Pokemon, a classic turn-based RPG series, has always been grounded in a base system of checks and balances: the "type" (or "Element") of each Pokemon has a concrete set of strengths and weaknesses. Some of these traits are inherently obvious; Fire melts Ice. Some, however, are somewhat less so; Ground-type Pokemon are particularly strong against Poison-types. Once you add several strategic factors in to the mix-- critical hits, attack accuracy, passive stats and abilities, Pokemon with multiple typings, Pokemon learning attack types outside of their respective typing, and so on-- you are left with a surprisingly deep and interesting core mechanic. The basic concepts here are simple enough for a child to grasp... after all, Pokemon at its core is a simple game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. However, the layers of strategy available to players has given Pokemon a serious competitive following (see premiere competitive Pokemon site, Smogon).
For more information on Pokemon types, visit Bulbapedia's Type Chart, pictured above. You can also find a more comprehensive write-up on Pokemon typing at the Pokemon Wikia, and a Hybrid Type Chart from Pokemon news site Serebii.net.
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Ever since Generation 2 (during which "Pokemon: Gold/Silver" were released) , the strengths and weaknesses of each type have remained static. Between Generation 1 ("Pokemon: Red/Blue") and Gen 2, a few minor tweaks of the type chart took place, and Generation 2 introduced two new typings, Steel and Dark, to entice players and to balance the powerful Psychic-typing from Gen 1 (Steel is resistant to many types, including Psychic, and Dark is completely immune).
Looking over the chart above, you will notice that Types have around 3-5 Offensive Strengths (2x damage when attacking) and almost always more Weaknesses (1/2x damage when attacking). Defensive Resistances (1/2x damage taken) and Vulnerabilities (2x damage taken) run the gamut, with Ghost being the more or less the least vulnerable (2 vulnerabilities, but also 2 immunities) and Steel being the most defensive (a whopping 11 defensive resistances, and 1 immunity).
As types overlap, Resistances and Vulnerabilities can become more complex. For example, the Fire and Ghost-typed Chandelure will only take 1/4x damage from Bug-type attacks, as both Fire and Ghost are resistant to Bug-type. Many strong competitive Pokemon with hybrid typing, such as the infamous Dragon/Ground-type Garchomp and the Rock/Dark-type Tyranitar, will feature a 4x Vulnerability to a particular Type to balance their raw power. In this case, Garchomp is extremely vulnerable to Ice-type, and Tyranitar is extremely vulnerable to Fighting-type.
Filling in Typing Gaps
A few things I considered as I studied the chart more thoroughly:
- Grass-type is in a relatively bad state, all things considered. 3 Offensive strengths are counteracted by 7 weaknesses, and 4 Defensive resistances are dampened by 5 vulnerabilities.
- Electric-type seems relatively underutilized. Only 2 Offensive strengths (vs. Flying and/or Water) and a meager collection of Resistances/Vulnerabilities.
- Poison only has a single Offensive strength (!!) against the already poor Grass-typing, which can be dealt with a number of other typings.
- Dragon also seems underutilized at first glance, although Dragon-typing has a special role in the Pokemon universe. Many Dragon-types have superior stats and a fearsome array of different attacks they can learn. Many competitive teams will use Ice-type moves to counter an opponent's Dragon-type Pokemon.
- Steel is often picked for its Defenses. Steel-type attacks are outclassed by the much more versatile (and common) Fighting-type attacks.
- Dark-type at first glance seems somewhat weak, but with a powerful Strength vs. Psychic, as well as the aforementioned Immunity vs. Psychic, Dark-type is potentially quite powerful. Dark-type Pokemon like Tyranitar and Hydreigon remain top-tier competitive picks.
Coming up with Light-type was relatively simple; so much so that I'm absolutely positive that I'm far from the first person to come up with the idea for the typing. After all, there is already a Dark-type in the game, so why not Light? And, for what I'm using it for, it does seem to fit pretty well.
Here is some of the rationale I used for its Offensive capabilities...
- Light dispels Ghosts and Darkness - 2x Damage against and half damage from Ghost or Dark-type.
- In a classical sense, Light vanquishes evils that plague the land - 2x Damage against and half damage from Dragon-type.
- Adding Light only increases brightness - Half damage vs. other Light-types (and it's somewhat common for same-types to do 1/2x damage to each other)
... and its Defensive vulnerabilities:
- Light as a "life force," Poison snuffs out life - 2x Damage from and half damage against Poison-type.
- Light as sunlight is absorbed by plants - 2x Damage from and half damage against Grass-type.
- Polished metal reflects Light back onto itself - 2x Damage from and half damage against Steel-type.
- Fire makes light grow brighter - Half damage from Fire-type.
- Electricity crackles and shorts out lights - 2x Damage from Electric-type.
So, in this sense, we've added a little bit of versatility to Pokemon typing with the addition of Light. Light-type might be super-effective against the always prominent Dragon and Dark-types, but is thwarted by Poison, a rarely seen attack-type that can now serve as an efficient counter. Grass gets a little love, and Electricity gets another strength, making it an even more formidable attack type. Ghost becomes weak to another source, giving an "out" to teams who might be walled-off by a Jellicent or thwarted by a Gengar.
It is possible that Light-type would be too strongly defense-oriented with 5 Resistances. If testing proved this to be the case, it may be logical to remove Light's Resistance to Light-type attacks, similar to how Fighting-type attacks deal normal damage to their same type. Fire would also be a fine candidate for Resistance removal should Light be deemed too defensive.
As with any major change, significant testing would be required. Perhaps Ghost-type is too weak with an additional vulnerability? It would be difficult to say. Which brings me to my next point:
First and foremost, a major concern about Light would be adding yet another resistance to the already defense-focused Steel-type. While it is true that Steel needs another offensive bonus to be a legitimate attack type (keeping in mind that many non-Steel Pokemon can learn Steel-type moves), Steel is already quite popular in the competitive Pokemon community, with heavy-hitters such as Heatran, Metagross, and Lucario all prominently featured. Adding another resistance to this already popular Type could really push it toward overpowered. It may be sensible to remove Steel's Light resistance, but keep its 2x damage against a Light-type defender.
I had considered removing Steel's Dark resistance, allowing Dark to deal 1x damage to Steel, but this statistic has been in place since Generation 2! It could be frustrating for players to remove such a long-held resistance.
Speaking of Dark, I feel as if Light-type has the potential, if misappropriated, to make Dark too weak. Dark already has to be wary of common Fighting-type moves that many, many Pokemon can use. As for switching the two types, making Dark strong vs. Light and Light weak vs. Dark, I don't know if the creators of Pokemon want to send the message that Dark will always triumph over Light. Dark attacks also loses their semi-exclusive status as a Ghost-type counter. It is possible that Dark-type could still be viable after the addition of Light-type, but again, significant play-testing would of course be required!
Finally adding a new Resistance against Dragon-type attacks (previously only attainable with Steel-type), and adding an additional Strength when attacking Dragon-types, would certainly be controversial in the competitive Pokemon community.
Adding a new typing also presents several opportunities to update new Pokemon, abilities, and attacks. Sunflora is a Grass-type, but could easily become a Grass/Light hybrid. Sunny Day, a Fire-type move that changes the weather to sunshine, makes much more sense as a Light-type move than a Fire-type move. The same can be said about Flash, a Normal-type move. Even former fan-favorite attacks such as the Grass-type move Solarbeam (which, conveniently enough, becomes stronger in sunny weather), is a natural fit as a Light-type move.
Then, of course, there's always a new form for Eevee, a classic Pokemon that can evolve to one of several elements. And imagine for a moment, an ability called "Clear Sky" on a Light-type Pokemon, which dispelled any and all weather effects on the field? It would certainly shake up a metagame currently ripe with team compositions that benefit from weather effects.
Certainly, there may be some things too sacred to change, although this would be at the discretion of the game's creators. Still, it's amusing to think of the justice-minded Steel/Fighting-type Lucario as a Fighting/Light-type, or the Rock/Psychic-type Solrock as Rock/Light.
It's fun to think about tweaks we can make to long-established (and long-proven) systems such as Pokemon's typing. Adding new elements to said systems increases complexity and player involvement, but can have unforeseen negative consequences to balance and metagames. Still, it was an enjoyable design exercise for me! Who knows, perhaps the creators of Pokemon have something similar in works...
In the end, it would seem that a Pokemon's individual passive stats and ability, as well as a diverse set of attacks, are just as important as its typing. But, giving the game just that much more design space for making new attacks, Pokemon, and competitive strategies, is still an exciting proposition.