I could go either way on this one, really. Let’s see.
Today I’ll be talking about the desert crocodile Pokémon, Sandile, Krokorok and Krookodile. They are… well… crocodiles that live in the desert. That’s a good start, but it does seem to me like the designers have been reusing a formula again – and I’m not talking about the older crocodile Pokémon, Totodile, Croconaw and Feraligatr. What Game Freak have done is take a North African river animal, shift it a few hundred kilometres west, turn it into a Ground-type with a wave of their magic wand and said “eh; good enough.” Sound familiar?
(This is the point at which I remember that this blog is supposed to be readable for people who stopped playing Pokémon years ago)
It’s exactly what they did when they made Hippopotas and Hippowdon, the desert hippos from Diamond and Pearl. These Pokémon are basically hippos with sand powers, and there’s really not much more to it than that. Besides their sand powers, the things about them that the Pokédex feels are most worth mentioning are that they can close their nostrils when submerged and that Hippowdon can bite a car in half. Real hippos can do both of those things. I don’t care that a hippo Pokémon can do things that real hippos can do; I really don’t. Sandile, thankfully, is not so horribly bland. The main point the Pokédex makes about these Pokémon, surprisingly, is that they have very highly-adapted eyes. A membrane of dark but transparent skin shields their eyes from the glare of the desert sun like a pair of sunglasses; from at least the Krokorok stage onwards they can see into the infrared, allowing them to detect body heat, and Krookodile can adjust the focus of his eyes over an incredible range, allowing him to view distant objects – and prey – with ease. Given the emphasis on vision it actually makes a lot of sense that they’d become bipedal but I have to ask myself at this point whether Game Freak actually thought that through or just got it right by sheer dumb luck. I’m plumping for dumb luck. Cynical, I know. The main function of the dark membrane I mentioned earlier, in terms of design, is actually to look like a bandit’s mask as part of the outward expression of Krookodile’s secondary element, Dark. Their stripes likewise recall the black-and-white striped clothing typically associated with convicts. The stripes and the mask-shape are nice ways of representing the Dark type, I suppose, and they’re not blatant, which is good because if they were too obvious the whole thing would quickly become cheesy. I’m not really sure what’s holding this design together, though. It has some good elements, but the combination seems haphazard; it’s just not there yet.
As I think I mentioned, Sandile, Krokorok and Krookodile are Ground/Dark dual-types. Ground/Dark is actually a reasonably solid typing offensively and not terrible defensively either – Water, Ice and Fighting weaknesses all hurt, but the immunities to Electric and Psychic attacks are useful enough to redeem it. Being a Ground-type also comes practically pre-packaged with a strong combination of attacks – Earthquake and Stone Edge – and this is what Krookodile cares about because he’s definitely focussed on offense. His physical attacks are very powerful, though not quite eyebrow-raising, and he’s not slow either (though he wishes he were faster, and can’t make it happen). Bulk Up could be fun to push his physical strength through the roof while also shoring up his defences, and might form the basis for a fairly solid moveset. He’s also got a choice of two lovely abilities for an offensive Pokémon: Intimidate weakens the physical attacks of whatever’s facing you when you send him out, allowing him to switch in on physically-inclined Pokémon with some degree of impunity, and Moxie gives his own physical attacks a little boost every time he kills something, allowing him to start building momentum. Unfortunately Moxie is really all he has to make himself unique as a sweeper, and he’s not quite fast enough for it to work as well as one might hope, so Krookodile’s other options deserve a look. As a Dark-type he’s likely to have some skill in fighting dirty, so let’s see. Taunt is always a viable option on a fast Pokémon with halfway-decent defences; this technique enrages its target and prevents it from concentrating on defence and support techniques, forcing it to attack you directly – which, for a lot of defensive Pokémon, is a decidedly poor course of action. If you’re prepared to crossbreed, there are a number of lineages that will get Pursuit into Sandile; this is a normally weak Dark-type attack which, when used on a target attempting to switch out, will actually outrun the switch and do double damage into the bargain. It’s generally regarded as one of the more useful features of Dark-types in general, and between Intimidate, Taunt and fear of his Earthquake attack I’d be inclined to think Krookodile could cause a fair few switches if used at the right moment, so Pursuit might be worth a look. Probably the most interesting thing Krookodile can use is Foul Play, a powerful new Dark-type attack that relatively few Pokémon can learn. Foul Play is interesting because, while most attacks use the user’s attack stat to determine damage done, Foul Play uses the target’s attack stat, effectively turning the other Pokémon’s own strength against it. As fascinating as it is, I don’t know why you’d want to use it on Krookodile since he actually has a good attack stat of his own to work with, probably a better one than the majority of his potential targets. As far as I can see these are the main kinds of trickery open to Krookodile; they’re fairly standard for Dark-types and I don’t know that he’s particularly good at them, but he’s certainly not bad either if you need a solid Dark Pokémon.
I don’t think Sandile, Krokorok and Krookodile are bad Pokémon, as such, but I think they needed more work. As regards their in-game competence I actually believe they’re at a pretty good level balance-wise; they’re not so strong that it becomes hard to think of reasons not to use them, but there’s definitely enough there to work with and get good results. The design really is kind of flat, though. It’s not terrible, but it’s not cohesive or particularly interesting, and worst of all the basic idea isn’t even new; it’s essentially the same template that was used to make Hippowdon. Am I being mean again if I get rid of the crocodiles? Probably, yeah, but damnit, I’ve been training Pokémon for more than ten bloody years now and I’m extraordinarily jaded and irritable. I can be mean if I feel like it.
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let it find new purpose in life as a pair of expensive shoes and a fancy handbag!