It’s the 25th anniversary of Pokemon, a time to celebrate the menagerie of colorful creatures. Or, if you’re a lot of fans, a time to celebrate only the original 151 and the Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl remakes. For despite its continued success, Pokemon is a series based on nostalgia. And nostalgia can color fans’ perception, crystallizing an experience as incomparable simply because it’s tied to cherished memories. When it comes to Pokemon, this leads people to believe silly things, like that “object” Pokemon represent a lack of good ideas.
Pokemon Should Be Animals!
I’m going to categorize an object Pokemon here as any Pokemon based on items, food, and other non-animal origins. That means I’m talking obvious ones like Klefki and Trubbish, but also coming to the defense of Vanillite. The ice cream Pokemon is a common target for those who think Game Freak is running out of inspiration.
You see, Vanillite get a lot of hate from those who grew up with the first and third generations. It also tends to come from those who consider straightforward animalistic designs like Torchic or Bulbasaur the peak of Pokemon. I’ll be blunt – nostalgia does play a role here. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or cliché to love the classics. Nostalgia tugs at the heartstrings for a reason, and even I still smile when I see those old starters grace my screen in Pokemon Go. It can, however, skew one’s memories into only embracing their favorite parts of a cherished experience.
This is what I believe fuels many fans when they compare Trubbish and Klefki to the likes of Charmander and Eevee. They conveniently forget that garbage and magnets have been Pokemon since the beginning. Common household objects with faces is actually a Pokemon tradition. And the practice actually has a cool mythological backstory.
Voltorb And The Truth Behind Object Pokemon
Voltorb might just be the father of all object Pokemon, as it’s literally a Poke Ball with a face. Its shiny form doubles down on this by making it blue like a Great Ball. Its Pokedex number also suggests that Game Freak had a deeper idea than just “living Poke Ball.”
Voltorb is number 100, which lines it up with the Japanese folklore of tsukumogami. The legend states that an object can become alive when it reaches its 100th year of existence. It is embodied with a spirit, thus gaining sentience. In light of this, Voltorb’s numbering seems suggestive and implies that it was actually a Poke Ball at some point in its life. Its Pokedex entry even seems to back this interpretation up. It reads “Voltorb was first sighted at a company that manufactures Poké Balls. The link between that sighting and the fact that this Pokémon looks very similar to a Poké Ball remains a mystery.”
Another interpretation eschews lore in favor of gameplay. Pokemon is an RPG at heart, and the original games follow treasured JRPG patterns. Voltorb might takes its inspiration from mimics, monsters known for disguising themselves as treasure chests before attacking unsuspecting adventurers. In the Pokemon games, players can be surprise attacked by a Voltorb that lies still and looks just like an item ball. So Voltorb might be a clever interpretation of an old Japanese folktale, or it could be a fun way to put mimics in Pokemon.
Object Pokemon Add More Variety To The Game
Whatever the thought behind Voltorb was, its role as Pokemon’s mimic brings up the importance of object Pokemon. In a world where Pokemon are just based on animals, what happens to Ghost, Steel, and Fairy types?
The more exotic types of Pokemon depend on the designers’ ability to go outside the norm for ideas. Ghost types based on the basic concept of a ghost peaked with Gengar and Misdreavous. In creating the object Pokemon Honedge, Game Freak gave us one of the coolest ideas of all time: a cursed ghost sword. Steel types similarly benefit from going beyond “Onix and Scyther, but metal.” Klefki isn’t just a keychain, but a mischievous metal fey that steals keys. Thanks to this unique typing, competitive Pokemon got a solid support wall.
Even types that have great animal designs benefit from object Pokemon. The Fire-type is full of favorites, but that didn’t stop Chandelure from making a mark. Some might scoff at the idea of a chandelier Pokemon, but it creates a haunting Ghost/Fire combo that few others can match in theme. The Ice-type really needs a competitive edge, and while Vanillite is definitely not a powerhouse, the freedom to make a new Pokemon based on ice cream, ice cubes, or anything else might give us the first viable ice Pokemon.
Object Pokemon are some of the best-designed Pokemon of all time. They allow for battle strategies and type combinations that surprise players, and make the Ghost-type what it is today. As we celebrate 25 years with these catchable critters, please show some love to a Pokemon based on a household item. It’s fine if Charizard is your favorite, but that doesn’t mean Trubbish deserves hate.
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Sergio is the Lead News Editor for TheGamer. But usually he asks people to call him “Serg” because he wants to sound cool like the guy from System of a Down. He began as a convention reporter for FLiP Magazine and Albany Radio’s The Shaw Report to get free badges to Comic-Con. Eventually he realized he liked talking to game developers and discovering weird new indie games. Now he brings that love of weird games to TheGamer, where he tries to talk about them in clickable ways so you grow to love them too. When he’s not stressing over how to do that, he’s a DM, Cleric of Bahamut, cosplay boyfriend, and occasional actor.
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