Today’s Pokémon are Game Freak’s most recent addition to the “cute fuzzy Normal-type” pool: Minccino and Cinccino, the chinchilla Pokémon. Now, I’ve expressed irritation in the past that there were already quite enough of these, and summarily executed Audino on those grounds since, let’s face it, she’s Chansey 2.0. Minccino’s odds are, to put it mildly, not looking good.
Upon closer inspection, however, a lot of the things that bug me about Audino don’t really apply to Minccino. Audino was another pink, vaguely-humanoid, fairy-looking thing along the lines of Wigglytuff, Chansey and Clefable. Minccino and Cinccino aren’t conspicuously similar to the earlier Pokémon in the way that Audino is; really the only major commonality is that they’re cute. They’re more naturalistic, more like the animals they’re based on, which is something of a trend in the more recent generations of Pokémon. I’m not sure whether I like it or not. Here, however, it does succeed in creating quite a different flavour, so this time I’m happy. Likewise, they have their own shtick, which is important for a Pokémon to have (Audino tried, but in the end her super-sensitive hearing was just channelled into making her a doctor Pokémon like Chansey). Minccino and Cinccino’s shtick is that they’re neat-freaks. Minccino keep themselves scrupulously clean at all times, brush excess dirt off of each other with their fluffy tails as a greeting and constantly sweep up debris in the areas where they live. Cinccino never have to worry about staying clean at all because their luxuriant white fur is coated with oils that repel dirt and dust, and dissipate energy attacks to protect them. Believe it or not, they aren’t actually the first neat-freak Pokémon; they share their obsession with cleanliness with Swablu, a tiny bird Pokémon from Ruby and Sapphire. This time, I’m willing to let that go, mainly because Swablu stops being a neat-freak when she evolves into Altaria and becomes a Dragon Pokémon, with all that that entails. Minccino’s actually like Swablu in another way as well. Unlike the fairy Pokémon I was talking about earlier, who pretty much stick to “cute” as they evolve – Clefairy to Clefable, Jigglypuff to Wigglytuff, Chansey to Blissey – both Minccino and Swablu drop “cute,” at least partially, and pick up something more like “elegant” or “graceful.” We see something similar with, for instance, Vulpix and Ninetales (actually, now that I mention it, in purely artistic terms Cinccino has a very similar aesthetic to Ninetales – but the similarity ends there, of course; Ninetales’ fiercely cunning and unrelentingly vengeful personality couldn’t be more different to Cinccino’s).
Cinccino doesn’t seem like a Pokémon that would have much uniqueness in battle: she’s a Normal-type, so her primary attacks don’t do super-effective damage to anything and she has no resistances and a single immunity (namely, Ghost attacks), her defence stats are bad, her special attack stat is equally bad and her physical attack stat is good but nothing to write home about, although her speed is excellent. Indeed she would be entirely unremarkable if not for an unusual ability, Technician, and the kind of moves necessary to exploit it. A Technician Pokémon does 50% more damage with all moves that normally have a low “base power” (specifically, below 60 – for comparison, Thundershock is 35, Thunderbolt is 95 and Thunder is 120, which is pretty close to the upper limit for anything practical; most attacks that are any stronger have dangerous side-effects). Persian, Hitmontop, Ambipom and Scizor make use of this ability to deal more damage with moves that have useful side effects (notably, moves that always hit first, regardless of the speed of the Pokémon involved – Scizor’s Bullet Punch is notorious in competitive circles). Cinccino exploits it in a different way, however, by abusing the way it interacts with multi-strike moves like Doubleslap. Although most of these moves (including all of those introduced in the original games) are too weak to bother with, some can actually do a reasonable amount of damage with a bit of luck – but because this damage is spread out over 2-5 hits, the attack is still eligible for a boost from Technician. Ambipom makes use of this with his signature move, Double Hit, but Ambipom’s niche is really support, despite his high damage potential. Cinccino, on the other hand, seems to have been designed with this very tactic in mind. She also gets a signature move, Tail Slap, which – without Technician – does little damage if it hits only twice and massive damage if it hits five times. After applying the boost from Technician, Tail Slap does decent damage even if you only hit twice; five hits will give almost anything pause for thought. Unlike Ambipom, Cinccino has two more attacks with the same properties: Bullet Seed and Rock Blast, giving her a bit of variety so she can hurt more different Pokémon. Her other ability, Cute Charm, is extremely silly; it sometimes Attracts Pokémon of the opposite gender that physically strike her, so that they occasionally lose a turn as they stare at her glorious fur, but it’s too unreliable to be worth anything. Her hidden ability, Skill Link, is moot anyway because it hasn’t been released for her yet, but achieves a similar result to Technician with less power and greater reliability by guaranteeing that all her multi-hit moves will hit five times. The choice is really a matter of personal preference.
I’m not entirely certain what else one is supposed to do with Cinccino, to be honest. I don’t think she really has the defences for a dedicated support set, but assuming you use Tail Slap, Rock Blast and Bullet Seed (and you should probably use at least two) that still leaves you with one move slot left, which you could very well fill with Light Screen, to protect your team from special attacks, Thunder Wave, to spread paralysis, or Encore, to keep a Pokémon repeating a move and potentially force it to switch out. Cinccino’s probably better off just hitting things, though. Tickle is interesting; it lowers the target’s physical attack and defence, and since Cinccino’s pretty fast, she may just be able to get in first and keep an opponent from doing as much damage to her as it normally would – and after taking the defence penalty, Cinccino’s boosted Tail Slap is going to look even scarier. That, of course, assumes she can survive even a weakened hit, and her defences really are very bad. Knock Off disarms a Pokémon of its item, which is useful, but I can think of better Pokémon for the job than Cinccino. Sing… Sing is dumb. Sleep is a powerful affliction, but Sing is just too unreliable for my tastes, and Cinccino really can’t afford to take a hit if it misses. These are all options, but I think she’s better off just cramming more attacks in – she gets Aqua Tail, which scores a lot of useful neutral hits, and Wake-Up Slap, a Fighting attack which is normally too weak to be worth using but with Technician is decent and lets her damage many Steel-types, who would otherwise resist everything Cinccino can throw at them. Finally, U-Turn is eternally useful because it lets you switch out after it hits – and if your opponent decides to switch on the same turn, this means that you get to see what they’re switching to before you pick your own next Pokémon. It’s just a little too strong for Technician to apply, but we can’t have everything. No matter what you teach her, though, if you want to use her effectively you’ve pretty much got to use some variation of [Tail Slap – Rock Blast – Bullet Seed – Other]. There’s not much potential for surprise with Cinccino.
I can see points for and against Cinccino. She’s different from the archetypal “cute” Pokémon of the past, but still not tremendously interesting. Minccino’s art, frankly, is boring, but I think Cinccino is quite nice. She’s definitely got a powerful trick up her sleeve, but it’s also her only trick; when you see Cinccino you know what’s coming because there’s not a whole lot else she can do. She’s not quite in a straitjacket as far as her movepool is concerned, though; she has some options. On balance… I think I’m going to let her live. She’s just good enough for me.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!