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Pokémon: a Study of Regional Variants

Pirates vs. Ninjas? Fluttershy is best pony? Pikachu is overrated? All arguments are acknowledged and discussed here.

The original Fire-Type Vulpix interacts with its 7th Generation couterpart. Alolan Ice-Type Vulpix.

The original Fire-Type Vulpix interacts with its 7th Generation couterpart. Alolan Ice-Type Vulpix.

Change is Constant

Pokémon as a franchise has been around for a long time. Beginning 1996, Pokémon has become one of the most we-ll known franchises from Nintendo. However, while Pokémon has enjoyed the popularity to retain relevance for at least two decades, changes had to be made to an extremely repetitive formula. Hence, the Regional Variant. Beginning in the 2016 game Pokémon: Sun and Moon, Regional Variants were a way to change how the player assembled their team of Pokémon, both within the game itself and through competitive play. Introduced in the Alola region of Pokémon: Sun and Moon, these new forms were interesting for different reasons.

Finally Some Recognition

Raichu, Pikachu's final evolution, never received much acknowledgement within the franchise. Normally serving as a rival for Pikachu to surpass, Raichu was never featured prominently in Pokémon merchandise. That is, until Pokémon: Sun and Moon, where one of the newly introduced Regional Variants was Alolan Raichu, who became an Electric/Psychic-type. And while its prior forms of Pichu and Pikachu remained unchanged, mostly due to Pikachu's status as the Pokémon mascot, Raichu got some major changes as Alolan Raichu. As an Electric/Psychic-type, Alolan Raichu had access to not only the Psychic-type's advantages towards Fighting and Poison-types, but also Psychic-type attacks.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Another interesting aspect of Regional Variants was the lore that was introduced in Pokémon: Sun and Moon. In the case of Alolan Raichu, its Sun entry states, "It only evolves to this form in the Alola region. According to researchers, its diet is one of the causes of this change." Later entries provided a more specific reason as to why this Pokémon existed. In 2018 Let's Go Pikachu/Let's Go Eevee stated, "It loves pancakes prepared with a secret Alolan recipe. Some wonder whether that recipe holds the key to this Pokémon's evolution." Truly, an important entry for Pokémon lore. Of course, all the player has to do in Pokémon: Sun and Moon to get their own Alolan Raichu is to use the evolutionary item Thunder Stone on a Pikachu to make it evolve into an Alolan Raichu.

Other than its typing, Alolan Raichu also had a new ability. Referred to as Surge Surfer, this ability made Alolan Raichu's Speed twice as strong whenever the attack Electric Terrain was used and in effect. And since Electric Terrain increased the power of any offensive Electric-type moves by 50%, this made Alolan Raichu one particularly powerful bruiser for a team.

Pokémon: Sword and Shield

In the 2019 game Pokémon: Sword and Shield, we were introduced to a new Regional Variant to Ponyta. In a 24-hour Live Stream, the viewer got to see the Galar Region's Regional Variant of Ponyta. Rather than stay as a Fire-type, the Galarian version of Ponyta became a Psychic-type and its evolution into Rapidash became a Psychic/Fairy-type. This meant that not only did this new Ponyta and Rapidash lose its weaknesses to Water-types, Rock-types, and Ground-types, now Ponyta and Rapidash were really effective against Fighting-types, and later, Dragon-types. The Galar version of Rapidash even has one of its different moves acknowledged. According to its entry in Pokémon: Sword, "Little can stand up to its psycho cut. Unleashed from this Pokémon's horn, the move will punch a hole right through a thick metal sheet." Psycho Cut being a Psychic-type attack that Rapidash can learn upon evolution.

No, I will not make a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic reference.

No, I will not make a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic reference.

I will admit it is nice to have a horse that one does not have to worry about getting burnt, though.

I will admit it is nice to have a horse that one does not have to worry about getting burnt, though.

Understandably, both Ponyta and Rapidash being based on unicorns meant that mystical qualities would be added to its lore. Or at least one of its abilities. Referred to as Pastel Veil, this ability was shared between Ponyta and Rapidash. This ability protects the Pokémon and its ally Pokémon from being poisoned. This meant that if I had the Galar version of Ponyta or Rapidash with this ability on my team, I would not have to worry about anyone on my side of the field getting the Poison status effect via offensive moves or from moves like Toxic, which increased its Poison damage.

Regional Evolution

While Pokémon has had a reputation of introducing new ideas, but tossing them away in the next Generation (looking at you, Mega Evolution), the idea of Regional Variants was retained. And improved upon. Basically, there were some Regional Variant Pokémon who could evolve into something entirely different than what was normally established. For example, the Galar version of Meowth does not evolve into the usual Persian. Which makes sense in context. As stated in Pokémon: Sword, "Living with a savage, seafaring people has toughened this Pokémon's body so much that parts of it have turned to iron." That's right, we have a Meowth that was raised by Vikings. As a result, this Meowth became a Steel-type Pokémon. And gained some Steel-type attacks in its repertoire. Of course, the real surprise comes once Meowth evolves.

Contrary to first impressions, it is not an extremely fluffy cat. It is a viking. Or dwarf. Or "gremlin."

Contrary to first impressions, it is not an extremely fluffy cat. It is a viking. Or dwarf. Or "gremlin."

This is one way to make a Viking, I suppose.

This is one way to make a Viking, I suppose.

As a Pokémon that was based on the brutal nature of Vikings, Perrserker had to give off the impression of a very capable fighter. As stated in its Pokémon Shield entry, "After many battles, it evolved dangerous claws that come together to form daggers when extended." And Perrserker has stats that give it the impression of a bruiser that could murder an entire team of Pokémon single-handedly. And that is not including one of its abilities, Tough Claws.

Put simply, Tough Claws increases the attack power of moves that make physical contact with an opponent by 30%. What this means for Perrserker was that depending on the move, Perrserker could attack with a move that had a chance to permanently get stronger for one battle (Metal Claw), lower an opponent's Defense so the next attack could do an additional amount of damage once used (Iron Tail), or make an opponent flinch (Iron Head) and prevent any retaliation from the opponent, and any of these attacks could hurt even worse than normally used.

Basically, to quote the Fate/Stay Night franchise:

Basaka wa dare ni mo makenai. Sekai de ichiban tsuyoi dakara!

Put Simply

Pokémon is a strategy game. Different strategies have been introduced for the played to utilize. Sometimes this means reinterpreting a Pokémon to have an entirely different Type. Some involve altering stats to one's favor. Some involve nullifying status-altering moves. Sometimes a strategy could mean destroying an opponent's team mercilessly. In other words, fun.