How Pokemon Go Changed My Opinion on Gen I and II Pokemon

Remember when Pokemon Go was a giant deal? It’s not anymore, though it’s not gone yet. The initial buzz has worn off and we’re back to the point where I get weird looks if I bring up Pokemon Go with non-players (though no one has excitedly told me that they’re proud not to have to spell Pokemon names). I’ve played through 5.5[1] of the 7 main story games, and through each generation, I’ve developed different opinions on certain Pokemon. These opinions change based on how the Pokemon is presented in the game, its moveset, my personal attachment to it, importance to the story line, and many other factors.

In this regard, Pokemon Go is no different. The longer I’ve played Pokemon Go, the more the game has molded my opinions of the Gen I and Gen II Pokemon within the game. Because of Go’s goofy CP mechanic, some Pokemon that were valuable in the first two generations of the game are afterthoughts in Go[2], while Pokemon useless in either the main story of Gen I/Gen II[3] or in competitive play[4] are suddenly relevant because of Go.

That said, just because a Pokemon has become more or less useful because of Go doesn’t necessarily mean I care about it more or less. But there have been some changes in my thoughts on certain ‘mon[5]. With that in mind, here are the five Pokemon I like more — and less — because of Pokemon Go.

Pokemon I like less

5. Togepi

In the anime, the writers do their best to make an otherwise forgettable Pokémon adorable. And it works. You can’t help but find Missy’s Togepi cute. But in the games itself, Togepi wasn’t particularly useful. This trend only got more severe with its lack of viability Pokémon Go. Neither Togepi nor its evolution, Togetic, are very good in Go, making their appearance from a hatched egg groan-inducing after the first time. At least there’s a good third stage evolution coming down the line[6].

4. Spinarak

What if we had a Pokémon that was just as common as Pidgey, but wasn’t as good and took more than four times the candy to evolve? Ladies and gentlemen, Spinarak.

3. Gyarados

A year plus into the game, Gyarados has proven to be one of the most versatile and powerful Pokémon in Go. That’s not my issue with it. Magikarp has always been a pain to evolve into its giant dragon form, but none more so than in Go. It takes four times as much candy to evolve Magikarp as it does to evolve any of the starter Pokémon from their second to final form. Is Gyarados significantly harder to train to than most Pokemon? Yes. Is it four times harder? Nope. Is it that much stronger that it’s worth the effort in a non-water biome? Not a chance[7].

2. Xatu

I remember seeing the Natu line in Gold/Silver and being excited there was finally a Flying/Psychic dual type. And then Xatu was useful, though a bit underwhelming. That said, Xatu might be the single worst end-stage Flying type in Go — and that includes Butterfree and Ledian. Flying type as a whole is underwhelming in Go, and Xatu manages to be the worst available option.

1. Blissey/Chansey

Fuck Blissey[8].

Pokemon I like more

5. Kingler

I don’t think I used Kingler on a single playthrough of Gen I or Gen II. There were a litany of reasons Kingler made for a less-than-desireable ‘mon to use, most notably the fact that Kingler had a low special attack stat at a time where all Water moves were special attacks. That said, Go’s goofy CP system actually turns Kingler into an above average glass cannon Water type. Add in the fact that I picked up a perfect IV Krabby that I named after the giant fire-breathing lobster that lives behind the rings of Saturn, and Kingler is much more likeable in my eyes.

4. Kabutops

I think I found myself liking all three of Gen I’s fossil Pokémon more as a result of Go, however Kabutops in particular stands out.  Kabutops is in the game’s second tier of Rock Pokémon, which is a great type at both attacking and defending. With the recent gym revamp, players are no longer forced to put their top CP units in a gym, drastically boosting the usefulness of Pokémon like Umbreon, Kabutops, and Quagsire[9]. Combine that with Kabutops’ badass design and you have a winning Pokémon.

3. Oddish

What Pokémon has the highest catch rate in Pokémon Go aside from Magikarp? One of the 12 candy evolutions (Pidgey, Caterpie, Weedle)? If not them, what about the next lowest max CP Pokemon[10], Diglett? How about the cave herpes that is Zubat? Nope. It’s Oddish. I already had an Oddish potted plant pot in my apartment before Pokemon Go came out. Its existence as essentially free stardust in Go is wonderful.

2. Sneasel

I already like Ice and Dark Pokemon as it is, so Sneasel was already pretty high on my list of Pokemon I like. But with the badge system in Pokemon Go allowing you to have a higher catch rate once you’ve caught enough of a certain type of ‘mon, Sneasel became an easy way to make progress towards badges for two types that are uncommon in my area.

1. Sudowoodo

I’ve talked about how Sudowoodo is already my favorite Rock type in a previous post. That said, it further endeared itself to me because of Pokemon Go. Just watch it dance at roughly the 25 second mark of the video below.

How can you not love that?

5 Ways to Revitalize the Pokemon Go Gym Scene

Edit: Niantic announced massive changes to gyms this morning following the posting of this article. I’m going to keep the article up for sake of discussion of both the ideas here as well as discussion of Niantic’s announced changes.

Though the initial frenzy of popularity that came with the release of Pokemon Go is gone, the game still has a dedicated core base of players. This group ranges from the hyperactive players who spend money on the game to the player who picks the game up once per day for their bonuses, to somewhere in between. As someone who falls solidly into that group of casual, but still somewhat serious players, I couldn’t have been more excited than when I saw that Pokemon Go would be closing its gyms on June 19th (today, as this post is releasing) for “remodeling”.

What will be entailed in the remodeling is up for debate. Data miners on various sites had found code in the game suggesting limits to a specific Pokemon in a gym, however that find has not (yet) amounted to anything. I’ve seen suggestions from various people online with ideas from putting limits on gyms one trainer can be in to changes to the way CP[1] is calculated. That’s to say nothing of the prevalence of spoofers[2] and gym shavers[3] in the game.

I wanted to present a few different ideas that I think could be improvements to the current gym system as it exist. While the problems with the gym system are by no means Pokemon Go’s biggest problem, they do seem to be the most significant problem Niantic is willing to address.

Idea 1 – One Pokemon Per Evolution Line Limit

Let’s lead off by addressing the alleged fix to gyms that was found in code (briefly) a few months back. The current Pokemon Go gym scene features seven Pokemon pretty much everywhere — Blissey, Snorlax, Gyarados, Dragonite, Vaporeon, Rhydon, and Tyranitar. These Pokemon are the seven highest CP Pokemon currently available in the game[4], with two of the Pokemon — Blissey and Snorlax — benefiting from a relative dearth of strong counters to their presence. A solo player, particularly a casual one, has little hope of taking down a high level (6-10) gym is there are more than two Blissey and/or Snorlax present.

One potential solution for this is to set a limit to one Pokemon per evolution line in a single gym. This plus side to this is that players would stop seeing gyms with 4-5 Blisseys in them on a regular basis[5], potentially promoting greater turnover in gyms. On the down side, this likely also means that players would still see 6 of the 7 highest CP Pokemon[6] in a gym on a regular basis. Now those last four spots would be filled with some combination of Donphan, Heracross, Golem, Lapras, and Exeggutor — or pretty much what is seen as occasional filler now.

Idea 2 – Encourage Themed (Mono-Type) Gyms

In every generation of Pokemon until Pokemon Sun/Moon[7], one of the main story lines of the game was to defeat all of the gym leaders in the game’s region before going on to face the Elite Four. If you haven’t played the main games of the series, more about that premise is in my theorycrafting post here.

One of the notable things that was true of all gym leaders/trial captains in the mainline games was that those leaders featured teams that had Pokemon all of a specific element. Whether you were facing Sabrina’s psychic types in Red and Blue, Maylene’s fighting types in Diamond and Pearl, or Valerie’s fairy types in X and Y, you generally knew what you were getting yourself into before you went into a gym[8]. One possible way to improve gym play would be to have gyms rotate what type of defenders are allowed to be in them. For example, let’s say that a specific gym was a water type gym. All three teams could attack that gym with whatever Pokemon they wanted to in order to take over the gym. However, when placing defenders in the gym, they would be restricted to Pokemon with a main or secondary typing of water.

At the end of that seven days, the gym changes to a new typing for defenders. There’s two ways to do this. One would be to kick out all defenders and to set the new typing at random. The second would be to set the new typing based off of the most prevalent secondary type in the gym, then kick out any Pokemon who don’t fit that typing. I’d prefer the former personally, but would be okay with either.

Idea 3 – Randomize Kickout Order

My third idea for improving the gym scene in Pokemon Go is also the one that is now probably the least likely to occur, as it would have been the easiest to implement under the old system. Under the previous gym system, when a team was attacking a gym, defending Pokemon were kicked out in order from weakest to strongest. While this was a great idea in theory, all it ultimately did was to lead to the gym shaving issue I brought up earlier.

If whatever revamp is being done to the gyms is not a major change, I would encourage Niantic to have some level of randomization to the order that Pokemon get kicked out of gyms.While there don’t seem to be a ton of spoofers and gyms shavers where I play, the few I do see are very noticeable, as you’ll find the same group of people in the same gyms after they’re done (typically in the same order with the same Pokemon). Battling a gym down with your alternate account to get your main account in a gym? Have fun with the roulette wheel that could knock one of your friends out in the process.

Idea 4 – Set Tier Limits in Gyms

The main series Pokemon games have a robust competitive gaming scene, thanks in part to competitive battle forums like Smogon and larger world tournaments that occur. These tournaments generally have some sort of tiered system that sets limitations as to what Pokemon, moves, and items can be used within a battle. Aside from the fact that items cannot be used in battle and that legendaries are not in the game currently, Pokemon Go does not feature such limitations.

Why not implement them? Sites like GamePress already do tier lists for top defenders and attackers. Why not have Niantic implement these limitations into gyms? Similar to the mono-type gym idea from earlier in the post, gyms could have rotating tiers on a weekly basis. One week, meta Pokemon like Blissey and Snorlax could be put in the gym with no limitations. The next week, the gym would switch to underused Pokemon, limiting your choices to Pokemon like Raichu and Butterfree. The next week, the gym could be a Little Cup format, filling the gym with Vulpix and Staryu. Different gyms in the same area could have different tiers running at the same time to further enhance play.

Idea 5 – Add in the Special Attack and Special Defense Stats

I get the purpose to the CP number. It’s meant to be a simplified calculation to help people who have never picked up Pokemon before to get acclimated to how the game works while still playing Pokemon Go. But CP makes strong Pokemon weak while making otherwise average Pokemon amazing. Remember Blissey? In the main games, it has the same base stat total as Kingdra. In Pokemon Go, Kingdra’s CP is approximately 3/4 of Blissey’s.

Is that to say Kingdra is a better Pokemon than Blissey? Not really. Objectively it’s not. But by combining Special Attack and Attack into a single attack stat, as well as doing the same with defense, Niantic has put Pokemon with widely skewed stats such as Blissey in a position to be light years better than those with more balanced stats like Kingdra.

The solution? Add in Special Attack and Defense. Blissey remains a wall against psychic/water/fire/other heavy special attackers, but becomes extra frail against strong physical attackers like Machamp (who it already has a weakness to) and Kingler. Meanwhile, Kingdra goes from being an afterthought to being a semi-viable attacker, particularly with STAB[9].

 

I’d like to hear from those of you out there who still play Pokemon Go. How would you improve the gym scene? Is there a particular idea on the list above you love or hate? Sound off in the comments.

Pokemon Go and the Mainstream Acceptance of Nerd Culture

Though I’m getting to the age where some of my elementary school memories are (thankfully) starting to fade, one of them sticks out as clear as day. It just took the release of Pokemon Go to fully appreciate it.

In the sixth grade, I made it to my school’s finals of the spelling bee. The top three finishers would move on to our county spelling bee, then if they did well enough, they could eventually move onto the regional, state, and national spelling bee. Sixth grade was the last year you could participate in the spelling bee in my school, so the fact that I made it to the finals was a bit exciting. I was determined to win the school spelling bee — just as I had the geography bee a few months earlier — and qualify for the next round.

As the spelling bee was about to start, our principal was giving introductions and explaining the rules of the contest. While reading through the normal list of rules that we heard in each of our classrooms, he paused to insert an additional rule of his own.

“Just so everyone’s aware, I’m pleased to announce that none of the words in today’s spelling bee will be Pokemon names.”

A cheer went up from the crowd of mostly sixth graders that were watching us compete. While many of the students on stage with me clapped loudly, I sat there with a bewildered look on my face. I knew there wasn’t going to be any Pokemon names in the spelling bee…but why call that out? Why was that really necessary?

On more than one occasion in elementary and middle school, I was bullied. I was a straight A student who was the shortest kid in my grade (guy or girl) up until the eighth grade. I wore hand me down clothes that didn’t fit right or looked like they were out of the 70s and 80s — generally because they were. I shared a house with my own family/stepfamily, as well as another family whose three kids were routinely getting suspended from school. I looked for a way out to escape my day-to-day reality.

From a very young age, that way out became video games. By the time 1998 rolled around, I, like many other kids my age, had gotten caught up in the Pokemon hype wave. I got a green Game Boy Pocket for Christmas the year prior with Monopoly[1] and Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball as a gift. While those games were fun, the allure of a world filled with magical creatures caught my imagination.

My dad ended up getting me Pokemon Blue in early 1999 and I played the game until the cartridge broke. My end game team was almost always the same — Blastoise, Hypno, Dewgong, Fearow, Victreebel, and Jynx — but I loved playing through it no matter what. The Pokemon games really did bring me that escape I was looking for from my childhood.

Back on the spelling bee stage, I recall being flustered and upset that the principal had taken the time to specifically call out the game that I loved playing in an effort to get a cheap cheer. There was no need to do that. I realize that now and I realized it as a kid. Being the first person in the alphabet in the finals, I received the first word, ceiling, and immediately misspelled it. I was eliminated, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get home and play the game that the majority of kids felt the need to cheer against.

Fast forward to 2016, when the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go released. I downloaded the game within minutes of its US release last week, leading to my wife and I running around outside our apartment complex trying to catch our starters. I was surprised the next two days at work to see just how many people were playing Pokemon Go. People who rarely ever played video games had picked up the game and started playing just because it was the cool, hip thing to do.

It was a strange moment for me to see. 18 years earlier, a room full of my peers had cheered that Pokemon would be no where near a spelling bee. Now, there are strangers who would otherwise have nothing in common coming together to play a later, more technologically advanced, version of that same game.

As my wife and I were walking through the park on Saturday trying to catch Pokemon, a kid — probably about sixth grade or so — and his mom were walking their dogs. The kid saw us playing Pokemon and began talking to his mom.

Kid: Why are so many adults playing Pokemon?

Mom: It’s the cool thing to do right now. I’m glad you’re mature enough to not need video games to have fun.

Ignoring for a moment that the mom obviously doesn’t understand the purpose to video games[2], with her comment I began to realize that the very thing that some kids mocked when I was younger had become cool. I’m betting some of those same kids who laughed in the auditorium at the spelling bee were playing Pokemon Go this weekend.

Why wouldn’t they? It’s the cool thing to do. We want nothing more than to be accepted in life. It just happens to be the time where nerd culture has become an accepted part of life. In fact it’s becoming so much that way that you’d be hard pressed to find a component of nerd culture that hasn’t been somewhat integrated into mainstream American culture.

I’d like to think this is a sign that we’re continuing to progress as a society to a point where everyone, regardless of their likes, beliefs, sexuality, religion, or whatever, is accepted the same way. It’s likely not. I know that. But in the interim — until that moment where I’m disproven in my belief — I’m going to continue walking towards lure modules and interacting with strangers, and bonding over sharing our Pokemon adventures.