The thing about Pokémon games is that they come in pairs: Red and Blue, Gold and Silver, yada yada yada, with a couple of Pokémon are missing from each one, like Electabuzz from Blue and Magmar from Red. In order to finish the god-awful errand that is supposedly the game’s framing device but which everyone actually forgets about within the first hour or so (i.e. filling the damn Pokédex), you have to trade with a friend who has the other game. Since Game Freak shows no sign of wanting to give up this concept, White version doesn’t get Cottonee and Whimsicott – what White gets instead, and Black doesn’t, is these two: Petilil and Lilligant. Now, Petilil is cute and all, and while Lilligant does feel oddly reminiscent of a Southern belle to me she doesn’t look too badly done either, but tell me… aren’t you all having flashbacks to Oddish and Bellossom? Oddish I’ll presume everyone remembers; Bellossom, in case anyone reading this is somehow unfamiliar with her, is Gold and Silver’s alternative final evolution for Oddish, obtained through use of a Sun Stone. Comparing the old with the new… I can’t help but feel that Game Freak must have just decided that having to evolve through Gloom in the middle was a bit of a drag and that it might be nice to have a Pokémon that was exactly the same as Bellossom but without an awkward smelly teenaged state. Not unlike many parents, oddly enough. The designers have then gone on to compound the obvious similarities in appearance by having Lilligant take over Bellossom’s focus on dance (at least I assume she’s supposed to be a dancer because all of the attacks she learns after evolving – Teeter Dance, Quiver Dance and Petal Dance – are, well, about dancing). The main distinguishing feature of Petilil and Lilligant, as far as I can tell, is that they are really hard to take care of and will whither and die if their trainers aren’t skilled enough. Maybe I’m missing something here, but as flavour elements go I think this is a bit silly; I don’t think there’s really any precedent for Pokémon actually suffering from a trainer’s benign incompetence (the franchise’s normal stance is that if you genuinely love your Pokémon it’ll all work out even if you’re totally useless) so this seems to be specific to Lilligant – do they actually need to be cared for by humans? Can these things even survive in the wild? Personally I think that Bellossom’s weird sun-worship thing, along with the day/night duality she had going with Vileplume, is just more interesting.
Of course, what any trainer really wants to know is what Lilligant can do for you in a fight. Two words: Quiver Dance. Quiver Dance is a fantastic new technique that increases a Pokémon’s special attack, special defence and speed stats simultaneously. This is an incredibly powerful effect and is consequently very strictly regulated; other than Lilligant, only butterfly and moth Pokémon can learn it (i.e. Butterfree, Venomoth and their associated cheap knock-offs – oh, and Volcarona, but I’ll get around to Volcarona later). Lilligant is quite fast and has excellent special attack to begin with, so the simple addition of this move can give her access to a truly frightening combination of power and speed. The only problem is, I can’t really figure out what she’s supposed to do with it. Some kind of Grass-type attack is a given, of course – probably Solarbeam, since Lilligant’s Chlorophyll ability makes her even faster in bright sunlight and it therefore makes sense to use her in a sun-based team – but that seems to be all she gets, and since Grass (as I mentioned when I talked about Whimsicott the other day) is an awful attacking type, that’s not enough. Quite possibly the best attack Lilligant learns outside of her own type – and I am dead serious here – is Hyper Beam, and unless you’re still playing Red and Blue (where it’s a devastating finishing move) Hyper Beam is an utter joke. Like almost all Pokémon, Lilligant can learn Hidden Power, which, for the edification of those unfamiliar with this attack, has a different element and power level for each Pokémon – not each species, each individual Pokémon – but is never any stronger than “okay, I guess, if your opponent is weak to it.” Hidden Power is very useful if your Pokémon has a nagging gap in its offensive coverage that you desperately need to plug, and your Pokémon’s Hidden Power happens to be the right type (in Lilligant’s case, you should probably hope for Ice or Fire) and happens to be strong enough. Lilligant, unfortunately, doesn’t have a nagging gap in her offensive coverage so much as nagging offensive coverage in her gap. She also gets… um… Dream Eater, I suppose, and Sleep Powder? Dream Eater is terrible though because your turn is completely wasted if your opponent decides to switch in a Pokémon that isn’t asleep. In short, Lilligant’s stats and access to Quiver Dance make it clear that she wants to be a sweeper, but her move pool, with Sleep Powder, Stun Spore, Aromatherapy, Leech Seed and so on and so forth, makes it hard for her to be anything but a traditional Grass-type supporter – which she can’t do either because her defences, while not terrible, are far from strong. Heaven help you if your Lilligant doesn’t have an appropriately-typed Hidden Power, because she has literally nothing else.
Quiver Dance makes Lilligant unique. Unfortunately it makes her unique in a way that she simply cannot capitalise on. I suspect the thought process behind these Pokémon must have been something along the lines of “wouldn’t it be great if Bellossom were really bad at being a supporter and sort of okay at being a sweeper?” And the answer is no, no Game Freak, it would not be great. It would be stupid. People are going to think “but Lilligant with Hidden Power (Fire or Ice) isn’t actually that bad because… etc.” From a player attempting to use the thing, I could buy an argument along those lines. Getting a Petilil with a strong Hidden Power of the right element is such a pain that I, personally, would never bother, but if you’re prepared to do it then well done; your reward will be a Lilligant that is okay rather than awful. If Lilligant’s designers at Game Freak came along and tried to feed me exactly the same argument I would punch them in their stupid smug faces since, coming from them, “Lilligant is good because Hidden Power” would mean that they had intentionally designed a Pokémon that is only usable (not brilliant – usable) if you put a truly ridiculous amount of effort into it. Luckily for Game Freak, I am a firm believer in the maxim that one should never attribute to malice that which may be adequately explained by stupidity, and have long believed that they do not actually put any thought at all into making a Pokémon useful – the fact that some Pokémon are is simply the power of the normal distribution in action.
Why yes, I am a bitter, bitter person.
What? Oh… Petilil and Lilligant are still here… wonderful. Mechanically they’re disappointing and giving Quiver Dance to, say, Roserade would have yielded better results. Aesthetically they’re just ripping off Oddish and Bellossom, nothing less. The only verdict I can in good conscience produce is:
I hereby deny this Pokemon’s right to exist! Let it be set upon by hungry snails until nothing remains!