Okay, guys, we’re on a roll: Haxorus, Galvantula, Reuniclus and Ferrothorn; that’s four in a row! And the next entry in the Pokédex is…
…yeah, I totally just jinxed myself, didn’t I?
My next Pokémon is Emolga, the cute electrical rodent Pokémon. Yes, you’re experiencing déjà vu for a reason. It’s a glitch in Game Freak’s design process; it happens when they change nothing. Because, yes, this is exactly what you think it is: a flying Pikachu.
As far as I am aware, Pikachu wasn’t originally intended to be the mascot of the Pokémon franchise; it just sort of happened. Pikachu wasn’t the very first Pokémon designed (that honour belongs to Rhydon) nor the creator’s favourite (I believe that one’s Poliwhirl); his massive popularity probably stems from being Ash’s partner in the TV show. There are a number of factors which I suspect played into that: the show’s writers didn’t want Ash to begin his journey with one of the three ordinary starters, or with another Fire, Water or Grass Pokémon, but they did want him to have a Pokémon whose type had strengths and weaknesses that were easy to understand (say he’d started with a Nidoran: they resist Fighting attacks for what reason, again?) as well as potential for simple elemental badassery, and they wanted it to be one that was quite rare but not extremely unusual (like, say, Dratini, or anything from the Ghost- or Psychic-types). There really aren’t that many Pokémon in Red and Blue that fit all of those criteria. Anyway, Pikachu became Ash’s hetero life-mate, Pokémon unexpectedly became one of the most popular franchises on the planet, and the rest is history. The thing is, Pikachu worked – and what do Game Freak do when they realise they’re onto a good thing? That’s right: they do it again… and again… and again… and thus we have Pichu (the midget Pikachu from Gold and Silver), Plusle and Minun (the cheap Pikachu knockoffs from Ruby and Sapphire) and Pachirisu (the slightly-less-obvious but also slightly-more-useless Pikachu knockoff from Diamond and Pearl). Of these, I most despise Plusle and Minun for being (and this is not my opinion but a statement of fact) Pikachu twins with + and – signs stamped on them. Their purpose in life is to play cheerleader to other Pokémon, and they get a starring role as the player and rival’s partners in one of the side-games, Pokémon Ranger (which, in my opinion, is completely undeserved, but hey, whatever) but are otherwise unremarkable. Pichu, I suppose, is forgivable on account of being essentially part of an existing Pokémon, as well as part of the introduction of the new breeding mechanics, and Pachirisu is, um… well, you can tell they were trying; it’s not entirely their fault that they failed. At least you don’t notice immediately that you’re looking at Pikachu 3.0…
…which brings me to Emolga. To her credit, Emolga is easily the least offensive of all the Pokémon I’ve been talking about; a flying squirrel is actually an interesting design base and different enough from the previous incarnations of the cute electric rodent archetype to draw my attention, if only for a moment, from the fact that she is still following that archetype. Emolga, like all these Pokémon, produces and stores electricity in her cheeks. She then releases the energy through her “wings” as she glides, in order to… well, I… don’t know, she just does. Presumably it helps her stay aloft somehow? That would be a decent way of tying the Electric element in with the flying squirrel design, but it would be nice if they had actually explained it. It also would have been nice if, given that the designers had two Pokédex entries to work with (one for Black and one for White) they had told us something different in each; the fact that they didn’t suggests to me that they were out of ideas. As with Pachirisu, you can tell that Game Freak were trying with Emolga (and, I might add, doing a much better job of it) but my honest opinion is still that they were trying to do the wrong thing: hark back to Pikachu (and yes, this is what they were doing: cute rodent, electrical cheek-sacks, yellow and black colour scheme) when they could have just used Pikachu. No-one would have minded; people like Pikachu! I understand what Game Freak were doing by deciding that they weren’t going to use any old Pokémon in Black and White – I really do – and it was a good plan, but it would have stayed a good plan only if they had actually followed through with it, and Emolga is yet another example of their failure to do so.
I’m ranting at Emolga again, but I ought to stress once more that she’s actually something of a turn-up for the books – and not just her design either. Let’s compare her with the elder electric rodents on a mechanical level. Like Pikachu, Plusle and Minun, she’s a fast and manoeuvrable Pokémon with a focus on attack power (Pachirisu is a complete about-face from this trend, being a heavily defence-oriented Pokémon, but Pachirisu is also a complete about-face from anything resembling combat effectiveness, so this isn’t exactly a selling point). Plusle and Minun like to use Baton Pass, and they’re not nearly as incompetent at this as they are at everything else because they have a lot of buffs to pass to teammates (most importantly, Nasty Plot) and can also (in theory) heal other Pokémon with Wish, so well done them. Emolga can do that sort of thing too, but has fewer support options (no Wish, no Nasty Plot) and isn’t generally as good at it. Pikachu’s thing is overwhelming damage, which he can achieve by holding an item known as a Light Ball that doubles his power, making him stronger than just about any other Electric Pokémon. Being unevolved, he’s insanely fragile and not quite fast enough, so using Pikachu is mostly a demonstration of how hard-core you are if you can avoid getting the damn thing killed, but the results if it works are nothing short of spectacular. Emolga, if nothing else, is faster and tougher than Pikachu, but she’ll never match his damage output. Her best bet at coming close is to double her speed with Agility and then smack things around with Electro Ball, which does damage based on how much faster you are than your target, but in fairness Galvantula does it better. Between Electro Ball, Air Slash and, say, Volt Switch, though, she can achieve a degree of power and manoeuvrability that at least falls short of being entirely terrible. Emolga’s saving grace is her element. She’s a Flying-type as well as an Electric-type, and Electric/Flying is nothing short of wonderful. It invites rather unfortunate comparisons to Zapdos, but it’s also five resistances and an immunity to only two weaknesses. Emolga is, I’ll be honest here, pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as Black and White go: her stats, apart from speed, are mediocre and she doesn’t have a lot of attack options, but she still trounces Plusle, Minun and Pachirisu in terms of usability. Pachirisu, I want you to reflect on that for a moment.
Emolga’s design is a good start, I’ll give her that much. What’s more, she’s actually not that bad in comparison to what she could have been. Bearing in mind, though, that what she could have been is one of the absolute worst Pokémon of all time, and that her design needs fleshing out, and that she’s still just a newer version of an old idea (albeit a pretty good newer version) I’m not going to keep her. As with so many other Pokémon from Black and White, Emolga is a surrogate for older Pokémon the designers were desperate to include but determined not to. This, at the risk of sounding blunt, is dumb.
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let it be snared in a power line to provide electricity for our homes and families!