Right before Pokémon Unite took over our lives, the game’s official Twitter account made a point to announce that three new characters would be arriving some time after. Two of these were revealed right then and there as Gardevoir and Blastoise, but the third new Pokémon Unite character was nothing but a question mark. And that’s exactly what it should be.
I’m not talking about keeping the Pokémon under wraps right up until release; it should actually be nothing but a massive question mark. A gigantic, Pokémon-sized piece of punctuation pattering about the Aeros Island battlefield. And why shouldn’t it be? A question mark is a legitimate Pokémon.
While it’s true that there is a specific species of Pokémon dedicated to the Roman alphabet and a selection of its more commonly used symbols, it’s not the Unown that should occupy the third new slot on the roster, but the real deal.
The third generation of mainline Pokémon games are some of the most commonly emulated of the bunch. Whole communities use emulation to run 'Nuzlocke' challenges with modified rules, and they even change up the game's code to randomize each adventure, adding mountains of replayability to these typically linear titles. It’s this potential that led me to discover that a massive question mark exists in the Pokémon universe as a planned Pokémon. It's a fail-safe to stop the game’s foundation from falling out from underneath it in some exceptional circumstances.
It’s become a bit of a meme that any mainline Pokémon game will stop you from wandering into the tall grass where Pokémon live without having one of your own to back you up. But if you somehow manage to circumvent that – like by using a cheat engine to teleport yourself to Naval Rock for a chance at Lugia before you even look the Pokémon Professor in the eye – the game needs something to send into battle in place of your non-existent Pokémon. The result? A symbol that personifies the game’s confusion as to how you managed to fool its logic.
As it turns out, Ten Questions Mark – or ?????????? as it appears in-game – is programmed with most of what makes a Pokémon a Pokémon. That’s how it’s able to fill that role whenever the code needs something to stop itself from breaking down. According to the trusted Bulbapedia, it has its own Pokédex number, stats, moves, a name, and can even lay an egg if you manage to stick it in the daycare. And if it breeds, it can brawl.
Obviously, it’s not going to happen. The Pokémon Company is never going to officially acknowledge a question mark as the third new Pokémon Unite character. But we can at least imagine a world in which it does.
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In battle, Ten Question Marks could start as just Question Mark, a single body, just as it does in the mainline games. It’s an all-rounder like Charizard and Garchomp that confounds and confuddles its foes, lunging from the bushes like a tiger. Just you try to compose yourself when a character on your keyboard makes an attempt on your life.
As it levels up, Ten Question Marks gets closer to its fabled final form. It evolves at level five into (you guessed it) Five Question Marks. With four more characters spinning around its main body, it can throw these out at targets from afar, pelting them with punctuation, slowing them down as they question their life, space, and everything in the universe. Like Greninja, it can toss these duplicates out to force the enemy into a hectic game of Deal or No Deal, challenging them to attack the one true target.
At level ten, the Glitchmon finally attains perfection – Ten Question Marks. Now a master of the universe and everything therein, it’s able to back up Slowbro’s Amnesia with even more questions, adding to its ability to "forget” to take damage, making it even bulkier than it already is.
Now able to easily overpower the minds of other Pokémon, it can do more than just stun opponents with sudden onset forgetfulness and questions about the great beyond. It can buff its allies with the knowledge needed to upgrade their skills beyond their usual max. Knowledge is power, after all. It isn’t a great scorer. It doesn’t really care about competition. But by running rings around the enemy, it can make them dizzier than a Spinda, inverting a player’s controls and making it much harder for them to defend their objectives.
The Pokémon Company and Tencent’s TiMi Studio likely have grander plans afoot for Pokémon Unite’s first actual mystery roster addition. It’s probably Mewtwo. It’s always Mewtwo. But part of me wants to believe that they could treat this new genre excursion like a less serious (canon) addition to the game’s shockingly large catalogue. The N64 era had the console’s logo rendered in 3D and used as a playable car in one game, so why can’t we have a quirky little pop-culture Easter egg sneak into a Pokémon game? Let’s have some fun.