June 1, 2023

Recently, I wrote to Nintendo itself (or published an article on TheGamer, whatever, we all know Bowser has us bookmarked) imploring it to stop giving Gen 1 Pokemon regional variants. Gen 1 is by far the most popular generation, and with variants supposed to be the second chance saloon, it didn’t make sense for the likes of Growlithe to get one, nor for Meowth to get two. It seems someone has listened – a credible leak suggests Avalugg and Goodra will be getting regional variants in Legends Arceus. Goodra is popular with a certain – read: horny – contingent of Pokemon fans, but is within the ballpark for a regional variant, and Avalugg is an inspired choice. You think I’d be happy then, but unfortunately, Game Freak is doing it wrong. Here, Bowser. Have a word mate.

The leak suggests Goodra will be Dragon-Steel, while Avalugg will be Ice-Rock. These typings aren’t bad – in fact, Dragon-Steel is very intriguing – but the problem is Goodra is already a Dragon-type, and Avalugg is already an Ice-type. They aren’t really changing. This is consistent across Legends: Arceus. Of the confirmed regional variants, McGruff the Crime Dog Growlithe goes from Fire to Fire-Rock, while Voltorb goes from Electric to Electric-Grass. Braviary, once Normal-Flying, trades out Normal to become Psychic-Flying. The only full change is the Zorua line, which goes from Dark to Normal-Ghost.
It’s not just a Hisui thing, though. I still wouldn’t be a fan, but if it was a deliberate decision based on the fact this game is essentially a prequel to every Pokemon game ever, I’d at least understand. But in Sword & Shield, Galarian Slowpoke goes from Water-Psychic to just Psychic. I know that’s a change in terms of battle meta and STAB and weaknesses, but it feels like something has been stripped away. On evolution, it gains Poison, but it keeps Psychic and is therefore too similar to the original for me to even care. Likewise, the Galarian Kanto bird forms are still birds and therefore still dual Flying types. Galarian Mr. Mime retains Psychic too, while Galarian Weezing keeps Poison and Galarian Zigzagoon keeps Normal, the most pointless type of all. Galarian Stunfisk goes from Ground-Electric to the less interesting Ground-Steel, and Galarian Yamask keeps Ghost but gains Ground. It gets a brand new evolution though, so that’s something.
It has been like this since the very start. The Alolan Rattata, Raichu, Diglett, Geodude, Grimer, and Exeggutor all retain something of their original form. You might think then that I’m the one in the wrong, that because regional variants have embraced the halfway-house evolution since the start, I’m barking up the wrong Alolan Exeggutor asking them to change now. Fortunately, long time readers of TheGamer will know that I am never wrong, so it’s pretty clear that Pokemon needs to change.

There is something of a case by case basis to it. The Legendary birds, for example, are birds. Despite being bored of same-type variants, I think it’s only proper that they remain birds and therefore keep the Flying type. The same goes for Braviary, and even Voltorb isn’t too bad, since the combination of electricity and nature in the feudal era is an interesting concept. All the Pokemon that keep their Normal type and gain something else are fine too, I guess, since it feels like adding double bubblemint onto a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Some of them though are just a bit silly.
If you want a new Growlithe, why is it still an orange and black tiger cub that breathes fire? It’s just Growlithe in a new hat. And when Galarian Mime embraced the Ice-typing, there were so many opportunities to play with the design – turn it twisted for Dark, more threatening for Fighting, make it float for Flying… but it’s just Mr. Mime in a blue palette swap. The extra evolution into Mr. Rime helps a little, but still, it’s a B+ at best.

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We haven’t seen Goodra or Avalugg yet. We don’t even know if they’re real. But Avalugg especially is interesting. Its minimalistic design is just a lump of Ice. How do you add Rock to that while keeping it Ice-type? Just chuck a rock on top of the ice? Feels a bit phoned in. Goodra, at least, is atypical for a dragon – both in Pokemon and the wider mythos. It also has an incredibly soft and rounded design that goes against the conventions of the Steel-type, so we might see a bigger change there, but I’d just rather it wasn’t Dragon. I know Dragons are rare and getting rid of one isn’t what any of us want, but I’d rather lose a Dragon for one game to get a brand new Goodra, rather than just the same one except now it drips mercury or whatever.

Regional variants are my favourite thing Pokemon has done in a long time. They’re more useful and aesthetically pleasing than Megas, and much easier for casual players to understand, plus when used well they’re great at giving Pokemon another bite at the Cherrim. That’s why I write about them so much, it feels like people will get bored of them, or they won’t sell enough cuddly toys, or whatever metric Pokemon uses to ditch new features, they will fall short by. I want them to stay. I just want them to be better.

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>> Pokemon, Stop Letting Regional Variants Keep Their Original Typing

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