All right; time to put last entry’s… unpleasantness… behind me! Today I’m looking at a Pokémon based on one of Earth’s most awesome animals: the polar bear, the largest land carnivore of the modern world. Game Freak have rendered this powerful, dangerous creature as…
…a little teddy bear with a runny nose.
Heh. I can never resist an anticlimax. Truth be told, I think Cubchoo’s cute, and if we like polar bears for being the savagery of the Arctic personified, we love polar bear cubs for being cute as buttons. I don’t know whether I’d call him well-designed or not… “cute baby bear” is really easy and Pokémon’s done it before – see Teddiursa – so I guess the uniqueness of Cubchoo’s design is in the weird snot thing. I assume Cubchoo’s nose is constantly runny because it’s one of the classic symptoms of a cold, and he’s an Ice-type, which is… at once almost clever and a little contradictory because no Ice Pokémon would ever actually get sick from being in the cold. I’m not going to harp on it too much, though, because he’s not actually sick all the time; he just has the one symptom. Apparently the snot – and yes, the Pokédex does call it snot – somehow supplies Cubchoo with fuel for his Ice attacks, so… I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s actually some kind of antifreeze oil, maybe? If I speculate long enough I’m sure I could come up with an explanation for what’s going on here that at least sounds good but this is the umpteenth time I’ve wished that the Pokédex would go into more detail instead of leaving us a bizarre non sequitur that just raises more questions about something that isn’t actually supposed to be mysterious. Anyway; on to Beartic.
The thing that nags me about Beartic is that he makes me notice more and more the similarities between these two and the original pair of bear Pokémon, Teddiursa and Ursaring. Cubchoo bothers me less because unevolved Pokémon are almost invariably simpler in design, so I’m more tolerant of resemblances – there’s just less room for variety. What my attention is drawn to in particular is the posture. Bears are, in general, quadrupeds. They can stand up on their hind legs but they don’t spend a lot of time walking around like that. For Beartic and Ursaring both, bipedality seems to be the default and I suspect the main reason is that the artists really liked the pose Beartic is doing in the picture I’ve got here – a lot of images of Ursaring have him in the same pose. There’s actually not a whole lot else to say about Beartic; he’s otherwise got fairly standard description for an Ice-type – freezing breath, the ability to extend his teeth and claws with ice (which, by the way, he can’t actually do in the games; he doesn’t learn Ice Fang), a frigid northern habitat… he has some Water-type skills without actually being a Water-type, because polar bears are strong swimmers, but I don’t think Game Freak have done much with the design base other than give the animal ice powers – which, let’s face it, is a bit of an obvious move when the base animal is a polar bear. Off the top of my head… I believe polar bears have major spiritual significance in Inuit mythology, so you could steal some Inuit motifs and some shamanistic features, then maybe flip him around to use special attacks instead of physical ones and add a bunch of nature-related abilities like Whirlwind, Earth Power and Grass Knot… wait, you mean he already gets Grass Knot? See how easy this is?! I don’t think I’m asking for much here; I came up with that while talking to a friend over lunch… hmm… maybe designers at Game Freak aren’t allowed food? That would explain a lot…
Come to think of it, Beartic is broadly similar to Ursaring mechanically as well, in that both of them are slow, hard-hitting physical tanks – Beartic is a tad slower and a fair bit tougher, and Ursaring is significantly stronger, but they work in roughly the same way. Being an Ice-type is a blessing and a curse; Ice is a very strong offensive type (mainly because Ice attacks are strong against Dragon Pokémon, who are otherwise relatively hard to damage) but it’s also hands-down the worst defensive type in the game, conferring only one resistance (to itself). Moreover, being an Ice-type physical attacker is normally something of a tricky proposition because Ice doesn’t really have a strong, reliable physical attack that’s widely available (Ice Punch is decent, but a bit on the weak side) but Game Freak have very kindly given Beartic a signature move to work with, Icicle Crash, which is a pretty good option. The rest of his movepool isn’t brilliant but there’s enough there to pull together some nice-looking sets. Superpower and Stone Edge are good attacking options and I guess Night Slash might be useful despite being a bit weak (it’s very distressing, however, that he doesn’t learn Ice Shard – the Ice-type equivalent to Quick Attack – because that would compensate for his awful speed). Swords Dance would give Beartic access to a worrying amount of attack power, though since he’s so slow I would prefer the mixed attack and defence boosts offered by Bulk Up – it’s a shame, however, that Superpower weakens its user’s attack and defence after it hits, because it means that two of your moves are working at cross-purposes if you use Bulk Up and Superpower on the same set. Unfortunately Beartic’s only other decent Fighting attack is Focus Punch, which is always used after your opponent moves and fails if you take any damage during the turn you use it – it’s powerful enough to make up for that, but you have to build a set around it. Beartic can do that, actually, by using Yawn (a time-delayed sleep-inducing move that is cancelled if the target switches out) to provoke switches and give him opportunities to set up Focus Punches in peace, but that’s another set entirely (also: Ursaring can do it too). In the fullness of time, Game Freak will presumably make Beartic from the Dream World available to us, and then Beartic will have access to the ability Swift Swim, which doubles his speed in heavy rain. This might make him fast enough to be viable on a rain team, but unfortunately he doesn’t have a good physical Water attack to take advantage of the power boost given to Water attacks by rain (no, Dive is not a good physical Water attack), so you’d probably be better off with, y’know, an actual Water-type with Swift Swim (there’s a gazillion of ‘em to choose from).
Honestly, this Pokémon’s kind of bland. It’s sad because a polar bear is a pretty awesome base to start from; Game Freak just haven’t done a lot besides render a polar bear in Pokémon game mechanics. This is a shame because the game could actually use more pure Ice-types; prior to Black and White there were so few I could count them on one hand. A bit more invention is required here though. As a partner in battle, Beartic is hardly bad, but not really good either – and more importantly, he’s not interesting mechanically. All things considered, he strikes me as essentially an inferior version of Mamoswine. As I often do, I feel a bit bad here because Cubchoo and Beartic haven’t committed any particularly egregious crimes; there’s no strong reason to condemn them… there’s just not much reason at all not to condemn them either.
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let its head forevermore adorn the wall of a Canadian hunting lodge!