The rule of Pokémon battles. Unfortunately, in games they are mostly zero. I’m sure you remember an epic battle, maybe with Cynthia or someone else, that was really really fantastic. I hate to tell you, but no, it wasn’t. You watched the anime enough to think it was epic, because you were able to project what you thought was happening onto what was actually going on – and what was actually going on was two sprites. that vaguely jumped up and down until a health bar dropped. Luckily, in Netflix’s newly added Detective Pikachu, they actually reign supreme.

The mismatch between the quality of Pokémon battles and the quality of Pokémon battles has always annoyed me. Even as a child, I understood that we had to make concessions for the Game Boy Color. However, the move to the Nintendo Switch, a console powerful enough to credibly run The Witcher 3, brought further disappointment. When I use Surf as Poliwrath in Let’s Go, I expect my buff, boxing frog to raise its arms in glory, summon the waves beneath the turf, and stand there, legs rooted to the ground like mighty sequoias, as the tide crashes and drives my rival Marowak back.

Related: Detective Pikachu & Sonic The Hedgehog Are Bright Because They Break The RulesInstead, either the waves are coming out of nowhere, Poliwrath makes a pathetic leap “Poochie returns to his home planet”, the water hits Marowak (who is standing there and flashing rapidly invisibly), and then she disappears into the nothing as Marowak passed out. If I change tactics for Thunder Punch, Poliwrath doesn’t swing a Mayweather-style hay mower, cracking my rival Scyther’s mandible with an electric fist – we just get a 3D version of “sprite up, health down”. Big old meh.

A Poliwrath in Pokemon Sword and Shield

It’s bad enough that our trainer is always boring, and in Sword & Shield it’s even worse. More character models and more movement means more calls. The new Pokemon Snap, admittedly without a battle at all, has incredibly detailed interactions between individual Pokemon, so it is possible. Unfortunately, the main series is still trying to catch up.


I’ve written about this before, highlighting the clash between Magmar and Charizard in the 1998 anime. It’s still the best fight Pokemon has ever done (you can read more about why in the article conveniently. linked for your reading pleasure above), but Detective Pikachu has the second best ever – so you should definitely watch it now that it’s on Netflix.

The battle begins as Charizard versus Pikachu, but also, not really. Charizard walks up to a curled up Pikachu, ready to burn him in hell, in front of Judge Smith’s Tim Goodman – really on the nose’s name, eh? – interruptions to save Pikachu. For a little while after, it’s not really a Pokémon battle, rather it’s Charizard chasing Tim while Pikachu tries to push him away.

Charizard and Magmar fight

Unlike the Battle of Magmar, this is not an archetype of what in-game battles should look like. It is, however, an extremely fun take on, and it would serve games better to have more fun. I would also like to point out that the fact that both battles include Charizard is either pure coincidence, or proof that Charizard is best equipped for the battle, or that, due to his popularity, writers like to write for Charizard. Personally, Charizard is my least favorite Kanto starter, but you can’t dispute the results.

The battle gets really interesting halfway through when Charizard’s trainer steps in and the Pokemon steroid vials – more complicated, but let’s go – smash. Gas escapes into the arena and any watching Pokémon become hyperactive. It starts with a bunch of Exploud inhaling it and blasting dubstep, and it only gets better from there.

At this point, all Pokémon become frantic, crossing the battlefield and causing carnage. This leads to the final setting of the whole affair – Magikarp evolving into the mighty Gyarados. With a powerful jet of water from his mouth – I guess Hydro Pump, but the games are so useless in showing the moves I can’t really tell – Gyarados puts Tim and Pikachu to safety.

Obviously, the base game’s battles can’t be this chaotic. It would be extremely annoying if, in the middle of an Elite Four showdown, a dude rushed into the fight to kick your Charizard, give all the Pokemon drugs, and everything fell into chaos. Unlike Magmar vs Charizard, I don’t want Detective Pikachu shock to be the role model for the games. But you have to admit, it’s fun. Why aren’t all Pokémon battles like this? For a series built around combat, we really should be beyond the sprites that jump up and down after 25 years.

Next: Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Art Style Is Wrong

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