The Porygon Family

We've seen a lot of weird stuff here, but even factoring in the psychic eggs, the smog balloons, the sentient magnets and the otter perpetually getting eaten by a snail, I think Porygon might be the weirdest concept in the original 151, an entirely man-made, computer-generated pokemon developed by Silph co, the brains behind a lot of Pokemon's wilder technological advances. It's a holographic simulation of a pokemon, which somehow achieves real sentience, learns pokemon abilities, and can function even outside of a computer like a real, physical object.

That the first digital pokemon resembles some sort of stylized, pink duck always felt like a good choice to me. It's not too strange, but not too boring either. There are those who say it's meant to resemble an origami crane, but I'm not really seeing it, except for the fact that it is a bird and it is angular.

In Gold and Silver, Porygon can be upgraded into Porygon2, a lazy, yet highly appropriate and believable name for a pokemon that is also a digital product.

Naturally, the upgrade improves Porygon's graphical qualities from a blocky, low-res poly count to a smoothly rendered balloon-duck, which also brings to mind one of those plastic, desktop drinking birds, and it's even animated like one. The pokedex also indicates that Porygon2 was intended to travel into space and explore other planets, but it "failed to measure up" and can't even actually fly.

Still, after achieving the astonishing feat of creating intelligent life from computer code, you have to wonder why nobody ever bothered to do it again. Why does the Porygon line remain the only digital pokemon family? Did they stumble upon some terrible secret and discontinue any further research? Did some key component of the original Porygon's code become lost? Or was it just old fashioned politics and lack of funding? I guess we'll never know, until a future pokemon gen sees fit to give us some other, unrelated VR-themed pokemon.

The Porys were finally brought to a close - for now - with the addition of Porygon-Z, and I absolutely love the little weirdo. It's quite fitting that a purely technological pokemon just gets lighter and faster in its final evolution, but that's not all that's going on here.

Porygon2 can be "upgraded" into this state with an item called the dubious disk, which you do not officially receive from the Silph corporation, indicating that some other party illegally cracked Porygon's code and distributed an unauthorized new version.

With the space exploration a bust, this bootleg was supposedly intended to "travel through alien dimensions," but the pokedex rather ominously says this "didn't go as planned."

Porygon-Z isn't just a shady third-party mod to Porygon2, but one riddled with glitches and possibly driven bonkers by its attempted contact with alternate realities. The floating, detached head and yellow, hypnotic eyes perfectly communicate that this thing represents highly advanced but highly unstable technology, and perhaps it's a little glimpse into why nobody tried to code another pokemon from scratch. The very existence of Porygon-Z raises some serious ethical questions; this was a thinking, feeling being, right? Like any other pokemon? And you went and broke it. You infected it with malware. You drove it mad with visions of another world. Yikes.

I love all the Porygons, and their evolutionary progression is one of the most inventive in the franchise. It also helps that they end on such a spooky, technology-gone-awry note.