…great. Another Normal/Flying bird Pokémon. I have a message for Nintendo, which I shall include here on the off chance that it should somehow make its way before the board of directors in the fullness of time:
YOU GOT IT RIGHT WHEN YOU DID STARAPTOR. YOU CAN STOP NOW.
*sigh* All right. Let’s have a look at you, then. Mmm-hmm… mmm-hmm… Okay, so Pidove is kinda cute, Tranquill’s all right, and Unfezant is… quite interesting, actually; the designers have put in an effort to give it the kind of sexual dimorphism that’s so common in real-world birds, and I really have to applaud this. The male version might be considered a bit over-the-top, but frankly there are some real male birds that look even more ridiculous. Overall, I think it’s quite a good design for a Normal/Flying bird Pokémon. But for heaven’s sake, we’ve already had a dozen different quite good designs for Normal/Flying bird Pokémon! Time for a walk down memory lane…
Red and Blue had four of the damn things already. Pidgeot everyone will remember because Pidgeot was awesome; unfortunately he also wasn’t really very good. Fearow managed to do better by being more focused towards offense (Pokémon that specialise are usually more effective and easier to use) but still isn’t much use, and Dodrio just keeps going in the same direction. Then there’s Farfetch’d, but we don’t talk about Farfetch’d. Gold and Silver added Noctowl and Togetic, who… well, frankly, Noctowl and Togetic were just bad, but at least they were different; they were primarily defensive and had distinct abilities – Togetic had the whole Metronome thing, while Noctowl had a small array of psychic powers like Hypnosis and Reflect to spice things up. Togetic, of course, later evolved into the absurdly powerful Togekiss, but I’m not going to bring Togekiss into this because I feel she genuinely deserves to exist and should be left alone. Nintendo, not being finished yet, threw in Swellow for Ruby and Sapphire. Swellow was more of the old sort, but got a couple of cool tricks that made her probably the best of the lot. With the exception of Togetic and to a lesser extent Noctowl, all of these Pokémon had one really major problem: Normal and Flying attacks have almost no synergy. They’re resisted by two of the same types (Rock and Steel) and because Normal isn’t strong against anything, the number of types they do cover between them is pretty small. This wouldn’t be truly damning, except that – besides Noctowl and Togetic – these Pokémon have few or no other options for attacking. This is where we come to Diamond and Pearl, and their great contribution to the generic Normal/Flying bird Pokémon pool: Staraptor. Staraptor was blessed with three things: an exceptional attack stat, the Intimidate ability, which weakens his opponent’s attack stat when he appears and thus helps to cover his lacklustre defences, and Close Combat, a stupidly powerful Fighting-type attack that allows Staraptor to blow massive holes in many Rock- and Steel-types. There was also Chatot, who is annoying and gimmicky and doesn’t really do anything, but is probably still stronger than Farfetch’d. The point is that, with Diamond and Pearl, Nintendo had finally succeeded in creating a Normal/Flying-type that was actually worth using (two, in fact; mustn’t forget Togekiss). Two out of nine ain’t that bad, right? And with the exception of Chatot, none of them were even particularly silly-looking; some are pretty cool. Time to quit while you’re ahead, maybe? But no, instead they gave us Unfezant, and so here we are; me typing out a long-winded history of bird Pokémon and you sitting there reading it and wondering why I don’t have anything better to do with my life (the answer, of course, is simple: I’m a freak). So, I’ve put this off long enough: time to actually talk about Unfezant.
Well, it doesn’t have any of what made Staraptor awesome. It’s weaker, it’s slower, it has less useful passive abilities, it doesn’t get Close Combat or any other notable attacks outside its own types (well, except for U-Turn, but nearly all of the Pokémon I’ve mentioned here get that and it didn’t help them none, so I won’t get into why U-Turn is awesome). So what does it get? Well… I’m still trying to figure that out myself. When I first met Pidove, Tranquill and Unfezant, the impression I got from the names and designs was that we were being given a non-traditional bird Pokémon with a defence and support focus, like Noctowl, only maybe this time it wouldn’t suck. I’m still not sure why Nintendo didn’t actually do this. Instead Unfezant is… well, a lot like Pidgeot, really, which is not a good thing. I’m pretty sure he’s still better than Pidgeot, but that honestly isn’t difficult. He can get a couple of vaguely interesting moves, of which the most so are probably Hypnosis – a fast Pokémon with a sleep-inducing technique is always welcome – and Wish, a time-delayed healing spell that can be used to heal other Pokémon in your party – again, always welcome, but it’s also much more effective on a Pokémon that can actually take a hit, like Vaporeon. I’m trying to think of more to say about Unfezant, but I’m honestly not sure there is anything. From a flavour perspective, the concept is okay but nothing special, while in mechanical terms the whole thing has been done multiple times already and very little effort has been made to even disguise it as something new. In case you can’t tell, this is incredibly grating to me. In making Black and White, Nintendo seem to have utterly forsaken all pre-existing Pokémon – none of them appear until after you defeat the Elite Four. The trouble is, although they were determined not to use any of the Pokémon they already had, they very clearly wanted to. Pidove, Tranquill and Unfezant are plainly meant to fill the place of the absent Pidgey, Pidgeotto and Pidgeot. If those Pokémon had been put into Black and White instead of the new ones, chances are no-one would have even noticed. I don’t remember anyone complaining about the continued existence of Pidgey and Rattata when Gold and Silver came out all those years ago.
This entry really hasn’t been so much about Unfezant, which I would like to think is more of a reflection on his utter blandness than my lack of dedication to what I’m supposedly up to here. I’m also quite happy to have found a sensible moment to elaborate on what, exactly, I think is the problem with how Nintendo is designing new Pokémon. In summary, if they had wanted a new Flying Pokémon for Black and White… they should have bloody well made one!
I hereby deny this Pokemon’s right to exist! Pheasant season starts early this year, everybody!