Legendary Pokémon: Final Thoughts

Dialga and Palkia are so awesome, not even their own trading cards can contain them, as these illustrations by Shinji Higuchi and Sachiko Eba attest.Although I hadn’t quite had it in mind originally, these entries on the Pokémon Power Bracket eventually evolved into something akin to a discussion of what I think legendary Pokémon should and should not be. Given the direction this project ended up taking, I suppose that I now ought to talk about these questions in more general terms and lay out, once and for all, what opinions I hold on these mysterious creatures and why.

So, what is a legendary Pokémon, anyway?

Put simply, a legendary Pokémon is one that breaks the rules. It is normally impossible to legally obtain more than one of the same species on a single game without trading. With the exception of Manaphy, none of them can breed in captivity; even Manaphy requires the aid of a Ditto. They don’t evolve, something Professor Rowan comments on in Diamond and Pearl; of more than six hundred Pokémon, about one hundred don’t evolve, and almost half of those are legendary. While most Pokémon are normally portrayed as partners (or at least potential partners) to humanity, legendary Pokémon are typically more aloof, appearing to hold humans in disdain, and will join their strength only to truly exceptional trainers. Most are figures of myth and legend; their existence is often difficult to verify. Many play roles in the balance of nature that are of global or even cosmic significance.

Let’s face it, though, you don’t care about any of that. You care about how good they are at bludgeoning your enemies into a bloody pulp.

Official Nintendo art of the cataclysmic three-way murder-off between Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza.Legendary Pokémon are significantly tougher and have more powerful attacks than the vast majority of ordinary Pokémon (Dragonite, Tyranitar, Salamence, Metagross, Garchomp and Hydreigon have stat totals that match or exceed those of some legendary Pokémon, and are often called ‘Pseudo-Legendary’ for this reason). Big numbers don’t make the Pokémon, of course: consider Articuno, whose type combination carries a number of crippling weaknesses and whose movepool is small and inflexible. Most members of the lowest ‘tier’ of legendary Pokémon are like this: theoretically powerful, but limited (there are also a couple, like Entei and Regigigas, who are just plain bad, but that’s really a topic for another day). That’s all well and good. It’s the really powerful ones that concern me: Mewtwo and Ho-oh and the like; Kyogre and Arceus most of all. These Pokémon clearly aren’t meant to be ‘balanced’ in any meaningful sense – possibly not even against each other. They don’t merely have a slight edge over mortal Pokémon; they can steamroll entire teams if played competently. Now, I’ve always contended that game balance has never really been a ‘thing’ in Pokémon anyway; I simply don’t believe it was ever part of the designers’ aims. However, it doesn’t take a genius to see that this legendary élite will quickly take over any context to which they are introduced; Nintendo themselves recognise this and ban most of them from official tournaments and in-game battle facilities. Outside of official contexts, however, any ban-list must be self-policing, which is a recipe for chaos – particularly since Nintendo’s ban-list, while a reasonable starting point, is riddled with flaws (they regularly ban Phione, for goodness’ sake). Some fan communities produce and regularly update tier lists to define which Pokémon should and should not be allowed, but one need only consider the vitriol directed against Smogon University for banning Blaziken to see that this is hardly a perfect solution. Some would consider it the height of lunacy to ban Celebi while allowing Excadrill (as Nintendo does); others would think it perfectly rational. As a result of all this, I cannot help but regard legendary Pokémon as a negative influence on the games’ ability to function as intended.

"What?  Create a godlike primordial being out of the celestial ether?  Sure, kids, I didn't have anything planned for this weekend anyway."It is partly for this reason that I expect rather a lot of them elsewhere. Legendary Pokémon are, well, legendary; that is, they are the subject of legends, myths, traditions and tales. As a result they are a fundamental part of the culture, history and philosophy of the Pokémon world and serve to expand our understanding of that world. Provided they do a good job of it, tell a good story, I am generally willing to give them some latitude to act as game-breakers when they take the field; they’ve ‘earned it,’ in a sense (especially ones that aren’t actually game-breaking, like Zapdos and Suicune). This is not always an easy thing to judge. I maintain that it was the second generation that got it right, with the story of Entei, Suicune and Raikou, who were killed in the fire that destroyed the Brass Tower and drove Lugia away from Ekruteak City, and then resurrected by Ho-oh with incredible new powers. These Pokémon all have a history that ties them in with the past of their home region and its visible remnants, while hinting at fantastic powers beyond what ordinary Pokémon can harness. Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres contribute to the general feel of the games with their aura of mystery, but don’t do so with the same eloquence or sophistication as their successors, while many later legendary Pokémon simply go too far. Ever since Ruby and Sapphire, Game Freak seem to have gotten it into their precious little heads that a good plot must be ‘epic’ and that one of the requirements of ‘epic’ is an impending apocalypse (neither of which is actually true), so naturally they’ve been designing legendary Pokémon to match – Kyogre and Groudon, Dialga and Palkia, Arceus, Reshiram and Zekrom – as though their games won’t be complete without Pokémon capable of destroying the nation, the world, or even the universe. This isn’t even a flawed concept, in principle. The flaw is in the way it interacts with the games’ premise and central tenet: “gotta catch ‘em all.” If these Pokémon truly were as remote and aloof as they are often portrayed, present in the game as forces to be deflected or mitigated, I would not have any major objections to them; many of them have interesting stories, and they could definitely add something to the setting’s cosmology. The problem is that once something exists in Pokémon, you have to be able to catch it; otherwise the whole mess falls apart.

The mighty Lugia cares not for your pathetic human fourth wall!  (Artwork again by Shinji Higuchi)

As I’ve mentioned in recent weeks, Game Freak seem to have in their minds a sort of dual conception of many Pokémon like this, a disjunction that must eventually be resolved. When we hear about them through myth, there seems to be a tacit suggestion that these Pokémon are powerful, but not gods as they are depicted in the stories; it is implied that there is an element of exaggeration in what we are told, and we are clearly intended to have this in mind when we capture them and use them in battle. When we actually see what they are capable of, however, these caveats vanish. Kyogre and Groudon are treated, by characters we have no reason to doubt, as an utterly serious long-term threat to the stability of not just Hoenn but the entire world. Dialga and Palkia really are capable of unravelling the universe at Cyrus’ command. On my copy of Black version, all of these Pokémon are mine. I cannot command them to unleash their full powers and rewrite the universe in my image, because their Pokéballs cut them off from their cosmic abilities through mechanisms that are never explained, but I still own them in a legally binding sense. When, exactly, did this start being okay? And how can it possibly be reconciled with their established backstories and characterisation? Reshiram and Zekrom, for their part, are a step in the right direction since their entire point is to be partnered with humans, but the writers still feel this bizarre need to talk up their power to apocalyptic proportions, apparently heedless of the fact that the plot still works without the possibility of Unova being wiped off the map. In Black and White, the threat N presents is primarily an ideological one: that he will use his partner dragon to claim the necessary moral authority to command all the people of Unova to release their Pokémon. The fact that he could destroy the world if he wanted to is a ludicrous embellishment that only undercuts what the story is actually about (especially since N would never do that anyway). What I am trying to get at here is that I feel Game Freak’s desire for legendary Pokémon to have this degree of cosmic power is totally irrational, and does little to add to a series that is, fundamentally, about partnership and discovery. Their existence, again, is not a problem per se; the problem lies mainly in the need to shoehorn these cosmic beings into the standard format of the Pokémon games when they could be left on the periphery, contributing to the background, aesthetics, character and stories of the setting, perhaps as enemies or allies, but not as ‘partners’ in the sense that mortal Pokémon must be.

I can't believe I just wrote an entire entry about legendary Pokemon without mentioning how much I hated "Arceus and the Jewel of Life"!  I must be going soft...Which legendary Pokémon are effective additions to the world, in my view (aside from the second-generation ones I’ve mentioned)? Mewtwo is one; though the extent of his powers is difficult to gauge, his backstory was clearly written with ideas of morality and identity in mind, and he also allows us to ask interesting questions about the relationship between humans and Pokémon. This, I think, is the sort of thing that Pokémon is actually rather good at, simply because the basic premises of the franchise are so interesting from an ethical standpoint. Regirock, Regice and Registeel, though I’ve always felt they are distressingly emotionless, making them difficult to relate to, have a fascinating backstory that gives us a new perspective on the way people related to Pokémon in the past, and what that might mean for the future (arguably, the very thing that bugs me about them actually makes them more effective, their alien countenance emphasising how far they stand apart from humanity). They recognise, as well, that the power to shape worlds is not actually a requisite for winning the fear or adoration of an ancient civilisation. Tornadus, Thundurus and Landorus, too, have destructive and protective powers that function on a local rather than a regional or global scale; they are deities of folktale, not epic, a smaller scale of things to which Pokémon, by its very nature, is eminently better-suited.

These, then, are my thoughts on the class which includes the most powerful Pokémon in the game. They are, in essence, Pokémon of legend, and so it is by those legends that I try to judge them first: by their power as stories, and their capacity to expand our understanding of the Pokémon world. I fully expect, as always, that many readers will disagree with my priorities and conclusions. I don’t aim to be ‘right;’ that is a lost cause in anything so subjective. I aim, as ever, to make you think, and I can only hope you have enjoyed my latest attempt as much as I have.

Thank you for reading, and to all, a good night.

The Pokémon Power Bracket – Final


Hmph. Bloody Rayquaza. It’s almost as if the global Pokémon community isn’t interested in the opinions of a random blogger! I’ve half a mind just to sit in a corner and sulk… on the other hand… I suppose it’s only one more entry. I’ve started, so I’ll finish. Rayquaza vs. Mew: here we go!

Not so fast.

Wait, what?

…Jim, is that you?

I can’t let you do another entry on these two pokemon, especially since the pokemon community have shown themselves to be completely ignorant by allowing this pairing to get through to the final!

But my readers will expect it! Anyway, this is my blog and I’ll do another entry on whatever two damn Pokémon I please! Now get back to proof-reading!  “Best friend,” my ass…

Look chris, you have done a great job, really, talking about all of the legendary pokemon but still look what happens… fighting it out for the ‘best legendary pokemon’ honour. mew and rayquaza!

Well… yes. But that isn’t my fault! I did everything I could to drag Rayquaza through the mud; you saw that!

Obviously, your efforts were not good enough. So i have decided it is my turn and I’ll put this entry up before you even have a chance to change it! MUHAHAHAHAHAHA

You can’t- wait, what are you doing? No, stop thatxpklxasugheiuiyhfrdewseqxrcdtfgvyhjni 


franeg;“srjhndjhbo ,ostbh’oCURSEYOU,YOUSONOFASTRUMPETtjp9o;rjke96rk’inkgashnh’w

*huff**puff* Look, this is getting us nowhere. Why don’t we do the blasted entry together?

You’ve had your chances…



Good, now that he has been dealt with, I will get to the point of this entry- why mew and rayquaza should not be anywhere near the top two legendaries….

So, you of the pokemon world have decided that of all contestants, Mew and Rayquaza are the two ‘best legendary pokemon’. Well, obviously not you, the educated and respected readers of such high quality blogging as this one here. You all know that there is no way that these two should have gotten anywhere near that top spot, beating out amazing concept pokemon like Darkrai and Shaymin, heavy-weights like Mewtwo and Arceus (how did they do that again?) and my personal favourite, Deoxys. 

In this entry, we’ll take a look at each pokemon’s road to the finals and evaluate which of these two completely overrated pokemon deserves to not lose to the other.

First up, let’s take a look at Mew and its road to the final. Mew is described as having the DNA of every single pokemon in its own body. Originally, this was perhaps conceived of as the origin of all the existing pokemon- everyone was descended from Mew. However, as the pokemon franchise has been (rather clumsily) expanded over the years, the writers seem to have replaced this possible origin theory completely. In the games, since the ’Mew glitch’ was fixed, Mew has only been available through nintendo giveaways and so, for those of us who nintendo does not visit regularly, there was no way of obtaining it. In battle, Mew is on a par with the ‘baby’ legendaries such as Manaphy, Celebi and Victini, sporting a decent 100 base stat for every in-game attribute. This is both a hindrance and a blessing. Mew is good enough that it can do pretty much anything you might want it to; however, there will always be something better at doing the job for which you use mew. Mew’s appearance is vaguely humanoid but retains enough alien-like properties to remain an admittedly quite cute pokemon. This along with the facts that Mew was the first unattainable but attainable (if that makes sense) legendary pokemon and played a prominent role in the first, and most popular, pokemon movie are the only distinctions from the other ‘baby’ legendary pokemon. Surely something better could have taken its place?!

In its road to the final, Mew took on four other pokemon: Heatran, Deoxys, Groudon and Celebi. Heatran lost because, come on, everyone has a heatran and it’s a 4th generation pokemon. Those ‘genwunners’ don’t even know what it is! Deoxys, i’m sad to say, probably fell to a similar fate- kicked out by fair-weather fans who sadly out-number those of us who actually know what is going on (or am i just a little biased?). Groudon. How did groudon even get that far?! It is a terrible pokemon as far as legendaries go! And the showdown with Chris’ beloved Celebi can be seen purely as a ‘design-off’ since both pokemon have the exact same stats and I would suggest that the voters’ familiarity with Mew pushed him past the line… I guess, given his opponents, that Mew has arrived in the final shouldn’t be too surprising. He didn’t have much to beat in the end…which is the opposite of his opponent….

Rayquaza…. when Chris told me he had made it intro the semi-finals I was shocked. Why? Well for a start, look at the damn thing! it looks like a metal flying snake in drag! And that pink lipstick neither brings out its beady little eyes nor does it go well with its emerald green metallic shell. It is an abomination to look at. It is redeemed, I guess, a little by its stat-line. Rayquaza is on a par with the other major legendaries such as mewtwo, palkia, dialga, lugia, ho-oh, etc. But that only makes him equal to these pokemon in terms of his best feature, there is no way he should be beating any of them! He is not special- everyone who has a 3rd gen game can get him. His type (dragon/flying) is not unique but is the most popular of fully evolved dragon types- and it is not even a particularly good typing! Oh, there is the minor plus that he has an in-game ability which negates weather effects which are inevitable if you are battling using legendaries. But really, how the hell did this thing get through?! This isn’t even mentioning his absurd role in the ‘plot’ of emerald which Chris has explained in earlier entries better than I ever could… 

Now, Rayquaza’s road to the final looks similar to Mew’s in terms of his opposition: Azelf, Palkia and Lugia all have their upsides but overall, none of them are magnificent. However, in the semi-final Rayquaza took on Mewtwo. How the hell did he get past mewtwo?!  Mewtwo matches rayquaza in stats and availability, has a sleek humanoid design which leaves Rayquaza’s for dead and does not create an absurd plot with his in-game antics. Add this to Mewtwo’s gen one status, his role in the first movie and his ALL-AROUND-BASSASSNESS (I MEAN HE WAS CREATED BY HUMANS TO BE AWESOME, HOW DOES A LADY-MAN SNAKE THING BEAT THAT?!) 


Sorry, got carried away there. There was no reason Rayquaza should have beaten Mewtwo…

O readers, you have failed the pokemon world, you have failed chris and, worst of all, you have failed me. But you can seek redemption right now. Make sure that mew wins this final. Mew may not be the most powerful of legendaries, nor the coolest nor the cutest but it is a far better pokemon than that dressed up drag queen of a dragon (Haha- Drag-on, I see what they did there). Chris will be back with you next time. Sorry for the intrusion.

The Pokémon Power Bracket – Semi Final


So, what I didn’t anticipate when I started doing this was that I would wind up talking about a lot of the same Pokémon over and over again.  I am getting to the point where I have, quite honestly, said most of what I care to say about Celebi, Mew, Rayquaza and Mewtwo.  If you’ve been reading this so far, you all know that I’m edgy about time travel but much less bothered by Celebi than I am by Dialga, you all know that I think Mew’s backstory is blatantly contradicted all over the place, you all know that I think Mewtwo’s angst is all about stuff that shouldn’t matter in-universe anyway, and you all know that I think Rayquaza deserves to die in a fire for replacing the climax of Emerald version with a massive deus ex machina.  You can almost certainly guess for yourselves by now which way I’m going to vote in the two semi-final matchups.

This is why, instead of discussing what these Pokémon are like and which ones I prefer and what my reasons are, I’m going to do what I do best and MAKE STUFF UP!

Celebi vs. Mew


So, here is what we all know about Celebi.  She is a time-traveller, supposedly from the future, who brings life and light to forests (she is particularly associated with the Ilex Forest in southern Johto), and appears only in times of peace.  Stories say that she occasionally leaves mysterious eggs from another time in the deepest parts of the woods, and that “so long as Celebi appears, a bright and shining future awaits us.”  My take on Celebi – which may or may not have any relation to what Game Freak actually had in mind – is that she is the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy: a paradox being with the power to engineer the circumstances of her own birth at the end of time.  Celebi brings back Pokémon eggs from the future in order to seed the world with the genes and species that will one day give rise to her own ancestors, while protecting and nurturing the forest ecosystems that will allow them to thrive.  One such egg is her own, brought from the future and hidden deep within the Ilex Forest, which will one day be the place of her birth, and sustained through its millennia-long gestation by the vibrant energy of the entire living forest.  Celebi dances through history in intricately choreographed steps, using her formidable psychic abilities to influence events, pushing war and industry away from her precious homeland while gently nudging the people of Johto towards veneration of nature.  Occasionally she comes into contact with humans directly; occasionally she even decides she admires them and submits to capture, staying with them for years or even decades, learning to see the world through their eyes, until they either part ways with her or die, and she loops back on herself to continue her work.  Far in the future, perhaps helped along by human genetic manipulation, a species of Pokémon will evolve that possesses an unusually intuitive sense of time, able to pick out the paths of causality and predict future events with a precision that would leave the dim-witted Psychic Pokémon of our era wide-eyed with amazement.  Eventually they will develop the ability to make tiny hops through time, a few seconds forward to avoid an attack, or backward to undo a mistake.  Under their descendant’s guidance, their powers will grow more phenomenal with every generation, ultimately giving rise to the impossible: the final prodigy who will take her own egg and travel back in time to ensure the sequence of events that led to the creation of her own species.  That is the “bright and shining future” Celebi promises: the only possible version of history that culminates with the birth of the immortal guardian of the forest, who will always lead humanity into harmony with nature.


If Celebi is the end, Mew, of course, is the beginning.  Most famous for being Mewtwo’s ‘mother,’ Mew is a mysterious Psychic Pokémon from South America, who was for a long time believed to be extinct, or simply nonexistent.  It turned out, of course, that Mew not only did exist but possessed something akin to a genetic library of all other Pokémon species, an asset which gives her access to all of their powers.  The scientists of the Pokémon world began to theorise that Mew was the common ancestor of all Pokémon, in flagrant defiance of the way evolution actually works (see this entry).  We, of course, also know that Arceus was the first Pokémon and not Mew, and that his first creations were Dialga, Palkia and Giratina, followed by Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf.  Moreover, we know that many Pokémon are unequivocally not descended from Mew, or from any other Pokémon: Grimer comes to mind.  Given these facts, here’s my take on Mew.  I believe I’ve mentioned before that I think of Mew as the first living thing created after Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf; her claim to fame, therefore, is that she is the first living thing with a complete soul: knowledge, emotion, and will.  As for Mew’s ‘genetic library,’ my immediate thought is that she must have been ‘programmed’ in advance with the DNA of every species of Pokémon ordained by Arceus.  I’m pretty sure that’s not what anyone ever had in mind, though, either for Mew or for Arceus; I am quite convinced that evolution (in the real-world sense) is supposed to be a thing in the Pokémon world.  I want to define, then, a very different role for Mew: she really is a genetic library.  Her special power – and, indeed, her duty – is to copy and absorb the genetic information of all Pokémon she encounters, building up a ‘library’ of gene sequences that, between them, record the form, traits and powers of every species that has ever existed (of course she was found in the jungles of South America – she would linger in places of the greatest biodiversity).  She can use this borrowed DNA as a blueprint to Transform into any Pokémon she has observed, or learn techniques from every element.  Further, she was gifted by Arceus with incredible defensive powers, including invisibility and her signature telekinetic shield bubble, ensuring that her precious genetic library will be preserved for all eternity.  As long as Mew exists in the world, extinction will never be forever; she can Transform into every Pokémon that is or was, using all their abilities, and from her genes any of those Pokémon could be resurrected.  She is the holy grail of evolutionary biology, and the scribe who documents for Arceus the history of the world he set in motion.

Rayquaza vs. Mewtwo


Oh, yes… Rayquaza… my old enemy.  What do we know about him?  Well, he lives high above the clouds in the ozone layer, where he flies forever, feeding on water vapour and other rarefied substances.  Because Rayquaza lives so high above the earth, his existence was totally unknown until he descended during the events of Emerald version.  Even the myths of Groudon and Kyogre’s first battle seem to have forgotten him, mentioning only the Red and Blue Orbs that calmed the titans.  However, he is in fact the only one who can calm them once they start fighting.  Alone, either Pokémon can be pacified by the matching Orb (or awakened by the opposite Orb) but once their attention is fixed on each other, neither Orb helps.  My version, then… Rayquaza was set to act as the guardian of the sky, to protect the world from any threats from outer space – meteors, for instance (as in Mystery Dungeon), or flares of cosmic radiation – but also to guard the sky against threats from below.  Kyogre and Groudon were made to sculpt the surface of the earth and will awaken every century or so, independently of each other, to shake things up a little before returning to sleep.  For both of them to wake up at the same time is much rarer, and will lead to a catastrophic battle; their instincts drive them to make the world around them resemble themselves, and they will sense  each other’s opposite powers as threats.  They will fight on and on, their clashing weather manipulation powers creating storms and cyclones that grow more powerful the longer they stay awake.  Eventually – after weeks, months or even years – the chaos will disturb Rayquaza’s domain in the stratosphere, causing him to descend and nullify their weather powers with his Air Lock aura.  With their powers dampened, Groudon and Kyogre simply cease to view each other as threats and return to their slumber in their own time.  The Orbs were created by an ancient civilisation with Rayquaza’s assistance, after the survivors of an earlier cataclysm witnessed him calming the titans.  They are similar to Arceus’ plates, in that each embodies and reflects the power of an element in its most passive form.  The proximity of the appropriate Orb allows Kyogre and Groudon to feel at peace, as though surrounded by boundless ocean or land, and renders them gentle.  Once the Orbs began to be used to control the titans, it could be ensured that they would never be awake at the same time.  Rayquaza no longer needed to calm them, and retreated into the stratosphere.  The sky dragon faded from legend, and eventually the purpose of the Orbs was forgotten too… until Maxie and Archie, misunderstanding the stories that the Orbs were used to “control” the titans, used them to awaken Groudon and Kyogre.  Feeling as though surrounded by powers opposite to their own, both Pokémon lashed out… and you all know the rest of the story.


Mewtwo, of course, is Mew’s ‘child,’ created from Mew’s DNA by human scientists including Blaine and Mr. Fuji using advanced genetic manipulation techniques with the aim of building the ultimate fighting Pokémon.  Unfortunately, Mewtwo rebelled against his creators, destroyed the old laboratory on Cinnabar Island where he was born, and escaped.  He is now considered to be the most savage and violent of all Pokémon.  Journals found in the burnt-out Cinnabar mansion suggest that Mew gave birth to Mewtwo, which doesn’t seem to fit the image found elsewhere of Mewtwo being grown in a tube.  Also, the games do not support the story given by the movie that Giovanni and Team Rocket were backing the scientists who created Mewtwo (though they don’t necessarily contradict it either).  So, what do I make of all this?  Well, the first thing that strikes me as unusual is that Mewtwo was supposedly a genetically ‘upgraded’ version of Mew… whose DNA already contains the genes of all other Pokémon.  What could the scientists possibly add to that?  I can think of two answers.  The first possibility is that Mewtwo is part human, which would have interesting implications for the way humans view Pokémon: apparently, when told to create the ultimate Pokémon, they do it by adding human DNA.  The other possibility – the one I’m actually going to run with – is that they didn’t actually add anything at all, but created Mewtwo by shaving off most of what they considered “junk DNA” – the genes of all the other, less combat-ready Pokémon assimilated by Mew over the years, as well as the regulatory genes that allow Mew to do her thing in the first place.  Mew reproduces by parthenogenesis (‘virgin birth’), passing on all the DNA she has ever collected to her child to ensure that her work need not by interrupted by such trivialities as age and death.  When the scientists who had discovered her began to tamper with the embryo’s DNA, however, her body detected the changes, decided that it had made some kind of mistake, and jettisoned Mewtwo prematurely in order to try again later, forcing the scientists to incubate him in his tube (this may well have happened several times, each time resulting in an unviable embryo, before Mewtwo was successfully incubated).  As a result, Mewtwo is missing huge amounts of the DNA Mew collected, but still retains many of the instincts that allow her to fulfil her purpose.  He knows that something is badly wrong with him, and that despite his awesome powers he is fundamentally incomplete, but he cannot understand why, and could not correct the problem if he did.  No wonder his mental health leaves something to be desired.

Feel free to let my heavily embellished versions of events sway your votes, or not, as the whim strikes you.  Me, I’m just trying to make sense of what I’ve got and establish a nice, internally consistent version of the setting.  I hope I’ve managed to avoid contradicting myself so far…

The Pokémon Power Bracket – Quarter Final


Okay; things are heating up.  We’ve only got eight of these damn things left, and if I know me like I think I know me, I’m bitter, jaded and cynical enough to come up with good reasons to hate all eight of them, so let’s see which ones I hate the least!

Celebi vs. Darkrai


I’ve been largely positive about Celebi so far, while expressing a more neutral view of Darkrai.  To make things fair, and also more interesting, I think it would be best now for me to talk about the problems Celebi causes: namely, the problems inherent to time travel powers.  Very few authors can pull off a time travel plot without stumbling at least once and creating a situation that contradicts either itself or the established ‘rules.’  Writing a good time travel plot takes a great deal of forethought and tremendous attention to detail.

I will remind you that this is Nintendo we are talking about.

Celebi is far less blatantly ridiculous than Dialga, Palkia and Arceus, and can’t just rewrite the universe on a whim the way they can, but with the ability to move through time at will, one imagines she could alter history quite significantly if she had a mind to.  Since time travel is a natural ability of hers, she can probably avoid, instinctively, most of the pitfalls that fill time travel stories about humans (such as ‘whoops, I just prevented my grandparents from meeting,’ ‘whoops, killing Hitler just made everything worse,’ and the ever-popular ‘whoops, I stepped on a butterfly and caused the extinction of humanity’).  One also presumes that, as a legendary Psychic Pokémon, she is at least as intelligent as a human, possibly much more.  What’s more, her stated raison d’être is to ‘watch over the forest from across time,’ which seems like it can only mean adjusting historical events in order to protect and preserve forest ecosystems.  The very existence of a creature with powers like this fundamentally changes the way the whole setting has to be viewed, especially since the relationship between nature and civilisation is one of Pokémon’s most important themes, and it only becomes worse if we contemplate the possibility of Celebi using her powers on behalf of her trainer (see this recent entry for my reasons for not being too bothered about this sort of thing).

Now, I must be able to think of something positive to say about Darkrai… surely… I’ve mentioned that I disagree with the route Game Freak have chosen to take with his characterisation – and really, of all the legendary Pokémon they could have picked to cast actual doubt on the in-universe depictions of his powers and nature, did they have to pick the one whose powers don’t have massive implications for the integrity of the entire setting?  There are good things to say about Darkrai, though.  His relationship with Cresselia – ‘the disease and the cure,’ so to speak – is interesting, as is the way he deliberately stays close to her home so that her powers can counteract his own.  The whole idea of a Pokémon capable of trapping people in nightmares is chilling and evocative as well, although I don’t think Darkrai’s concept actually necessitates that he be a legendary Pokémon.  Despite everything I’ve said already, though, I honestly like Celebi better.  My main problem with her is that I don’t believe the creators have actually thought through the full implications of the abilities they’ve given her, which is sort of nothing new – and unlike Arceus, who just gives me a headache, I actually like the idea of thinking that through myself.

My vote goes to CELEBI!

Mewtwo vs. Giratina


Mewtwo and Giratina?  Looks like it’s time for a good old-fashioned angst-off.

Mewtwo’s angst comes from being designed as the ultimate fighting machine, using the heavily augmented genetic code of Mew, the legendary firstborn Pokémon, but raised without love or compassion.  Giratina’s angst comes from being banished by his creator to a demented shadow world where he lives his life in solitude, looking back at the world he was cast from.  Mewtwo’s story seems to be largely about the dangers of playing god (although, as I’ve already complained, Mewtwo’s creation used science that was fundamentally similar to that involved in the resurrection of fossil Pokémon, and possibly designed by the same people), and the series’ general stance seems to be that, although his creation was a mistake, he still has all the basic rights of a living creature now that we’ve got him, and is to be pitied for his painful birth and upbringing.  Giratina, by contrast, is implied to have deserved everything he got – he was “banished for his violence,” presumably by the creator god of the Pokémon universe, Arceus (who is, if nothing else, very concerned with justice).  Then again, Giratina’s position as protector the Distortion World seems, to judge from the climax of Platinum version, to be quite important to the stability of the cosmos, as the Distortion World serves to anchor our world and work against major shifts in reality.  Furthermore, Giratina is in fact free to leave the Distortion World by taking on an altered form.  I suspect there’s a lot we haven’t been told about Giratina, and for once it seems like the myths aren’t necessarily intended to represent the truth of things.  The whole ‘antimatter’ spin Game Freak put on Giratina is interesting and fits with both the space/time idea Dialga and Palkia already had going, as well as with the nature of Giratina’s apparent role, although I still think I preferred things as they were in Diamond and Pearl, where Giratina is basically implied to rule the land of the dead, and remain convinced that the ‘antimatter’ thing was a quiet retcon.  While Giratina is big on fundamental nature-of-the-universe stuff, Mewtwo is more about smaller-scale ethical questions, which I personally find more interesting, and which I honestly think Pokémon as a whole is better-suited to dealing with.  In his original context in Red and Blue, he was also interesting for being an apparently blatant contradiction of the maxim that there is no “strongest Pokémon” – even Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres could be beaten by specific opponents, but there was no Pokémon that could take Mewtwo one-on-one, full stop, arguably not even Mew.  As Mewtwo was, in-universe, created specifically to fill this position, he directly references the enormous clusterf*ck that is Pokémon’s game balance in a way that subsequent legendary Pokémon don’t, actually encouraging us to think about ideas of fairness for ourselves.

Honestly?  I actually think both of these are decent.  I’m okay with either one getting through to the semi-finals.

Mew vs. Groudon


I think we’ve established by now that I have problems with both of these, but am fairly lenient towards Mew in general because of her lack of apocalypse-bringing lunacy and probably more likely to be well-disposed towards her than towards Groudon.  I would like to comment, though, on something they have in common: both Mew and Groudon are paired with other legendary Pokémon who significantly overshadow them.  Mew is insanely versatile, but the fact is that there is very little she can do that Mewtwo does not do better, thanks to his ludicrous stats (she is marginally tougher than him, and can use Baton Pass, but most of the roles in which she would hope to excel are better filled by Mewtwo – even, arguably, some of her possible support roles).  This is probably intentional, given Mewtwo’s background as an engineered ‘super-Mew’ of sorts, but I think that whether it supports or hinders their flavour is questionable, since much of the point of Mewtwo’s backstory is that the scientists who created him ultimately failed in a number of respects, creating a savage creature with no kindness or mercy.  I can’t help but feel that it would be better if Mewtwo’s superiority were less clear-cut.  For Groudon, of course, it’s all much worse.  Groudon and Kyogre are clearly intended to be equal and opposite.  They are rivals who battled for millennia without a victor appearing, their feud tearing the surface of the earth as they boiled oceans and drowned continents.  One on one, it probably comes down to who moves first (even though, in principle, Water beats Ground) but in fact Kyogre is demonstrably better in a number of respects.  Groudon enjoys little synergy with his own weather effect – his primary attack, Earthquake, receives no benefit from sunlight; for boosted Fire attacks, he must choose between Fire Blast, which works with his lower special attack stat, and the relatively weak Fire Punch; Solarbeam, coming from Groudon, is just a bad joke.  Kyogre, on the other hand, can pull off the most powerful attack in the entire game with a rain-boosted Water Spout, and enjoys the benefit of accurate Thunder.  Furthermore, although their weather abilities make them both good Pokémon to build teams around, rain is, broadly speaking, a more powerful weather effect than sun, and tends to benefit more powerful Pokémon.  I find it amusing that, when Game Freak try to create legendary Pokémon to serve as evenly-matched rivals (Groudon/Kyogre, Reshiram/Zekrom), they manage, apparently by accident, to make one significantly stronger, while creating much more balanced pairs when the Pokémon aren’t necessarily meant to be opposed at all (Lugia/Ho-oh, Dialga/Palkia).  I’m not even sure any of this affects my vote much.  If you’ve been following my previous entries you’ll know my thoughts on both of these two, and as you’ve probably guessed…

My vote goes to MEW!

Rayquaza vs. Lugia


Urgh.  Haven’t these two plagued me enough yet?

Although remarkably different in battle – Rayquaza is an all-offensive destroyer-type Pokémon, while Lugia is one of the most absurdly resilient Pokémon in the game – these two are actually very similar Pokémon conceptually.  Both are extremely reclusive, spending most of their time in remote areas – Lugia deep beneath the ocean, Rayquaza high above the clouds – and as a result are so rarely seen that their very existence is difficult to prove.  Both are also thought of as balancing influences; Rayquaza keeps balance between Kyogre and Groudon, while Lugia is portrayed as a mediator between the legendary birds in the Power of One.  Lugia uses a mystical calming song, while Rayquaza’s power to end Groudon and Kyogre’s feud is a little vaguer but presumably has something to do with his Air Lock ability, which nullifies their power to control the weather in the area around him.  In fact, the similarities don’t end there… both conflicts – the one between Kyogre and Groudon in Emerald, and the one between Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres in the Power of One – involve disruption of the earth’s climate when forces normally in balance attempt to conquer each other and gain power.  Both imbalances are caused by a villain attempting to capture one of the legendary Pokémon in question without understanding their importance to the balance of nature.  Both plots involve magical glass orbs tied to the energies of the warring Pokémon that supposedly have the power to calm them.


Y’know what?  I’m starting to think Game Freak were just recycling the plot of the Power of One when they wrote Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald.  The difference is that – and yes, it is always going to come back to this when I talk about Rayquaza – in the movie, Lugia couldn’t do it without help.  Alone against Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, he puts up a good fight but can’t overpower all of them at once.  Ash, along with Melody from Shamouti Island, is the one who really saves the day – although Lugia provides them with some much-needed muscle.  Lugia is vitally important in solving the crisis, but can’t do it alone.  In Emerald, the player’s agency in ending the battle between Groudon and Kyogre is nothing more than going to get Rayquaza; once he arrives on the scene, the plot is essentially over.  It is now my contention that Emerald not only ripped off the plot of the earlier movie, but did so poorly, and with blatant disregard for Pokémon’s long-standing emphasis on partnership and co-operation.

So, yeah.  No surprises here.

My vote goes to LUGIA!

The Pokémon Power Bracket – Round 2b

I can’t believe Phione got voted out!  This is SO UNFAIR!

Hmph.  Whatever.  I suppose I’d better make the best of it…

Deoxys vs. Mew


Mew and Deoxys both have interesting implications for the question of what a ‘Pokémon’ actually is, which contradict each other in places…

Mew is – and always has been – held up as the ancestor of all Pokémon (or, if you accept my interpretation, the ancestor of all Pokémon except the ones who feature in the Sinnoh creation myth).  This theory is based on the belief that “[Mew’s] DNA is said to contain the genetic codes of all Pokémon,” which is not how genetics and evolution work.  Like, at all Evolution is ‘descent with modification’ – that is, organisms gain new features that are distinct from those of their ancestors.  As you follow the family tree backwards, you should start seeing Pokémon that have fewer and fewer of those distinguishing traits, becoming more and more similar, until you’re left with the basic genes common to all Pokémon, where we should expect to find Mew.  I can think of two ways Mew could possibly have anything like a complete genetic library of all Pokémon: either she is not their common ancestor but their common descendent, the end result of millions of years of crossbreeding between formerly distinct Pokémon species (which probably requires us to assume that she is from the future), or she was the seed from which Arceus intended all the extant species of Pokémon to spring, and was given all the necessary genetic material in advance (which I suppose finally answers that question: no, Pokémon don’t ‘evolve’ in the traditional sense; every species was planned from the start and programmed into Mew’s DNA).  I’m pretty sure neither of these is actually what Mew’s designers had in mind.

Then, of course, we get Deoxys, who is a shapeshifting psychic virus from outer space, and blithely turns the whole thing on its head.

Deoxys resulted from a mutation in a virus from space that was struck by a laser beam, which… well, okay, first of all, that is not how mutation works either, but there’s something else I’m much more interested in.  Deoxys demonstrably is not descended from Mew.  It is more closely related to the common cold than it is to Pikachu.  It’s debateable whether viruses are technically even ‘living things’ at all (to my knowledge, viruses do not respire); Deoxys clearly seems to have moved beyond that, but it must deserve, at the very least, its own taxonomic domain.  So why, in the name of all that is good and holy, is it considered a Pokémon?  Any traits it has in common with other Pokémon are plainly coincidental and not the result of shared descent, so calling Deoxys a Pokémon makes no more sense than calling a hornet a bird simply because it happens to fly.  The only objective defining factor I can think of is that Deoxys, like all other Pokémon, can be captured in a Pokéball… so is that what makes it a Pokémon?  The way it happens to interact with a particular piece of human technology?  That seems like a rather arbitrary definition.  Then again, perhaps I’m going about this the wrong way… what I’ve been saying about Mew seems to suggest a radically different set of founding principles for evolution in the Pokémon universe, so…

…phylogenetics…Jean-Baptiste Lamarck…finches and fruit flies…Archaea, Bacteria, Eukarya…William bloody Paley’s watch…

…mmm?  What?



Ho-oh vs. Groudon


I am running out of things to complain about.

Let’s recall my last words on these two.  Ho-oh I like because she’s one of the only unambiguously benevolent legendary Pokémon, which I think is a necessary role one of them should fill, and also because of her part in the origin story of the Johto beast trio, which is one of my favourite Pokémon legends because – in my opinion, anyway – it doesn’t get too crazy, like the Sinnoh stories where Dialga and Palkia’s souls are tied to the physical properties of the universe itself, but there’s an actual story to it, unlike for Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, who are just really mysterious and enigmatic.  Honestly, of all the legendary Pokémon remaining in the top 16, I think Ho-oh is the one who comes closest to getting that balance right (if you’re interested, I also think that Thundurus, Tornadus and Landorus, who aren’t in this tournament, do quite well).  The only real downside to Ho-oh, for me, is that she gets a little bit one-dimensional with the life-light-and-happiness theme.  This, actually, is one point on which I think Groudon and Kyogre are relatively strong; when we meet them in Ruby and Sapphire, we experience their full potential for destruction, but – as their Pokédex entries very deliberately point out, and as Team Aqua and Team Magma never stop telling us – they have tremendous creative potential as well.  Groudon, for instance, is remembered in myth for saving people from catastrophic floods, and, of course, humanity could not have come to exist in the Pokémon world without the creator of the continents.  Groudon’s dual characterisation helps to hammer home the essential message of the plot of Ruby and Sapphire: that ‘nature’ isn’t a single force but a complex balance of conflicting impulses held in a delicate equilibrium, each of which can be beneficial in its proper place, but harmful when thrown out of balance.  This is all great stuff, and it’s the reason I do like Kyogre and Groudon.  Their weakness in my eyes is their position on the slippery slope that led to capturing the creator of the universe in a tiny plastic ball.  Groudon and Kyogre escalated the events of the plot of Ruby and Sapphire to near-apocalyptic proportions, threatening to parch or drown the whole world, respectively.  Try as I may, I cannot accept that it makes sense for a ten-year-old kid to be in control of this kind of power.  Ho-oh and Lugia straddle the boundary a little – Lugia can create storms that last for weeks, and Ho-oh raised the dead (once) – but building and sinking continents is something else entirely.  The closest I can get to making sense of any of this is through a statement Cyrus makes in Diamond and Pearl, which seems to imply that legendary Pokémon captured in Pokéballs lose many of the more cosmic aspects of their power.  Why?  We don’t know.  What effect does this have on the delicate balance between the earth and the sea?  We sure as hell don’t care!

My vote goes to HO-OH!

Latias vs. Lugia


I like Latias.  I do.  I really, honestly do.

I just don’t think there’s anything ‘legendary’ about her at all.

When I covered Latios, I mentioned a list of the characteristics he and his sister share that don’t, in themselves, imply or necessitate ‘legendary’ status, so I won’t do that again.  I’ll just point out that they are explicitly herd animals, which seems at odds with both the norm for legendary Pokémon (who are solitary and often implied to be unique, although for some this is contentious) and their own portrayal in Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, where a single Latias or Latios wanders Hoenn alone.  No explanation has yet been offered for the fact that these social Pokémon are only ever encountered alone, and I doubt one ever will be.  Against this, Latias has a number of interesting powers, including the ability to render herself invisible by bending light, as well as an odd but inventive physical design.  Add just a little bit of detail about the relationship between Latias and Latios, who are imagined to be females and males of the same species, and I think you’d have a really excellent design… it’s just not a design for a legendary Pokémon.  Lugia, of course, is as legendary as you get.  Rumour and folktale connects Lugia with the terrible storms that are created by the flapping of his great wings, so it’s odd that dragging Lugia up from beneath the Whirl Islands doesn’t cause the same kind of catastrophe as awakening Kyogre does in Sapphire.  It’s easier to accept, though, for two reasons; first, no-one has ever claimed Lugia can actually sink continents; second, we never actually see Lugia cause storms of the magnitude we hear about, which makes it easier to chalk it up to exaggeration in the stories (we experience Kyogre and Groudon’s powers firsthand, and all the characters involved with that part of the story take the myths absolutely seriously; there’s much less room for interpretation).  Lugia does begin to slide in the direction of ‘this Pokémon is a cosmic lynchpin which MUST NOT BE CAPTURED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES’ in the Power of One, where his role is actually to calm and contain storms, as in his Pokédex entry for Crystal version.  My eventual conclusion has been that Lugia’s actual ecological role is a bit more complicated than we’re told and probably involves both causing storms and quieting them to manage the development of ocean ecosystems in his territory, and that although he certainly could cause one of those mythic forty-day storms we’ve heard about if he really wanted to, it would take a lot more exertion than simply flapping his wings.  I’m worried that I may be getting to the point where I’m judging my interpretation of Lugia more so than what we’re actually shown, simply because what we’re shown isn’t totally consistent.  However, my issues with Latias stand, so I’m fairly comfortable siding with him against her.

My vote goes to LUGIA!

Rayquaza vs. Palkia


Everyone remembers, from the last round, why I think both of these Pokémon were terrible mistakes?



So, my issues with Rayquaza, in and of himself, are not all that great compared to those I have with Groudon and Kyogre.  Kyogre has the power to flood continents.  Groudon has the power to dry oceans.  Rayquaza has the power to make both of them shut the hell up.  He is as mysterious and powerful as any legendary Pokémon should be, but as far as cosmic ridiculousness goes, he’s fairly low-key – his special relationship with Kyogre and Groudon is pretty much it; he doesn’t have the ability to reverse gravity or turn forests into ozone or anything.  My problem with Rayquaza is solely in the way he figures into the plot of Emerald version, where he reduces the player’s role in the climax to an extremely simple fetch-and-carry assignment, which I shall here dramatise for your enjoyment.

Wallace: “Where the hell is Rayquaza?”

Player: “I don’t f*cking know!”

Wallace: “Of course; that must be it!  Now go get Rayquaza!”

Player: “Oh, hey; that was easy.”

Rayquaza: “LOLZ GO BAK 2 SLP GAIZ”

Kyogre and Groudon: “kk lol”

Rayquaza: “kthxbai”

The anticlimax is much the worse for the fact that, up until this point, Emerald is so much better-done than Ruby and Sapphire in many ways.  So, that’s what’s wrong with Rayquaza.  Now let’s talk about what’s wrong with Palkia.  This, of course, is the old “I just captured a god!” chestnut.  Supposedly, catching Palkia (or Dialga, for that matter) in a Pokéball will somehow cut her off from her cosmic powers to some extent, which is the reason Cyrus creates the Red Chain on Pearl version instead of just capturing Palkia with his Master Ball.  This explains why you can’t subsequently use Palkia to destroy the universe, like Cyrus wanted to, although there’s no word on the long-term effects (Palkia is supposedly responsible for the stability of space, so I’m not entirely sure capturing her is really the best idea if it will weaken her powers…).  Moreover, no-one ever hints at how a Pokéball can do this.  Even if the explanation raises as many questions as it answers, though, I am glad they at least tried to handwave it, since we can retroactively apply the same vague rationalisation to Kyogre and Groudon, and probably stick it onto Arceus too, for all the good it will do him.  Back to Palkia herself, because there’s one more thing I had a conversation about with a reader a few days ago and I think it deserves a mention: her element.  When I first met Palkia, I thought Water was a pretty weird element to give her, but when I think about it, ‘space’ isn’t exactly an easy concept to squish into an element.  I remain convinced that Dark does not fit, since Dark Pokémon are almost universally associated not with actual darkness but with treachery, malice and fear.  Short of jamming both her and Dialga into Psychic, on the grounds that Psychic covers everything weird, I think Water probably is the best choice to represent a vast emptiness… so, yay Palkia?

Anyhow, Palkia bothers me, but she hasn’t offended me as directly as Rayquaza has, so purely out of spite towards Rayquaza…

My vote goes to PALKIA!

Interlude: The Pokémon Power Bracket – Round 2a

Unsurprisingly, the internet has failed to take my advice and tossed Mesprit, Raikou and Jirachi.  There is still hope for my other picks, though, so let’s talk about the next round…

Arceus vs. Celebi


Okay, so, anyone who’s been paying attention will know that this part of the entry is a total sham anyway because I have an irrational vendetta against Arceus, but let’s pretend for a moment that I’m not horribly biased and talk about these two.

Arceus is a creator god.  To say otherwise is to argue semantics.  I don’t think Game Freak ever actually use the word “god” of Arceus, and everything they tell us is couched in “it is said that” and “described in mythology.”  However, we do know from direct observation that Arceus can create complex life from nothing and imbue it with the power to rewrite the universe.  This goes well beyond just “Pokémon are wondrous creatures from whom we have much to learn.”  The problem is that Game Freak seem to hold two conceptions of Arceus simultaneously – as they do for most other legendary Pokémon, actually, but it’s most blatant for Arceus.  There’s the mythical Arceus, who created Dialga, Palkia and Giratina in the void to bind space, time and antimatter, shaped the world with his thousand arms, and brought about the birth of life and the soul.   There’s also the mundane Arceus, who is a Pokémon like any other, was born and will die, and is exceptionally rare and powerful but can be caught, befriended and trained.  This latter Arceus – or a member of his species – may in ancient times have accomplished some fantastic achievement that inspired an early version of the creation myth, but he’s not actually the creator.  When we capture Arceus and use him in battle, we’re clearly meant to have the mundane Arceus in mind.  The problem is that Game Freak shove the mythical Arceus in our faces at every opportunity and readily provide us with apparently solid proof of his existence, while repeatedly failing to provide similar evidence for a mundane Arceus.

Celebi, by contrast, has done nothing more heinous than introduce the possibility of time travel into the franchise.  I must emphasise that I think this was a bad idea, but at least Celebi has the grace to keep it low-key, unlike “now I shall unravel the universe” Dialga.  Celebi’s role is to “watch over the forest from across time,” which I take to mean that she moves back and forth, always appearing in the right place at the right time to ensure that there have always been and will always be enough forests in the world to provide habitats for forest Pokémon and keep the earth’s climate in balance.  Believe it or not, despite this potentially enormous power and this possibly vital role, she’s one of the legendary Pokémon who won’t give me too much of a headache at all if you capture her.  She’ll just wait for you to die and then get back to what she was doing.  She won’t even be upset about all those years spent waiting.  She’s a time traveller; she’s not exactly in a rush.  She’ll also let you believe that she can’t take anyone with her on her little time jaunts.  Celebi is thus, surprisingly, one of the few legendary Pokémon who actually make total sense.

Can anyone say “forgone conclusion”?

My vote goes to CELEBI!

Kyogre vs. Darkrai


I’ve been trying for a while now to pin down what it is that I like about Kyogre, and I think I have it.  Kyogre – like Lugia, actually – evokes one of the most mysterious parts of the known world, the deep ocean, and the fact that something like this could actually be down there and we wouldn’t know it.  I mean, it seems very unlikely from a modern scientific standpoint, but a) most people are not modern scientists and b) it has been said, with a fair degree of justification, that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the deepest parts of the ocean.  It’s a dark, forbidding, mysterious, wonderful place and you could hide some pretty massive things down there (as evidenced by our painful lack of detailed ecological data on giant squid) – Kyogre isn’t actually all that big, but he’s big compared to most Pokémon, and gives an impression of size because of his whale-like design.  In short, Kyogre taps into a series of ideas and emotions that have held humanity spellbound since ancient times, and captivates us (or… well, me, anyway) in a way Groudon can never match.  Darkrai evokes a similar place: the world of nightmares, a place most of us visit but few can remember in detail, where we are most often powerless against the whims of our own subconscious minds.  Darkrai, fittingly enough, takes the shape of a spectre, vague and insubstantial, like a shadow in a dream.  However, I take issue with Darkrai’s characterisation.  According to the games, Darkrai’s nightmare powers are just a means of self-defence, meant to chase people and Pokémon away from his territory, and he actually hides himself away from others to protect them from his power.  Now, this type of characterisation – the misunderstood noble pariah who is hated and feared by those he tries to protect – is fun in itself, but I don’t think it was the best use of the concept.  First of all, I think Absol did it better.  Second, it doesn’t totally make sense: he has these powers to keep people out of his territory, and he needs to keep people out of his territory to protect them from his powers.  It’s like a bizarre, sadistic, evolutionary Catch-22.  I actually prefer the way Rise of Darkrai interpreted Darkrai’s nightmare powers – the horrific dreams he sends are actually visions of the future, sent to warn people – because that evokes all sorts of wonderful old ideas about the purpose of dreams and the fearful nature of prophecy (again, this is sort of Absol’s schtick, but Absol experiences the visions herself while Darkrai inflicts them on others).  The movie, of course, has problems of its own that I discussed in more depth a while ago.  For today, my point is that I think Darkrai would be more interesting and have more potential if he were morally ambiguous, and that Kyogre has enjoyed a more flattering interpretation of his concept.

My vote goes to KYOGRE!

Mewtwo vs. Latios


I hinted earlier that I have problems with Mewtwo.  Let’s talk about that, because there’s nothing I love more than complaining.  In truth I don’t hate Mewtwo, but I think that his backstory invokes another one of those awkward tensions I like to natter about: Mewtwo’s backstory belongs to that class of moralising tales that characterises scientists as hubristic ivory-tower academics who overreach themselves in their single-minded quest for knowledge and are destroyed by their own creations (you all know the story; Jurassic Park is one notable example).  This is all very well in itself.  It does rather clash with the overall portrayal of science in the Pokémon franchise, which almost universally presents it as wondrous and beneficial, particularly as the Pokémon world’s technology is, in general, more powerful than ours and has fewer side-effects and drawbacks (this is hardly surprising coming from a company that makes its money out of the proliferation of ever-improving technology).  This arguably provides opportunity for interesting conflicts, though.  What really irks me is the more specific clash with fossil resurrection, which works on essentially the same principles as the science that created Mewtwo but is consistently portrayed as cheap, easy, risk-free and not at all ethically contentious.  After all, it wouldn’t do to have the player forced to do anything shady to complete the Pokédex.  Fortunately for Mewtwo, Latios is not guilt-free either.

As I mentioned the last time Latios came up, against Jirachi, my issue with the Eon Twins is quite different, and one on which I’m aware there are many who would disagree with me.  I am of the opinion that legendary Pokémon should have legends, which add something to the background and general aesthetic of the whole Pokémon world.  I hold this opinion because legendary Pokémon (with many notable exceptions, though Latios is not one of them) simply enjoy massive advantages over most mortal Pokémon, with superior stats and often with powerful type combinations and excellent movepools (I am making the tacit assumption here that we want the game to be balanced, an assumption which I am aware is not self-evident and does not seem to be shared by the game’s designers).  In brief, I think that if legendary Pokémon are going to have these advantages, they need to justify them, and that if they are going to harm the game’s balance they should offset this harm by improving its background and lore.  Latios does not do this.  Latios’ characteristics are as follows: he understands human speech (most or all Pokémon implicitly do), he can outpace a jet (this quality is shared by a number of flying Pokémon), he can detect the presence of others through telepathy (a quality shared by a number of Psychic Pokémon), he dislikes fighting (so does Togepi), and he can create illusions.  This last characteristic is interesting and a perfectly valid concept to build a Psychic Pokémon around.  However, there is nothing in this list that requires ‘legendary’ status, ludicrous stats, Latios’ fundamentally obscene movepool, or the insanity that is the Soul Dew.

It’s funny, but the more I think about legendary Pokémon, the more they stick in my craw, so to speak.  My arguments in this match-up have been broadly analogous to those I made in my shorter “Mew vs. Heatran” passage, so I suppose I ought to follow the same rationale in casting my vote: a problematic story is better than none at all…

My vote goes to MEWTWO!

Dialga vs. Giratina


Up until now, I’ve been judging members of trios primarily by the characteristics of their trios, but Dialga and Giratina are both members of the same trio – the one that infamously raised Pokémon to the level of deities and forevermore rendered the setting’s cosmology utterly incomprehensible.  Nonetheless, I’m sure I can pick one of them to hate more.  Quite apart from simply giving us the opportunity to capture and command celestial beings, Dialga and Palkia draw attention to one of the more egregious rifts in Pokémon’s conception and style: it keeps thinking it can be science fiction.  Pokémon is not science fiction.  Pokémon barely passes as science fantasy.  This would not be a bad thing, except for the fact that it sometimes wants to be.  Thus, we get Pokémon who are described entirely through myth in order to create ambiguity about what they can actually do (see my complaints about Arceus) but have power over extremely abstract concepts like space and time – did “space becomes more stable with Palkia’s every breath” really come from the commonplace campfire stories of ancient Sinnoh?  I can in fact think of at least one ancient reference to time travel; Pythagoras – yes, the triangle guy – was said to have been able to move freely through time (I’m serious; it’s in a fragment of Aristotle), and many cultures have a mythic personification of time, so maybe this is more a problem for Palkia than Dialga.  I will bet my copies of the Iliad and the Odyssey, though, that no ancient civilisation ever had a mythic personification of antimatter, which is what Game Freak have told us Giratina is supposed to represent.  I don’t believe them; I think Giratina is the personification of death in the Pokémon universe and was quietly retconned when the designers began to wonder whether they’d gone too far.  I mean, really.  “It appears in an ancient cemetery”?  How about “it was banished for its violence”?  If Game Freak try to claim that isn’t a reference to the Devil, or some equivalent mythic being, I’m calling ‘Death of the Author’ on them.  What would make the most sense out of this, though, would be to claim that Giratina was viewed by the ancients as a personification of death.  This would make Giratina the only one of the trio to have a believable distinction between his mythic role and his actual powers, thus escaping (to a small extent, anyway) the trap that I spent Arceus’ section ranting about.  Like Dialga and Palkia, he still occupies a ridiculously high place in the setting’s cosmology and it makes little sense for anyone to be capturing him in a tiny ball, but I’d regard him as slightly better done (even if only by accident).  I also think Giratina has – and achieves – far better-defined aesthetic goals than Dialga; he’s meant to be creepy and he is, while Dialga looks like a robot space dinosaur and is meant to be… I don’t even know.

My vote goes to GIRATINA!

Interlude: The Pokémon Power Bracket – Round 1b

This week’s Pokémon will be all those involved in the tournament who didn’t compete last week, so we’re looking at a completely different set of match-ups, some interesting, others… a little bit one-sided (although, with both Kyogre and Arceus on the other side of the table, the most absurd ones have already been decided).  Here we go…

Deoxys vs. Suicune


I never liked Deoxys.  Maybe I was just annoyed at not being able to get one (Nintendo rarely bothered to hold events in New Zealand, so event-exclusive Pokémon were pretty much off the menu until the Wi-Fi age), but that hasn’t tarnished my opinions of Mew or Celebi.  Maybe the whole “shapeshifting psychic virus from space” thing was too weird for me, but normally I like quirky designs.  Did I hate it for being so gimmicky?  Usually I hate gimmicks because Game Freak think they’re a valid excuse for a Pokémon to be terrible (see: most of my Top Ten Worst Pokémon Ever), which Deoxys isn’t.  Anyway.  All of Deoxys’ four forms are quite superior to Suicune, though she’s certainly not a bad Pokémon either.  Possibly the strongest of her trio, Suicune, like Raikou, is known for Calm Mind tactics, though hers tend to emphasise gradually building power while absorbing hits with her brilliant defences (unfortunately for Suicune, Rest has lost its lustre in Black and White).  I’ve mentioned already why I like the Johto beasts, so I won’t rehash it, and Suicune, the embodiment of the north wind, has always been my favourite, but even though it makes me vaguely uncomfortable for reasons I can’t put my finger on, I have to admit that Deoxys is a really interesting Pokémon who dares to be different, and you could probably do a lot of cool stuff with the concept if you wanted to.  I actually like Suicune better, but objectively…

My vote goes to DEOXYS!

Heatran vs. Mew


Mew is sort of a problematic Pokémon, because she’s supposedly the common ancestor of all Pokémon, which clashes rather unfortunately with Arceus, the Original One and creator of the universe, whose first children were Dialga, Palkia and Giratina, followed by Mesprit, Uxie and Azelf.  All of these are Pokémon, Arceus definitely came before Mew, and the others probably did as well.  My working theory is that Mew was the first creature to be born with a complete soul consisting of intellect, emotion and will, courtesy of the lake trio, and that the seven primordial Pokémon are either ‘soulless,’ or possess something else fundamentally different from a soul.  Anyhow.  Heatran’s story, mercifully, is contradicted by nothing because there is nothing there to contradict.  I think he’s something of a throwback to the days when “legendary Pokémon” just meant “Pokémon with ludicrous stats” but even Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres had the decency to be mysterious creatures, spoken of in hushed tones, whose existence remained a subject of conjecture.  Heatran just kinda chills in his volcano being awesome, with his phenomenal Fire attacks and incredible toughness.  Mew, of course, can traditionally do everything and do it well, but she’s stayed a jack of all trades and master of none while other Pokémon around her have been mastering more and more as the generations roll by.  She remains a brilliant Pokémon, though, and although her flavour is hard to reconcile with the creation myth, I sort of prefer a problematic story to none at all, because it at least provides fodder for speculation (besides, she was there first; it’s not her fault Game Freak disregarded her established backstory).

My vote goes to MEW!

Groudon vs. Regigigas

Oh, Regigigas, you poor sad creature.  You towed continents in your time!  You shaped the face of the earth as we know it!  Or… wait, wasn’t that Kyogre and Groudon?  Ah, whatever.  Regigigas, master of the legendary golems, has clearly fallen far from his glory days.  He is utterly useless in a fight, with his Slow Start ability making him totally unable to use his ludicrous attack and good speed unless he stays in play for five turns straight… which, without any healing (no, not even Rest) and without Protect, just isn’t going to happen.  Though his physical design is more complex and interesting than his rather bland progeny, he has none of their intriguing backstory; he’s just a great big Pokémon who dragged continents in ancient times, presumably for reasons, created three other Pokémon in his own image, presumably for other reasons, and then went to sleep far beneath the Snowpoint Temple, presumably for further reasons.  Against this, we have the creator of the continents, Groudon.  Like Kyogre, he has a powerful presence, as well as a fascinating dual characterisation in his Pokédex descriptions, being portrayed as a destroyer in his own game, Ruby, and as a saviour (from flooding) in Sapphire.  He is, almost unarguably, weaker than Kyogre, because he gets relatively little direct benefit from the brilliant sunlight he creates around him – his Fire attacks are mostly for backup, while Solarbeam is at best a gimmick.  Still, though… are you really going to argue with him with Ho-oh and Reshiram at his side?

My vote goes to GROUDON!

Ho-oh vs. Uxie


Little Uxie is probably my favourite of the lake trio, partly because his sleepy eyes and large, creased skull give him a little character-appropriate differentiation that his siblings, sadly, lack.  What I really love about Uxie, though, is his frightening hidden power.  “It is said,” the Pokédex notes, “that it can wipe out the memory of those who see its eyes,” leaving them totally lost, not even knowing who they are or where they come from.  This also clues us in on how to interpret one of the myths found in the Canalave library, so we learn that anyone who touches Mesprit’s body will lose all emotion, while anyone who harms Azelf will slip into a coma.  Sadly, none of these abilities come up in fights; Uxie is sadly underwhelming in battle, as a supportive tank whose excellent defences are undermined by his difficulty with healing.  Ho-oh not only has obscene special defence, as well as Recover to rid herself of Uxie’s problems, but also packs a huge punch with her Sacred Fire.  Ho-oh’s flavour seems pretty one dimensional – the rainbow phoenix is a source of joy to all who see her, a being of absolute purity, goodness, and light.  Actually, though… there’s no other Pokémon like this.  Most legendary Pokémon are portrayed as primal forces; Cresselia and Shaymin are possibly the only others who are unambiguously benevolent towards humankind.  Ho-oh does fill a necessary niche, and I feel that she also represents the ‘sweet spot’ after the designers started making legendary Pokémon that were really ‘legendary’ but before they decided every game had to include an ‘avert the apocalypse’ plotline and started creating Pokémon with the power to unravel the universe or what-have-you.  I love Ho-oh just for that.

My vote goes to HO-OH!

Lugia vs. Manaphy


So, two rival ‘guardians of the sea’ – Lugia, who despite being an ocean spirit is not a Water-type but a Psychic-type, and Manaphy, who despite having notable psychic abilities is not a Psychic-type but a Water-type.  Hmm.  The thing to get out of the way straight off is that Lugia is possibly the toughest Pokémon in the game, though Manaphy can be pretty damn dangerous if he gets a free turn to cast Tail Glow, which sends his special attack score through the roof.  One-turn Rests as long as it’s raining, courtesy of Hydration, is great too.  I don’t think there’s really enough to choose between them to decide this contest on battling ability.  Lugia’s place in the world is… odd.  It’s stated repeatedly that he stays hidden beneath the ocean to protect others, since his power is so great he can inadvertently cause storms when he surfaces.  Then again, he’s also said to have the ability to calm storms.  I’m left imagining that Lugia’s relationship with storms and the ocean is actually rather complicated; possibly he’s the lynchpin of some sort of fragile balance, and has to create and calm storms to regulate the climate of large areas.  If Lugia has oddly large-scale powers, Manaphy’s are oddly low-key.  His one significant ability is that he’s really good at making friends.  I’m sort of left feeling that he’s a little out of place in a game that gives only cursory attention to emotions and relationships, as Pokémon does – which is a shame because that’s one of the very things that I think Pokémon should give more attention to.  Theoretically this is a game about partnership, and I think Pokémon with abilities like Manaphy’s are quite underutilised… so, much to my own surprise…

My vote goes to MANAPHY!

Latias vs. Phione


…wait, what?


Game Freak, what is Phione doing here?

Phione… Phione isn’t just bad, she’s barely even usable; her stats would be average even on a mortal Pokémon; her movepool is pretty bland, with all the Water-type standards and nothing of real interest bar U-Turn; Hydration is great, but Lapras, Vaporeon and arguably even Dewgong do it better (and when you’re being outclassed by Dewgong, it’s time to pack up and go home).  Heck, I’m not sure Phione is even officially a legendary Pokémon!  Apparently Game Freak have both confirmed and denied her legendary status at different times.  She’s inexplicably banned from the Battle Frontier and Battle Subway, as well as from most official tournaments, which pretty much eliminates most of the chances she ever gets to do anything.  I don’t think she’s ever been the star of anything, and she has no interesting powers, other than the ability to dissolve her body into water, which she shares with Vaporeon.  She’s basically just Manaphy’s useless, gimmicky little sister, and Game Freak have tossed her into the Pokémon Power Bracket and put her up against one of the bloody Eon Twins, for goodness’ sake, probably just so they can laugh at her.

Ah, you know what?  Screw it.  If any other Pokémon wins this tournament, it’ll be “just another awesome thing I did.”  If Phione wins, it’ll be the one and only moment in the sun she’s ever likely to get. 

My vote goes to PHIONE!

Palkia vs. Regirock


(I’m coming to think I gave Registeel a bit of a raw deal in the last entry, so take everything here as going for Registeel vs. Dialga as well)

I don’t actually hate Regirock, Regice and Registeel.  I think the concept is very interesting.  The fact that they were entombed by humans to keep them controlled has fascinating implications for the history of the relationship between humans and Pokémon.  Even the fact that they’re so inscrutable and alien arguably helps by emphasising the divide between them and humanity… but that’s something of a double-edged sword.  It’s hard to look at them as living things, near impossible to relate to them as we can to more expressive Pokémon designs.   Other Pokémon pull it off, somehow; maybe it’s because most of them have eyes and humans are obsessed with eyes, but Staryu and Starmie have none, and manage to be mysterious but also attractive.  Honestly I think I would really like the legendary golems if Pokémon were less of a breeding-training-fighting game and more of an exploration-discovery game, but we are where we are.  Against this, we have Palkia.  Apart from undeniably being ludicrously powerful in comparison to Regirock, she, like Dialga, represents the way Diamond and Pearl pushed the boundaries of sanity to their absolute limit by introducing Pokémon that might actually be legitimate divine beings.  I’ve always been a little annoyed by this because I feel it’s symptomatic of Pokémon’s irrational need to be ‘epic’ when ‘epic’ is neither inherently desirable nor a particularly good fit for the basic premises of the franchise… that’s a discussion for another time, though.  For now, the point is that Regirock and Palkia each annoy me in their own ways, but Palkia clearly blows Regirock out of the water as far as battling goes.

My vote goes to PALKIA!

Rayquaza vs. Azelf


Undeniably the strongest of his trio, Azelf, the embodiment of will, is good at blowing things up.  That includes himself, because Azelf has always been quick to pull an Explosion when things start looking bad.  He’s noted for using his excellent attack and special attack to commit serial murder, but also has a useful support movepool and can use it quite well thanks to his great speed.  Rayquaza is a similar idea on a grander scale, with his fundamentally ridiculous offensive scores, access to Dragon Dance, and wide offensive movepool.  Rayquaza is stronger, obviously, but I’ve always maintained that mechanical strength matters to me much less when analysing legendary Pokémon, since power is their birthright anyway, and I care more about their background and story.  Rayquaza, unfortunately, has offended me: I must doggedly insist that, as I suggested long ago, his presence in Emerald is actually detrimental to the storyline, rendering the events of the Sootopolis crisis upsettingly anticlimactic and denying the player agency in their resolution to a large extent.  Deus ex machina stopped being trendy when Euripides died, people.  Azelf and his siblings do something similar in Diamond and Pearl, but there the player still has to fight Cyrus and Palkia/Dialga to resolve the climax, and the lake trio are implied to have shown up in the first place because of their gratitude to the player for saving them earlier (and possibly because the player has a special bond with Mesprit).  To get Rayquaza to help you just have to show up and say “yo.  Ray-dogg.  Shiz be goin’ down.”

…I’m paraphrasing, but you see what I’m getting at.

My vote goes to AZELF!

Interlude: The Pokémon Power Bracket – Round 1a

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Pokémaniacal post to bring you a word from our sponsors…

Okay, so, Pokémon.com is currently running an event called the Pokémon Power Bracket, which you will find here: http://www.pokemon.com/powerbracket.  Basically, they’ve got thirty-two legendary Pokémon competing in a tournament-style setup, with the winner of each matchup being decided by the votes of the fans over the course of a week (you can vote once a day).  Now, initially, I was only mildly amused by this until I took a look at the criteria for choosing a winner: “There is no set criteria for how you vote. Cast your vote for whatever reason you want!”

So, what you’re saying is… you want us to judge these Pokémon based on whatever nebulous and ill-defined criteria should strike our capricious fancies as we stagger blindly through the Pokémon universe, violently lashing out at anything that violates our unappeasable expectations of “good design”?

That’s what I do all the time!

So, yeah.  For the next two months I’m going to spend some of my entries (not all – Anime Time will continue in between) commenting on this little popularity contest they’ve got going, and talk about where my votes are going and why, in the hopes of influencing my small-minded minio- sorry, my charming and learned readers to follow my lead.

Now, without further ado, the current matchups being contested are:

Arceus vs. Raikou


Whoo, yeah.  Way to give Raikou a fair bite at the apple, Game Freak.

So, Arceus against Raikou, whether in a one-on-one fight or in a comparison of how they each contribute to a team, really is no contest.  Raikou’s fast, has a vicious special attack score and can boost up with Calm Mind until his special defence is nigh untouchable and his Thunderbolts can shred boulders, but the fact is… Arceus can grab a Zap Plate, become an Electric-type, and do all of that, only better.  Pretty much the only thing Raikou has over Arceus is Volt Switch, which… well, don’t get me wrong, it’s a game changer, but Arceus still flattens Raikou.  So, which has the better, more pleasing design?  Well, they both look majestic and mythical enough.  I particularly love Raikou’s storm-cloud, though, and his trio have a pretty cool backstory – they were killed in the fire that destroyed Ekruteak’s Brass Tower, resurrected by Ho-oh, and given new powers, symbolising the lightning that started the blaze, the fire that destroyed the tower, and the rain that extinguished it.  Arceus, on the other hand, I can’t help but feel goes a little bit too far.  I could just about accept everything up to and including Rayquaza, but capturing and training the creator of the universe has always been a bit of a blow to my suspension of disbelief.

Of course we all know the factor that really decides this matchup for me:

I still haven’t forgiven Arceus for Jewel of Life.

My vote goes to RAIKOU!

Celebi vs. Cresselia


Well, this seems a little bit fairer.  Celebi and Cresselia are both excellent defence and support Pokémon who can be tremendously difficult to take down, but there are a couple of important differences.  Cresselia is all-defence.  Her resistance to damage is much greater than Celebi’s, but she doesn’t have a lot to fight back with; her offensive scores would actually be pretty mediocre on a mortal Pokémon.  She’s basically got Toxic, Thunder Wave, and Calm Mind-boosted attacks to hurt stuff with.  Celebi, on the other hand, has access to a devastating Leaf Storm, and can heal much more easily with Leech Seed, Giga Drain and Recover against Cresselia’s Moonlight.  Again, they’re both lovely designs, though with rather different goals; Celebi is playful, fey and lively, while Cresselia is untouchably beautiful.  I also think that both designs support their in-game abilities.  Cresselia’s dream/nightmare duality with Darkrai is interesting (it seems incomplete, though, since Darkrai represents the new moon, while Cresselia represents the crescent moon – shouldn’t there also be a full moon Pokémon?), as is Celebi’s ability to travel through time (although, granted, letting time travel into the franchise was probably a bad idea), and I honestly can’t choose one over the other.  That being the case, I have no choice but to vote for the stronger battler…

My vote goes to CELEBI!

Kyogre vs.  Regice


…oh boy.

Kyogre is just about the only Pokémon who legitimately might be as good as or better than Arceus.  The ruler of the deep ocean is constantly surrounded by violent rain that powers up his already devastating Water attacks and lets him use Thunder with absolute precision.  Not only that, it makes him the absolute best Pokémon ever, no argument, to put on a rain team.  Whereas Regice… I guess is a pretty awesome special wall, or at least it would be if only Ice weren’t the worst defensive type ever?  Anything with both Ice Beam and Thunderbolt is generally fun to handle, and it really is a cool Pokémon, but it’s also a defensive Pokémon with few support moves, multiple common weaknesses, and no easy way to heal.  As for design… well, Regice and its siblings were imprisoned by humans in ancient times because they were too powerful to control, and represent three ages of humanity’s past – Ice, Stone, and Iron – which is neat and clever and implies some cool stuff about the influence of Pokémon on humanity’s development, but they’re just so expressionless, so much more like lawn ornaments than Pokémon, that I just can’t find it in me to like them.  Kyogre, on the other hand, has all the majesty they lack (partly because whales are just awesome), and he and Groudon actually provide similar storytelling and world-building opportunities to the legendary golems anyway.

My vote goes to KYOGRE!

Darkrai vs. Mesprit


Hmm.  Tricky.

Okay, Darkrai is stronger than Mesprit, yes.  Better stats, a less vulnerable element, a wonderful signature move that would be incredibly useful even if it didn’t tie in with his powerful ability, and basically every move a special sweeper could want.  Mesprit is no slouch either, of course; she’s one of the most underappreciated Pokémon in the game, I feel (probably because of her Psychic-type vulnerabilities), and makes for a powerful and versatile supporting tank; her main problems are her lack of healing powers and that she’s so thoroughly eclipsed by the other crazily versatile legendary Psychic Pokémon, Mew.  In flavour terms, though… I’m not a fan of the way Darkrai’s been handled.  Saying that Darkrai’s nightmare powers are just a defence mechanism opens up the whole noble pariah characterisation he gets in his movie, but I think that actually makes him less interesting – if we go to such trouble to say that nightmares are not part of Darkrai’s true nature, he’s really just another Pokémon who happens to have certain mental powers.  Mesprit, Uxie and Azelf, however, as the embodiments of emotion, knowledge and will, bring up my old favourite theme of the influence Pokémon have on humans, particularly when you trace the implications of their legendary past (not to mention, they can be just as terrifying as Darkrai if you cross them).

My vote goes to MESPRIT!

Mewtwo vs. Entei


…y’know, if anything, this is even worse than Arceus vs. Raikou, because at least Raikou is actually a good Pokémon.  Entei suffers from what I’ve just now decided to call Flareon Syndrome, which is where Game Freak give a Fire Pokémon a massive physical attack stat and an abysmal physical movepool, including no physical Fire attacks better than Fire Fang (okay, yes, that one shining Entei that you have to transfer from a fourth-generation game has Flare Blitz, but COME ON!)  The fact is, Entei is a bad Pokémon.  I don’t even mean “bad by legendary standards;” he’s just bad; I’d prefer Arcanine any day.  It sort of doesn’t seem fair even to mention how terrifying Mewtwo is by comparison.  I’ve mentioned already why I like Entei, Raikou and Suicune, I’m impressed by how well Entei manages to convey physical strength and stability without coming off as a brute, which is surprisingly difficult, and I admit I’m honestly not that fond of Mewtwo, whose backstory is basically “science is evil BLARGH; now I will angst in the dark for twenty years,” in a world that is utterly dependent on its ludicrously advanced technology… but I don’t have nearly enough of a problem with him to eclipse Entei’s massive and blatant incompetence.

My vote goes to MEWTWO!

Latios vs. Jirachi


Latios is a nasty Pokémon to face.  If he’s allowed his signature item, the Soul Dew, he effectively gets a free Calm Mind boost and can shrug off most energy damage while blasting away with some of the most powerful special attacks in the game.  Even without it, though, he’s a frightening sweeper whose only notable flaw is the vulnerabilities that come with being a Psychic-type.  Jirachi isn’t so obviously devastating, but her incredibly resistant Steel/Psychic typing and neatly balanced stats make her a brilliant supporting tank.  Jirachi’s signature is abusing Serene Grace and Iron Head, but with Calm Mind, multiple good special attacks, and a wide support movepool, the sky really is the limit with this one.  Jirachi is said to sleep for a thousand years at a time, waking for only a single week, but can grant any wish in that time.  Personally, I just think wishes are fun to work with, as a long-established feature of fantasy and folktale with a rich cultural background.  It’s sort of a shame Game Freak are stuck in the whole “gotta catch ‘em all” mentality because it really limits what they can actually do with Jirachi.  Latios and his sister Latias don’t really seem to have a story or background… just a bunch of cool powers.  They’re wonderful Pokémon and I have no desire to talk them down, but I’ve always judged legendary Pokémon mainly on their potential for storytelling (and I don’t think Latios and Latias actually have any characteristics that require them to be legendary Pokémon anyway), so purely for reasons of design philosophy…

My vote goes to JIRACHI!

Dialga vs. Registeel


…Dialga wins.

Giratina vs. Shaymin


Both Giratina and Shaymin are effectively two different Pokémon: the absurdly tough Altered Giratina, whose Dragon/Ghost typing and small but useful support movepool make him pretty much the toughest Pokémon in the game barring Lugia, the serpentine Origin Giratina, who picks up an extra immunity from Levitate and can dish out some fierce attacks, the neglected and unassuming Land Shaymin, whose only real selling points are his bulkiness and the horrifying Seed Flare, and the flimsy but powerful Sky Shaymin, affectionately nicknamed Skymin, who utterly steals his earthbound cousin’s thunder by flinching everything to death with Air Slash and Serene Grace.  Land Shaymin is pretty depressing for a legendary Pokémon, but Skymin is downright evil, and at the very least gives Giratina a run for his money.  Giratina is just about the closest thing the Pokémon universe has to the devil, though officially he’s the ruler of antimatter, which is… weird, but cool, I guess, and his characterisation – trapped outside, staring back in at the old world from which he was banished – is creepy, evocative and fascinating.  Shaymin, who is the embodiment of gratitude and guardian of meadows, is interesting too, if only because it’s an unusual idea to base a Pokémon around, and his ability to break down toxins into water and light is a very dramatic way of showing his role as a protector of nature.  Much as I love Shaymin, though, I can’t actually see what gratitude, supposedly the centre of the design, has to do with his powers, his role, or… well, anything.  Sorry, Shaymin…

My vote goes to GIRATINA!

This round of the tournament is only going to be up for a day or so longer, so my next entry will probably be another one of these, but after that I think I’ll be alternating, for the most part, between this and anime reviews.