Whee; I get to do another Grass-type! I’m breaking from the order of the Pokédex for a bit because Whimsicott is another Pokémon I have relatively more experience with. Cottonee and Whimsicott are… fluffy… cottony balls of… stuff. Honestly I’m not sure what they are. Funnily enough, I quite like this. Pokémon don’t need to look like things, they just need to fit their powers and their character. Think back, for instance, to Red and Blue and see if you can tell me what, in the name of all that is holy, a Slowpoke is? Or, for that matter, a Nidoqueen? How about Alakazam, Marowak, Magmar, Electabuzz or Kangaskhan (hint: she’s certainly not a bloody kangaroo, I can tell you that much)? I feel that there have been, as the years go by, more and more Pokémon that insist that they need to look like something, and personally I think Pokémon that don’t really look like anything are (often) the ones that work best. Take Cottonee, for example. She looks like nothing so much as a ball of cotton with leaves, but that works. Simple designs are best when you’re looking to make something cute. Whimsicott is cute too; I’m… not exactly sure what she looks like, though it has been suggested to me that she’s a sheep, which I guess I can see. Sheep are fluffy and cotton is fluffy, so even though there’s no other reason to link them at all, it makes sense on one level, and that’s what makes the design work. I am a little bit concerned that Whimsicott’s “cute wind-blown plant Pokémon” concept is too much of the same as Hoppip, Skiploom and Jumpluff, from Gold and Silver. Jumpluff even has the same fluffiness, although you can tell that, if the designers did realise there was a lot of similarity in the concepts, they’ve done a pretty good job of making Cottonee and Whimsicott look quite different. What I really like about Whimsicott, though, is that she’s got an extra facet to her flavour that doesn’t feel tacked on or fail to mesh with her mechanical abilities: she’s a trickster. Whimsicott enjoy sneaking into homes and pulling pranks, which they are exceedingly good at since they can slip into very tight spaces. This fits well with their fey appearance, and this is actually the idea that’s central to Whimsicott as characters (Jumpluff, by contrast, are just peaceful drifters). In short, I’d like to think there’s room for both Pokémon.
So what does Whimsicott do? Well, simply put, she’s an utter pain in the ass. Whimsicott doesn’t have massively powerful attacks or extremely strong defences. What she does have is a wonderful ability, Prankster, that lets her move first automatically, the way a Pokémon using Quick Attack would, when using support moves (she has another possible choice, Infiltrator, which causes her to ignore Reflect and Light Screen when attacking, but this is silly and distracting). And boy, does Whimsicott have some great support moves. To start with, like almost all Grass-types, Whimsicott can learn Leech Seed, which opens up the Sub-Seed strategy I mentioned when I talked about Serperior – slowly drink up an opponent’s health with Leech Seed while using the health you drain to create Substitutes and soak any attacks that come your way. This works best on fast Pokémon, and Whimsicott always goes first with those two moves and will even outpace another Pokémon using a priority attack much of the time thanks to being very fast anyway, which makes her one of the best Sub-Seeders ever. Whimsicott’s ability also meshes brilliantly with Encore, a technique that forces an opponent to repeat its last move over and over, because this is again something that lets her benefit from going first – it’s far less useful if you can’t go first, because you really need to know what you’re going to be locking your target into. Taunt is wonderful too for shutting down defensive Pokémon by keeping them from using their support techniques, and again takes speed to be used effectively. Finally, Grasswhistle is horribly unreliable, but a sleep attack that always goes first could well be tempting, and Cotton Guard might be worth a try – not many people use defence-boosting techniques since a critical hit will ignore their effects and you’re bound to get hit by one eventually if you try to stall, but Cotton Guard in particular happens to be stronger than any other similar technique in existence and will more than double Whimsicott’s resistance to physical attacks with a single use, so who knows?
So, here’s my dilemma. Even a cursory reading of this entry will demonstrate that I think Whimsicott is awesome. I love Grass-types, but I don’t often get to see one that can seriously compete because, frankly, the type itself comes with some serious disadvantages – offensively, it’s one of the weakest elements in the game, behind Poison, Steel and Normal, and unlike Steel it doesn’t have brilliant defensive properties to make up for it. I could probably count on one hand the Grass Pokémon that could be considered truly powerful… ignoring anything from Black and White, there’s Breloom, Sceptile, Venusaur, Roserade and Torterra… and I guess there’s also Celebi and Shaymin, but I’m kind of inclined to leave them out, mostly because they can’t actually be caught in-game. I like Whimsicott just for being a Grass Pokémon that’s brilliant at what she does. The question is, though, could we have had the exact same thing just by giving a new toy or two to Jumpluff? Jumpluff has most of the same attacks that make Whimsicott awesome – she doesn’t have Taunt, but she does get Sleep Powder, which is great fun – all she’s really missing is that lovely ability. She can pull off more or less the same support role as Whimsicott can but isn’t as good at it. She also comes from the same design concept; Whimsicott takes it in a different direction, but the similarities are still undeniable. Whimsicott is what Jumpluff should have been from the very start, but when you have Jumpluff already, but I can’t really call it good game design to create a Pokémon that’s essentially “Jumpluff, only this time it’ll actually work,” when the alternative of, y’know, just making Jumpluff work by giving her some better powers was available. Then again, Whimsicott is, in my opinion anyway, not only a more powerful version of Jumpluff but also a more interesting interpretation of the base concept they share. If I were running things, I would take releasing a new game as an opportunity to add new background and characterisation to a Pokémon, not just new powers, and give Jumpluff a bit of attention in both areas, but if we take it as a given that that’s not how Game Freak tends to do things, Whimsicott is just about the best we could have hoped for. The process that created her is faulty, if you ask me, but in this one instance it did work, so although Game Freak’s theories of design can expect further grilling in later entries, Whimsicott herself is going to get off lightly because, whatever else I might want to say, she is an awesome Pokémon.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!