Snorlax, Sudowoodo, Kecleon, and Voltorb – what have they all got in common? Not a shared type, or a unique propensity for learning a rare move. It’s not anything anatomical either – there’s a bit of a difference between a tree made of rocks and a sentient Poke Ball. What these four ‘mons have in common is that they’re massive pains in the arse because of the fact they have real significance in the overworld.
Look, I know gimmicky Pokemon like these ones can be a bit annoying. I understand why Snorlax blocks the shortcut to Cycling Road, as well as why it’s necessary for separating Lavender Town from Fuchsia City. That doesn’t make it less annoying – in fact, it makes it more annoying, but it’s annoying in a good way. It gives you a clear goal to overcome, and the fact it’s so frustrating makes you want to achieve it as quickly as possible.
Some of the ‘mons mentioned above don’t operate like this. While Snorlax forms an actual obstacle that makes certain areas inaccessible, Voltorb is usually tucked into a wall somewhere. In this instance, it uses its likeness to a Poke Ball in order to pose as an item. After being fooled once, you need to decide whether interacting with a random object is worth the risk – new TM, or a massive electric ball that’s going to explode in your face? You never know unless you try.
Sudowoodo is the aforementioned rock tree, and Kecleon is a weird invisible bipedal lizard. There are some annoying Psyduck who get migraines and block the path in Diamond & Pearl, too, but that’s just a weird one-off thing. It still works, though, because it’s assimilated into the overarching narrative in an organic way, as opposed to the blackouts in Sunyshore City and Lumiose City, which are annoying for literally no reason. The world of Pokemon is different from our own – leaning into those differences is what ultimately makes necessary narrative concessions feel natural.
There are other types of frustrating Pokemon with overworld significance, too – headbutting trees can net you a Heracross in Gen 2, for example, while angry Geodudes can erupt from smashed rocks. These are more tied to Pokemon’s backgrounds though, as opposed to their unique function as part of progressing through the game – Heracross is cool and all, but it’s not PokeFlute cool. I’m not advocating for the return of Gen 4’s irritating honey trees that take 84 years to attract a Pokemon either.
Gen 8’s reluctance to use any of this type of thing irked me a bit. There were no HMs – Surf was transformed into a water bike, which, like… okay. That’s really weird in and of itself, but the lack of environmental storytelling articulated organically via gating off certain areas with very specific Pokemon inherently makes the world feel less lived-in and alive. No matter how annoying these Pokemon are, they add a whole lot of gravity to the logic of the world they inhabit, and we absolutely need more of them in future generations. Give me a sea monster who whips up devastating whirlpools, or a flock of birds that swoop down towards anyone who tries to pass a certain area prior to earning their trust. Come on Game Freak. You know you want to.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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