So I might like to sing praises to Mega evolutions and its spiritual succesors but the new mechanics are far from perfect themselves. Z-Moves are likely to push the game towards a new kind of power creep by the simple fact that they are big/one shot effects. If you can use something once, you want it to matter as much as possible, otherwise it’ll be overlooked. In the same way, Alolan pokemon will need to be quite different on their own right to justify their existence when their “regular” forms are available. Which can lead to a number of unwanted situations that you would’ve avoided without having the option of this kind of revamp.
When the Sinnoh evolutions came to be there was a whole lot of trouble that came with them. Straight up improving old Pokemon lead to a power creep phenomena and effectively “phased out” popular Pokemon when there was nothing wrong with them (think Magnemite or Rhydon). You could still use their classic counterparts but they were less effective, forcing you more or less to give them up and use the new versions. But Rhydon and Magnemite didn’t stop moving forward just because there were stronger options. Hidden abilities came to be and the likes of Lickitung and Tangela got a proper update. With the introduction of Eviolite the former “final evolutions” were counted among the better users of the item (Chansey even managed to outperform Blissey in most areas!). So while the new evolutions blalantly changed the game, they did so in a way that was closely related with their origins and development.
Alolan forms can happen at a low evolutionary state, effectively erasing the link between one Pokemon and its alolan form. Without a common link and changes can happen between both versions without considering the other, arriving to a possible state of “leaving the old behind”. The point of the new mechanic was not to fall in the “ruining the past” state, but it did so by straying from it early in the development. If your alolan sandshrew receives a new and shiny hidden ability, your regular sandshrew might not get anything at all. Unless the developpers put an special effort in relating both forms in a very noticeable way, we are effectively talking about “different pokemon”. I truly hope Game Freaks will try to keep every form updated together and maybe introduce new mechanical ways to relate one with the other, but so far we don’t really have a lot of info pointing towards that.
Z-Moves can be one of those mechanics. At this point we know that there will be signature z-moves, which we can assume are linked to a singular pokemon species. If Alolan Raichu and regular Raichu could both use the same Z-stone and launch a different Z-Move by using it, then we would make the most of a single item and respect the idea of both Raichus being the same pokemon. But at this point this is not the most likely outcome so I’m pretty set for disappointment about this possibility.
There is an interesting pattern linked with power-creep considerations for each pokemon species that Game Freaks seems to be respecting so far:
- No pokemon that got an evolution in Gen IV was given a Mega evolution.
- No pokemon with a Mega evolution has been given a Z-move (so far).
- No pokemon that got an evolution in Gen IV has been given a Z-move (so far).
However this is a strictly vertical pattern, Snorlax has a Z-move despite receiving a lower-evolutionary form in Gen IV and Gallade was given a Mega despite being introduced as an alternative to Gardevoir in Gen IV (parallel evolution, not vertical). It’s anybody’s guess if this pattern will be respected for Gen VII, but so far Alolan forms seem to be updates for Pokes that were not updated in neither of the previous generations, but are considered a parallel improvement (as Alolan Raichu has a Z-move, effectively getting two of the possible updates at once without them interfering with the other).