Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Looking Forward: The Stuff of Legends.

Pat Hessman: This week, for Looking Forward, we’re trying something new. Yes, “we” indicates there is more than one writer on this column now. YeOldeJacob is joining me this weekto turn this column into a dialogue about the upcoming fifth generation. And now, the topic at hand: Legendary Pokémon, and their seemingly endless escalation.
I made passing reference to this topic during my first column, but we’ll elaborate further this week. We’ve only seen three of Pokémon Black and White’s legends, but the very nature of the mascots, Reshiram and Zekrom, as a Yin and Yang coupling concerned me. The creator of the world, Arceus, is based heavily on the Chinese creation legend of Pangu, the first man who emerged from a cosmic egg when the forces of Yin and Yang balanced. Read that last part again. This, plus the games’ trend of an ever escalating cosmology since Generation III, has me worried. 
If the White Yin and the Black Yang Pokémon are going to be above the creator of the world (and possibly the universe), where does it all stop? What would we be looking at come Generation VI? I’m worried we could be looking at some kind of omniscient inter-dimensional overlord Pokémon before long, and I do not want the franchise headed for such lofty destinations.
YeOldeJacob: While the "omniscient inter-dimensional overlord Pokémon" is most likely where they are headed, I don't mind that. I'm one of those who is a fan of Pokémon at a base level, and I tend to take the outlandish legendary escalation in stride. Well, as long as it doesn't mess with the core game experience, anyway.
Though I do have my own ideas as to where the Legends, and therefore what drives the story (little of which there is) within the games should go. I would love to see them jump to a completely new artistic tone. Something that would encompass the entire design of the game. What I would really like to see is Nintendo/Game Freak drawing from mythology, religion and architecture from India. Using a color palette similar to what is seen in Wes Anderson's 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited. Sure, it's a stretch, and it isn't exactly an obvious move, but I really think something like this would blend seamlessly with Pokémon. And hey, aren't long shots and less-than-obvious moves the essence of speculation?
Pat: That’s not speculation, that’s Fan Wank. Trying to make sense of the universe get’s more and more difficult with each escalation of the pantheon. I mean, could we be looking at something as sprawled out and unorganized as the DC Comics Universe by Generation XI or XII? I’m all for new Legends, it’s impossible to imagine a new game without them, but is it too much to ask for something more like Mewtwo than Dialga for my 680 base stat total uber? It’s much easier to stomach genetic Frankensteins than deities of primal universal forces. Good Lord, I sound like a Generation I purist.
YOJ: Well, I certainly think "fan wank" is a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to the idea of themes drawn from India (I mean, it isn't like I'm correcting Nintendo/Game Freak. Nor do I hold the pretense that I'm a better game designer.), but it certainly isn't the worst exaggeration of my opinion I've read of heard.
While I do dig the earlier Legends more than I do the current ones, this comes out of a personal taste in the artistic style of the monsters. I don't so much mind the Legends' origins being attached to the creation of the Pokémon universe as I do their designs becoming more 'complex' (see: muddled). I don't feel that to look all-powerful the subject has to be exceptionably large or have a multitude of gaudy physical features. The latter not existing in Reshiram's and Zekrom's designs is something I've already become somewhat fond of.

: That’s something I’ll agree with you on. Going back to Mewtwo again, it has a relatively simple design (especially compared to the likes of the Dragon Trio), but its appearance is still very cool and sleek. Simplicity of designs was very prevalent in the first generation, but that’s a topic for another time.
But, as for the discussion of Legends, perhaps my objection is simply boiling down to trying to dredge too much plot up from a very story-light series. Perhaps the new Legends should be judged in the context of their own game, and not how they affect the entirety of the Pokémon universe.
YOJ: Exactly. There is no real need to scrutinize the Legends as they progress because this isn't a series that demands deep analysis. Going any further than looking at the games and everything within them as singular pieces of entertainment (while still using the previous games as benchmarks, obviously) is only going to result in one finding oneself lost in a jumbled mess full of plot-holes, inconsistencies and the like. Trying to analyze the 'story' of the Pokémon universe is like trying to analyze mindless Hollywood action movies. You aren't supposed to turn on your brain when you watch Die Hard. In the same vein, you aren't really meant to have your brain turned on when you play or watch Pokémon. It is usually fantastic for what it is (mindless entertainment), but they aren't exactly weaving a delicate narrative here.

Pat: And we’ve run out of space. There is still much to be revealed about the myths of the Isshu region, and there could be something we never imagined lurking in the depths of this new region. A special thanks to YeOldeJacob for his input, and we’ll be glad to hear what you all think of the direction of the Generation IV Legends in the comment section.
Looking Forward can also be read at BulbaNews.


  1. I feel like as new Pokemon games are released, the games' mascots' histories become more convoluted as time progresses. I mean if you look at Mewtwo, Ho-oh, and Lugia, they weren't significant to the regions of their origins, but just simply powerful Pokemon. Gen III in onward, however, transgressed simplistic legendary Pokemon to more complex, story-driven Pokemon. It was cool with Gen III, because this was the first time we ever saw anything like it, but now it's becoming a bit redundant. I will always be a fan of Pokemon though lol.

  2. I'm worried about the current path of the Pokemon series. Nintendo/Game Freak are in the middle of a road that will be incredibly hard to get off of. How can you get any further than Yin and Yang? You can't. They'll have to turn around, and that will be VERY risky. But, Nintendo/Game Freak have never failed us before, and I think that as time goes on, bright, new ideas could evolve from the great minds of Nintendo/Game Freak.

  3. @ Lostinloops: Like I said in the article, inter-dimensional overlord. :D

  4. As long as the mascot Pokemon are drawn from established, trans-cultural ideas of two opposing forces I don't think the legendary proliferation/escalation will bring a decay to the game mythology. Legendary Pokemon are named such because in the Pokemon universe there are legends surrounding them, not because those legends are strictly true. And we already have contradictions within the mythology: if Mew is genetic ancestor of all Pokemon, shouldn't it have created the universe? What I will be interested in is when the games start drawing on contradictory creation myths from other cultures for the legendaries. Pangu vs Yggdrasil sounds like a great fight!

  5. I've thought about this myself, and I've come to a few conclusions. Firstly, it would be awesome if there were more "elemental" legendaries. in other words, ones that embodied things, like nature or technology or any of the types, instead of specifically being them, like how arceus is the creator and how dialga and palkia are shown.

    secondly, that if there were more man-made legendaries, that would be an awesome thing. (personally I think zekrom looks fairly artificial, but we'll see).

    and thirdly, that there IS a solution within the gameplay and the story that can be used. Poke Balls are known for their limiting properties, but the legends only seem to become stronger. So, why not make a legendary that IS stronget than arceus, but is uncatchable? the way to acquire it would instead be to create a simalucrum or avatar of said pokemon, and capture that instead. This avatar would be weaker, but still devestatingly powerful. It would become as strong as its "parent", were it not for the pokeball in which it is caught, which would allow it to be at a relatively high level when you first see it.

    well, that's my two-and-a-half cents. awesome article, and I look forward to reading more! =D