Ditto has always been one of my favourite Pokemon, and the series as a whole has never really done enough with its potential. Why was I, a young trans kid, drawn to the Pokemon who could change its appearance at will? Probably the same reason Mystique was always my favourite comic book character – a complete mystery.
I don’t think Ditto is the most underused Pokemon around – I’ve already explained why that’s Unown – but what’s most disappointing is that the Pokemon series clearly understands what makes Ditto great; it just hasn’t tried to implement that into the games in any meaningful form.
When we think of Ditto, we think of the weird meme face it does – the one with the thin lips and the little eyes. This originated in the anime, in one of the show’s best early episodes, when Team Rocket tried (and failed) to use Ditto to build their dream team. “Turn into this,” they say, pointing to a picture of a Dratini in a book… only for Ditto to transform into a book. Comedy gold.
Since then, this is what Ditto has been known for. Many of the Pokemon stuffed toys come with a ‘Ditto variant’, where the Pokemon’s original face has been replaced by Ditto’s strange smile. Detective Pikachu, easily the cleverest use of Ditto to date, has Suki Waterhouse as a humanoid Ditto, hiding her hollow black eyes behind a pair of dark sunglasses. In the external stories, Ditto actually gets a lot of love. Not as much as Pikachu or Charizard, but you know. There’s close to 1,000 ‘mons running around right now. Ditto does better than most.
In the games, however, Ditto is a footnote. While it can be useful in competitive play if you know how to use it, Ditto essentially exists as a breeding machine. There’s no storytelling around its unique abilities, no acknowledgement of the fundamental changes to life that relatively easy access to a shapeshifter would bring – just stick it in daycare and use it to churn out eggs for you. Death by snu-snu.
In the games, Pokemon Go probably has the best use of Ditto, but even that isn’t great. It was added to the game much later than the rest of Gen 1, and then the gimmick was ‘sometimes if you catch at Rattata, it’s a Ditto’. Since it took ages to enter the game, there was more anticipation around it, and Ditto’s entrance meant the fodder had value again – at least until your first Ditto – but it’s a bit one note. Because breeding is not a thing in PoGo (you get eggs by spinning), and because the main series has exclusively thought of Ditto as a breeding machine, PoGo’s hands are tied somewhat. Once you’ve got Ditto, it’s just… there.
Maybe New Pokemon Snap will do something different with Ditto. I haven’t encountered one yet, but it feels like the perfect game for Ditto. Since the main games haven’t given it a lot to build upon, narratively, Snap’s focus on looks might be the perfect game for Ditto to shine in. God knows, it needs it.
Next: Pokemon Twilight Wings Proves That Galar Shouldn’t Be Left With Sword & Shield
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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