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Pokemon Theory: The Golem and Machamp trade evolution interchange

If you’re as egregious a Pokefanatic as myself then you’ve probably wondered about some of the important questions in life – like why Graveler loses its extra set of arms when it evolves into Golem.

Or why Machoke’s mouth goes from a markedly reptilian snout to a less protrusive, different-colored, Homer Simpson-stubbled beak when he turns into Machamp.

That’s exactly what makes the following Pokemon theory so intriguing; it offers an explanation as to why Golem and Machamp look so dissimilar to their previous evolutions and hints at an intriguing form of trade-based mimicry that was likely considered for Pokemon Red and Blue, but for whatever technical reasons never made it into the final versions of the game.

First, let’s look at the Golem family. Golem starts off as Geodude, a little rock humanoid with eyes, a mouth, and oversized, Popeye-muscled arms sprouting out of its sides.

When it evolves into Graveler at Level 25, Geodude swells into a craggy, boulder-sized rock guy with an additional two arms (giving it four total). Graveler’s four-armed evolutionary trait is a crucial detail for this entire theory, so keep it in mind.

Before we get into the importance of Graveler’s four arms however, we need to talk about Geodude’s final evolution, Golem. While I’m a big fan of Golem’s appearance, there’s no denying the obvious incongruities to its first two forms. Perhaps the most obvious difference between Graveler and Golem is the fact that Golem loses its two extra arms; instead of four arms, Golem has a pair of clawed arms and clawed feet; its craggy exterior becomes more spherical and armor-plated, like a turtle shell and its eyes and mouth – which previously appeared right on the surface of its rocky body – instead are located on a reptilian snout emerging from its core like some long dormant kaiju.

But why?

For that answer we turn to the Machop family. Machop is a little, bipedal, vaguely reptilian hominoid that reminds me of a pluckier, more athletic version of Minilla, Godzilla’s son from the 1967 film Son of Godzilla with a Corythosaurus crest on its head. Interestingly enough, Machop’s Pokemon Gold PokeDex entry states, “Always brimming with power, it passes time by lifting boulders,” which suggests that Machop has likely hoisted more than a few Geodudes and Gravelers in its workout regimen. This notion is reinforced even further in Pokemon Sapphire, where its PokeDex entry explains, “Machop exercises by hefting around a Graveler as if it were a barbell,” and once more in Pokemon Diamond: “It hefts a Graveler repeatedly to strengthen its entire body.” Although this fun little coincidence concerning Machop’s workout habits isn’t imperative to the theory, it does add a bit more fun, connective flavor to the two Pokemon.

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When Machop evolves into Machoke at Level 28, it essentially becomes a much more swole-up version of Machop with a more pronounced reptilian snout. Much like Graveler’s extra set of arms, this reptilian snout of Machoke’s is of importance as well, as they become the crux of the theory: that is, the assertion that Golem gains Machoke’s reptilian snout and Machamp gains Graveler’s extra set of arms when they are traded to their respective trainers.

If you recall, Golem and Machamp were of a select number of Pokemon whose evolution could only be triggered by trading them as Graveler and Machoke. At one point in Pokemon Red and Blue, it’s possible that this particular trade between Graveler and Machoke was one that caused the respective Pokemon to gain one another’s attributes through the trade – which is, once again, Golem gaining Machoke’s reptilian snout and Machamp gaining Graveler’s extra set of arms.

Was this the original intent of the Pokemon who could only evolve through link cable trades back in Generation 1, where said Pokemon would gain certain characteristics from the Pokemon with whom they were traded? Of course, this theory would necessitate that Graveler and Machoke could only be traded with one another to evolve, and not just any other Pokemon.

Even though Graveler and Machoke taking on one another’s characteristics in their final evolutions was never made an official in-game component of the final version of Pokemon Gen 1, there’s another instance of Pokemon taking on one another’s characteristics through trade in Generation V with Karrablast and Shelmet.

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The only way which Karrablast and Shelmet can evolve is if they’re traded for one another. According to an interview with Pokemon designer Ken Sugimori, the concept for Karrablast was “based on a species of beetle called carabus smaragdinus, which eats snails. Its evolution was meant to be wearing something resembling an armor. But we were also planning on a snail-based Pokémon to serve as Karrablast’s rival. Originally, we were only planning for Karrablast to eat the snail Pokemon — at that point, we hadn’t come up with the concept of Escavalier wearing another Pokemon’s shell. However, after some discussion, we came to the conclusion that it would be more interesting if we combine the two.”

Sugimori continued, “By the way, we ended up throwing out our idea for the original snail-based Pokémon. Initially, Shelmet was being developed independently from this snail/beetle project. But Shelmet’s shell seemed like it would make for a good armor. That’s when we had a revelation — Karrablast should wear Shelmet’s shell (laughs)! So with the two connected in this way, we considered what would become of Shelmet once Karrablast stole his shell. We decided Shelmet would probably sulk due to the loss of his shell, and with that thought in mind, we designed his evolved form. They began as totally different Pokémon, but ultimately, evolution bound them together. This kind of thing happens sometimes in nature — the relationship between Karrablast and Shelmet is a representation of that concept.”

Do you think that the Golem and Machamp trade evolution interchange should have been an official feature of the game in Pokemon Gen 1?

Do you enjoy Pokemon trades where the Pokemon involved take on one another’s characteristics like Karrablast and Shelmet? Should Game Freak include more trades with this effect in the future? Let us know in the comments.

Karrablast and Shelmet evolutionary speculation image courtesy of Auroraobfuscate.

Written By

Ninja Gaiden was my rite of passage at an early age. After finally beating that game (and narrowly dodging carpal tunnel) I decided to write about my gaming exploits. These days I enjoy roguelikes and anything Pokemon but I'll always dust off Super Mario RPG, Donkey Kong Country and StarFox 64 from time to time to bask in their glory.

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