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With last night’s announcement of Pokemon Z-A, there’s been a lot of interesting discussion being brought up. For one, we’re finally free of the annual Pokemon release cycle- and we’ve also got soft confirmation that Legends will be the weirder spinoff for one of the most beloved monster collectors.

Yet, the most interesting one is the short snippet at the end of the teaser, which all but confirms the return of Kalos’ signature mechanic: Mega Evolution.

Depending on present company Mega Evolution can be a dicey subject to bring up in conversation- for some, it symbolized the biggest weakness of modern Pokemon games, which was relying on generational gimmicks that get abandoned in the next generation.

Despite that, I’m personally hoping that the excitement for Pokemon Legends Z-A brings back Dragon Install in more than just a niche side-game. Because while The Pokemon Company has chased that high of Mega Evolution with everything from Z-Moves to Gigantamax, none of them ever quite captured the magic that Mega Evolution quite did.

Mega Evolution Made Lame Pokemon Cool

Probably the biggest thing Mega Evolution did for Pokemon was the fresh life it injected into Pokemon otherwise written off. For those of you not in the loop, Mega Evolution was basically like evolving your Pokemon mid-battle, Unlike Z Moves which were just one attack or Gigantamax which wore off eventually, Mega Evolution lasting the rest of the fight meant you were basically subbing one Pokemon for another. At the cost of your equipped item, Mega Evolution basically let you commit to making your Pokemon good- something anyone with a favorite Pokemon that underperformed would dream of.

Look at him, fully realized

I mean, look at Beedrill. One of the coolest Pokemon in the early portions of Gen 1 games is also one of the objectively worst, combining the low HP of bug-types with mediocre attack and speed .

And yet, thanks to its Mega Evolution, we got what fans of the mean bug-type have been wanting for over a decade- a reworked Beedrill that’s actually usable in competitive battles. Mega Beedrill pumps its Attack and Speed stats to actually viable levels, combined with its new ability Adaptability to make it even more of a threat if it uses powerful bug or poison-type moves.

It’s not just Beedrill, either: Mega Kangaskhan was a menace who got to take more turns because its child learned to throw hands, Aggron, a Pokemon designed to scream”DEFENSE” with a 4x weakness to fighting type moves, gained an ability to make super-effective moves less damaging to it.

It was a great way to do new things with old Pokemon without over-committing to it- I’ll admit Mega Gyarados was a bit of a miss in both design and gameplay, and thus my Gyarados was never allowed anywhere near its Mega Stone. Compared to permanent evolutions like the lackluster Rhyperior or Magmortar, the once-per-battle rule of Mega Evolution simply meant that even if all six of your buddies could Mega Evolve, you’d only ever be choosing one of them.

Chasing The High

In the years since, it feels like Pokemon’s never quite captured that magic that Mega Evolution had. Considering all version gimmicks after became universal, it became easy to guess what the problem was: if your favorite Pokemon didn’t get a Mega Evolution, you felt left out.

I mean, take a look at Z Moves. While the unique Z-Moves are cool, no one’s ever really loved a Pokemon for its attack. A typical Pokemon battle is at least 6 turns, are you really telling me your favorite part was 1/12th of the battle? Compare that to Mega Evolution’s longer-lasting redesigns- there’s merch of these new forms, and some anime characters even got reintroduced in the anime just to say they use Mega Evolution now.

As cute as fat Pikachu is, Dynamax and Gigantamax were just more hassle than spectacle since every fight has to revolve around giant Pokemon now

Admittedly, Dynamax is a tad bit better, but not by much. It’s yet another Install, but the gimmick this time is that your Pokemon gets really big and will likely one-hit other Pokemon. Its biggest sin was the sheer confusion of Gigantamax: While every Pokemon could get big, only special Pokemon could get really big, getting a new form along with it. The fact that Gigantamax is apparently a birthright meant you were breaking a fundamental rule of Pokemon- abandoning one partner in favor of another, cooler one from the same species.

Tera-Types are an even more bizarre choice, considering that unlike Dynamax which was too simple, Tera Types are almost entirely technical- you change the type of your Pokemon. Sure, it looks pretty being rendered like a crystal, but outside of that it never really fixed any problems with Dynamax, and feels like a baffling side-grade more than anything else since if you’re a fan of an individual Pokemon, you’re probably not keen on changing its typing (As a Garchomp fan I will live and die by its 4x weaknesses, thank you very much).

Return To Cool Stuff

While I’m sure Mega Pokemon won’t be a major part of the series anymore, just knowing the next game is acknowledging it is refreshing. Mega Evolution came at a cool time in Pokemon history- X and Y were the series’ debut on Nintendo 3DS, and the mini-series explaining Mega Evolution trainers as being a sick battle cult was a good way to make the gimmick look as appealing as possible.

It combined that with actual gameplay utility- like I mentioned earlier, Mega Evolved Pokemon were treated more like their own unique Pokemon rather than power-ups, and the more focused design process shows since not everyone got to have one.

I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t have its problems- not every Mega Evolution was a winner, and the fact that no Pokemon native to Kalos could even Mega Evolve made it a symbol of Gen 6’s over-committal to nostalgia pandering. But as far as being tools to explore Pokemon in a new way, Mega Evolution is up there as one of its best,

W. Amirul Adlan
Nmia Gaming – Editor W. Amirul Adlan