Magikarp & Gyarados: The Characters That Define Brink of Gaming


We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.


Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!

Brink mentions in this piece that we were all too eager to have him join this collab! But, of course I was! We’re talking about a fascinating blogger with keen insight into games and culture, and we’re happy to have him on board. Go give Brink a follow.

Thank you Brink for rounding out today’s Pokemon block with this fantastic piece!


I was ecstatic when I first read about the concept of The Characters That Define Us: a collaboration of epic proportions being set up by Matt of Normal Happenings to talk about the video game icons that resonate with us the deepest. I knew that I had to be a part of it, and so I pestered him until he finally caved and gave me a spot! 😉 In all seriousness, he was only too eager to let me join this line up of other amazing bloggers. Thanks again, Matt!

As much as I wracked my brain for my top three preferred character entries, there was only ever one true choice for the character (or rather, characters) that helped define me the most in my own life: the splashy swimmer, Magikarp, and its titanic evolution, Gyarados. There’s a reason this guy made the top of my list of favorite Pokémon.

My first introduction to this leviathan was the two-part episode of the Pokémon anime centering on Ash and company’s voyage and ensuing sinkage aboard the cruise liner, St. Anne. After escaping the ship but being stranded aboard a raft at sea with the others, James of Team Rocket kicks away a Magikarp he purchased after being angry that he couldn’t eat it due to its stone-like scales. Magikarp promptly evolves into the terrifying Gyarados to retaliate. It gets revenge by calling even more Gyarados to its location, whipping up a fearsome group Dragon Rage attack and sending our heroes spiraling away in a twister. The sheer ferocity that Gyarados could unleash appealed to my childhood enjoyment of cool, powerful characters, and it spurred to life a burning desire to add the creature to my team in the original Red and Blue.

But my own personal journey with Magikarp and Gyarados was much less dramatic and action-packed than the tale told by television. In fact, I dare say it crawled. You see, Magikarp is a Pokémon that you can purchase for yourself very early on in your journey through Kanto…yet it can’t learn any attacks until level 15. And even then, its weak attack stat renders its Tackle virtually useless. The only “effective” way to increase its level is to immediately swap it for another Pokémon who can actually fight. It makes for a very grueling process to follow through in the early game and raise a Magikarp up through the ranks. This trend is continued in nearly every future generation: the crappy carp is available extremely early on by fishing with the Old Rod, but the process of raising it against low-level creatures is extremely slow. However… the rewards you reap for perseverance are enormous.

Once the flailing fish reaches Level 20, it evolves into a dang dragon.

Okay, so technically Gyarados isn’t a Dragon-type Pokémon: it’s Water and Flying, the latter type of which was taken from the Dragon Kite designs of Japan that inspired its design. BUT. IT’S A DRAGON. Magikarp and Gyarados are based off the ancient Japanese tale of the Dragon Gate. According to the legend, if a carp is strong enough to climb a waterfall and leap from the water over the gate, it will transform into a mighty dragon. Magikarp as a Pokemon is only good for splashing, but it makes sense that as the flopping fish levels up, it gets strong enough to flail around enough to leap high in the air and clear the hypothetical “gate” of being strong enough to evolve.

I love that Magikarp takes forever to level up in the early game, thus making Gyarados only attainable by those who really put their mind to having it on their team (or who wait until later in the journey to speed-level it against stronger enemies). The reward of having an unstoppable murder-dragon on my team against early opponents is a thrill that always delivers and feels justly earned, unlike letting your starter do all the work or trading with a friend to get a more powerful Pokémon for “free” (by trading a garbage Pidgey or some other weak thing). To me, Gyarados is a model of perseverance and determination: something I’ve had to work at regularly in my own life, as well. That’s why I chose it for The Characters That Define Us! Thanks for reading!



Adventure Map! *FINISHING UP!*


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