Today’s Pokémon is…
…look, Game Freak, I can’t do this. It’s food; you can’t make me review a food Pokémon. From here it’s a hop, skip and a jump to “oh my god, Soylent Green is PIKACHU; what have you done!?” Don’t you have another Pokémon I could look at today? Like, a better one?
…no, Klingklang does not count.
Fine. Have it your way.
Today’s Pokémon is Vanillite, the… the vanilla ice cream Pokémon. No, for the last time, I am not making this up. It’s not actually made of vanilla ice cream, of course, which would be too far even for Game Freak. You’d have kids slurping up their Pokémon left, right and centre chasing after sugar highs and before you knew it the poor things would be extinct in the wild and bred as a new form of livestock on special farms. In fact, other than being Ice-types, I’m not sure that any aspects of Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe’s behaviour or powers have anything to do with the ice cream thing. Their schtick is that they create snowstorms. For one thing, this is a bit of a generic ability for an Ice Pokémon, since all of them, without exception, can learn both Blizzard and Hail. For another, Snover and Abomasnow already claimed it as their specific turf and (mechanically speaking anyway) they do a much better job of it. What’s more, I’m fast beginning to wonder whether there is any such thing as “natural weather” in the Pokémon world; there seems to be a Pokémon now to account for practically every aspect of climate. Flood? Kyogre’s probably rolling over in its sleep. Drought? Likewise for Groudon. Desertification? Herd of Hippopotas moved in down the street. Thunderstorm? Bunch of Pikachu having a block party. Meteor strike? Friggin’ Clefable!
Honestly, I’m glad they’re trying to add more pure Ice Pokémon, because it’s among the most underrepresented elements in the game; before Ruby and Sapphire there were no pure Ice-types at all, and even by Diamond and Pearl there were only four (Snorunt, Glalie, Regice and Glaceon). Just because it only has one element, though, and just because that element is an uncommon one, doesn’t mean I’m going to let an Ice Pokémon get away with flavour that basically comes down to “Yippee; I have ice powers!” This is what really bugs me about Vanillite: not the food thing, although that does also disturb me on a level I can’t quite define, but the fact that it’s something of a one-dimensional concept. What’s more, I really don’t know that anything more could have been done with it. Even if Game Freak were interested in developing and nurturing individual concepts instead of just pressing on towards the inevitable conclusion that is Pokémon #1000, I don’t believe there’s any sensible direction to take Vanilluxe that would make him any more than what he is – and you can tell that they couldn’t think of anything either, because his evolutionary path just makes him a bigger and bigger ice cream (I would be less offended by this Pokémon if they’d ditched the younger forms and made Vanilluxe a stand-alone… only less offended, mind you). A lot of Pokémon practically scream ideas for further development and background at you (or at me, anyway – maybe that’s just the perfectly normal voices in my head) but this one… he’s an ice cream. What more could there ever be to it than that? This is also why I’m going to stop talking about Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe from a design perspective now – there’s really not all that much to say.
Remember how I was saying I’m glad they’re trying for more pure Ice-types? Well, there’s a downside. I’ve probably said this in the past, but pure Ice is a very bad type to be stuck with. Sure, you get bonus damage on your Ice attacks, which is a huge selling point, but defensively you’re a sitting duck: pure Ice-types suffer from four weaknesses (Rock, Fighting, Fire and Steel), and enjoy only one resistance (to Ice itself) and no immunities. Luckily for Vanilluxe, his excellent special attack score is his biggest asset, so he can at least take advantage of the fact that Ice is a wonderful offensive element. Vanilluxe can seriously hurt things with Ice Beam or Blizzard. What’s more, although he’s slow, he can speed himself up with Autotomize (Agility for Steel-types) to turn himself into a kind of sweeper-thing. That, however, is when we swing right back to bad news again because the only other special attack Vanilluxe learns that’s worth a damn is Flash Cannon, a Steel-type attack, and Steel attacks are notoriously bad in terms of type coverage. I… guess there’s also Weather Ball, a powerful attack that changes its type depending on the weather (Water in rain, Fire in sun, Ice in hail or Rock in sandstorms), which very few Pokémon can learn. The trouble is, a sandstorm will wear down Vanilluxe’s health every turn (and one good quality he does have is reasonable bulk, so you don’t want to sacrifice that), sun will put him in serious danger by strengthening the Fire attacks he fears, and all rain will give him is a strong Water attack to use alongside his strong Ice attacks… just like every Water Pokémon ever. That leaves hail, which is probably what Vanilluxe wants anyway because his Ice Body trait causes him to regain health every turn in a hailstorm, so he gets a powerful Ice attack – which he has already. Basically, Vanilluxe probably gets less out of Weather Ball than just about any other Pokémon in the game possibly could. In short, he has some of the elements of a decent sweeper, but with such a terrible offensive movepool, he’s not going to be able to exploit them.
Just as Vanilluxe’s excellent special attack score should make him a strong attacker, but doesn’t, his good defences should allow him to operate as a kind of tank, but don’t. Between Acid Armour to improve his physical defence and Light Screen to improve his special defence, he can easily reduce the damage he takes from most things, but with common weaknesses, no resistances to speak of and no reliable healing techniques, that simply isn’t enough. To his credit, though, Vanilluxe does get two things that are reasonably attractive for a defensive Pokémon. The first is Mirror Coat, the energy-based equivalent to Counter – a Pokémon using Mirror Coat waits for its opponent to go first and then reflects back any energy damage it took that turn, doubled. Useless if you get hit by a physical attack, of course, but you can’t have everything. Then, once he’s taken a hit or two and isn’t going to last much longer… Explosion! Yes, Vanilluxe gets Explosion. Selfdestruct and Explosion only do about half as much damage in Black and White as they did in older games, but Vanilluxe does actually have a good physical attack stat, so it’s still a perfectly viable choice for him. It’s also the only physical attack he learns that’s worth using (except maybe for Ice Shard, the Ice-type equivalent to Quick Attack, which he can use to circumvent his average speed score) so make the best of it. The best advice I can give on how to use Vanilluxe is “don’t,” but no matter what you want to do with him, he can pull enough out of his cone to avoid seeming completely incompetent.
Remember how I complained that Vanillite has a one-dimensional concept? Well, I think that comes through in the gameplay side of things as well. When a Pokémon’s whole design is “Yippee; I have ice powers!” it’s hard to think of toys to give it other than ice powers, and the thing about Pokémon is that having a bit of diversity is what makes you strong. Sometimes, when the concept is weak, it makes the Pokémon weak as well, even if you give it some really nice numbers (which Vanilluxe does have). I don’t know what they were thinking with this one; I really, honestly don’t.
I hereby deny this Pokemon’s right to exist! Let it be smothered in fudge sauce, dipped in sprinkles and served with a sliced banana on a hot summer’s day!