Mega Evolution Madness: How to Revamp Old Pokémon Well
Welcome back, Pokémon trainers! First, I want to ask you an important question: what are your thoughts on mega evolution? If your answer is, “I don’t really like it,” or even “I’m glad that it’s gone,” then welcome to my secret base. I have disliked mega evolution for a while now, and I thought that this month would be a good time to express my thoughts on the subject because of the March Madness theme. In order to keep this article from becoming a flood of negativity, I want to compare mega evolution with a newer feature that I do enjoy: regional forms and evolutions. Bringing old, forgotten Pokémon back into prominence is a tough job, and today I will compare how mega evolution and regional forms try to succeed at this task.
As far as I know, my opinion on mega evolutions is uncommon. I sometimes hang out in the Pokémon Games room on Pokémon Showdown, and every so often I see someone mention how disappointed they are that generation 8 removed mega evolutions completely. A quick Google search of “do people like mega evolution?” results in a few Reddit threads of people asking why others like this feature, threads with plenty of pro-mega responses. The reasons that I dislike mega evolution are numerous. First, the designs do not appeal to me. Almost all of them embody the idea of more and bigger; the Pokémon gains more protrusions, lines and colors while the already existing ones grow larger. Some of them, Mega Sharpedo for example, are absolute eyesores. Mega Latios and Mega Latios are identical except for their eye color. To me, Mega Charizard X is the only mega that avoids this problem: its new typing and color scheme makes Charizard X’s design feel new yet not overcrowded.
Second, a few mega evolutions felt gimmicky in their roles. The first mega that comes to mind is immediately Mega Pidgeot. With its new No Guard ability and base 135 special attack, this Pokémon is clearly meant to spam Hurricane and Heat Wave. However, Pidgeot has no good special moves outside of those two and Hidden Power, so this newfound power is more underwhelming in practice. Mega Heracross is another great example. This mega’s gimmick is the ability Skill Link, which makes all multi-hit moves hit five times. In generation 6, Heracross can learn five multi-hit moves; however, it can only learn one, the lackluster Fury Attack, in the previous generation. Skill Link feels slapped on, as if no one could think of a good way to improve Heracross as it was, so someone gave Heracross this new role out of nowhere. The gimmicks make many mega evolutions feel one-dimensional in battle.
Third, the mega evolution distribution is terrible. The point of mega evolution is to give new life to Pokémon who are too weak to compete at the competitive level. However, more often than not, the Pokémon Company gave mega evolutions to already strong Pokémon. The same mechanic meant to help old Pokémon also worsened the power creep and made many other Pokémon useless. Before generation 6, when mega evolutions debuted, BSTs over 600 were reserved for major legendaries and a few pseudo-legendary Pokémon. BSTs over 700 belonged to only three Pokémon: White Kyurem, Black Kyurem and Arceus.
Mega evolution resulted in twelve new 700+ BSTs, including a scary new record of 780, and 21 new 600-699 BSTs. Many of the Pokémon who received megas were not lacking in stats, including starter Pokémon (BST ~530), pseudo-legendaries (BST 600), and actual legendaries (BST 580 or 680). Mega evolutions dominated the official VGC format, especially Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre and Mega Kangaskhan. Mega Rayquaza became the first Pokémon banned from Ubers, the highest tier in Smogon’s tiering system. It had a ridiculous BST of 780, and it did not need to hold a mega stone to mega evolve. Without this restriction, Rayquaza could hold items like choice band or life orb to increase its offensive potential to absurd levels. In my opinion, mega evolution was unbalanced and hurt as many or more Pokémon than it helped.
Mega evolution distribution is baffling in its generation imbalances and blatant Kanto favoritism, a topic I discuss extensively in an older article of mine. The generation that received the most mega evolutions was generation 3, with 20 mega evolutions, 22 if you count primal reversion. This result is understandable because the generation 3 remakes, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, came out in generation 6, so Hoenn Pokémon were a great medium through which to showcase mega evolution. My displeasure with mega evolutions being given to many Hoenn pseudo-legendaries and actual legendaries is still present, however. The second highest mega evolution count is generation 1, with 15 mega evolutions. As I mentioned in that other article, Kanto Pokémon are weirdly prominent in Pokémon X and Y. Charizard and Mewtwo, Pokémon that I would argue never should have received megas, had two mega evolutions each. Generation 6 itself only has one mega evolution, which belongs to a mythical Pokémon, Diancie, that most players will never obtain. Mega evolution is one of the worst examples of Kanto favoritism at work.
By now you should have a good understanding of why I dislike mega evolution so much. Maybe you agree with all my points, or maybe you’re thinking, “Well, if you don’t like mega evolutions, do you like any new features at all?” It’s a fair ask; the generation 6+ hate can get to me, too. One answer I would like to discuss is regional forms. I think that regional forms are an amazing way of revamping old Pokémon and one of the best decisions that Pokémon made in the generation 7 games. Considering all the forms we have seen in generation 8 as well, I believe we will have this feature for years to come.
First, I love the designs of many regional forms. Some of my favorites include Alolan Vulpix and Ninetales, Galarian Moltres and Hisuian Growlithe and Arcanine. Because regional forms always change one or both types from the original Pokémon, their designs are much more creative and less cluttered than the mega evolutions created through the more and bigger mindset I talked about earlier. Regional forms do change stat distributions and abilities, but they do not change BST. As a result, these forms can give Pokémon new uses in both casual and competitive play without contributing to power creep in the same way that mega evolutions did.
Although the generation 7 games did not distribute regional forms outside of Kanto Pokémon, generation 8 has greatly improved generational distribution of these forms. 60% of Galarian regional forms belonged to Kanto Pokémon while only 25% of Hisuian regional forms belonged to Kanto Pokémon. The two generations with only one mega evolution, generations 5 and 6, are receiving improved representation with regional forms. It warms my gen 5-loving heart that 10 Unova Pokémon have regional forms, and generation 6 received its first three regional forms in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. The fact that this generation’s remakes, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, do not include any Pokémon introduced beyond generation 4 also helps make regional form distribution more fair. If BDSP had included regional forms like ORAS included mega evolutions, I suspect that regional form distribution would have a heavy Sinnoh skew in addition to the expected Kanto skew.
The most important reason that regional forms are a better way to revamp old Pokémon is that regional forms can have evolutions as well. This feature makes regional forms much more balanced. Regional variants of Pokémon that already have competitive viability and good stats, such as starter Pokémon and the Kanto legendary birds, do not receive overpowered evolutions as was the case with mega evolutions. Regional variants of weak, unviable Pokémon such as Farfetch’d and Corsola receive evolutions to give them the strength needed to compete in the increasingly powerful metagame. There is a great balance between good and bad Pokémon with regional forms, and regional form evolutions are only given to weak Pokémon (e.g. Qwilfish) or Pokémon whose standard form has an evolution in the first place (e.g. Yamask).
In my opinion, regional forms and evolutions are a great alternative to mega evolution when it comes to giving old Pokémon new life and use. I am excited to hopefully see more of them in the future, starting with the first generation 9 games, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, that are coming out later this year. Whether this article agrees with your views exactly or whether it gave you insight into an opinion different from your own, I hope that you found my reflection informative and fun to read. I look forward to writing for you again next month, trainers!