Explaining Why Pokémon Type Advantages Work - Weaknesses & Super Effective Reasons | Fanboys Anonymous
On February 27th, Pokémon will be celebrating its 20th anniversary since the original Japanese release of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green in 1996, which would eventually come to the United States on September 28, 1998. Yours truly was a tad late to the party, being confused as all hell what this whole Pokémon thing was about until a few months later. However, I would eventually get hooked on Pokémon Red and move on to Blue, Yellow, Gold and Silver (as well as some offshoots like Pokémon Stadium) before moving on to other things. It's tough to balance a world with an ever-increasing amount of characters, strategies, and so forth.

In fact, balance is a key component to the series as illustrated by the typing each Pokémon gets. There are certain strengths and weaknesses within the rock/paper/scissors patterns built into the game so if you're getting ready for Misty's water-based gym battle, you know you should be catching that Oddish if you chose Charmander or you'll be screwed. Despite the idea of always having a way to counter something at the risk of exposing yourself to that thing's strengths, there isn't absolute total equilibrium. In a lot of ways, the typing advantages make no sense whatsoever other than to help promote some form of stability, but even that has gotten crazily out of hand over the years.

Since Pokémon is on the mind and I've been taking trips down memory lane as of late, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try to rationalize the different strengths and weaknesses Game Freak has established for the Pokémon types. I doubt we'll be able to "explain 'em all" but we can definitely try!

Pokémon Type Strengths Super Effective Weaknesses

* NOTE: For nearly every situation where a type does 1/2 damage or is 1/2 resistant, there's no reason other than to try to figure out the mathematics. For example, there's no direct correlation between Bug and Fighting or why Electric is less effective against Grass.

Bug Type Pokémon Advantages

Bug is super effective against Psychic
- Bugs are one of the biggest classifications of things people are most afraid of. Entomophobia, arachnophobia, acarophobia, etc.

Bug is super effective against Grass
- Bugs eat grass.

Bug is super effective against Dark
- ???

Dark Type Pokémon Advantages

Dark is super effective against Ghost
- This could possibly be explained as a reference to purgatory and the idea of oblivion in the spirit world. Alternately, if Dark is translated more to Evil like it is in Japan, then this could represent the corruption of a soul.

Dark is super effective against Psychic
- A fear of the dark (nyctophobia) is extremely common.

Dark is immune to Psychic
- This is probably mostly just to weaken the Psychic type more than anything else, but it could possibly be a reference to how dark thoughts are hard to get rid of, such as addiction or depression, although that sends a fatalist message that you can't overcome your mental health problems, so I doubt that was something in mind when this was decided.

Dragon Type Pokémon Advantages

Dragon is super effective against Dragon
- This seems rather odd, doesn't it? Dragon is resistant to a lot, but doesn't have many strengths and is weak to itself?

* In my mind, Dragon should be super effective against Normal and Fighting, as those tend to represent average people and dragons in mythology are always top tier "impossible to defeat" without the use of magic (Fairy) or a special sword (Steel).

Electric Type Pokémon Advantages

Electric is super effective against Flying
- Lightning resides in the sky, so it makes sense for anything that is higher up in the air to be more susceptible to the electricity that isn't grounded.

Electric is super effective against Water
- Water conducts electricity.

* Shouldn't Steel be also weak to Electric since metal conducts electricity?

Fairy Type Pokémon Advantages

Fairy is super effective against Dark
- Fairy is representative at times of the concept of light, and light overtakes darkness.

Fairy is super effective against Dragon
- In folklore, there's countless examples of magic being used to defeat dragons.

Fairy is super effective against Fighting
- This one doesn't make sense to me, as I would think if anything, it should be the reverse. Fairy types should be daintier and less resistant to something as physical as the Fighting type. Think about how bullies pick on weaker people.

Fairy is immune to Dragon
- This is similar to what was said above, but just taking it to a more extreme level to help make Fairy stronger.

Fighting Type Pokémon Advantages

Fighting is super effective against Dark
- Perhaps this is a reference to how fighting a clean fight is better than fighting dirty?

Fighting is super effective against Ice
- Ice can crack with enough force and since Fighting type is very symbolic of physical strength, just picture how easy it is to break off an icicle with your hands if you're having trouble imagining this type advantage.

Fighting is super effective against Normal
- Do you even lift, bro?

Fighting is super effective against Rock
- Martial artists break cinder blocks with their fists.

Fighting is super effective against Steel
- Man over machine?

Fire Type Pokémon Advantages

Fire is super effective against Bug
- Too many people are quick to justify that this makes sense merely because fire burns bugs, but they forget to remember that fire can also set birds (Flying) and its used to cook fish (Water) and so on. My guess is this was a product of poor planning in Generation I where there were lots of Bug types that would have only been weak to Flying and Rock if not for Fire. Plus, there was a lot of crossover between Bug and Grass in the mindset of a lot of people, so it gets lost in translation. Really, this should be retconned out.

Fire is super effective against Grass
- If you don't understand how something like a forest fire works, I can't help you.

Fire is super effective against Ice
- Heat melts ice. Duh.

Fire is super effective against Steel
- Heat is used to forge metals. Think of a blacksmith.

* If it wasn't so necessary for Fire to be incredibly weak to Water, it would make sense for the 1/2 damage to be lifted, since heat boils water.

Flying Type Pokémon Advantages

Flying is super effective against Bug
- Birds eat bugs.

Flying is super effective against Fighting
- It's almost always advantageous to have the high ground in a fight

Flying is super effective against Grass
-  ???

Flying is immune from Ground
- How are you going to hit something in the air if you're on the ground? Also, shouldn't this be super effective against Ground instead of just immune?

* It's interesting to think of the relationship between Fire and Flying that doesn't exist. Flying is representative of wind, which can be used to extinguish fires. However, anyone who has started a campfire knows how it needs oxygen to grow, so Flying type would be essentially fanning the flames. In a weird way, Flying should be both super effective against Fire as well as something that helps it get stronger, like how Sunny Day boosts the Solar Beam attack but also the strength of Fire moves.

Grass Type Pokémon Advantages

Grass is super effective against Ground
- Plants grow in the ground.

Grass is super effective against Rock
- This is the same as Ground basically. Also, look at how grass can eventually split a rock if it grows inside a crack. This is kind of a stretch, though, and if I were balancing things out, I would have kept this separate from the Ground advantage.

Grass is super effective against Water
- Plants take in water for resources.

Ghost Type Pokémon Advantages

Ghost is super effective against Ghost
- ???

Ghost is super effective against Psychic
- While I can justify this by saying it represents being possessed, shouldn't the idea of exorcism reverse the damage, making Psychic super effective against Ghost in return?

Ghost is immune to Normal
- Our plane of existence can't interact with the ethereal realities

Ghost is immune to Fighting
- This is the same philosophy as the immunity to Normal; ever tried to punch an intangible ghost?

Ground Type Pokémon Advantages

Ground is super effective against Electric
- Grounding out electricity.

Ground is super effective against Fire
- ???

Ground is super effective against Poison
- The only thing I could think of is how landfills are used to store garbage.

Ground is super effective against Rock
- Earthquakes.

Ground is super effective against Steel
- Nature over man-made structures, possibly?

Ground is immune to Electric
- Again, grounding out electricity.

Ice Type Pokémon Advantages

Ice is super effective against Dragon
- Since dragons are often lizards, which are cold-blooded, and Dragon needed some weaknesses in Generation I, I guess this was chosen as a means to counteract how Dragons can use many Fire attacks.

Ice is super effective against Flying
- Is this a reference to how birds migrate to escape the cold weather?

Ice is super effective against Grass
- Look at how trees bloom in the spring, but during the colder months, lose their leaves

Ice is super effective against Ground
- Frost over the ground?

* Shouldn't Ice type also be effective against Water because it's able to freeze it?

Normal Type Pokémon Advantages

Normal is super effective against nothing
- Well that's lame

Normal is immune to Ghost
- This is a two-way street between the normal world and paranormal not interacting with each other.

Poison Type Pokémon Advantages

Poison is super effective against Grass
- Herbicide and weed killer.

Poison is super effective against Fairy
- ???

* Poison should really be super effective against Water and Flying for polluting the oceans and the air. It should also be super effective against Bug (instead of Fire) because of bug spray.

Psychic Type Pokémon Advantages

Psychic is super effective against Fighting
- Mind over matter / brain over brawn.

Psychic is super effective against Poison
- Holistic medicine.

Rock Type Pokémon Advantages

Rock is super effective against Bug
- Simply put, rocks smash bugs.

Rock is super effective against Fire
- ???

Rock is super effective against Flying
- Killing two birds with one stone.

Rock is super effective against Ice
- Rock tools are used to chip away at ice.

Steel Type Pokémon Advantages

Steel is super effective against Fairy
- Just as Fairy beats Dragon in folklore, if the magician is evil by any means, then the hero is equipped with a sword to take them down.

Steel is super effective against Ice
- Just as rock tools chip away at ice, metal ones are even better at doing the same.

Steel is super effective against Rock
- Keeping with the theme of tools, rock beats ice, but since metal is stronger, that's what's used to break up stone. Think about drills and construction equipment.

Steel is immune to Poison
- The only justification I can see for this is that a lot of Steel Pokémon are somewhat inorganic. However, if Poison is essentially a variation of acidic things as well, shouldn't it be corrosive to metals as well, making it super effective against Steel?

* There's a glaring omission here in that Steel should be super effective against Dragon, since the heroes of the old tales where dragons exist almost always slay them with swords.

* Wouldn't it make sense, at least to an extent, for Steel to be super effective against Grass due to lawnmowers and such?

Water Type Pokémon Advantages

Water is super effective against Fire
- Water puts out fire. Duh.

Water is super effective against Ground
- Water erodes the earth.

Water is super effective against Rock
- Water erodes the earth.

Keeping all of this information in mind, this is a lineup I think makes a lot more sense:

Pokémon type super effective fixed
* Note: In the years that have passed since writing this, I've changed my mind to feel that a few more things should be altered compared to the graphic above.

* Ground OR Rock should be able to take down Fire. Not both.

* Flying and Fire should have some sort of counter action. Heat rises and wind helps fire spread. However, a powerful enough gust of wind takes out fire, like blowing out candles.

* Bug shouldn't be weak to Flying, cause Flying isn't the Bird type. Just cause something is Flying doesn't mean it has a beak and eats bugs. Instead, it could be a cloud, and that has nothing to do with bugs. Theoretically, maybe Fighting should be effective against Bug, since you "squash like a bug." That does make Fighting pretty damn powerful, though, so...

* Normal is no longer weak to Fighting.

* I'm second-guessing making Ghost super-effective to Fighting. It should probably just be immune to those moves, rather than Ghost things actually hurting Fighting.

* Maybe Fairy shouldn't be weak to Fighting. If that's the case, Fairy could use another weakness. My gut says Psychic. Maybe it doesn't need another weakness, though. I'm open to discussion.

* For fun, I figured if there were any other types that could be added, it would be Sound and/or Rubber/Plastic. Theoretically, Sound would be effective against Ice and Rock? Weak to Flying (sound doesn't travel in space), Water and Ground as they muffle sound? What about Electric? Rubber would be immune to Electric, weak to Fire, Steel and Ice, resistant to Water and Fighting, maybe effective against Ground since it bounces. Plastic would probably be the same, but not immune to Electric of have any interaction with Ground.

That's the best that I can do after all these years, but if you have any suggestions for those without answers, tell us! Leave a comment below with your thoughts, your theories, and your preferences!

Tony Mango is the founder, editor-in-chief, head writer and show host of Fanboys Anonymous as well as all other A Mango Tree branches including Smark Out Moment. He is a pundit, creative director/consultant, media manager and more. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Extended profile here.



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