All right, so there’s these two fish, and they hate each other. Okay, Game Freak, I like where you’re going with this. What else?
Oh, you mean that’s it? All right, well, what do the two fish evolve into?
…nothing? That’s… err… nice. So, uh, what differences are there between the two fish?
…there’s a red one and a blue one.
Today on Pokémaniacal I have the dubious pleasure of discussing Basculin. There are red Basculin and blue Basculin, and they hate each other. That’s really all there is to it, and to be honest even that seems to be open to interpretation; the Pokédex entry for Basculin on Black version says that red and blue ones will start fighting the instant they meet, but the entry on White version contends that Basculin sometimes do mingle with schools of the opposite colour, despite normally hating each other. So, to make this clear… the only vaguely amusing thing about these Pokémon is that they hate each other… and they don’t even hate each other all that much! We don’t know why they hate each other – well, actually, they seem to hate just about everything, but we don’t know why they hate each other particularly – nor do we have any reason to care since there’s nothing else interesting about them. The idea of Pokémon with an everlasting blood feud against each other isn’t even a totally new one; this is exactly what Seviper and Zangoose did back in Ruby and Sapphire. Those two hate each other because Seviper is a snake and Zangoose is – you guessed it – a mongoose. The real-world relationship between snakes and mongooses has a lot of popular appeal, which these two Pokémon can draw on, and it also conveys that they have evolved and adapted to be good at killing each other, specifically, and will never pass up an opportunity to do just that. What’s more, that’s backed up by one of Zangoose’s in-game abilities – immunity to poison, one of Seviper’s primary modes of attack. Basculin… well, Basculin are just big, angry, pointy bass, and once you accept that it’s hard not to compare them to Carvanha and Sharpedo, who are just so much more badass that it’s not even funny. They’re neither unique, nor interesting, which is not a good start…
…and to make matters worse, Basculin aren’t anything special in battle either. As Water-types, they belong to the element that was already the most common in the game, and they bring little to the table that makes them stand out from the hundred-odd other Water-types out there other than a strong Dark attack in Crunch, and if that’s really so important to you then you’d be better off with Sharpedo or Crawdaunt, since they’re actually Dark-types, while Basculin can only fake it. The presence of a strong Normal-type attack in Double Edge is actually quite nice; Normal attacks are ordinarily pretty bad, but they do combo well with Water so Double Edge, recoil damage or no recoil damage, is a strong choice for Basculin. In the grand scheme of things, though, almost everything can learn Return if you desperately need a strong Normal attack, so I’m hesitant to look upon Double Edge as a major selling point. Other than that, well… Taunt is, as always, useful for shutting down defensive and support Pokémon, but Basculin’s defences are so horrid that I would seriously question the wisdom of forcing opponents to attack him directly, and Agility is nice, I guess, but speed is Basculin’s greatest strength already (not that that’s saying much). Basculin does have a Fighting-type attack, Revenge, which is not something all Water-types can boast of, but using this attack is a seriously bad idea since it forces Basculin to wait for its opponent to move first and only does a good amount of damage if he takes a hit while he’s waiting, two things Basculin really cannot afford to do. Yeah, it’s not looking good.
Of course, this being Pokémon, there’s bound to be something weird and quirky for Basculin to use, and having found it I suppose it isn’t that bad. One of Basculin’s choices of passive ability is Adaptability. All Pokémon naturally benefit from a 50% damage bonus when using attacks of their own element (referred to amongst hard core Pokémon Masters like myself as STAB – same-type attack bonus), but Basculin instead gets a 100% damage bonus for his Water attacks. Now, Basculin’s attack stat isn’t brilliant, but with Adaptability figured in, his Waterfalls and Aqua Jets can deliver some pretty serious damage. His other attacks remain lacklustre, of course, but the wonderful thing about Water is that not a whole lot resists it, so if you’re going to rely on a single element, it’s one of the better choices. The bad news for Basculin is that, considering this is his one big trick, it’s not all that wonderful. Gyarados and Kingdra can still crank their damage outputs even higher by using Dragon Dance, Azumarill is slower, but just as strong, gets equal force on all of her attacks, and can actually take hits, Kabutops blows Basculin’s attack power out of the water with Swords Dance, Gastrodon just comes in and laughs in his face because she’s immune to Water attacks, and to top it all off, Crawdaunt now gets Adaptability through the Dream World, can apply it to both Water and Dark attacks because he’s a dual-type, has a vastly better movepool featuring Rock Slide, X-Scissor and Superpower, and can even outrun Basculin if you really need him to by learning Dragon Dance. And yes, Basculin, you heard me; I just put friggin’ Azumarill on the list of things that are more badass than you. Go home.
In the course of my research for this entry, I learned that, apparently, Game Freak created Basculin at the last minute because they suddenly realised there weren’t enough fish Pokémon in Unova. Maybe this is just me, but I feel there is something deeply wrong with the phrase “not enough fish Pokémon.” There are plenty of the damn things! Sure, they aren’t all new and shiny, but there’s certainly no shortage! What, I ask you, would be so horrible about encountering Goldeen in the pristine new region? Or Barboach? What about Feebas, Chinchou, Remoraid, Qwilfish, Carvanha or Lumineon? Magikarp, for heaven’s sake! I would rather catch and train any one of these Pokémon than Basculin… well, okay, maybe not Lumineon; I love her to bits but she sure is useless. To be totally frank, I’m not even against the idea of new fish Pokémon per se; but when you have twenty-five thousand species of fish to work with, why would you pick something as hopelessly generic as the striped bass? And why, having done that, would you not at least give it something interesting to do? I can’t talk about this any longer…
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Batter it, fry it, and serve it with chips and a wedge of lemon for all I care!
In real-world news, I’m off to Greece for a month; I don’t know what my internet access will be like and I certainly won’t have as much time as I normally do to complain about Pokémon. I might find a moment for a couple of entries, but they won’t be to my usual three-day schedule and they won’t be part of my ongoing quest of judgement either. In the event I don’t have any time at all, keep your Pokémon healthy, and I’ll be back in a month!