Today we look at three pretty cute-looking and generally appealing Pokémon… who will suck out your soul.
No, I’m serious, that’s actually what the Pokédex says.
Meet Litwick, Lampent and Chandelure, the candle Pokémon. These guys are Ghost/Fire-types: another new combination, which is practically a guarantee that what we’re going to get will at least be interesting even if it’s not strong. The fact that they’re Ghost Pokémon is also, oddly, a good omen in itself because Ghost Pokémon are inherently fascinating; I for one am still trying to figure out what exactly they are. In the Pokémon world, Ghost-types are generally feared and seen as malevolent spirits, but in many cases this is actually unjustified – Gastly, Haunter and Gengar, famously, are not actually evil but have a very disturbing sense of humour that can easily cause playfulness to be misinterpreted as aggression; Sableye’s predicament is similar. Some, notably Mismagius, Dusknoir and Drifblim, have mysterious powers that could be used for good or evil, and where they fall on that axis is extremely ambiguous. It’s also unclear whether these Pokémon are actually spirits of the dead or simply have an affinity for death, the dead, and places of spiritual power – many Ghost-types are associated with spirits in legends, but only a few are unequivocally spirits themselves (and even that’s only if we assume the Pokédex is a reliable source, which is another debate entirely): Shuppet and Banette, who are the possessed remains of abandoned toys, Spiritomb, who is literally made of the imprisoned souls of 108 unrepentant criminals, and Yamask and Cofagrigus, who… well, I’ll have plenty of time to talk about Yamask and Cofagrigus in their entry. Rotom is so weird I wouldn’t know where to begin. The point is that, for the most part, we don’t really know what these Pokémon are, where their powers come from, or what they’re up to, but damned if I don’t want to know. It’d be nice to have the opportunity to investigate, actually – but that’s a discussion for another time; I’m supposed to be talking about Litwick… and, well, he may be cute as a button but I think this one just might be unambiguously evil…
Litwick looks to me to be drawing inspiration from tales of will o’ the wisps (or whatever the Japanese equivalent is), ghostly lights that trick travellers into following them through treacherous swamps to their doom. Litwick, likewise, pretends to lead people through the darkness, but following him will allow him to siphon away your life force, which he burns as fuel. Follow him too far and he’ll eventually lead you into the spirit world, and then heaven knows what you’re in for. Lampent have a slightly different way of working; they occasionally lead groups of Litwick but most often they simply wander around searching for the dead or dying and stealing away their spirits. There’s no information on how Chandelure behave in the wild, presumably because wild Chandelure would be so absurdly uncommon as to be nonexistent for all intents and purposes, but like his younger forms Chandelure absorbs souls and burns them as fuel. Lampent and Chandelure both look a little eerie, maybe even sinister, but they’re not the type to have you instinctively run screaming – it would rather defeat the purpose if they were, so I think they’re pretty well-done in that regard. Once you know what they’re capable of, though, the mental image of Chandelure gesturing languidly with his mesmerizing flames to draw a person closer and closer is… a little worrying. Remind me, when did this setting get so dark?
Oh yeah, back in Red and Blue when Team Rocket murdered Cubone’s mother.
What I’m getting at is that I think Litwick, Lampent and Chandelure are good additions to the ranks of Ghost Pokémon; I think they’re the only unambiguously malevolent ones besides Shuppet and Banette, whom I don’t actually like very much… maybe it’s just that the story of an abandoned doll seeking revenge sounds so much like B-movie horror to me in comparison to the folktale influences in Litwick’s design. Between the two, it’s the death’s-candles that leave me wanting to learn more about them, so personally I definitely think they have more of a right to live (or… unlive… or whatever) than the undead dolls.
What do they do? As in, in a fight?
Oh, well, they blow stuff up.
It seems a bit odd that a Pokémon like this should be a glass cannon; the will o’ the wisp concept seems to lend itself to a Pokémon with a support role, but then again Chandelure’s fire attacks explicitly burn away the soul and leave the body behind, so I guess it makes sense that he should have a ridiculous special attack stat – and I really do mean ridiculous. Seven Pokémon have stronger special attacks than Chandelure. All of them are high-tier legendary Pokémon and as many as five of them may well be actual divine beings. Moreover, Chandelure is neither particularly slow nor particularly frail; he’s too slow to think about sweeping any time soon but, much like Darmanitan, his very presence should make most level-headed opponents think very cautiously about their next couple of moves. His offensive movepool’s not brilliant but it’s good enough – a decent Ghost attack in Shadow Ball, a choice of several powerful Fire attacks, and Energy Ball and Psychic to round things out. You could, if you were so inclined, slap Flame Charge on him – Chandelure’s a rubbish physical attacker but if you get a free turn to use it (entirely likely since just seeing him would likely provoke many opponents to switch out) its side-effect – increasing the user’s speed – might just make him fast enough to pull off a sweep after all. Alternatively, Chandelure can even learn Calm Mind to boost his special attack even further, just in case you feel he’s not powerful enough already. The last of Chandelure’s options I want to touch on is one that would work well with Calm Mind, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. Chandelure’s Dream World ability is Shadow Tag, which utterly forbids his opponent from switching out from the moment he arrives on the battlefield. The reason I’m not sure about it is that it’s a total game-changer; Pokémon is to a great extent all about continually switching to try and put yourself in an advantageous position. If Chandelure can safely switch into something that he knows he can beat… well, that Pokémon’s almost certainly dead, with little hope of rescue. To illustrate how much of a game changer Shadow Tag is, the last Pokémon Game Freak gave it to – Wobuffet – was depressingly bad in Gold and Silver, before abilities were introduced, but has since been banned in many circles because taking out at least one Pokémon is normally trivial for him, no matter what he’s up against. In Wobuffet’s case it’s really a combination of powers that leads to that conclusion, one Chandelure doesn’t have, but I still have something of a knee-jerk reaction against giving Shadow Tag to anything that’s actually competent without it. Still, for now it’s something of a moot point since Dream World Litwick aren’t available yet anyway – and one of Chandelure’s regular abilities, Flash Fire (which absorbs incoming Fire attacks to strengthen his own), is a solid choice regardless.
For a sweeper Chandelure is worryingly slow and has only a decent movepool… but he’s still horribly strong, there are other roles he can fill (like clearing the way for a different sweeper) and let’s face it, I like his flavour so much that he would have had to be pretty bad for me to toss him anyway (Zebstrika, I’m looking at you). Vague balance concerns about Shadow Tag aside, I think this is, all around, an excellent piece of work.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!