Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Closer Look at the Fairy Type

With Pokemon X and Y coming out in just a couple of short weeks, I wanted to take a closer look at the new Fairy type, and to share my opinion on why it’s a good thing.

The last time a new type was introduced was all the way back in 1999 with the release of Gold and Silver. There were actually two types introduced, Steel and Dark, which added one type each to the Physical and Special typing pools. It seems rather incredible that it’s been nearly 15 years since a new type was introduced, given that a new Pokemon generation comes out, on average, about every three years.

Fairy is an interesting choice, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The first thing you think of when you hear fairy may be the tiny Tinkerbelle-esque figure, but really, the idea should be closer to Fae (short for Faerie, go figure), a mythological classification of creature which simply includes the stereotypical fairy (which is called a pixie, for those curious parties). I almost prefer to think of this type as “Magic”. But for now, let’s discuss why Fairy is such an excellent addition to the game.

The most popular idea is that it balances the Dragon type. But I question why people think Dragon was so powerful to begin with. The only thing it was (and is) super effective against is itself. And there are some seriously high-powered Dragon-type attacks, but those all have some pretty serious downsides. Outrage, for example, locks the user into using the same move, then confuses the user at the end. Or Draco Meteor, which lands a devastating blow, and then lowers the user’s special attack by two stages. Granted, if they kill in one hit, those side effects hardly matter, but Dragon as a type is not overpowered. Dragon-type Pokemon just happen to have enormous stats. In fact, all the Dragon immunity serves to do is make Ice slightly less viable as a type. That’s not to say it’s useless, but Ice is such poor typing defensively that, with Fairy having only two weaknesses, it’s hardly worth using. Fairy’s just a better option. Speaking of Fairy’s weaknesses, that brings me to my next point.

Fairy being weak to Poison and Steel is absolutely a wonderful thing. Poison, apart from inflicting the status of the same name, has been darn near useless as an offensive type since the first generation. Adding Fairy to its list of type advantages literally doubles it (it was Grass and nothing else). That is how absolutely pathetic Poison has been. A big-shot type like Fairy being weak to Poison is just what the doctor ordered. Steel also needed some help, having only two types weak to it (Ice and Rock). Steel’s primary use may be defensive, but making it an all-around better type couldn’t hurt anyone. Except Fairies. And while Fairy isn’t weak to Fire, Fire being resistant to Fairy also helps it recover from its devastating Rock weakness.

Given the lore behind Fae creatures, the type weaknesses also make sense. In folklore, iron as a metal has been said to be resistant to magic, and even to harm Fae more than anything else, supposedly draining their magic from them. The term you’ll want to search for in your fact-checking is “Cold iron”, in case you wanted it.

When considering certain Fae, such as a dryad or nymph, it’s common to think of nature. This is accurate, as Fae are almost always associated with nature. When you consider their weakness to Poison, you may want to consider Poison to be representative of pollution. Makes sense, huh? Pollute the planet, the fairies are sad. Which is logically sound symbolism, of course, but the practical in-game equivalent is Garbodor propelling a ball of sludge toward Jigglypuff at high speeds.

Those are, of course, the Fairy type’s weaknesses. We talked about its most popular strength already, but the other types that it’s super effective against are Fighting and Dark. Fighting did need to be taken down a peg. Super effective against five types and weak against two? Sure, there are some types that resist fighting, but they’re all pretty uncommonly used (Poison resist Fighting! There’s another thing it’s good at!). This isn’t counting the Flying type, partially because many Flying type Pokemon are part Normal, and that cancels out the weakness, but mostly because most Flying type Pokemon are just really, really fragile, and Fighting type Pokemon have enormous attack strength.

As for Fairy’s strength against the Dark type… It makes sense, but Dark didn’t need to be any worse, really. It’s in the same boat as Steel was, but without an enormous list of resistances. I genuinely feel bad for Dark, as a type, because its only real use is making Psychic-type Pokemon cry (until they learn a Fighting-, Bug-, or, hey, Fairy-type move to counter). Sure, Dark-type moves almost all have secondary effects to make them more useful (lots of flinching), but if it was a little bit more useful, maybe its attacks wouldn’t have to double as stalling tactics?

Also, Fairy resists Bug. Don’t ask me why… Just reaffirming its unfortunate position as a primarily early-game type.

All in all, I, personally, am happy with the Fairy-type. And I look forward to seeing how it holds up against the other 17 types in practice. After all, this all sounds good on paper, but nothing will compare to the first time Jigglypuff uses Sing on an unsuspecting Salamence, letting it go gently into that good night.


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