Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Evolution Stages in Pokémon
As any trainer worth their Rare Candy knows, many Pokémon evolve into stronger forms. In addition to temporary mega evolutions, creatures upgrade between 0–2 times, occasionally with branching paths to choose from. Evolving raises a creature's stats and can provide new types or abilities, making it an exciting mechanic that gradually strengthens your team.
Most Pokémon transform simply by leveling up or using evolution stones, but some possess unique, often irritating needs—many are so outlandish you'd never discover them without hints or walkthroughs. These are the exception rather than the norm, but they can really slow your Pokédex completion. So, which misfits require special attention? These are the ten most annoying evolution needs in Pokémon!
10. Holding Your 3DS Upside-Down While Leveling
Example: Inkay → Malamar
Like most evolutions, Inkay transforms upon leveling up—but you also have to literally hold your 3DS upside down to successfully promote. And while it's a cute concept since Malamar reverses Inkay's orientation, it can be a risk for uncoordinated adolescent hands—how many systems have been dropped and broken through this mechanic?
It also restricts players with damaged motion sensors, and if a future console doesn't contain one, Inkay will need an alternative method to properly evolve.
9. Having Certain Stat Distributions
Example: Tyrogue → Hitmonchan, Hitmonlee, and Hitmontop
Tyrogue can morph into any of three different Fighting types at level 20, but you have little control over which you receive, as it depends on his Attack stat compared to Defense, and you can't determine these at a glance—you have to capture Tyrogue before seeing which he favors.
Like other creatures, Tyrogue's stat spread is calculated from innate traits like nature and IVs, and barring rare stat-improving items (which are few and far between), you'll have little control over the evolution. Thus, trainers often repeatedly breed or capture Tyrogues until they stumble into their preferred upgrade, and your chances for a shiny Pokémon of the right build plummet.
8. Needing a Specific Attack
Example: Piloswine → Mamoswine (needs Ancient Power)
Several Pokémon only transform when leveling with a particular move in tow. Remember, units can only have a certain number of attacks, and it can be frustrating to forfeit one for an unwanted technique demanded for evolution.
At least paths like Aipom to Ambipom (which requires the Double Hit attack) are based on techniques learned naturally while leveling, but some particularly irksome evolution moves are only obtained through breeding. For instance, Piloswine needs Ancient Power to become Mamoswine—which he only learns at level one. Move deleters and reminders lessen the issue, but it's still a hassle.
7. Training in a Specific Location
Example: Nosepass → Probopass (needs a magnetic field)
Again, I appreciate the concepts of unusual evolutions, as it's fun to see gameplay elements reflect lore, but the actual execution can be awkward. For instance, units like Nosepass, Magneton, and Charjabug only evolve when leveled up in a magnetic field-draped area.
Fortunately, most games contain at least one such zone, but the requirement still forces unnecessary backtracking. Worse still, even titles such as HeartGold and SoulSilver (which debuted after this mechanic) entirely lack these fields, making it impossible to upgrade corresponding units—only trades can legally obtain them. And speak of the devil . . .
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6. Trading for a Specific Pokémon
Examples: Shelmet → Accelgor, Karrablast → Escavalier
By itself, trading is lame enough, ensuring your partner receives the upgraded form (unless they're kind enough to swap it back). Adding insult to injury, two creatures from generation five games Black and White only evolve when specifically traded for each other.
While it's nice that both parties benefit from the transaction, it's a nuisance to arrange, particularly in the early stages of your adventure. Eventual online trading eases the burden, but doesn't negate the tedious nature of the mechanic itself.
5. Having a Specific Pokémon in Your Party
Example: Mantyke → Mantine (needs Remoraid)
Luckily, this mechanic is rare, but to alter Mantyke into Mantine, you'll need to have a Remoraid present in your party while leveling. Thankfully, your Remoraid isn't affected (which doesn't really make sense, as it's supposedly triggering the mutation by attaching to Mantyke), but that's small comfort for your added efforts.
To make matters worse, Mantyke is an often-ridiculed "baby" Pokémon introduced a few generations after its evolution. Trainers tend to prefer new upgrades (like Steelix's improvement on Onix) rather than pre-evolutions, often feeling a "slot" was wasted on an unneeded larva stage. But speaking of the Onix family . . .
4. Trading While Holding an Item
Example: Onix → Steelix (needs a Metal Coat)
Again, trade evolutions are finicky enough as is, more so when dependent on a held item. Not only do these require you to find both the item and a willing trade partner (preferably one who agrees to return your monster), they consume the tool upon evolution.
Many items, particularly in older games, were only available once, meaning once you've used yours, it's gone for good. And when this evolution method was introduced in early generation two games Gold and Silver, online global trading wasn't yet available, making it challenging to find willing partners.
3. Having the Right Gender
Example: Combee → Vespiquen (only females)
Some evolutions require a specific gender, but they're usually alternative forms, meaning you can evolve with either sex. For instance, Kirlia needs to be male to become Gallade but can change into Gardevoir regardless of gender.
Those aren't so bad since you'll get an upgrade either way, but it's lame when units like Combee only ever evolve while possessing the female gender. Makes you wonder how many naive trainers leveled up a male Combee in vain before discovering their companion could never evolve.
2. Raising a Pokemon's Beauty
Example: Feebas → Milotic
Pokémon contests in generation three relied on optional traits that had little bearing in battle—you could participate in or ignore the contests as you saw fit. Raising these contest-oriented abilities required making food from berries and feeding it to your allies.
But one evolution (Feebas into Milotic) depended entirely on raising the beauty stat high enough before leveling. Not only is this so random that no one would ever figure it out naturally, it's not easy even when you know—you really have to crank that stat with high-quality Pokeblocks or Poffins. To be fair, Milotic was given an alternative trade-item evolution in future games (which requires the Prism Scale), but as we've seen, that's only slightly less irritating.
1. Evolving in Other Games
Example: Meltan → Melmetal
Having to trade for certain evolutions or version-specific monsters is bad enough, but things get worse when you need to cross to entirely new playstyles and platforms. For instance, you can only morph Meltan (from Let's Go: Pikachu and Eevee!) into Melmetal by trading it to mobile game Pokémon GO and feeding it 400 appropriate candies.
Presumably, we'll see an alternative evolution route in future generations, but for now, players who have little interest in the vastly-different gameplay of GO are left little choice if they want to improve their companion. It helps that the game is free to play, but that doesn't remove the enormous hassle for traditionalist trainers.
Pros and Cons of Different Evolution Mechanics
Overall, abnormal evolution routes are a mixed bag, diversifying gameplay, but often proving unnecessarily tedious. In today's golden age of worldwide information, it's easy to look up a Pokémon's needs, but veteran masters weren't always so lucky, often wasting hours leveling up a creature in the wrong fashion.
More in-game hints (which the Pokédex is gradually starting to provide) would alleviate the issue, as would refraining from gimmicky trade-facilitated changes. And then there are oddities like Manaphy and Phione, who aren't technically linked by evolution but are basically two halves of the same creature—yet completely unable to change into one another.
Nintendo has gradually removed annoying mechanics throughout Pokémon's lifespan (like bag limitations and unbalanced types), yet we still encounter a surprising number of weird transformations. But as we await their next batch of oddball evolutions, share your thoughts on the Manaphy/Phione controversy and I'll see you at our next Pokémon countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Umbreon on May 10, 2020:
Could you do an article on V MAX Pokemon. Also Glaceon and Leafeon deserve a mention
for specific locations.