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Old 09-24-2017, 11:13 AM   #3
Shenmue III, baby!
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Mega Evolution: I still feel that in many respects this was Pokémon's "jumped the shark" moment. A fourth-stage evolution is the sort of idea you'd find on playgrounds nationwide in the early days of the Pokémon franchise, and yet here we are: fourth-stage evolutions.

Flavor-wise, I'm not too keen on the notion of these newest, final stages of a Pokémon's evolution being transient (Gens VI and VII) or distressing to the Pokémon (Gen VII). A "powered-up form" may work well in tokusatsu series, but in a story about living creatures with bones and blood it just feels weird that they ... "digivolve" temporarily only to wind back down to their previous form after the battle's end.

Design-wise, the mega philosophy seems somewhat split across the board. You've got some megas which communicate this idea of "I'm as different to my previous stage as my previous stage was to the stage before that," where applicable. For example, Mega Mawile looks like a true, full-blown evolution to Mawile, no different from Mamoswine or Magnezone. Mega Banette is the same way. But other megas -- in fact, most megas -- look less like full-blown evolutions and more like "the current form but with some shoulder pads and a helmet tossed on for extra flair." Mega Lucario is the poster child for this. Other great examples include Mega Venusaur, Mega Sableye, and Mega Altaria. Many of these designs are fantastic! But they don't look anything near as different from their previous form as that previous form did from its previous form. You can hardly say the jump from Altaria to Mega Altaria is on par with the jump from Swablu to Altaria. A lot of this is doubtless going to be subjective. But I feel like the one thing we can agree upon is, "Some of the megas would have probably been accepted by the Gen 4 design committee during the 'give evolutions to lots of older UU Pokémon' phase; others, would not have been." It's not much of a hop, skip, or a jump to rebrand Weavile in your mind as "Mega Sneasel". I don't think it's that much harder to rebrand Mega Audino in your mind as "Lyrica" or some other made-up name for a proper evolution.

Gameplay-wise, I much prefer what megas bring to the table. Where Z-moves provide you with only one powered-up move (and you only get one dosage of it, too!), megas provide you with up to four powered-up moves, and you get to use all of them always, provided your mega Pokémon is still active on the field. I like how megas are able to make unusable Pokémon usable again, even if Game Freak ended up giving many of the mega slots to already-usable Pokémon, and even if fan communities like Smogon have deigned to unofficially prohibit the use of many of these Pokémon. Good examples of rags-to-riches mega Pokémon include Mega Mawile, Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Charizard, and Mega Altaria. These were Pokémon previously unviable in Battle Spot or Showdown OU play but that became powerful contenders where permitted for use. Hell, three of the Pokémon on my list helped to define the Gen 6 metagame for VGC! Z-Moves have not been nearly so transformative for Pokémon. Taking VGC as an example again, the most notable users of Z-Moves are the Tapus, Arcanine, and Ground-type move users. These Pokémon would have been used with or without the advent of Z Crystals; the Z-Moves are merely a bonus that can't be passed up, rather than being a game-changer that transformed unusable Pokémon into champions.

Z-Moves: The obvious parallel to Gen VI's Mega Evolution. One lets you power up the Pokémon with buffed stats, type changes, and new abilities. The other merely lets you power up one move for one use only.

Flavor-wise, Z-Moves are far more conservative than Mega Evolution is. Where transient physical evolution bothers me, transient move power-ups make perfect sense. This is the sort of idea we've been raised on all our lives, this notion of "THIS IS MY ULTIMATE MOVE!" says the hero/villain as they channel all of their energy into this great attack that leaves them exhausted whether it fails or succeeds. Hell, Z-Moves don't even exhaust you! Their only real penalty, relative to a Gen 5 world and not a Gen 6 one, is that you forfeit your item slot which you could have used to gain literally any other item bonus in exchange for this one-time use of a super-move. The idea of a Pikachu who can deliver an especially large surge of electricity ... the idea of a Snorlax who can pulverize you with especially crushing force ... the idea of an Arcanine whose flames burn hotter and more intensely than any flame ordinarily found on or inside of a Fire-type Pokémon ... all of this feels right at home in the universe of Pokémon, honestly.

Design-wise, Z-Moves are fairly bland and boring. They're just ... flashy executions of elemental attacks. "Gigavolt Havoc" doesn't stand out in my mind as anything more than "Volt Tackle with grander animation." "Pulverizing Pancake" is just a Snorlax using Body Slam. The concept is there. "Super-powered moves that look as awesome as they indeed are." And don't get me wrong, they do look cool and flashy. Just ... I dunno ... Maybe it's hard for the moves' designs to hold up in the long run when you watch the game played as often as I do. Can we all agree that Twinkle Tackle's animation sucks? Probably not. I know from Worlds there are fans of how dopey it looks.

Gameplay-wise, Z-Moves were meant to address what their faction doubtless perceived as Mega Evolution's brokenness. But ... the truth be told, Mega Evolutions weren't actually all that broken. And in fact ... Z-Moves kinda suck. They're really not that good. Powered-up moves are worthless against good counters. (E.g. I use Gigavolt Havoc but you switch out to your Marowak.) The transience of a one-time power-up can't compare with the permanence of a non-consumed item (e.g. Choice Scarf) or an ability (e.g. Intimidate). There is a reason why people run Scarf Staraptor over Z-Normalium or Z-Flyinium Staraptor. There is a reason why people run Flame Orb Hariyama over Z-Fightinium Hariyama. It's not that Z-Moves seem weak because Megas are so strong and are blinding us to the truth -- it's that Z-Moves are weak even when compared against the Gen 4 meta.

Conclusion: Depending on the context, I may tell you that I prefer Mega Evolution over Z-Moves or I may tell you the opposite. Flavor-wise, I prefer Z-Moves. Gameplay-wise, I prefer Megas. Design-wise, it's a mixed bag.

However, whenever I think about this question to myself, the answer I always come to is:
  • I prefer megas, gun-to-the-head answer-style
  • I prefer how megas were ultimately executed; I prefer their execution to Z-Moves' execution
  • I think, if we could rewind to Summer 2013 on the eve of Mega Evolution's announcement, if you had proposed both ideas to me and said "Pick one" I would have hands down chosen Z-Moves to be what became canon
  • I would be much happier if, rather than invent megas, they had simply given new evolutions to the ones who really needed it most (e.g. Mawile) and had not even bothered inventing many of the megas which feel horridly forced (e.g. Tyranitar, Scizor, Heracross)
Going to vote for Megas for the purposes of the poll. But my true position is much more nuanced.
Edit: Oh snap, didn't realize this poll allowed for us to reject both choices. Well let me think then. lol

Hmm ... I'm going to vote for Neither I guess, and here's why:
  • megas, I think the execution came out as best as it could but in principle I still dislike the idea of "fourth evolutions" as well as half-assed "pseudo-evolutions"
  • Z-Moves, it's the exact opposite: I quite like the idea in principle, but the execution was shit, so much so that most of us prefer to use the same tried-and-true tactics from Gens 3-6 instead of opting to waste an item slot on a Z Crystal

Last edited by Talon87; 09-24-2017 at 11:24 AM.
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