Two more bird Pokémon enter the fray, these ones based on the humble duck and regal swan. Are they interesting? Probably not? Are they powerful? I doubt it. Do I like them? Heck no, but let’s look at them anyway.
Part of me assumes that Ducklett and Swanna are supposed to reference the fairy tale of the ugly duckling, the repulsive-looking baby bird who was shunned by his peers and the rest of the animal kingdom, suffered untold hardships in a cruel world he was not made to live in, grew strong from adversity by learning the true meaning of friendship, and died alone in the middle of a swamp, upside down with his head jammed into a hollow log filled with soft peat. Or something like that. I’m a little hazy on the finer details. Anyway, I originally assumed that’s what Ducklett and Swanna are about, but I’m no longer sure that can be it because Ducklett really isn’t ugly. She’s not flat-out adorable but she’s reasonably cute. If that is what Game Freak were aiming for with this design then they picked a strange way to go about it.Quite aside from that… they’re actually done it before, and it worked, not with a literal duckling and swan but with Feebas, who evolves into Milotic specifically when she becomes beautiful enough (a mechanic from Ruby and Sapphire that’s been kind of dropped since then; it’s best not to ask). That worked extremely well and as a result Milotic has always been a very popular Pokémon. Add to that the fact that the whole process of Pokémon evolution turns the entire premise of the game into an ugly duckling story of sorts, and I’m not sure why I should care when a literal ugly duckling turns up on my doorstep. With all that in mind, it’s probably a good thing that I’m no longer convinced Game Freak even had the ugly duckling in mind at all. Unfortunately, I don’t think they had anything else in mind either. Ducklett is a duck and does duck things, and that’s all there is to it. Psyduck and Farfetch’d were much more interesting; Ducklett is just a duck. Swanna, likewise, is a swan and does swan things, and again, that’s all there is to it. For a little added bizarreness to complete the feeling of a poorly-thought-out design, the Pokédex emphasises the power of the blows Swanna can deliver with her beak… but, you guessed it, Swanna doesn’t actually learn any attacks that use her beak (no Drill Peck, no Drill Run, heck, not even Peck or Fury Attack, and she only gets Pluck from a TM). Am I really asking too much by expecting a Pokémon to be more or less competent at the things it claims to be good at?
Just when you thought I was almost done complaining, it turns out Swanna can’t really fight either. Being a water bird, Swanna’s element is Water/Flying, which in most respects is pretty darn solid – five resistances and an immunity to only two weaknesses is nothing to sniff at, even if one of those is a double-weakness to Electric attacks. The thing about Water/Flying, though (from a mechanical perspective, at least) is that there have been three other Pokémon with this type combination in the past… and the first one was Gyarados. Mantine was an interesting idea but was never going to work, and Pelipper was a terrible idea that was never even going to survive, but Gyarados is quite an act to follow. What’s more, Swanna, unlike Pelipper and Mantine, is an aggressive Pokémon and is thus in a very real sense competing with Gyarados, of all things, for a position on a team. She’s quite fast, but unfortunately falls just short of the point at which her speed would be a real asset (speed is the only stat in Pokémon that’s all-or-nothing; you’re either faster than your opponent or you aren’t, so a little goes a long way… or, in this case, fails to). Her defences are worth barely a glance, and her attack and special attack scores, while they would be reasonably good on a Pokémon that isn’t reliant on its ability to cause direct damage, are frankly inexcusable on one that wants to be a sweeper. What’s more, her passive abilities are both bottom-of-the-barrel material (and frightfully dull on a bird Pokémon to boot): Keen Eye makes her immune to anything that would reduce her accuracy, and Big Pecks makes her immune to anything that would reduce her defence (in-game, against the AI, these are at best situational; against other people they’re next to useless because those tactics very rarely make appearances). This is… not an inspiring chassis. It reminds me of Fearow, which… well, I’ve seen worse, but it’s grim. Swanna’s movepool may yet be her saving grace – I’m not optimistic but I need something to fall back on – so let’s take a look at that.
The good news is that Water attacks and Flying attacks are a fairly powerful combination that’s not easy to resist, and what’s more this is something Swanna has over Gyarados since Gyarados doesn’t actually learn any Flying attacks (okay, there’s Bounce, but Bounce is silly). Swanna, on the other hand, gets a choice of two fantastically powerful Flying attacks: a physical one, Brave Bird, and a special one, Hurricane. Swanna can theoretically use either of the two equally well (or rather, equally poorly) but I wouldn’t recommend an all-physical moveset because… well, because she doesn’t have enough physical attacks to put together an all-physical moveset (most importantly, she doesn’t learn Waterfall). Hurricane is normally unreliable, missing its mark 30% of the time, but the nice thing about Hurricane is that it becomes unerringly accurate in heavy rain, which will also make Swanna’s Surf more powerful. I don’t think I’d recommend putting Rain Dance on Swanna herself because she’s just too brittle to spend time casting it, but if you include her on a rain team, she’ll have reliable access to two very powerful attacks, which might almost make up for the fact that her base special attack stat is depressingly lacklustre. Once you’ve got Surf and Hurricane, add Ice Beam and round it out with… um… hmm. Okay, Swanna doesn’t actually learn any other appropriate special attacks but you could use Brave Bird just in case you run into Blissey or something. Surf, Hurricane and Ice Beam should actually work pretty well on most opponents; just make sure it’s raining and Swanna should be able to do… well, not a lot of damage, exactly, but a reasonable amount. As for not doing damage… well, Game Freak gave Swanna access to a whole bunch of moves that make me think they intended her, at least at some point, to be a defensive Pokémon – Aqua Ring, Roost, Featherdance, Lucky Chant – but most of those are fairly silly and Swanna’s defences are terrible anyway. Other than that there’s nothing to be said; Brave Bird and Hurricane are gems but the rest of her movepool is horribly shallow.
These Pokémon are really boring. Their concept is boring, the execution of that concept is boring, their powers are boring, they’re just BORING! I am done paying attention to them.
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let it be shot down in migration by Canadians with harpoon-guns!