Throw the fµ¢£ing Fennekin in the river and let it drown; see if I care

EDIT: Riddler further asks:

What if you were trying to sell the fennekin and it was just bought, if you don’t bring it you won’t get your money?

Then I guess I would recite the extremely well-known solution to this extremely well-known riddle?

  1. Take Torchic across, return alone.
  2. Take Fennekin across, return with Torchic.
  3. Take berries across, return alone.
  4. Take Torchic across.

Was that what I was supposed to say in the first place?

(also why am I selling Pokémon? That sounds kinda fµ¢£ed up)

EDIT AGAIN: Riddler further asks:

The guy outside Mount moon sells live Magikarp, plus you are literally just given pokemon, not to mention Team Rocket’s black market.

Team Rocket’s black market is… well… Team Rocket’s black market; I mean, there are two very significant red flags in the name of the thing you are citing. The Magikarp salesman is also characterised as… pretty damn shady; like, in the anime he literally runs a pyramid scheme, and even in the original games, where he has like three lines, it kinda seems like he’s deliberately trying to mislead you about what you’re buying. I suspect that exchanging a Pokémon for money might be seen as kind of crass or unethical in a way that trading or giving away a Pokémon is not – largely because the best examples of Pokémon being sold are… well, not above board.

Also, this is a very annoying way to have a conversation; there is a comment section and you don’t need a WordPress account to use it.