Posted by: Junahu | December 9, 2011

Bonus// Junahu cuts content and you listen : Pokemon

Howdy there, just a bonus section I didn’t feel flowed well enough with the rest of the article. Enjoy

What about the game?

And by this, I mean something which almost everyone ignores; where is this Pokemon found, and what impact does it have on the game? It’s important to realise that Pokemon and Pokemon games are designed together. This isn’t a ROM hack, they don’t make happy animals first and then crowbar in an adventure to showcase them. They use the theming of the game in order to help design suitable Pokemon, and then use those Pokemon to help create the game’s atmosphere and pacing. The games may all follow a formula, but each generation is still inherantly different, regardless of how well each game convinces dumb players otherwise.

Ok, so what was Tangela’s job in the games? Tangela was rare, really rare, especially for something that wasn’t preserved in the Safari Zone. It was specific to exactly one area in all of Kanto; at a shore surrounded by plains (in the third Generation, it was next to a forest). A kind of secret niche which is right next to your home town, but impossible to reach until you’re almost finished with the game. And Tangela fits its locale, it’s recluse and defensive and has no business attacking anyone with anything. Back then, it had barely any offensive moves, and its purpose was to be a Stun Spore + Bind (or Poison Powder + Constrict + Bind) spammer, and not fall over dead to Psychic/Ground attacks like other Grass types.

Point is, Tangela was very secretive, and it felt like you really found something neat when you pulled your surf sprite over onto that beach and looked around. There’s actually a lot of this in the original games, Pokemon that are hidden away in single places, require the in-game trades, or simply only appear once or twice. The theme was much more focused on actually collecting ALL the Pokemon, and Pokemon like Tangela fit that theme.

However, that’s only half of the story. The other half of the story, is funnily enough, the story. To understand this, one needs to approach the game with a blank mind. I’m sorry, but I’m going to go off on a long tangent here;

Pokemon has Story?

First of all, of course Pokemon games have stories. They’re just pushed right into the background so that only the blandest elements are visible. Every species of Pokemon has its own tale to tell, particularly Pokemon from the 1st Generation.

As we’ve already established, Tangela is rare (10% encounter rate), and has a highly unique habitat; a single area of grass near Pallet. Rarity in early Pokemon games was meant to evoke ‘endangered’, and fit with another theme of these games, the proliferation of Poison Pokemon, particularly of the man-made variety. Remember, early-mid 90s games frequently had a subtext of pollution to them, as that was a hot topic at the time. So, Tangela, the ONLY Grass type that wasn’t also part Poison, is extremely hard to find.

Roll on into the second Generation, where we return to Route 21, and find that Tangela is now the most common Pokemon in that area of grass. A happy ending for our oppressed Grass type it seems. So, that’s that.

But there’s another aspect to a Pokemon’s appearance in the games; which trainers use that Pokemon. In battle, only Erika uses one. Out of battle, there is one other girl on Cinnebar Island willing to trade one. Probably the rarest Pokemon that isn’t a gift or one-off encounter.

Gym leaders usually used Pokemon you couldn’t catch yet, in order to show you how cool they are, and to force you to prove yourself ‘worthy’ of them. For example, Brock uses his rock/ground Pokemon which absorb your tackles and scratches like crazy. It made the player want one. And the game was generous enough to immediately send you toward a cave where you can nab a rock type of your own. Oh, but it wasn’t the cool rock snake, that Pokemon was saved for later, only for after you’ve learned the harsh lesson that Misty teaches; that (with Blaine as the exception) every Gym Leader’s Pokemon are super effective against the previous one’s.

This background string of logic achieved a number of cool things. For one, it allowed the game to permit you to go out and find the same kind of Pokemon that the gym leader had, and yet keep the next one in line a challenge. It also set up a certain hierarchy to the gym leaders. Brock was at the bottom rung, Misty above him, Surge above her, Erika above him, Koga above her, Sabrina above him. Then there was Blaine, who was off in his own little corner of the world, and finally the head honcho Giovanni, who beats Blaine, a man who argueably worked for Giovanni as a researcher. Each Gym Leader, is usually situated near to a locale where you can catch some of their Pokemon, or at least something of the same type. When the games subverted this rule, it made the Pokemon in question all the more desireable. I’m certain everyone wanted some of that Staryu, after its evolution completely floored your team. A similar effect happens with Surge’s Pokemon. If the player’s lucky, they’ll have a Pikachu already. But that Raichu? Man! How do you get him!?

Knowing where these Pokemon actually reside, tells the player a little about the Gym leader themselves, even if it’s otherwise blatantly obvious. Misty’s Starmie? Routes 19, 20, or 21, the “sea routes” in which it is assumed Misty would swim. Surge’s Pokemon? The run down Power Plant, which contains the Pokemon that saved him in the war, Zapdos.

So, that leads us to Erika, a fairly soft spoken traditional girl who specialises in Grass types. This was the very first time in the game where you could reasonably have some of her Pokemon before you fight her; either Victreebel or Vileplume (NOT both, that’s very important), or at the very least one of their pre-evolved forms. Belsprout and Oddish were both available for capture on the route directly next to Celadon city, though both versions of the game only had one of the two. The line of Pokemon you couldn’t catch has already been drilled into the player’s head through multiple trainers using both Oddish and Belsprout together, so it becomes evident that trading is neccessary. As for her third Pokemon, Tangela. Well, we all remember where that Pokemon lives… right? All the way out in the middle of nowhere, near Pallet Town? What’s crazy here, is that Erika’s Tangela is one of only two Tangela that belong to a trainer, the other being a girl on Cinnabar Island (who wants to trade). It’s Erika’s trademark Pokemon, so to speak. So it’s rather obtuse locale can be taken as a clue to Erika’s determination as a botanist. Or perhaps she used to live around Pallet. Or perhaps Tangela used to live around Celadon too, until Team Rocket’s appearance.

What’s the point of all this in relation to a moveset, you may ask? Again, this is about using subtle contextual clues to understand more about a Pokemon. Their purpose in the world, and in the story can tell us a lot about a Pokemon that we would normally never understand. An iconic and quirky Pokemon like Tangela isn’t rare because they (GameFreak) just forgot to put it in there.



  1. I’ve never looked so closely at Tangela before. ;_;

  2. Where did you see that Surge was specifically saved by a Zapdos? I always thought it was his Raichu, or a couple of Magnemite, or something.

    • It never does :P. It just makes sense to me, since the Power Plant is where he probably got his Pokemon originally, and legendary Pokemon are notorious for saving people and then running off.

      Well, the point anyway was supposed to be that Pokemon plots are deliberately vague so that players can make these kinds of links.

      Copycat had a talking Dodrio in the 1st Generation.

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