Today’s Pokémon are the electrical zebras, Blitzle and Zebstrika. To begin with, I have to say that I love the designs of these Pokémon. Blitzle manages the rare feat of looking cute while undeniably battle-ready, and Zebstrika is just plain badass. If you ask me, out of all the Electric-type Pokémon I’ve ever seen, Zebstrika is the one the looks the most like it would kick you into next Wednesday if you so much as looked at it in the wrong tone of voice. This is quite plainly not a Pokémon you want to mess with unless you’re particularly enamoured with the idea of having its hoof-prints burnt into your back. Real-world zebras, I am led to understand, are next to impossible to tame (not that this stops people from trying) and extremely dangerous to ride because they’re just so very, very unpredictable. Zebstrika, I feel, succeeds in channelling this flavour very well, but without losing all of Blitzle’s appeal. Based solely on design, Zebstrika is probably one of my favourite new Pokémon.
This is part of the reason I feel it’s such a disappointment when you come to actually use it. To begin with, being a pure Electric-type means that Zebstrika has to work a bit harder to be unique than if it had had an interesting secondary type. I bring this up only because, when my Blitzle learned Flame Charge, I allowed myself to hope that it might pick up Fire as a secondary type when it evolved. I’m not even sure Fire/Electric would be all that good, but it would have been interesting and probably opened up a larger selection of attacks for Zebstrika. This, of course, is Zebstrika’s main problem, as it often is for Electric-types – many of them don’t have a great deal of variety in their attacks. There’s nothing wrong with hammering away at your enemies with Thunderbolt, but a Pokémon needs to have something else to fall back on in case you run into something resistant or, gods forbid, immune to Electric attacks. The Fire attack I mentioned earlier, Flame Charge, is perfectly respectable early in the game, but it’s decidedly lacklustre later on, and other than that Electric and Normal attacks are pretty much the full extent of what Zebstrika can do. It doesn’t help that Zebstrika is significantly better at using physical attacks than special attacks, which is usually a poor choice for Electric-types because their physical attacks are of fairly dubious quality – the best of them is probably a new attack from Black and White called Wild Charge, which is still slightly less powerful than Thunderbolt and also damages the Pokémon using it, they way Take Down does. Moreover, the one worthwhile attack Zebstrika can learn outside of the Normal and Electric types – Overheat – is a special attack. Then again, Overheat is so ridiculously powerful that it might well be worth it, and if it’s the only energy-based attack on a move set, its side effect – halving the user’s special attack stat – matters a lot less. Even if you take that route, though, the fact remains that Zebstrika has to hunt around for scraps in order to put together even a moderately varied spread of attacks while many other Pokémon, even most Electric-types, have a much wider selection handed to them.
Take, for instance, what is probably Zebstrika’s closest analogue in an earlier game: Manectric, an Electric-type native to Hoenn. Manectric is a bit slower, a bit tougher, and focuses on energy attacks rather than physical ones, but overall he’s pretty similar. Manectric is pretty much the poster child for the Electric type’s lack of versatility, and even he can rely on Thunderbolt and Flamethrower: two solid, reliable attacks which, although they don’t offset each other particularly well, still give Manectric actual options in offense, most notably allowing him to toast the Grass-types that resist his Electric attacks. Yes, Zebstrika can imitate that with Wild Charge and Overheat, but he has to dip into the weaker side of his offensive portfolio to do it; Manectric, by doing the same thing, can also add on Crunch (good for murdering Ghost- and Psychic-types) and Ice Fang (an almost unacceptably weak attack, but still the best option against some Ground-types, as well as the many Dragon-types that take quadruple damage from Ice attacks such as Flygon and Dragonite). These are not strong options, but Zebstrika doesn’t get even those. I have, however, discovered one fascinating little saving grace in his move-pool: if you are prepared to indulge in a little creative crossbreeding, it is possible to hatch a Blitzle with the unusual technique Me First. Provided that the Pokémon using this tricky attack is fast enough to move before its opponent, it will copy any damaging attack the opponent is about to use, at 1½ times its normal power. Using Me First effectively requires that you be quite good at anticipating what your opponent is about to do and, of course, that your Pokémon be particularly fast – and Zebstrika is one of the fastest Pokémon in the game that can learn it, outstripped only by Mewtwo and the curious new Bug-type Accelgor. I am prepared to concede that using Zebstrika may well be worth it just for the look on your opponent’s face if you manage to get this right against someone who didn’t realise he could do that.
Time to sum up. For a Pokémon this awesome, Zebstrika is depressingly bad and a tragic waste of a really cool design. It deserved to be better than just another generic Electric-type with no real versatility or purpose in life. Unfortunately, that’s what it is. Even its incredible speed isn’t enough to truly set it apart since Jolteon is even faster. So, much as it pains me to say it…
I hereby (reluctantly) deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let it be blasted into ionized plasma and scattered on the solar wind!