Six Pokémon all at once!? What could be happening? Well, just sit still for a minute and allow me to introduce you to the three elemental monkeys of Black and White. I’ve decided to do these Pokémon as a group, for three reasons: first, they’re strongly associated as a group, second, my major grievances against them are shared by the whole trio, and third, they’re just so unforgivably bland I don’t think I could possibly come up with enough material if I took on each one separately. So, without further ado: the elemental monkey Pokémon!
I appreciate the thought behind these Pokémon; I really do. For a bit of context, let’s all think back to Red and Blue. A big chunk of a Pokémon game’s storyline is, and always has been, travelling the countryside to obtain shiny bits of metal from trainers who have far more self esteem than you do in order to make yourself feel better about the fact that you are, in essence, an extremely violent prepubescent hobo. Anyway, back in Red and Blue, the first of these Gym Leaders, as everyone probably remembers, was Brock, who trained Rock Pokémon. This made him dead easy if you chose Squirtle or Bulbasaur and supposedly a little harder if you chose Charmander but honestly not really (on the other hand, heaven help you if you had Yellow and were relying on Pikachu). Nintendo seems to have decided at some point that this was a good way of starting off the game, because the first Gym Leader of Ruby and Sapphire, Roxanne, also trained Rock-types, as did her counterpart in Diamond and Pearl, Roark. Now, Nintendo really like their formulae, so I’m always pleased when they try something different. This is why I rather like the Striaton City Gym, the first gym of Black and White. Striaton City has three Gym Leaders: Cress, Cilan and Chilli – as in watercress, cilantro (which I believe is what Americans call coriander) and, well, chilli. They’re triplets, they own a restaurant, their parents were demented food critics… you get the idea. Each of them specialises in a different type – Water for Cress, Grass for Cilan, and Fire for Chilli – and uses one of the elemental monkeys. You have to fight whichever of the three is strongest against your starter Pokémon, which could potentially be quite tricky. There is good news, however: before you meet them, you will be given one of the other elemental monkeys, the one which is strong against the leader you need to beat. I approve of this valiant attempt to teach new players the type system, which is after all at the heart of how Pokémon works. I think there is room for improvement: it would have been more interesting, for example, to fight all three of them in succession, and perhaps would have got the point across a bit better too. The gym’s lesson would also have been a bit more effective if the other trainers there actually used Water, Fire and Grass Pokémon – instead they just use the kind of generic Normal-type trash you always get at the start of a game (for that matter, so do the Gym Leaders themselves – they have two Pokémon each, but only one belongs to their specialist element). However, I do applaud the effort. Unfortunately, this is more than I can say for the elemental monkeys themselves.
Simisage, Simisear and Simipour are frightfully uninteresting Pokémon. They are fast and strong, but not outstandingly so, and fragile, but not remarkably so. They have a reasonable selection of moves to choose from, but not a huge one. Among those are a couple of useful skills like Taunt and Nasty Plot, but other than their speed there’s nothing about them to make them really any better at using those techniques than a lot of the other Pokémon that learn them. They’re not awful Pokémon, they’re just… okay. They’re like a great big festering heap of general ambivalence and adequacy. They’re also rather lazily done. Upon taking a close look at these things’ numbers, and they techniques they can learn, and so on, it becomes clear to me that Nintendo has in fact made exactly the same Pokémon three times, changed its type and the elemental attacks it learns, recoloured it and given it three different stupid hairstyles in the hopes that we wouldn’t notice. Even Nidoking and Nidoqueen are more distinct than these things and they’re not only the same type, but explicitly the same species! I don’t think Grass, Fire or Water had any existing Pokémon that are directly comparable to Simisage, Simisear and Simipour (unless you count the design similarities between Simisear and the 4th-generation Fire-type starter, Infernape, but frankly Simisear loses that contest before it even starts, so let’s not go there) but is that really a bad thing? I’m sure if you ever found yourself thinking “I need a fast Grass- (or Water- or Fire-) type with mediocre defences and a narrow selection of situationally useful support moves” you could manage to pull something out of that bloated monolithic entity that is the Diamond/Pearl Pokédex. It might not be strictly superior in every respect to the elemental monkeys, but at least it wouldn’t have one of those god-awful hairstyles.
How might these have been saved? Well, for one thing, there was absolutely no need to make six Pokémon out of them; that, quite frankly, smells to me of the creature design department struggling to meet the board’s arbitrary target for the number of new Pokémon to cram into Black and White. Having three completely unrelated Pokémon for Cilan, Chilli and Cress to use wouldn’t have had the same kind of pleasing symmetry, so I don’t think the idea should have been scrapped entirely, but something to make it more unique was definitely needed. One possibility could have been to make just one Pokémon instead of three, and give it the ability to switch between types somehow, perhaps by holding different items. It could either retain that ability when it evolved, or go into a split evolution like Eevee – either way, it would be something interesting, and potentially even unique if it could learn attacks from all three types. If they had to be three separate Pokémon, they should have had a bit more to distinguish them from each other too – would slightly different stat spreads have been too much to ask? Different passive abilities? Different attacks (besides no-brainers like giving the Grass-type Seed Bomb and the Fire-type Flame Burst)? Anyway, there’s no point putting it off any longer; you all know exactly what I’m going to say to these embodiments of mediocrity:
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let them be julienned, sautéed and poached, respectively, to be served with balsamic dressing and a glass of the house white on a midsummer’s eve!