Sgathaich: Sleepless Nights- of love and ghost type Pokémon

Sgathaich, an old woman with long hair and wearing a crown

It’s the late 90s. You’re playing that game on the Game Boy that has been hyped since the anime and trading card game were released ahead of it. You even read about people loving the game in Japan which is why an anime and trading card game were made. You know Ghost is a Pokémon type as you have seen them play about on the TV. You know they are found in a place called Lavender Town and after getting through that annoying cave, you had to use the HM Flash to get through, you finally reach it… and then the music hits. Suddenly rather than the more upbeat or adventurous tunes, you have this strange somewhat chilling unearthly tune playing. It’s unlike anything else in the game, it’s… unsettling. You head into the Pokémon tower, a place used as a mass grave for Pokémon. After beating your rival talking about things that will later send theory nuts mad you head into the upper reaches. What awaits you, are the possessed and the dead. You can’t catch these Ghosts, as all your Pokémon are too afraid to move as they call out to join them in death… all you can do is run.

This people is your first true experience with Ghost-type Pokémon in the franchise. A type that eventually would become my all type favourite.

For a small explanation, I have been playing Pokémon since day one. I have vivid memories of my mother giving me a ride into town and rushing into Woolworths after school to grab my copy of Pokémon Red on the Game Boy. Back then there were only 15 Pokémon types. Later types were primarily added to fix balancing issues (and yet Ice-type still sucks). Back then Ghost types… all one of them, if you only count the evolution lines final Pokémon Gengar, were meant to counter Psychic… they messed this up massively. Gengar was also a Poison-type for some reason, a type weak to Psychic… it was slower than the primary Psychic types. It had only one true damaging move which only had a power of 20 compared to the many high power Psychic attacks (which when used by the likes of Alakazam would hit before Gengar since it was faster). And the final big fail… the game was poorly written so Ghost attacks which were meant to be super effective against Psychic… wouldn’t hit Psychic types.

BUT Gengar found a good reason to be used but not in the way the programmers intended. Tauros turned out to be a massive power player in the Gen 1 Meta and Gengar being a ghost was immune to normal attacks so became a decent counter to it.

Ghost types though did start to get better. Gen 2 introduced one new Pokémon that was pure Ghost but more importantly fixed the bad programming and gave them actual attacks… it still didn’t work as a counter to Psychic types BUT that issue was fixed by Steel and Dark types.

It was Gen 3 that introduced a bunch of new Ghosts (and Dragon who also had hardly any Pokémon) but it wasn’t until Gen 4 that my love of Ghost type Pokémon started to interest me. I was becoming far more interested in the lore in games as I grew more irritated at how the anime was failing to present what was in the games. I had grown up loving the games but the anime kept getting worse just to continue going. The situations which had the better narrative had flipped. And with this flip suddenly I was noticing the darker elements in the game, and Ghost types were at the top of this.

So what suddenly drew my interest to Ghost types that happened in Gen 4 ? What started my descent into becoming essentially a Hex Maniac?

One Pokémon. One unlike any other till that point. Pokémon Gen 4 had this issue that the Legendaries got too insane in how powerful they were in lore. While Mewtwo, Gen 1, was meant to be a genetically engineered power house. Ho-oh and Lugia were eventually deities and this was continued with the Weather trio that covered the games of Gen 3. Gen 4 though rather than, Land, Sea, Sky or whatever went for Time and Space. But there was a 3rd. After the game you could go to this one area that was sealed before and found this strange sinister Pokémon Giratina.

“A Pokémon that is said to live in a world on the reverse side of ours. It appears in an ancient cemetery.” Pokémon Diamond Pokedex

People looked at its typing Ghost/Dragon, its sinister appearance and how it was part of the trio of the cover Pokémon, and finding in-game Arceus by hacking, which was clearly Pokémon god, people came to a conclusion Giratina was Satan.

Players were flipping out at this dark sinister Legendary. And when Platinum came out, which was an improved version of the Gen 4 games but with Giratina now as the cover legendary with a new form, it just got better. We saw Giratina openly interfere with the human villain’s plan and cast you and them into the distorted world. There you would face the monster with a unique battle theme that similar to Lavender Town was like nothing else in the game.

” It was banished for its violence. It silently gazed upon the old world from the Distortion World.” Pokémon platinum Pokedex

Giratina quickly became a favourite of mine, trying to sneak him into every team I would often use.

It was Gen 6 when Ghost types were hitting me hard. This introduced the now fan favourite Trainer type Hex Maniac… well technically it appeared in Gen 3 but the Gen 6 design was such a hit it was above that of named characters in fans’ eyes (Gen 6 had a lot of issues) but also I was now deeply interested in the Pokedex entries.

It can control trees at will. It will trap people who harm the forest, so they can never leave.” Trevenant Pokedex entry X

I don’t know what was happening to me at the time but I was loving how many of these Dex entries started to feel like mini Ghost stories. When doing post game stuff I even made a full Ghost team, it helped Gengar got a Mega evolution.

It was in the remake the Gen 3 games with Omega Ruby that I decided to do something different. I was going to do a Mono type run. I had already done Ruby’s story and felt, why not do something different ? Plus an early release bonus was getting a Shiny Beldum complete with a Megastone. It was a Psychic type so why not do a run with that?

Then Gen 7 Pokémon Sun and Moon came and my love was cemented.

I decided with Pokémon Moon, a brand new game, I was going to do another Mono type run. This time with the reveal of the cover Legendaries type and the fully evolved form of the Grass starter being Grass/Ghost. I decided, let’s to a full Ghost type run. This meant I was going to run through the whole game with a handy cap, on a game I had never played before and went out of my way avoiding spoilers.

But I think by this time, I was drawn to Ghost types. Like other horror elements by curiosity that drew me to things I knew I would have trouble sleeping. I would love reading how in this game, they brought Ghosts into the settings. It was an openly dark element in the bright colours of Pokémon. The contrast was the best part. Throwing a Ghost type Pokémon into something clearly dark makes it dull. But throw these out of place Ghost stories and sinister creatures next to a bright yellow electric rodent that makes cute noises, those sinister elements stand out. Hmm remember what I said about Lavender Town’s theme?

My love of Ghost types continues to this day. I love how Giratina returned in Legend Arceus taking the role arguably of the true villain. In the recent DLC of Scarlet and Violet, knowing my current team would just steam roll everything, I even made another all Ghost team.

It was just one day that to my surprise, when I asked myself what is my favourite type ? It was Fire from Charizard, or Steel from Metagross. But the Kookie Ghosts I realized were now my favourites. Each Gen I love seeing what new Ghost types they include. Even in Pokémon that love of that slightly sinister draws me to look onwards from behind the sofa even though I may have trouble sleeping later…. well ok Pokémon has never given me trouble sleeping, though it has caused me to make my OC essentially a Hex Maniac too.

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