While recent Pokemon games have had their upsides and downsides, one undeniable issue is the treatment of Mythical Pokemon. These powerful and rare Pokemon are touted by the franchise’s marketing as some of the most special Pokemon of all, and yet they barely have a presence in the core Pokemon games. This leaves Mythicals as one of the most confusing and uninteresting groups of all Pokemon, which is disappointing given how much Game Freak tries to promote them. However, Mythical events weren’t always this way; in the franchise’s heyday, Mythical Pokemon were some of the best represented Pokemon in the franchise, and there are simple solutions that can be taken for Mythicals to return to their former glory. The recently revealed Mythical Pokemon Meltan, and more notably, its evolution, Melmetal, may just be what the franchise needs to give Mythical Pokemon a comeback in the core games.
Before moving on, it’s necessary to differentiate Mythical Pokemon from other groups in the series, as they’re often confused for Legendary Pokemon. Legendaries are powerful Pokemon found through the main story or sidequests of the main series installments, usually in the later parts of the campaign or postgame due to their sheer power. Mythicals, on the other hand, cannot be found through the game alone and require an official event, usually distributed through wifi or store promotions. As far as ingame functionality goes, Mythicals are indifferent from Legendaries, but what sets the two groups apart is that Legendaries are tied to stories of each region’s creation and past, but Mythicals only play a minor part in the lore. With the exceptions of Mew, Celebi and Arceus, which all have very important roles in the universe, most Mythicals aren’t necessarily godlike creatures, but merely rare Pokemon whose existence is doubted by the general population.
In the beginning, when Pokemon wasn’t planned to be the media juggernaut it is today, Mythicals weren’t intended to be anything more than an extra Pokemon- in fact, the first Mythical, Mew, was added as a hidden extra to the original Red and Blue games two weeks before they launched, and although Gold and Silver introduced Celebi, an intended event for it wasn’t released until the 3DS Virtual Console rerelease of Crystal. Given that Generation III, marked by the release of Ruby and Sapphire, was when Game Freak considered Pokemon as an evergreen franchise to last for years to come, it makes sense that it was when Mythicals became more relevant to the games. While the wishmaker Jirachi had a few minor distributions, Deoxys was the first Mythical to have a fleshed-out ingame event. This extraterrestrial Pokemon, when distributed to the player’s game, would crash into a distant island aboard a meteor, and rather than just receiving the Pokemon for free, the player had to investigate the crash site and battle Deoxys before catching it, similar to Legendary sidequests. The Eon Flute was another event like this, and while it focused on the previously catchable Eon duo of Latios and Latias, the two were version exclusive Legendaries, so the event allowed players to travel to a secluded area to catch whichever Legendary couldn’t be found in their game.
If the Game Boy Advance era is when Game Freak began experimenting with Mythical events, then the DS era was when they were perfected, which makes sense given that Legendaries and Mythicals had greater significance to Generation IV than any other Generation to date. Almost every major distribution came with a new sidequest, areas to explore, and the chance to catch Mythicals instead of just having them handed over. Between crossing the ocean to find Shaymin’s hidden Gracidea flower patch, hatching a Manaphy egg sent from a Pokemon Ranger game and escaping Darkrai’s nightmare realm, new Mythicals were introduced as if they really mattered to the story. On top of this, there were also events for Legendaries and even regular Pokemon that had greater purpose than just a distribution, such as how the Spiky-Eared Pichu event for HeartGold and SoulSilver featured the player traveling back in time to learn more about Team Rocket’s leader, Giovanni. Generation V was a slight step backwards for event distributions, as most Mythicals were given as gifts, but still had story events to teach signature moves. Despite this, there were still events closer to Generation IV, including an event during the launch of Black and White that allowed players to catch Victini in a new area. On top of continuing Generation IV’s trend of sidequest events, Victini could be caught as early as the third gym, which meant casual fans could use Victini during their journey instead of only at the very end.
Unfortunately, when the core Pokemon games transitioned to the 3DS with the release of X and Y, event distributions became an afterthought. The Kalos region had some of the least interesting events to date, with Diancie, Hoopa, and Volcanion all being given as gifts rather than caught, and rather than have a sidequest or meaningful ingame content, all they added was the chance to talk to an NPC that gave brief but boring exposition about their backstory. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, as remakes of the first games with substantial distribution, had a few decent events, such as a pre-launch demo version. The demo could transfer a Glalie or Steelix to the full game, and despite only being regular Pokemon, they came with new Mega Stones that allowed them to Mega Evolve. The Eon Ticket returned and was spread by the 3DS StreetPass mode, and given how many people StreetPass each other automatically, even new players picking up the games nowadays can get the Eon Ticket incredibly quickly by just walking in public. However, events were solidified as forgettable in Generation VII, as Magearna and Marshadow had their fantastic character design concepts wasted by basic events. The recent release of Zeraora in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon was one of the most underwhelming events to date, although that admittedly isn’t the biggest issue with USUM.
It should be noted that Mythical Pokemon do have proper representation in the Trading Card Game, in which they’re featured in expansion deck storylines and used commonly in tournaments, as well as the anime, which dedicates entire movies and arcs of the show to Mythicals that explore their backstory and character. Other event exclusive Pokemon similarly made to promote the cards and anime, like Lycanroc-Dusk and Ash-Greninja, are given the same dedication, with the latter even appearing as Greninja’s Final Smash in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This article isn’t about the TCG and anime, however. It’s about Mythical Pokemon in the source material, the core Pokemon games, which give an entire subset of supposedly important Pokemon little reason to exist, as if to say they’re only important for the sake of being important. This is because Mythicals are designed to promote the TCG and anime, and while there’s nothing wrong with adding new Pokemon for promotional reasons, that doesn’t mean they should be effortlessly shoved into games without adding meaningful content.
Ironically, while Mythicals are given the spotlight as some of the most special Pokemon in the entire Pokedex, recent Mythicals are next to completely useless ingame. They’re certainly powerful Pokemon, but they’re usually too high level to spend time training them or use them in the campaign, so casual players can’t enjoy them during the story. They’re also banned from official tournaments and ingame battle facilities like the Battle Tree, so competitive players won’t get much use out of them. Recent Mythicals have their story explained through exposition and not gameplay, so fans of Pokemon lore have no reason to seek them out instead of checking a fan wiki. Since they have little ingame value, avid traders can’t use Mythicals for leverage to trade for Pokemon they want. The only other function Mythicals could serve is the franchise’s slogan/mechanic of catching ‘em all, but since not everyone will be able to obtain them by visiting stores or accessing wifi, Mythicals are not required for Pokedex completion. If the player isn’t interested in battling with friends, this leaves Mythicals as little more than a trophy laying in their PC box, which doesn’t even feel like a good reward since it’s a gift. There isn’t any surprise in revealing Mythicals months later anymore, since dataminers find them in the games’ code within days of release, or often before release since Pokemon games have a bad history of breaking street date. This is less a problem with the game itself and more with Game Freak not planning ahead or updating their games, which would be an easy fix.
Thankfully, there’s a ray of hope for Mythical events, and that ray of hope is how the Mythical Pokemon Meltan and Melmetal were implemented into Let’s Go! Pikachu and Let’s Go! Eevee. When the games were revealed, it was announced that one new Pokemon would be introduced alongside the games, but no one could have imagined how well this mystery Pokemon’s reveal would go. A mysterious 3D model appeared in the source code for Pokemon GO during September’s Chikorita Community Day event, and it was speculated to be a placeholder model made by the development team at Niantic. While dataminers found and shared the model as soon as it appeared, it went to use within a day, as wild Ditto transformed into the model and proved that it was a new Pokemon. Shortly thereafter, a series of animated videos were released that featured Professor Willow and Professor Oak researching this new Pokemon, which was unveiled as the Mythical Pokemon Meltan. This would have been excellent enough, as it slowly gave new information like researchers in-universe would if they made new discoveries, but what really stuck out about Meltan’s reveal was how it manipulated the dataminers. By putting Meltan as a placeholder and giving no coded information, no one knew exactly what to make of the model, and since it was used ingame almost immediately, there was no long wait for a reveal. Furthermore, nothing in the source code suggested that Meltan would be the first Mythical Pokemon capable of evolution, so when its evolved form, Melmetal, was revealed, the fanbase was taken completely by surprise.
Melmetal’s successful reveal should be taken by Game Freak as a learning experience for how to make Mythicals prominent again. Having an NPC explain a Mythical’s backstory in a quick paragraph left Mythicals from Generations VI and VII with little public interest, and while Mythical sidequests would be welcome for future distributions, having Melmetal’s discovery showcased in real time was a fantastic choice for story content that was shown and not told. Using Pokemon GO to find Melmetal feels like a logical evolution of event distributions, as GO is freely available on some of the most common devices in the modern world. Melmetal can also be caught and transferred at any time by connecting either Let’s Go! game to GO, which means they don’t feel like a useless collectible and can be used during casual playthroughs. Ideally, Mythical event sidequests should be available midway through the game, as that point in the game balances Mythicals’ powerful stats with decent time to play with them in the campaign, and since transferring from GO appears to be unlocked midway through the Let’s Go! games once the player reaches Fuschia City, Melmetal’s appearance is balanced. Even the source code updating helped Melmetal by withholding information and gradually adding more, which is exactly the direction Game Freak should go. In fact, given Nintendo’s recent success with free and paid content updates in games like Splatoon 2, perhaps Game Freak could simply add more content after a game’s release to keep players coming back.
Mythicals may exist to promote other pillars of the Pokemon franchise, but that doesn’t mean thought can’t be put into them, and they don’t have to exist just for advertisement. While Melmetal’s distribution isn’t the return to form of event sidequests like those of Generation IV, it’s a massive step in the right direction, especially after the disappointing events the franchise has had for the last five years. Hopefully once Generation VIII releases in 2019, Game Freak can fully revitalize Mythical Pokemon through sidequests, story content, updates, and giving Mythicals the chance to be used by all types of players.
(This article is a precursor to an upcoming review of Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu, which will be featured in the November issue of the ECHO Newspaper. A link to the article will be added here upon the article’s release, which is targeted for the last two weeks of November.)