Does everyone remember Dumbo? Y’know; the Disney movie about the baby elephant who could fly by flapping his stupidly large ears? Remember that one scene where he gets wasted and hallucinates about a parade of pink elephants?
Yeah, I blocked it out for a while too, but trust me, it happens. Well, with more than six hundred Pokémon now, we’ve got a Pokémon for just about everything… including trippy Disney dream sequences. Meet Munna and Musharna, the imaginary pink elephant Pokémon.
Yeah. It’s kinda like that.
Let’s go back to something else everyone should remember: Alakazam. Alakazam was the archetypal Psychic Pokémon of Red and Blue: extremely fast and ludicrously powerful. A prepubescent boy could deck him with a single punch, but Alakazam didn’t care because he had the power to unmake worlds by thought alone. Starmie, Mr. Mime and Jynx were more or less taken from the same mould, and Gold and Silver continued the trend with Espeon, Girafarig and Xatu (not that Girafarig or Xatu could unmake worlds, or for that matter anything more than a small meteorite, but it was something they aspired to). There were also bulky, defensive Psychic-types, though: Hypno, Slowbro and Exeggutor, then Slowking and Wobuffet in Gold and Silver – and it’s this archetype that has been dominant since then, producing Grumpig, Lunatone, Chimecho and Claydol in Ruby and Sapphire and culminating with the nigh-indestructible Bronzong in Diamond and Pearl. This focus on defence and support is Musharna’s heritage, and she does it extremely well – while still packing quite a punch when she needs to. The question is, is she good enough for me to judge her worthy of existence?
If I have a complaint about Munna, it’s that she steps on Drowzee’s toes. A lot. Not only do they have the same type and do the same job, Munna walks all over Drowzee’s design as well. Munna and Musharna were introduced as an utterly shameless tie-in to Pokémon’s new online area, the Dream World, and as a result they have dream powers, which are part of the in-game explanation for how the Dream World works… somehow. I don’t know; I kind of zoned out when Professor Fennel and her creepy girlfriend started talking about it. Anyway, Drowzee and Hypno have power over sleep and dreams, and they feed on dreams; that’s always been their shtick. Not only does Munna do the same thing, Musharna actually goes one step further and is said to have the power to make dreams into reality. To cap it all off, they even seem to be based on the same animal, which isn’t really an elephant but looks like it should be because no ten-year-old on the planet knows what a tapir is. Apparently, both Drowzee and Munna are based on a mythical dream-eating spirit called a baku, which is also the word for a tapir in modern Japanese because the animal looks a lot like depictions of baku in classical Japanese prints and carvings. In short, if Nintendo had wanted a defensive Psychic-type Pokémon with powers related to dreams to use as an in-game lead-in to the new Dream World mechanics… well, they had one. There wasn’t really any need to add Musharna to the game; she’s more or less interchangeable with Hypno for all intents and purposes.
Unfortunately for Hypno… Musharna’s actually better. She’s just as good at taking energy-based attacks, while being much better at taking physical ones and at using her own powers to fight back – and what she loses in return isn’t all that important. Hypno was able to feign competence at physical combat where Musharna cannot, which is of limited relevance at best. Musharna also moves like a drunken walrus, but Hypno wasn’t anywhere near fast enough for his speed to be an asset anyway. Musharna also learns most of the same useful techniques as Hypno, with the notable exceptions of Nasty Plot, which dramatically improves the user’s special attack stat, and Switcheroo, which swaps held items with the target. However, Musharna also has something Hypno doesn’t, and it’s big: the ability to heal herself by using Moonlight while Hypno has to put himself to sleep with Rest to heal. This is a big deal for a defensive Pokémon, even if Moonlight isn’t the best healing technique out there. The truly worrying thing about all this is that Hypno might try to maintain his precarious individuality by focusing on the one thing he does that Musharna doesn’t: stalking and kidnapping schoolchildren.
My Musharna has served me faithfully and well, and will doubtless continue to do so, but on balanced reflection I have to admit that Munna and Musharna are not Pokémon that needed to be made, or should have been. Is Musharna a better Pokémon than Hypno? Yes, I believe so. Is she better than a hypothetical evolved form of Hypno that could have been made to fill exactly the same place in both flavour and game mechanics? Probably not – and that “probably” slides up to a “definitely” if Hypno had somehow gained access to Recover in the process. Even without evolving Hypno, there are a number of ways he could have been improved – adding Recover to his move-pool, as I said, or giving him a powerful new ability, attack, or even an item specific to him, along the lines of the Thick Club that renders Marowak usable. Munna and Musharna are imaginary pink elephants for the sake of imaginary pink elephants, and at some point during the design process someone in the room really should have stood up and asked “wait, why are we putting in imaginary pink elephants again?”
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let it be dissolved into the shattered dreams of a thousand children who wanted to be firemen and princesses but became lawyers and actuaries instead!