Monday, December 21, 2015

A Pokémon of Unown Potential; Part 1

Alphabet soup has never been this trippy before.
Unown is a weird pokémon. I'm suppose it's that weirdness that has always left a soft spot for them in my heart since their introduction in Gold and Silver. I even remember the first time I learned about them. It was from a leaked image in a gaming magazine, Beckett's Pokémon Collector, with them being misidentified as Ghost type. My first thought was, "heiroglyphic pokémon, neat!" Sure, they aren't true heiroglyphs, just being essentially a different font for the English alphabet, but I was intrigued. I enjoyed unlocking them in the Ruins of Alph and collecting each letter. In fact, I just did this in Omega Ruby last night using a Mirage Cave I got from Streetpassing people.

Unfortunately for the Unown, after I get the full alphabet they are essentially just box filler. Their battle prowess is basically non-existant since their stats are so bad and they only learn one move (Hidden Power). Plus, you can't even effectively use them in side games like Contests or load them with a few HMs. It would seem that their inclusion in Gold and Silver (and eventually Crystal) was just to give players things to print from their Game Boy Printer. I have a personal tie to the Unown as I used them to propose to my wife. I had a team of Unown I battled her with on Pokémon Battle Revolution nicknamed "Will", "You", "Marry", "Me", "?". When they popped up in team preview I'm sure the first thought that popped in her mind is, "Well, I'm going to win this match pretty easy."

Are the Unown being summoned by Arceus or
are they attracted to it's power? Maybe they
just heard it was Palkia/Dialga/Giratina's
birthday and just showed up for cake.
If the only reason to have Unown was to try to sell a feature that doesn't even exist anymore (printing), what purpose do they serve now or in the future? Within the Pokémon universe, we've been led to believe the Unown are legendary. In the "Pokémon the 3rd Movie" they are shown to be able to make tangible illusions and basically re-word reality. It's easy to write this off (LOL), since the movies can make any pokémon seem super important (ex: Munchlax, Bonsly, etc.). I'd even be willing to do so if the games and anime didn't keep throwing their legendary status at us. In the Ruins of Alph, there are various messages written by ancient humans using the Unown text. Various Pokédex entries seem to suggest that their power increases the more you have, stating that an "odd power emerges" when there are "two or more". In "The Rise of Darkrai" the Unown appear to inhabit the same dimension as Dialga and Palkia or maybe Dialga and Palkia somehow entered their dimension. If the latter is true, why do the Unown need their own dimension? Who do they think they are... Giratina? Another weird tie in with Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina also involves Arceus. If you take Arceus to the Ruins of Alph in Heartgold and SoulSilver, the Unown send you to the Shinjo Ruins. They appear again when you allow your Arceus to enter the Shinjo Ruins to create another Dialga, Palkia, or Giratina. These instances seem to present more questions than answers, which is what intrigues me about them so much. They aren't some overpowered creature that controls time, builds continents, or expands oceans. They spell things. Over the next couple of days, I am going to make a case for 1) why the Unown SHOULD be considered tentatively legendary and 2) why they should receive some new forme to raise their abilities to that level. I'm also going to talk about how I think the forme change should be executed to fit in with the lore of other legends as well as the stats and moves Unown would gain. Yes, I said MOVES (plural).

LEGENDS ARE BORN FROM THE STORIES TOLD

"Come on guys.. Can you let me
in the legendary club? Please?"
In terms of lore, the Unown have the most curious lore of all the legends. For the most part, they are simply a way of recording those legendary tales. They have ties to ancient human civilization due to this. Additionally, there's the earlier mentioned ties to Dialga, Palkia, Giratina, and Arceus. In their current forme, they have a lot in common with the odd "maybe it's a legendary/ maybe it isn't" Phione. They are legendary/mythical simply because of their associations. It's like they are trying to use their "in" to become a member of the club rather than actually earn it on their own. However, I think that Unown at least does a slightly better job of earning it for themselves than Phione, simply due to their lore. What's Phione's lore? One night Manaphy made some bad decisions with a Ditto? That's not exactly a legendary story. Even if Unown is essentially just a more offensive version of Wingdings, at least they have a cool story to make them seem like a threat. When you consider some of the other legendary or mythical pokémon, some have far fewer credentials than Unown. For example:
  • Shaymin helped some flowers grow in a field one time. 
  • Heatran may or may not have formed a big mountain in Unova. 
  • Mew is the first pokémon, but not really, and it can learn a lot of stuff. 
  • Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres are birds that aren't Normal/Flying (a rarity at the time) and have good stats. Also they may or may not work for Lugia. 
  • Lugia lived in a tower, but it burned down so now it lives in a cave like a hermit (see: GSC Blaine). If the bird trio gets cranky it may step in, fail, and have to be helped by a 10 year old.
  • Deoxys is an alien virus that hijacked a meteorite ride to Earth and got shot with a laser. 
In terms of story and mystery, these guys don't have much. What they do have that Unown doesn't is power and more than one attack. This is where I think a forme needs to be introduced to fix this little problem.

SPELLING OUT TROUBLE WITH A NEW FORME

I do want to point out I understand it's odd to suggest that we should give a new forme to something that already has 28 different formes, but hear me out. Compared to other formes, the Unown forms add absolutely nothing to it. No type changes, no ability changes, no stat changes, nothing. In fact, they are more akin to gender differences. The different Unown formes are purely aesthetic. In fact, it seems even the Pokédex recognizes this as it refers to each letter as "One Form" rather than calling it something different. So in that regard Unown are just variable, like Spinda, and only posses a single form, the form of a particular letter or punctuation. Adding an additional form would just give it a second form. For this second form, I suggest a word... a word that will unlock the potential of the Unown that spell it!