Pokémon may seem like a simple game to outsiders, but fans know how complex it can really get. With the release of Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, there are now a total of 718 pocket monsters to choose from. Each one can learn dozens of different attacks, and their strengths and weaknesses can vary greatly.
The relationships between different Pokémon types—what's weak to what, in other words—is one of the most important elements of the Pokémon battle. Yet with 18 types (thanks to X and Y's new fairy type), it can also be one of the most difficult aspects to master.
The thought of memorizing the many ways different types of Pokémon react to various attacks is daunting. Many pocket monsters have two types simultaneously, which can make it even more difficult to remember what attacks will be effective against them. And the new Pokémon games introduced confusing "inverse battles," a new type of battle in which all type relationships are reversed.
It can make you crazy trying to remember them all. There are countless charts online (the fan-made one in this Reddit thread is the most readable I've seen), but there are other ways of mastering Pokémon types. Since I started playing Pokémon Red as a kid I've been using a subconscious mnemonic technique to keep track of the rock-paper-scissors-bug-dark-dragon-etc. game of Pokémon battling.
It was only recently, when I was forced to consider why the new fairy Pokémon are weak to steel and poison, that I became aware of what I've been doing. My mind immediately connected these abstract Pokémon types to something more familiar, and I realized I'd been doing the same thing for years.
Some of the relationships between Pokémon types are relatively obvious, like water dousing fire or rocks crushing bugs. But others are more of a stretch, and for those I've come up with the following analogies to help me remember.
Poison and steel vs. fairy
So why is the new fairy type weak to poison and steel? It's simple, really. Think back to the story of Peter Pan. Captain Hook locks Tinker Bell inside a metal lantern, and in the original version (not the Disney film) she drinks poison to save Peter's life. That's all you have to remember!
Fairy vs. fighting, dark and dragon
Fairy attacks are great against fighting, dark and dragon Pokémon. But why? I've begun imagining a nimble fairy flitting around the head of a big dumb dragon or a hulking, evil knight, who vainly coughs fireballs and take swipes in its direction.
Bug vs. psychic and dark
Bug attacks are super-effective against dark and psychic Pokémon. To explain that I picture buzzing insects breaking the concentration of an evil sorcerer as he tries to cast an incantation. It's cheesy, but it works.
Dark vs. psychic and ghost
I like to imagine the battle between dark and psychic Pokémon as a fight between two wizards, one good and one evil. The evil one (dark) will win through treachery. Similarly, the dark sorcerer summons spirits and ghosts and controls them with nefarious magic; hence dark attacks being powerful against ghost Pokémon.
Fighting vs. dark and normal
The relationship between fighting attacks and normal and dark Pokémon is like a high school brawl to me. As the other critters stand around in a circle cheering, a big jock beats the piss out of a normal-looking nerdy kid and a shifty-looking scrawny kid. Another cliché, but clichés are what they are because they're easy to remember.
Ground vs. electric
Electric Pokémon being weak to ground attacks feels natural to some, especially if you know a thing or two about electricity. But when I need help remembering it I imagine an earthquake toppling telephone poles and severing underground power lines.
Dragon vs. dragon
Most types are ineffective against themselves. It's easy to see why when you picture two fish splashing water at one another or two psychics locked in a mental standoff. But two dragons fighting an awesome war in the sky? That's epic, so dragon attacks are powerful against dragon Pokémon.
Ice vs. dragon
Dragons are like dinosaurs. Dinosaurs can't survive an ice age. Easy.
Electric, fire, water, and grass vs. dragon
Dragon is a great typing for many reasons, not least because it's resistant to electric, fire, water, and grass attacks, four very common types. The way I see it, dragons are relatively unscathed by Pokémon's four main elements because in a lot of fantasy you can't kill a dragon through natural means—only with magic.
Electric and ice vs. flying
Picture a bird in a hailstorm or a lightning storm. It's pretty self-explanatory.
Fighting vs. ice, rock and steel
Ice, rock and steel are the three hardest elements in the world of Pokémon. But they're not as hard as Machamp's muscles. Case closed.
Ghost vs. ghost
Ghost type attacks are super-effective against ghosts. This makes little sense, until you make things weird and start to imagine that ghost-type Pokémon exist partially in some other realm or dimension—a spirit world or something—in which they interact with one another on a more powerful level. Yeah, I never said these would make total sense.
Poison vs. grass
The street on which I grew up had beautiful trees that provided lots of shade and gave the cul-de-sac a sheltering atmosphere. Then the trees came down with some sort of tree disease and city workers came and cut them all down. It was a sad day, but it helps me remember that poison attacks are super-effective against grass monsters.
Ground vs. poison
Why are ground attacks super-effective against poison Pokémon? Ask yourself this: why did Atari bury all those old E.T. cartridges out in the desert? The earth defeated that game's poisonous mediocrity.
Psychic vs. poison
Psychic Pokémon use powers of the mind, so why are they super-effective against poison critters? Because mind is stronger than body, and mental prowess can overcome physical ailments like poison. Not really, but that's how I remember it.
Psychic vs. steel
I had to include psychic's ineffectiveness against steel Pokémon because it's the one pairing I disagree with. Psychics can bend spoons; why not Steelixes?
Do you folks have any other tricks to help you remember what's weak to what in Pokémon?