This has been a good year for Bug Pokémon. Black and White introduced Leavanny and Scolipede, who, despite not being remarkably powerful, finally banished the unfortunate cliché of Bug-types that appear early in the game, evolve quickly, peak early, and ultimately prove useless. So far, I’ve also looked at the bizarre but surprisingly intriguing Crustle and the awe-inspiring solar moth, Volcarona, both fun and powerful additions to the Bug-type hive. Like Volcarona, the Pokémon I’m looking at today – Joltik and Galvantula – draw much of their uniqueness from something very simple, a new type combination: Bug/Electric. Joltik’s not just an insect that happens to have electrical powers either, which would be the lazy way of interpreting the type combination; the two elements actually work together. Joltik is, as his name suggests, a tick; he’s a parasite who normally lives by attaching himself to much larger Pokémon. Where normal ticks drain blood from their hosts, however, Joltik drains static electricity (which doesn’t seem obviously harmful; it might be more appropriate to call Joltik a symbiote, depending on whether it can provide its host any benefit – perhaps by helping it to fight attackers?). Joltik are adaptable Pokémon too; those living in urban areas, instead of clinging to large Pokémon, cluster around power sockets and other man-made sources of electricity and extract energy from those, an interesting and creative example of how wild Pokémon can react to the presence of humans. It’s easy to imagine Joltik being major pests and dealing with them as an important part of day-to-day life in Unova. Galvantula, sadly, isn’t as interesting as Joltik in that respect: he really is just a spider who happens to have electrical powers. Moreover, unlike Joltik he has competition; there’s been a spider Pokémon before, and Ariados was a nicely-executed and, yes, even somewhat creative take on “this Pokémon is a spider and does spider things.” Galvantula’s ability to spin conductive silk that shocks enemies who become tangled in it is something of an obvious move, but I like that Game Freak have gone to the trouble of giving Galvantula a signature move (Electroweb) to illustrate this power; it’s exactly the sort of thing I like to complain that they should do more often. Galvantula also has great artwork – he’s cool and a little creepy, as spiders should be, and his bright contrasting colours give him a bold, distinctive look – and possibly the most awesome name of any of the new Pokémon; it’s subjective, I know, but I just think “Galvantula” is really fun to say! I think Joltik combines his electrical powers and insectoid traits in a much more creative way than Galvantula does, which is a shame, but I’m still happy to call Galvantula well-executed and a good effort.
Galvantula isn’t a Pokémon of particularly dramatic power, but he has two specific features that make him a unique and enjoyable Pokémon to use. The first, of course, is his type. Bug/Electric is unique to Joltik and Galvantula, and the two elements work well together. Any Grass Pokémon that comes in trying to resist Galvantula’s electrical blasts is at risk from his powerful Bug Buzz attack. To deal with Ground-types, Game Freak have very kindly given Galvantula something that many other Electric Pokémon would kill for: a strong Grass attack in Energy Ball. There are still Pokémon that will block all of Galvantula’s main attacks (Dragonite, for instance, or Magneton) but in general he can pick a good, or at least decent, attack for anything. Where Galvantula falls down is that he’s not a legitimately high-powered Pokémon. He’s very fast – more cheetah-fast than Concorde-fast, but still an asset for that alone. However, his attacks aren’t as powerful as he’d like; I don’t want to say “lacklustre” because his special attack stat is pretty good, but many other Electric-types outstrip him and he doesn’t learn any special attack buffs (unless you count Charge Beam, which is entirely too slow and a little too unreliable for a Pokémon of Galvantula’s frail constitution). This is where Galvantula’s other unique property comes in: the Compoundeyes trait. A Pokémon with Compoundeyes uses all attacks with a higher degree of accuracy, unlocking the potential of powerful but imprecise techniques. Only two other fully-evolved Pokémon have Compoundeyes – Butterfree and Dustox. Butterfree’s Sleep Powder becomes deadly accurate with Compoundeyes, which almost makes her halfway usable if you’re really committed, while Dustox… gains absolutely nothing from this ability, which is a shame because he was even more useless than Butterfree to begin with. Galvantula is another story altogether: Compoundeyes allows him to reliably use Thunder in place of Thunderbolt, which most Electric-types favour since Thunder’s 70% accuracy presents such a liability. Galvantula’s Compoundeyes-Thunder is 91% accurate, and this is how he is able to outstrip the likes of Jolteon, Magnezone and Zapdos in damage output. It’s a little tragic that Galvantula has nothing else that can make especially good use of Compoundeyes, but Thunder is such a cool trick that it’s hard to be too upset.
The bad news is that Galvantula’s not particularly versatile. The sheer joy of precision Thunder aside, there’s not a lot else to recommend him. He makes good use of Volt Switch, a new energy-based Electric-type equivalent to the older U-Turn, which switches its user out immediately after attacking to help you wrong-foot your opponents, but most Electric Pokémon can learn this technique and most are fast enough to use it well. His combination of excellent speed and access to Agility to increase it further makes him a stronger candidate than most for another new attack, Electro Ball, an attack whose damage is based on how much faster you are than your target. This is a fun trick but unfortunately it produces essentially the same effect as his main big trick – massive electrical damage – with more power but somewhat reduced reliability, since you need a turn to use Agility in order for Galvantula to be fast enough to hit the highest damage levels against all his likely opponents. That’s honestly all there is to Galvantula. He learns some other universally useful attacks like Thunder Wave, Sucker Punch, Pursuit, Spider Web and Light Screen, but isn’t especially competent at using them compared to the other Pokémon that learn them. You shouldn’t really use Galvantula for anything other than what he’s good at, but if that’s the niche you need, it’s hard to find someone better.
I wouldn’t call Joltik and Galvantula perfect Pokémon; I think Galvantula is somewhat less creatively done than his younger form, he steps on Ariados’ toes a little bit, and he’s too short on versatility to be a top contender. However, he’s still one of my favourite Pokémon from the new games, with nice artwork and unique powers – and I love Joltik’s concept as well. I would love Galvantula to have been given some more attacks that would exploit Compoundeyes, but he has no truly serious faults. This is the kind of Pokémon that upholds my faith in the series.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!