In the interests of having a bit of experience with the Pokémon I’m talking about before jumping into them, I’ve decided not to go through them in order but start with the ones I’ve used already, starting with the first new Pokémon I caught: Purrloin.
Purrloin is, as you can see, a cat Pokémon. Cat Pokémon have been done to death but I’ll try to keep an open mind here. Purrloin and Liepard are reminiscent of Meowth and Persian, and Purrloin is a dead ringer for Diamond and Pearl’s Glameow, although significantly less ridiculous-looking – Liepard, though, couldn’t be more different from Glameow’s horrendously obese evolved form, Purugly (to my immeasurable relief). Skitty and Delcatty from Ruby and Sapphire are something else entirely and go for cuteness rather than Persian’s elegance. I suppose I’d be slamming Purrloin and Liepard for having too much in common with the original cat Pokémon, but for one thing: while their predecessors have all been Normal-types, these two are Dark-types, with the shift in emphasis that comes with it. Persian was arrogant and self-centred, and would screw with you if you got in his way to show you just how far beneath him you are. Liepard is arrogant and self-centred, and will screw with you no matter what you do because he’s a jerk. Personally, I find this very refreshing. I also like that his design takes less from domestic cats and more from wild ones (his name obviously implies that he’s based on a leopard but he actually reminds me more of a serval – a nocturnal African wildcat known for its intelligence and its incredible skill at catching birds in flight).
So, what does Liepard actually do when the chips are down? Well, if you’re not careful with him… loses. Badly. Having used them myself, I feel prepared to say, without fear of contradiction, that Purrloin and Liepard simply cannot hold their own in a toe-to-toe fight against many (perhaps most) Pokémon of the same level, or even a slightly lower level. There is a bit of a sweet spot just after Purrloin evolves, when Liepard will have enough of an advantage in speed and power to do a fair bit of damage, but once the more powerful Pokémon come out later in the game he will quickly become irrelevant. Liepard is much stronger than Persian and Purugly, but also slower and significantly frailer – and if Persian was somewhat lacking on the defensive side of things, Liepard has the fortitude of a box of Kleenex. Liepard’s real problem, though, is there is almost no way to get him any really powerful attacks whatsoever, or any types of attack besides Dark and Normal, and although he hits a lot harder than Persian, he still isn’t strong enough to make up for the weak moves he’ll have to use. The same goes for any comparison with Purugly; both of them just have a wider selection of decent techniques. Liepard probably has a slight advantage from being a Dark-type, since almost anything is usually better than being a pure Normal-type, but it doesn’t make up for the rest of it. Liepard can, at least, claim to be a far better Pokémon than Delcatty, but this is small comfort since Delcatty had the misfortune to be one of those rare Pokémon that aren’t actually good at anything at all and doesn’t hold up well even against many Pokémon that haven’t finished evolving yet.
To recap: Liepard is unlikely to win a fair fight except against Pokémon that have poor physical defences or a weakness to Dark attacks. This is why, if you are going to use Liepard, you must not on any account fight fair. Don’t spend time actually trying to kill things with Night Slash because you’re just not that good at it. What you’re good at is screwing with people’s heads. Taunt forces a Pokémon to attack, prohibiting the use of defensive or disruptive techniques like Recover and Hypnosis; use it to mess with defensive Pokémon. Snatch will steal the effect of any defensive move your opponent tries to make and grant its benefit to Liepard instead; time it right and, again, you can mess with defensive Pokémon that would shrug off your lacklustre direct attacks (fail to predict your opponent’s actions, though, and you’ll just end up taking a hit for nothing, which Liepard cannot afford to do). Torment prevents a Pokémon from using the same move two turns in a row; considering the popularity of “choice” items – items that lock a Pokémon into a single attack in exchange for a significant boost in power or speed – this could work pretty well (although Liepard would still have to actually take a hit first). TMs are reusable in Black and White, so it’s easier than ever to just slap Toxic or Thunder Wave on him if you’re feeling sadistic. The sad thing is that Persian is probably still better than Liepard at this sort of thing, so Liepard’s advantage, in the end, comes back to being able to hit harder when he runs out of cons and just has to shank something. One of its possible passive abilities, Prankster, is nice – when using attacks that don’t cause actual damage, Liepard always goes first, as though it were using Quick Attack – but going first is something that Liepard, Persian and Purugly are all pretty good at anyway.
And now the time has come to give my verdict. I confess that I really like Purrloin and Liepard on the basis of their design and would happily use them over Meowth and Persian despite their problems. I also suspect that, by making them Dark-types, Nintendo was at least trying to differentiate them from the older cat Pokémon, and there are actually not very many Dark-types in the game compared to most other elements so they’re not stuffing a type that was overfull already. So, on balance… by the skin of their teeth, Purrloin and Liepard survive judgement, for being a nice concept that really could have been done better.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!
(though just barely…)