Lillipup, Herdier and Stoutland

Right, so, more of the early-game trash we have to get through before being allowed to find anything interesting.  Well, I guess that was inevitable.  So, what are we being offered this time?

d9b99-lillipupOh.  Oh, that’s… well, okay, that’s actually kind of cute.  Dogs have been done before, but I guess if I let Purrloin live I should give Lillipup a chance too.  No promises though.

Lillipup, I say with little fear of contradiction, is extremely cute, while his adult form, Herdier, has more of a “loyal sheepdog” vibe.  The final evolution, Stoutland… well, I thought Stoutland looked a little silly at first, but I have to admit he’s grown on me.  That moustache is nothing short of magnificent.  Now, like I said, dog Pokémon  have been done to death, but they haven’t exactly been all the same.  Houndoom from Gold and Silver is probably my favourite, and he had an interesting devil dog theme (as well as a type combination, Fire/Dark, that remains unique to this day, which is something I’m very obvious about liking).  Ruby and Sapphire gave us Mightyena, who’s just about the closest thing we have so far to a wolf Pokémon – come to think of it, why isn’t there a wolf Pokémon?  Eh.  The point is that he’s a savage little thing with good cooperative hunting skills.  And I guess there’s also Manectric, but Manectric’s whole background pretty much boils down to “woo, look at me, I have electrical powers,” (yeah, great, get in line) so I’m going to ignore Manectric.  He is silly.  The biggest threat to Stoutland, in terms of being a new and interesting Pokémon that deserves to exist, is the very first dog Pokémon from way back in Red and Blue: Growlithe.  Growlithe already did the whole “dog-as-loyal-companion” thing that Lillipup, Herdier and Stoutland are trying to express.  I’m just willing to let that slide because Growlithe becomes markedly less focussed on that aspect of his design when he evolves into Arcanine, who’s practically halfway-legendary, while Lillipup takes the concept to its conclusion with Stoutland, whose ‘thing’ seems to be rescuing injured people and Pokémon from isolated areas.  The entire evolutionary line is also described as being highly intelligent by Pokémon standards; in some ways, they’re more like partners where Growlithe are loyal servants, which is nice because it’s kind of supposed to be what training Pokémon was all about in the first place.  So, yeah, I guess I like Stoutland even if it’s not the first dog Pokémon ever.  He is only the second domestic dog; you have to give him that.  On to his powers and skills, then…

595b3-herdierI have to say, I am unimaginably pleased to see an early-game Pokémon that isn’t a total trap.  The Pokémon available at the very beginning of the game often become very underwhelming later on.  Because Lillipup is a Normal-type, I’m looking mainly at the older Normal Pokémon – Rattata, Sentret, Zigzagoon and Bidoof, all of which are decidedly use-impaired in their adult forms – but this isn’t an ideal analogy.  First of all, Lillipup has two evolutions, giving it more room to grow, and second, all of those Pokémon are strongly biased towards speed and damage, while Stoutland is much more of an all-rounder.  He still hits like a truck, sure, but he’s also built like one, and he’s not slow either.  It actually took me a while to find a Pokémon that was directly comparable to Stoutland to give those of you who haven’t played since Red and Blue some idea of how it fights, but to my surprise there is one.  It’s Kangaskhan.  Both get the expected complement of Normal-type attacks, plus the Dark-type Bite and Crunch just in case they run into Ghost-types and both also get the potentially interesting Reversal, which does more damage when used by a Pokémon closer to fainting (although Kangaskhan has a smattering of other Fighting-type attacks available to her as well).  Stoutland loses out quite badly, though, by being unable to learn Earthquake, the perennial standby of all prominent physical attackers.  On the flip side, there are a number of viable crossbreeds that can give you a Lillipup with Yawn, a time-delayed but reliable sleep-inducing technique which Stoutland has the bulk to use effectively.  Stoutland also has a choice of three highly effective passive abilities: the ever-wonderful Intimidate, to weaken his opponents’ physical attacks, Sand Rush, which allows him to move twice as fast during sandstorms (an extremely common field condition) and, for a Lillipup from the Dream World, Scrappy (Kangaskhan gets this one too), which renders Ghost Pokémon vulnerable to his Normal- and Fighting-type attacks.  All up, I think Stoutland is weaker than Kangaskhan, mostly because of his shallower movepool, which is not a good thing because Kangaskhan, while strong, is hardly top-tier.  It’s still enough to beat the hell out of just about every other ‘early-game trash’ Pokémon though (with the notable exceptions of Staraptor and maybe Swellow).  Long story short, even if Stoutland doesn’t exactly bring any new skills to the table, it’s nice to see a Pokémon that doesn’t actively punish new players for trying to catch something early on.

d7c7d-stoutlandAs I mentioned when I talked about Unfezant, my philosophy in judging these new Pokémon is essentially “if the developers could have left it out and replaced it with something that existed already, maybe with an evolution tacked on, they should have.”  As hard as it is to concede, I don’t really think that applies to Stoutland.  There’s only one other Normal-type Pokémon that really fights the way Stoutland does, and even I’m not going to try to argue that Nintendo should’ve started throwing wild Kangaskhan at us on the outskirts of Nuvema Town (although… it would’ve sure made for an interesting early-game…).  It would have been fun to properly meet Kangaskhan’s baby form at last, but I don’t think the very start of the game is the time or place for it; they’ve always been rare Pokémon and I think they should stay that way.  Likewise, they could have been replaced by Rattata or Sentret, but when it comes right down to it, Lillipup is so much better than the likes of them that it’s just not funny.  I don’t want to make a habit of letting Pokémon pass based on being just plain better than their forebears, but in this instance…

I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!


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