What Console Should Pokémon Stars Appear On?

Image from Geek.com

There are certain dreams in life that are universal, such as world peace, the eradication of cancer, and playing a full-fledged Pokémon game on a home console. We’re still working on the first two, but Nintendo fans have been frothing at the mouth over the possibility of the third finally becoming a reality.

Pokémon rumors have been swirling around the Switch since before the new system was announced, but with E3 right around the corner, the current speculation is that a new version of the game (likely the usual “third version” of Pokémon Sun/Moon) will be announced within the next month or so. One important piece of this puzzle, however, remains unclear: What system will the game actually be released for?

On the surface, the choice seems obvious: The Switch is a shiny new system that features both a portable way to play and a ton of momentum (both in terms of buzz and actual sales), while the 3DS is an aging platform with considerably weaker specs. Pokémon is an immensely-popular game that can drive hardware sales (a lot of people bought a 3DS just for the game), which is exactly the kind of game Nintendo need to keep the Switch hype train going. The question isn’t why Pokémon should come to the Switch, it’s why shouldn’t it come to the Switch?

The problem, however, is that despite its disadvantages, the 3DS can still make a strong case for keeping the Pokémon series:

  • The 3DS may be aging, but it’s aging gracefully. Its install base is 66 million+ strong,* it just got a new hardware refresh with the New 2DS XL, and a bunch of new games are coming to the system this year. Its long-term future is still a bit murky, but it isn’t going away anytime soon.
  • The Pokémon series has never been known for stunning visuals—rather, it’s the gameplay that draws people in, and Nintendo has shown time and time again that Pokémon can thrive without cutting-edge graphics. Outside of the visual upgrade (and it’s worth noting that the Switch’s graphics aren’t exactly cutting-edge themselves), what upgrades does the Switch’s horsepower offer? Unless Nintendo wanted to radically redesign the franchise’s core gameplay (and I have to admit, the idea of wandering around a Breath of the Wild-style world while catching and battling Pokémon in real-time battles sounds pretty awesome), they don’t really need what the Switch offers.
  • I speculated earlier that the 3DS was being positioned as a cheap entry-level system for younger gamers to contrast with the Switch’s more-mature target audience. While many of Nintendo’s franchises either favor one of these demographics or have a logical split between the two, Pokémon is a universally-beloved game across basically every demographic you can think of. It’s perfect for hooking youths on Nintendo hardware, while its competitive battle scene, complex set of battle mechanics, and strong nostalgic appeal keep older players coming back over and over.

*Random fun fact: Worldwide 3DS sales (66.12 million) exceed the 2016 popular vote counts of both Hillary Clinton (65.84 million) and Donald Trump (62.98 million).

So which system should the next Pokémon appear on, the Switch or 3DS? I offer the following Socratic answer: Why does this have to be an either/or question?

If Pokémon is a good game for casual and hardcore gamers alike, then it should appear on both systems. Pokémon 3DS would be the classic Pokémon adventure we all know and love, along with some additions that would benefit new players (showing which attacks are super or not effective against an opponent the first time they see them, for example). Pokémon Switch, in contrast, could include some competitive-specific tweaks, such as the ability to view IV and EV counts directly (none of that poor/decent/above-average/best/etc. obfuscation) and perhaps a way to assess a wild Pokémon’s potential the moment you encounter it. Sure, Pokémon 3DS wouldn’t have the visual polish of its Switch cousin, but it would still be Pokémon, and that’s all that matters. (If Nintendo wanted to take this even farther, they could split their 8th-gen Pokémon games across the two consoles, give both versions some exclusive Pokémon, and let players on one console trade and battle with players on the other.)

In short, Nintendo’s strategy should be to get Pokémon in front of as many gamers as possible, and if they ask “Should the game be on the 3DS, or the Switch?”, my answer would just be “Yes.”

Pokémon Face-Off: Kommo-o vs. Dragonite

Cool battle picture coming soon…

Dragon Pokémon. They’re hard to find, hard to catch, and a royal pain to raise, but once you’ve got a fully-evolved dragon on your team, having its power at your disposal is a pretty awesome payoff. While the type isn’t at OP as it once was (Fairy types just laugh at dragons, and everyone and their mother carries Ice Beam these days), they’re still potent Pokémon that you’d better have a game plan for.

Nearly every Pokémon generation has a new Dragon-type line for you to lose sleep over, and Pokémon Sun and Moon’s addition to the family is Kommo-o, a giant scaly monster that pushes you to the limit in the Vast Poni Canyon trial late in the game. The sudden-but-deadly encounter reminded me a bit of when Lance sprung his Dragon-type monsters on me in Pokémon Red, closing the fight with his nasty-tough Dragonite. Both encounters were close battles of attrition, but which of these dragons is the tougher out? This could only be settled with…a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Kommo-o (Dragon/Fighting) Dragonite (Dragon/Flying)
Strong Against… 6 Types 4 Types
Ineffective Against… 1 Type 1 Type
Can’t Hit Type? No No
Resists… 7 Types 5 Types
Weak To… 5 Types 4 Types
4x Weakness? Yes (Fairy) Yes (Ice)
Immunities? No Yes (Ground)

The numbers advantage belongs to Kommo-o here, as it both stronger against and resistant to more attack types than Dragonite. It’s worth noting, however, the Fairy types are a huge blind spot for Kommo-o, as it takes quadruple damage from their attacks while only having ineffective fighting moves to counterpunch. (In contrast, Dragonite can at least hit Ice-types for neutral damage with Dragon-type moves.) The raw numbers are enough to tilt this category in Kommo-o’s favor, but only by a nose.

Advantage: Kommo-o (slightly)

The Stats

Statistic Kommo-o Dragonite
HP 75 91
Attack 110 134
Defense 125 95
Spec. Attack 100 100
Spec. Defense 105 100
Speed 85 80
Total 600 600

With total stat counts at 600, it’s clear that these two aren’t playing around. The special stats are mostly a push, so it’s the other four stats on the board that will settle this category:

  • Both Pokémon will be leaning on their Attack stats for damage, but Dragonite’s eye-popping +24 advantage means it will hitting significantly harder.
  • Kommo-o, however, has an even-more-eye-popping +30 Defense advantage, which becomes even more imposing when paired with its type resistances. Even if attacker focus on its Spec. Defense, it still has a +10 advantage on Dragonite’s relatively-low 95 Defense.
  • Dragonite’s +16 HP advantage helps mitigate its defensive deficiencies, however, while Kommo-o’s mediocre 75 HP means it’s going to need every last point of its Defense.
  • The dragons’ Speed stats are pretty close, but being both the slowest and the squishiest of the pair is a significant strike against Dragonite.

Here again, I think the numbers give Kommo-o the advantage, but only by the slightest of margins.

Advantage: Kommo-o (slightly)

The Abilities

Kommo-o Dragonite
Bulletproof Inner Focus
Soundproof Multiscale
Overcoat

Unlike the prior two categories, this one isn’t close at all. Flinch-preventing abilities like Inner Focus have limited usefulness, and Multiscale requires some sort of healing-backed strategy to make it useful more than once a battle. Bulletproof and Soundproof block entire classes of attacks (which include some fairly powerful ones), while Overcoat prevents hail and sandstorm damage and nullifies powder-based attacks (and as someone who makes heavy use of Sleep Powder, this scares the heck out of me). Kommo-o wins this one going away

Advantage: Kommo-o

The Moves

Kommo-o Dragonite
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Outrage Dragon 120 P Outrage Dragon 120 P
Clanging Scales Dragon 110 S Hurricane Flying 110 S
Sky Uppercut Fighting 85 P Dragon Rush Dragon 100 P
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Headbutt Normal 70 P Hyper Beam Normal 150 S
Tackle Normal 40 P Aqua Tail Water 90 P
Bide Normal Damage Taken x2 P Slam Normal 80 P
Other Notable Moves
Dragon Dance Raises Attack and Speed Fire Punch Fire 75 P
Iron Defense Sharply raises Defense Dragon Dance Raises Attack and Speed
Dragon Claw Dragon 80 P Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP

This might look like an impressive table on the surface, but in reality both Pokémon pay a huge price for their power:

Attack Power But…
Outrage 120 Confuses user after 2-3 turns
Clanging Scales 110 Lowers user’s Defense, uses Spec. Attack
Hurricane 110 Poor accuracy (70%), uses Spec. Attack
Hyper Beam 150 User loses a turn, uses Spec. Attack
Dragon Rush 100 Poor accuracy (75%)
Slam 80 Poor accuracy (75%)

Basically, if you’re looking for phenomenal cosmic power out of these two, you can get it, but it may not be as OP as you might think.

So what can you get out of these two Pokémon reliably? It depends on what you’re looking for:

  • For raw STAB power, Kommo-o is your dragon. Dragon Claw and Sky Uppercut are two of the best physical, no-side-effect moves for Dragon and Fighting types respectively, and it has a ton of stat-boosting moves (Dragon Dance, Iron Defense, Work Up, Autotomize, and even Belly Drum) to boost it from ‘tough, powerful Pokémon’ into ‘potential team-sweeper’ territory.
  • If you want a Swiss army knife with some decent type coverage, Dragonite is the better fit. With moves like Fire Punch, Thunder Punch, Aqua Tail, and even Hyper Beam at its disposal, Dragonite has a few options for taking on a wide variety of foes. (Compare this to Kommo-o, whose non-STAB options—Tackle? Bide?—are just pitiful.)

The winner of this category, therefore, depends on the answer to the question “What do you want in a Dragon, anyway?” For me, a Dragon-type Pokémon is a safety blanket, a Pokémon I can toss against foes that I have no other viable counter for. Type coverage isn’t quite as important as just being able to do some credible damage to my opponent, so I’m looking for safe, solid STAB attacks, with the option to unleash Outrage-esque fury in an emergency. For my tastes, Kommo-o is the way to go.

Advantage: Kommo-o

The TMs

Kommo-o Dragonite
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Earthquake Ground 100 P Earthquake Ground 100 P
Poison Jab Poison 80 P Stone Edge Rock 100 P
X-Scissor Bug 80 P Fly Flying 90 P
Shadow Claw Ghost 70 P Dragon Claw Dragon 80 P
Aerial Ace Flying 60 P Steel Wing Steel 70 P
Brutal Swing Dark 60 P Thunder Electric 110 S
Flamethrower Fire 90 S Fire Blast Fire 120 S

 

As usual, TMs ride to the rescue to fill in the gaps in both Pokémon’s natural movesets:

  • With Ground-, Bug-, Ghost-, Flying-, Dark-, Fire-, Steel-, and especially Poison-type moves (Fairy types beware!) at its disposal, Kommo-o finds itself with more than enough type coverage to go around.
  • Dragonite not only gains access to less-risky STAB moves like Dragon Claw, Aerial Ace, and Fly, but it also sees its type coverage broaden with powerful moves like Earthquake and Stone Edge. Some of these gains, however, are watered down by their reliance of Spec. Attack (Fire Blast, Surf, Thunder, etc.).

Dragonite gains a bit more in terms of power and flexibility, so it wins the battle here. Kommo-o, however, fills in its one major weakness and positions itself to win the war.

Advantage: Dragonite

 The Results

What is a Dragon-type Pokémon? André Malraux would call it a miserable little pile of power, and I would agree with him wholeheartedly. Dragons are less about working type matches and exploiting weaknesses, and more about drawing a line in the sand and daring your opponent to cross it. Dragonite may have more raw power, but Kommo-o’s defensive stinginess, its steady, to-the-point moveset, and its superior type and abilities give it the edge to emerge victorious from most any battle, just as it does here.

Winner: Kommo-o

 

However, Dragonite is only deficient in a relative sense: With its impressive stat count and raw power, there aren’t a lot of Pokémon that will stand in its way either. Dragons have been a stalwart of strength ever since the days of Pokémon Red and Blue, and will likely be a staple of strong Pokémon teams for many generations to come.

Pokémon Sun/Moon: Why Are G7 Pokémon So Slow?

(Shout-out to Robert Ian Shepard for the post idea!)

While working on my Pokémon Face-Off series, I noticed a strange pattern among the Alolan Pokémon I was researching: For the most part, they seemed to have sub-par Speed stats (and some were downright awful).

Pokémon Speed
Toucannon 60
Alolan Ninetales 109
Togedemaru 96
Mimikyu 96
Mudsdale 35 (!)
Incineroar 60
Primarina 60
Decidueye 70
Vikavolt 43 (!)

Did I just happen to pick slower Pokémon, or was this indicative of a larger trend in Pokémon Sun/Moon? As it turns out, I’m not the first one to notice this trend and ask this questionRobert Ian Shepard provided a good summary of the community’s current thinking in a comment of my Vikavolt post:

So I haven’t seen an actual source for the rumor I am about to share and have no idea if it’s true (but spreading misinformation is cool, right?): apparently 7th gen as a whole is slow because 6th gen as a whole was very fast. So they wanted to counterbalance that somewhat and not have speed stats just keep creeping higher and higher throughout the generations. Like I said, I’m not sure how true that is, but it would explain why all of your Alolan Face-Off competitors seem really slow.

A theory in need of some evidence for proper confirmation? I think I can help with this. 🙂

Bulbapedia keeps a handy list of Pokémon base stats on its website, so I grabbed its Pokémon Speed data, stuffed it into a spreadsheet, and tried to determine the average speed of Pokémon introduced in each generation. With this data, I tried to answer two questions:

  • Are G7 (Sun/Moon) Pokémon noticeably slower (on average) than Pokémon from other generations? This will tell us whether or not our face-off observations are part of a larger slowdown.
  • Are G6 (X/Y) Pokémon noticeably faster (on average) than Pokémon from other generations? If so (and the answer to the first question is “yes”), this lends credibility to the theory that G7 Pokémon were intentionally designed to be slower to counter the excessive speed in G6.

Some comments on the methodology:

  • I only included final-form Pokémon (i.e., ones that had no further evolutionary forms) in this analysis. Pre-final forms generally have weaker stats and aren’t usually used competitively, so I decided that having only final evolutionary forms would be a fairer, more useful comparision.
  • If a Pokémon has more than one final evolutionary form (the Eeveelutions, for example), each form is counted as a separate Pokémon. However, Pokémon that can change their form dynamically (Deoxys, Shaymin, etc.) only have their default form included in the analysis.
  • Pokémon were included in the generation is which their current final evolutionary form was introduced. For example, the Rhyhorn evolutionary line is labeled as G4 thanks to Rhyperior, even though Rhydon was a final-form evolution in G1.

With all this is mind, let’s get to the numbers!

Pokémon Generation Average Speed Stat
G1 (Red/Blue) 82.377
G5 (Black/White) 81.045
G4 (Diamond/Pearl) 80.254
G6 (X/Y) 79.838
…and then a gap…
G3 (Ruby/Sapphire) 73.806
G7 (Sun/Moon) 73.576
…and finally, two laps down…
G2 (Gold/Silver) 68.057

It looks like our face-off observations were not a fluke: Pokémon Sun and Moon clock in as the second-slowest generation thus far (although that label is a bit unfair, given how close G7 is to G3). The answer to our first question is a definite YES.

However, while Pokémon X and Y are among the “fast” group of generations, they’re the slowest gen in the cluster (the worst of the best, you might say), indicating that the answer to our second question is NO. If G7’s lack of speed was an intentional choice, it wasn’t because G6 monsters were exceptionally fast.

So was the decision to hit the brakes in Pokémon Sun and Moon made independent of what had transpired in the past? I don’t believe this was the case either. Instead, the data suggests that brinetold ‘s comment on the above linked forum post comes the closest to the truth:

they figured we got…like how many gens again….of speedy mons

so they decided to give us a gen of trick room partners

More specifically, “how many” appears to be three, as G4, G5, and G6 are all among the fastest generations (and all of them are within a few points of G1’s lead). This suggests that the decision to slow down G7 was made due to a larger “speed creep” trend, and that G6 was just a continuation of this trend rather than a speedy outlier. (You could actually take this argument a step farther, and say that G4 was a response to the “Slow-kémon” of G2 and G3.)

One last interesting note: If we dig a little deeper, we find that G7 actually has the highest standard deviation of its Speed values among the generations.

Pokémon Generation Standard Deviation of Speeds
G1 (Red/Blue) 25.347
G2 (Gold/Silver) 27.616
G3 (Ruby/Sapphire) 23.616
G4 (Diamond/Pearl) 25.196
G5 (Black/White) 28.484
G6 (X/Y) 25.266
G7 (Sun/Moon) 31.139

This means that Pokémon speed values are more spread out in G7 than in any other generation, which likely increases our chances of seeing an outlier that differs wildly from the average (*cough* Mudsdale *cough*) when we select a monster randomly from the Alolan Pokédex.

In summary:

  • Yes, G7 Pokémon are slow.
  • No, it’s not just because G6 Pokémon are fast.
  • The three generations prior to G7 were all at the faster end of the spectrum, suggesting that G7 may have been a “market correction” in the face of a larger trend of speedy Pokémon.

Of course, this also leads to more questions about stat trends over time: Have Attack stats gone up over time? Which generation is the weakest defensively? Are G2 Pokémon good at anything? It’s a rich area of exploration, and one I expect to dig deeper in to in the future.

Pokémon Face-Off: Vikavolt vs. Scizor

vs_9As a fan of both Electric- and Bug-type Pokémon, it’s no surprise that Vikavolt is one of my favorite 7th-gen monsters. It was a force to be reckoned with during my playthrough of Pokémon Moon, and had the toughness and flexibility to be trusted in any situation. It’s easily the best bug I’ve ever included in my Top 6, and seemed like the perfect candidate to have its mettle tested further in a face-off!

But what bug would dare stand against the mighty Vikavolt? The obvious choice was fellow Electric-/Bug-type Galvantula from Pokémon Black/White, but at first glance the electric spider didn’t seem to have the stat count to make it a fair fight. Instead, I’ve selected Scizor, one of my favorite bugs from the original generations, to be Vikavolt’s face-off opponent. Let’s get this party started!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Vikavolt (Bug/Electric) Scizor (Bug/Steel)
Strong Against… 5 Types 6 Types
Ineffective Against… 0 Types 2 Types
Can’t Hit Type? No No
Resists… 4 Types 8 Types
Weak To… 2 Types 1 Type
4x Weakness? No Yes (Fire)
Immunities? No Yes (Poison)

Let me get this straight: Compared to Vikavolt, Scizor is stronger against more types, weaker against fewer types, resists more types, and has a Posion immunity? While Fire-types are a huge blind spot for Scizor (not only is it a 4x weakness, but neither Bug nor Steel are effective against it), this category is otherwise a clear victory for the pincer Pokémon.

Advantage: Scizor

The Stats

Statistic Vikavolt Scizor
HP 77 70
Attack 70 130
Defense 90 100
Spec. Attack 145 55
Spec. Defense 75 80
Speed 43 65
Total 500 500

Before I dig into the stats, I have to ask: Why are 7th-gen Pokémon so freaking slow? This is the sixth Alolan Pokémon I’ve covered with a Speed stat of 70 or lower. Maybe I’ve just gotten unlucky with my face-off selections, but it’s enough of a trend to make me wonder…

Both Vikavolt and Scizor have an impressive attack stat at their disposal (Attack for Scizor, Spec. Attack for Vikavolt), but they’re both also depressingly slow, which means that they’ll have to take a punch before they can deliver one. Vikavolt is the stronger attacker, but Scizor has a slight edge in both Defense and Spec. Defense, and its Steel typing helps cover for its small HP deficit.

This category comes down to a single question: Would you rather hit harder, or have a better chance of living long enough to hit at all? When dealing with slower Pokémon, I prefer the latter.

Advantage: Scizor

The Abilities

Vikavolt Scizor
Levitate Swarm
Technician
Light Metal

Vikavolt only has one ability, but it’s a good one: Levitate grants a Pokémon immunity to Ground-type moves, which are normally super-effective against Electric types. On the flip side, Swarm only boosts Bug moves (and only when the Pokémon is nearly dead), Technician doesn’t boost weaker moves much beyond what normally-powerful moves offer, and Light Metal doesn’t make Scizor any faster.

Even with three possible abilities, Scizor can’t touch Vikavolt here. Who said variety was the spice of life?

Advantage: Vikavolt

The Moves

Vikavolt Scizor
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Zap Cannon Electric 120 S Iron Head Steel 80 P
Thunderbolt Electric 90 S X-Scissor Bug 80 P
Bug Buzz Bug 90 S Metal Claw Steel 50 P
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Dig Ground 80 P Razor Wind Normal 80 P
Air Slash Flying 75 S Air Slash Flying 75 S
Crunch Dark 80 P Night Slash Dark 70 P
Other Notable Moves
Charge Raises power of next Electric move Bullet Punch Steel 40 P
Agility Sharply raises Speed Sword Dance Sharply raises Attack
Discharge Electric 80 S Agility Sharply raises Speed

(Note that this table includes moves that are not learned by Vikavolt and Scizor directly, but are learned by their prior evolutionary forms Charjabug and Scyther.)

The natural movesets of these Pokémon are more even than I expected, but I give Vikavolt a slight edge for two reasons:

  • It has a slight power edge in terms of reliable STAB moves (Bug Buzz over X-Scissor, Thunderbolt over Iron Head). Combine this with Vikavolt’s slight attack stat advantage, and it’s going to do a fair bit more damage over time.
  • It has incredible flexibility with respect to its Electric attacks. Multiple opponents? Fry them with Discharge. Need to bump up your damage? Throw in a Charge or two. Need to do a lot of damage right this very moment? Cross your fingers, flip a coin, and unleash Zap Cannon.

To its credit, Scizor’s moves are more aligned with its stat spread, and Bullet Punch is a useful priority move, especially if paired with Technician. (Also, both Pokémon have Agility, which means they can boost their speed from awful to mediocre if they have three turns to spare. Woohoo!) For my money, though, Vikavolt’s raw power and diverse toolkit carry the day here.

Advantage: Vikavolt

The TMs

Vikavolt Scizor
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Thunder Electric 110 S Giga Impact Normal 150 P
Energy Ball Grass 90 S Venoshock Poison 65 S
Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP Brick Break Fighting 75 P
Flash Cannon Steel 80 S Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP

Once again, Technical Machines come to the rescue and try to fill in the holes in the natural movesets of both Pokémon. Vikavolt gains more type coverage in the form of attacks that take advantage of its Spec. Attack stat, and Scizor gains a powerful-but-costly move (Giga Impact) for use when it needs a single overwhelming strike. (Both Pokémon also gain a useful and sorely-needed healing move in Roost.)

So who comes out ahead? I’m giving it to Vikavolt due to the continued improvements in its type coverage. (It gets extra credit for learning Flash Cannon, allowing it to be a poor man’s version of Scizor if needed.)

Advantage: Vikavolt

 The Results

As someone who’s been on the wrong end of a team wipe at the hands of a single Pokémon too many times to count, there’s something to be said for having a versatile monster who can function against a wide range of dangerous opponents. Sure, Vikavolt is slow and Scizor has a slight edge in bulk, but the gap isn’t terribly large, and our stag beetle competitor counters with the ability to put up decent damage against darn near anything it encounters. Scizor was a worthy opponent, but I’m giving this one to the Alolans.

Winner: Vikavolt

Of course, Vikavolt isn’t a feasible play in every situation—for example, a Ground/Flying-type like Gliscor could wall it off without too much trouble, and a glass cannon like Camerupt could cause trouble if it hangs around too long. That’s the beauty of Pokémon: Like physics, for any of your actions there’s an equal and opposite reaction available to your opponent, and victory is granted to those who can put (and keep) themselves in the most advantageous position over the course of the battle.

 

Pokémon Face-Off: Chesnaught vs. Decidueye

vs_8

At long last, we’ve arrived at the final face-off involving the Alolan starter Pokémon. While both Incineroar and Primarina had strong showings, both lost to older Pokémon in photo-finish throwdowns, leaving this iteration of starters with an unsightly 0-2 record. Can Grass-type starter Decidueye break the losing streak and keep the Alolan trio from getting shut out?

Amazingly, Decidueye’s total stat count of 530 is actually higher than most prior-gen Grass starters, limiting the number of starters that it can face on a level playing field. One fellow 530-count starter, however, is its immediate predecessor Chesnaught, a Grass/Fighting-type Pokémon with a suitably imposing design. Can Alolan’s favorite Robin Hood knockoff triumph over the Sheriff of Chesnaughtingham? It’s time for a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Chesnaught (Grass/Fighting) Decidueye (Grass/Ghost)
Strong Against… 7 Types 5 Types
Ineffective Against… 3 Types 0 Types
Can’t Hit Type? No No
Resists… 6 Types 4 Types
Weak To… 6 Types 5 Types
4x Weakness? Yes (Flying) No
Immunities? No Yes (Normal, Fighting)

Two interesting features stand out from the type comparison:

  • Chesnaught has a higher attack ceiling than Decidueye, but also has a huge blind spot in the form of Bug-, Poison-, and especially Flying-type Pokémon. Grass and Ghost, on the other hand, have decent attack potential while also guaranteeing a neutral hit against any single type.
  • Chesnaught resists more types, but Decidueye counters with two useful immunities and no 4x weaknesses.

In other words, Chesnaught appears to be more of a situational play that needs to exploit specific matchups, while Decidueye is more balanced and thus a safer choice against a wider variety of Pokémon.

Advantage: Decidueye

The Stats

Statistic Chesnaught Decidueye
HP 88 78
Attack 107 107
Defense 122 75
Spec. Attack 74 100
Spec. Defense 75 100
Speed 64 70
Total 530 530

This comparison turns on three key points:

  • Both Pokémon sport an unsightly 75 in one defense stat, but Chesnaught’s 122 Defense beats Decidueye’s 100 Spec. Defense. Additionally, Chesnaught +10 HP advantage gives it some extra bulk.
  • Both Pokémon have high-but-equal Attack stats, negating Decidueye’s large Spec. Attack advantage.
  • Both Pokémon have terrible speed, so while Decidueye is technically faster, it’s not going to outrun many more Pokémon. Additionally, bulk matters more for slow Pokémon, which further favors Chesnaught’s stat distribution.

Advantage: Chesnaught

The Abilities

Chesnaught Decidueye
Overgrow Overgrow
Bulletproof Long Reach

As usual, our starter Pokémon have to settle this question through their hidden abilities. Long Reach offers the benefit of avoiding contact-based abilities (Static, Poison Point, Rough Skin) and damage from the Rocky Helmet, but I’m giving Chesnaught the advantage thanks to the impressive list of attacks it nullifies, including popular attacks like Aura Sphere, Shadow Ball, and (most importantly) Sludge Bomb and Beak Blast.

Advantage: Chesnaught

The Moves

Chesnaught Decidueye
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Wood Hammer Grass 120 P Leaf Blade Grass 90 P
Hammer Arm Fighting 100 P Spirit Shackle Ghost 80 P
Seed Bomb Grass 80 P Razor Leaf Grass 55 P
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Giga Impact Normal 150 P Brave Bird Flying 120 P
Take Down Normal 90 P Sucker Punch Dark 70 P
Body Slam Normal 85 P U-Turn Bug 70 P
Other Notable Moves
Spiky Shield Blocks attacks, attacker takes damage Pluck Flying 60 P
Bulk Up Raises Attack and Defense Nasty Plot Sharply raises Spec. Attack
Bite Dark 60 P Synthesis Heals up to 1/2 HP

The natural movesets of these Pokémon harkens back to the assertions we made during our type comparison: Chesnaught was a risky play but had higher upside, while Decidueye was the safer, more flexible pick.

Chesnaught has the strongest STAB moves of the two, but its power comes at a cost: Giga Impact forfeits the user’s next turn, while Wood Hammer and Take Down deal recoil damage to Chesnaught. (Hammer Arm cuts the user’s Speed, but Chesnaught’s atrocious Speed means it’s probably attacking second anyway, so it’s of little consequence.). Its strongest non-STAB moves are all Normal, which still leaves the Pokémon with lacking type coverage. Spiky Shield is a nice defensive move that hurts attackers who challenge it, but Bulk Up doubles down on Chesnaught’s best stats while leaving its no-so-great Spec. Defense uncovered.

Decidueye, on the other hand, has the standard no-side-effect power moves for its type (Leaf Blade and Spirit Shackle, the latter being a better option than Shadow Ball because it is tied to Decidueye’s superior Attack stat). It also features passable Dark, Bug, and Flying-type moves for better type coverage, and also has Synthesis to heal damage coming from enemies and/or Brave Bird recoil. (Nasty Plot boosts Spec. Attack, but that’s the weaker attack stat to begin with and Decidueye doesn’t learn any moves to take advantage of it.)

Once again, I’m going with the more-reliable play here and giving this category to our favorite Robin Hood cosplayer.

Advantage: Decidueye

The TMs

Chesnaught Decidueye
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Brick Break Fighting 75 P Swords Dance Sharply raises Attack
Dragon Claw Dragon 80 P Shadow Claw Ghost 70 P
Earthquake Ground 100 P Steel Wing Steel 70 P
Stone Edge Rock 100 P Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP

Just like steroid users in baseball, Chesnaught gains a huge advantage through artificial performance enhancers. Through the magic of TMs, it can learn physical Rock, Ground, Dragon, Poison, Flying, Ghost, Dark, and Steel moves, as well as Rest for healing, Swords Dance for Attack-boosting, and Brick Break for side-effect-free Fighting-type power.

Decidueye’s TM move pool is a lot shallower in contrast, although it adds Swords Dance and Steel Wing to its arsenal, and can upgrade from Synthesis to Roost (the latter isn’t weather-dependent, and Decidueye doesn’t lose its Flying type because it’s already not a Flying type). Nevertheless, like Frankenstein’s monster, Chesnaught turns into quite the beast once it comes out of the lab.

Advantage: Chesnaught

 The Results

As much as I’d like to see the Alolan starters win at least one face-off, Chesnaught’s TM superiority is just too big to be ignored here. What would normally be a risky Pokémon to play turns into a viable option with impressive power and type coverage once the extra moves are factored in. Its mediocre Spec. Defense makes for a nasty Achilles heel, but its superior stat distribution and TM dominance carry the day here.

Winner: Chesnaught

While the Alolan starters finished a disappointing 0-3 in these face-offs, it’s important to note two things:

  • These losses do not mean that the Alolan starters are bad Pokémon. (Surprisingly slow Pokémon perhaps, but not bad ones.) My Incineroar, despite having the absolute worst IV spread I have ever seen, tore through the main campaign of Pokémon Moon, and I’ve had similar success with the Primarina and Decidueye I’ve raised as well.
  • The Alolans’ opponents were hand-picked for these face-offs based on how closely their stat counts resembled the 7th-gen starters. Facing different starters might have resulted in a different outcome. (For example, I think Decidueye would have ripped Venusaur in half without breaking a sweat.)

Nevertheless, it’s time to start digging deeper into the Alolan Pokédex for more face-off candidates! I’m open to suggestions, so if you’ve got a Pokémon or two that you’d like to see square off, drop me a comment below!

Pokémon Face-Off: Primarina vs. Empoleon

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In our last face-off, Incineroar lost a close match to the only Uber-tier starter (Blaziken) on the equivalent of a last-second field goal. The near-draw piqued my curiosity: If the Fire starter Pokémon was this good, what about the other Alolan starters? Were Decidueye and Primarina just as powerful, or would they come up short in similar comparisons?

Being a longtime Water aficionado, I decided to start my analysis with the Water-type Primarina, and see how it measured up against its past brethren. As luck would have it, one past starter in particular appears very similar to Primarina: Empoleon, the Water-type starter from the fourth generation (Diamond/Pearl/Platinum). Was this similarity only skin-deep, or would one of these Pokémon capture the crown decisively? It was face-off time!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Primarina (Water/Fairy) Empoleon(Water/Steel)
Strong Against… 6 Types 5 Types
Ineffective Against… 0 Types 1 Type
Can’t Hit Type? No No
Resists… 6 Types 10 Types
Weak To… 3 Types 3 Types
4x Weakness? No No
Immunities? Yes (Dragon) Yes (Poison)

While Primarina enjoys a marginal advantage in terms of attack type coverage, Empoleon more than makes up for this with the resistances it gains through its Steel typing. In a close battle, this is enough to tip the scales.

Advantage: Empoleon

The Stats

Statistic Primarina Empoleon
HP 80 84
Attack 74 86
Defense 74 88
Spec. Attack 126 111
Spec. Defense 116 101
Speed 60 60
Total 530 530

While the overall stat counts are even, the two different distribution force us into an interesting dilemma:

  • On one hand, Primarina has a significantly better Spec. Attack, and Empoleon’s higher Attack is a waste due to its own Spec. Attack. With equal Speed between, Primarina seems to fit the role of “special sweeper” better than Empoleon.
  • However, Empoleon boasts a higher Defense stat, and its Spec. Defense (though less than Primarina’s) is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Combine this with its Steel typing and a slight HP advantage, and its clear that Empoleon has to bulk to take a few hits and outlast Primarina on the battlefield.

So who wears their role better? In the end, it comes down to speed: Classic “glass cannons” rely on getting their moves off before their opponent can, and Primarina’s middling Speed means it’ll be a sitting duck for opponents targeting its mediocre Defense. Empoleon is no faster, but at least its typing and slightly-better Defense give it a better chance of lasting long enough to counterpunch.

Advantage: Empoleon

The Abilities

Primarina Empoleon
Torrent Torrent
Liquid Voice Defiant

Every Water-type starter features Torrent by default, so once again the hidden abilities will decide this round. In this case, however, neither hidden ability really suits the user: Defiant boosts Empoleon’s lesser Attack stat rather than its Spec. Attack, and Liquid Voice not only reduces Primarina’s type coverage by converting voice attacks (Disarming Voice, Hyper Voice) to Water moves, but it’s likely that Primarina already has a stronger Water move (Surf, Hydro Pump, etc.) at its disposal. Empoleon earns the victory here because Defiant might occasionally be useful, but Torrent is probably the better play for both Pokémon.

Advantage: Empoleon

The Moves

Primarina Empoleon
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Hydro Pump Water 110 S Hydro Pump Water 110 S
Moonblast Fairy 95 S Brine Water 65 S
Sparkling Aria Water 90 S Bubble Beam Water 65 S
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Hyper Voice Normal 90 S Drill Peck Flying 80 P
Pound Normal 40 P Tackle Normal 40 P
Double Slap Normal 15 P Peck Flying 35 P
Other Notable Moves
Misty Terrain Prevents status conditions, halves Dragon damage Metal Claw Steel 50 P
Sing Puts opponent to sleep Swords Dance Sharply raises Attack
Disarming Voice Fairy 40 S Mist Prevent stat lowering for five turns

Yikes. Neither Pokémon has out an outstanding movepool, but it’s worth noting just how awful Empoleon’s is:

  • Its Water-type moves are either weak (Brine, Bubble Beam) or inaccurate (Hydro Pump).
  • The only Steel move it learns naturally is Metal Claw, which is incredibly weak and tied to Empoleon’s inferior Attack stat.
  • Drill Peck is the only decent non-STAB move Empoleon learns, and it’s again tied to the Pokémon’s Attack stat.
  • It’s best non-attacks are Swords Dance (again, boosting the weaker Attack stat) and Mist (which presumably blocks Defiant from activating).

Primarina’s moveset isn’t exactly stellar, but at least it has two powerful-yet-accurate STAB moves to lean on (Moonblast and Sparkling Aria), as well as some useful non-attacks (Sing, Misty Terrain). Even without decent type coverage in its arsenal, it easily earns the victory here.

Advantage: Primarina

The TMs

Primarina Empoleon
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Ice Beam Ice 90 S Surf Water 90 S
Psychic Psychic 90 S Flash Cannon Steel 80 S
Shadow Ball Ghost 80 S Ice Beam Ice 90 S
Energy Ball Grass 90 S Earthquake Ground 100 P

Who needs natural type coverage when you’ve got Technical Machines?

Both Primarina and Empoleon have blessed by the TM gods with an incredible variety of potential moves. Primarina can add nasty Ice, Psychic, Ghost, and Grass moves to its arsenal (there’s a physical Flying-type there as well), while Empoleon gains Rock, Ground, Grass, Ghost, Dark, Ice, Fighting, and (most importantly) solid go-to Water and Steel moves.

The difference here, however, is that once again Empoleon is handcuffed by the fact that most of these new moves (Earthquake, Rock Slide, Shadow Claw, Brick Break, etc.) are tied to its Attack stat rather than its Spec. Attack. Primarina’s moves, in contrast, line up perfectly with its higher Spec. Attack.

Advantage: Primarina

 The Results

This is a tough call between two Pokémon who aren’t as similar as we first thought. Primarina has the moves to use and the power to back them up, but not the bulk or speed to actually make an impact. Empoleon has enough resistance to take a hit or two, but its counterpunching options are limited, and they do not sync with its strongest stats. Who has the advantage?

Just as with our last Alolan starter debate, I think it comes down to Speed, or in this case, the lack thereof. If you aren’t able to ourrun your opponents, you’d better be able to take a punch, and Empoleon can handle targeted blows better than Primarina does. Additionally, the magic of TMs give Empoleon just enough decent options for striking back, even if they are not all tied to is best Attack stat.

Winner: Empoleon

This doesn’t mean, however, that Primarina is completely usesless in battle. Against the right kind of foes (Dragon-types, or anyone that goes after its Spec. Defense rather than its Defense), Primarina is more than capable of bringing the pain. Like everything else in the Pokémon universe, it all comes down to matchups, and making sure trainers put their Pokémon in the best position to succeed.

Has Nintendo Just Sacrificed Pokémon Sun/Moon?

pokemon_moon

Pokémon is perhaps Nintendo’s most well-known, lucrative, and beloved game franchise (seriously, not even Mario can touch these critters). When times are tough and things look bleak, the Big N can count on a dose of these collectible monsters for a shot of money and goodwill. Exhibit A of this fact are Pokémon Sun and Moon, which were announced when spirits were low around the company, and have merely gone on to sell 4.5 million copies and become Nintendo’s fastest-selling game ever. In short, the true mascot of Pokémon is not an electric mouse but a golden goose, and Nintendo would be absolutely insane to ever undermine this franchise.

Desperate times, unfortunately, called for desperate measures, and Nintendo’s new console rollout has put Pokémon Sun/Moon in a precarious position, and the success of one may come at the expense of the other.

When Nintendo introduced the Switch as a hybrid home/portable console, it meant that the Switch would be competing against the company’s existing 3DS console line. This in itself is not a bad thing: The 3DS is aging (and not aging terribly well, as anyone who’s tried to play Pokémon Sun/Moon on an original model can attest), and while it has been fairly successful, it was probably due for retirement in another year or so anyway. It does, however, mean that late-life 3DS games, despite are doomed to be overshadowed by the Switch’s shiny new releases/ports.

Although the 3DS and Switch both use cartridges for games, the Switch does not provide backwards compatibility for any prior console. This forces diehard Nintendo/Pokémon fans to make an uncomfortable decision: Do I really want to carry two separate devices around to play all the games I want?

As someone who is usually also carrying around a laptop, phone, and other assorted electronic gizmos, I am not looking forward to having another device cluttering up my bag, especially if I’m flying. As someone who is also a huge fan of Pokémon and many other Nintendo franchises. My choices, and the choices of other Nintendo fans like me, are these:

  • Carry only my 3DS, and miss out on the Switch’s biggest selling point (being able to play Splatoon 2Super Mario Odyssey, etc. anywhere I want).
  • Carry only my Switch, and miss out on playing Pokémon Moon.
  • Carry both, and suffer a lifetime of TSA frustration and orthopedic problems because my shoulder bag has too much junk in it.

The problem will eventually sort itself out as the 3DS fades away and the Switch (hopefully) gains prominence and market share. Any games caught in this transition period, however, are going to suffer, especially if they’re on the receding console.

Pokémon Sun and Moon aren’t the only games caught on what appears to be the wrong side of history (Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly WorldFire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, and Ever Oasis are also in trouble), but they’re by far the highest-profile games caught in this trap, and will likely be the hardest game to give up for those planning to jump on the Switch train. Regardless of how the community splits, either the air gets taken out of the Pokémon community or the Switch user base, which means Nintendo loses. (Then again, if someone’s already bought all the hardware, maybe Nintendo wins.)

Unfortunately, I think Nintendo had to take this course of action: They needed Pokémon to shore up their present, and they needed the Switch to sell people on their future, which meant Pokémon Sun/Moon was going to end up a sacrificial Mareep all along. While the decision was understandable, it doesn’t make the situation suck any less.

There was, however, a way for Nintendo to ease the pain of this transition:

An early release of Pokémon Stars/Eclipse/WhateverTheyCallIt would have been a perfect way to bridge the gap between the 3DS and Switch, as Pokémon fans could transition away from the 3DS confident that Nintendo had their favorite franchise covered. Throw in a few new Pokémon, expand the storyline slightly, and throw in a $10 discount for owning Sun or Moon, and everyone would be happy. Nintendo has yet to officially announce anything about Pokémon on the Switch, leaving fans to speculate about the franchise’s future (Maybe an E3 announcement? Maybe 2018?)

While Pokémon Stars could technically be a 3DS release, doing so would completely undermine the Switch, as Pokémon fans would start wondering “What’s the point of buying this new console if I’ll never get to play Pokémon on it?” My guess is that this only happens if the Switch completely tanks and Nintendo has to rely on the 3DS to stay in business.

In short, the Nintendo Switch’s portable capabilities are about to upset the apple carts of both Pokémon and the 3DS, and Pokémon Sun and Moon are going to bear the brunt of this cost. Enjoy the online scene while you can, because it’s going to take a major hit starting March 3rd.