I mentioned recently that it’s been a good year for Bug Pokémon, and it continues to be… well, interesting at least… with these curious specimens: Karrablast, Escavalier, Shelmet and Accelgor. Shelmet is a fairly unexciting pink snail-like Pokémon that lives inside a helmet and sprays acid when people bother it, and Karrablast is an utterly unremarkable horned beetle that… sprays acid when people bother it. Things get interesting when we put them together. When Karrablast and Shelmet are “bathed in an electric-like energy together” (obfuscating Pokédex-speak for “when you trade a Karrablast for a Shelmet”) both of them evolve in a rather unusual way: Karrablast swipes Shelmet’s armour. With the protection of Shelmet’s thick armour plates, Karrablast becomes the insect knight Escavalier, a veritable battle-tank of a Pokémon, while Shelmet, freed of the restrictions of that same heavy armour, becomes a light, darting ninja bug: the evasive Accelgor. Leaving aside Escavalier and Accelgor themselves for a moment, this is a very fun way for a Pokémon to evolve. The implementation is a bit clunky – it’s hard to understand why you should have to trade one for the other, and the hint the Pokédex tries to give you just makes it more confusing (especially since there actually are Pokémon – Nosepass and Magneton – that evolve on exposure to the unusual electrical fields of certain areas in the game world). However, it’s nicely done in that it’s a unique evolutionary mechanism directly related to the unique relationship between the two Pokémon. As with almost everything, it’s not entirely without precedent; there are two other Pokémon that rely on other species for their evolution. Slowpoke, famously, evolves into Slowbro when its tail is bitten by a Shellder as it fishes; the Shellder, interestingly, changes form as well. Even more interestingly, we are repeatedly told that Shellder can actually be dislodged from Slowbro’s tail by particularly fierce attacks, causing it to revert to Slowpoke. Red and Blue seem to have been utterly unsure how to represent all this and just gave up and had Slowpoke evolve by level as most Pokémon do (probably the best they could do at the time, but still something of a cop-out). The other Pokémon I’m thinking of is Mantine, who evolves from Mantyke by levelling up while in a party with a Remoraid (the fish Pokémon that cling to the undersides of Mantine’s wings). The Remoraid doesn’t attach to Mantyke or anything; in fact he’s completely unaffected by the process. I’m not sure why his presence alone should cause Mantyke to evolve, and it’s not really explained (what’s more, Remoraid and Mantine don’t even live in the same places most of the time). What I’m getting at is that these evolutions have always required a little suspension of disbelief. Shelmet and Karrablast have a creative evolutionary process, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and its execution, if strange, still compares favourably to Slowbro and Mantine.
Shelmet and Karrablast themselves are frightfully bland Pokémon, Karrablast especially – Shelmet at least has a somewhat eccentric form, even if he doesn’t have any noteworthy special abilities, while Karrablast is just a beetle that happens to be associated with Shelmet in some vaguely-worded manner (also, like Remoraid and Mantine, they’re not actually found anywhere near each other). I would also like to note that, although spraying an acidic liquid is the only remarkable ability Karrablast is explicitly said to have, Karrablast can’t actually do that. Escavalier’s Pokédex entries are similarly misleading; we are told that “they fly around at high speed, striking with their pointed spears.” Sounds fine, except that Escavalier is one of the slowest Pokémon in the game; only fourteen are slower, eight of which lead a completely sedentary lifestyle. This Pokémon is, I kid you not, outrun by a sloth, a coffin, a snail, a number of rocks, an acorn, a sea anemone, and a tree. Never have I read a Pokédex entry so blatantly at odds with the actual characteristics of the Pokémon it describes. Did they read what they were writing? Thankfully Accelgor makes sense. Having lost his heavy armour, Accelgor becomes one of the fastest Pokémon in all existence. He also becomes vulnerable to heat and dryness, so he wraps himself in a cloth-like membrane to keep his body moist. These are properties that actually are reflected in what Accelgor can do. I am very confused at the crash-helmet he seems to be wearing, though, since the rest of his design seems to aim for a ninja flavour. I guess race-car drivers wear helmets a bit like that, which fits with his blistering speed, but it’s still odd and slightly jarring.
So, what do these Pokémon do? Escavalier is broadly similar to Scizor, the evolved form of Scyther: both are strong, tough, slow (though in Scizor’s case only moderately so) Bug/Steel dual-types. I am reluctantly going to recycle a phrase I used a few months back and describe Escavalier as “Scizor, with bigger numbers and fewer options” – stronger, tougher, slower, and capable of significantly greater damage thanks to Escavalier’s Megahorn attack, which easily beats out Scizor’s strongest Bug-type attacks for sheer power, but lacking the versatility that really makes Scizor worth using. Scizor, notoriously, doesn’t care that he’s slow because he can smack you around with Bullet Punch, the Steel-type equivalent to Quick Attack, which gains a nice power boost from his Technician ability (Escavalier’s passive skills, by contrast, are unremarkable) and can do surprisingly heavy damage. U-Turn lets Scizor do damage while bouncing out of play to be replaced by another Pokémon. If he really wants to, he can be fast with Agility, or even use Baton Pass to give the benefits of Agility or Swords Dance to another Pokémon. Escavalier can’t do any of that; he works on a strictly point-and-stab basis, and he doesn’t even have the offensive movepool to be particularly good at that. Don’t get me wrong; Escavalier’s Megahorn will murder things, but it’s also his one big trick, and Bug attacks are pretty easy to resist.
Accelgor is far more interesting. I’m not sure what exactly you’re supposed to do with him, but I’m sure you could work something out. Accelgor is a pure Bug-type with poor defences, excellent special attack, and a speed stat most conveniently measured as a fraction of the speed of light. His passive ability, Hydration, automatically cures him of poison, burns, and other such ailments at the end of every turn while it’s raining, which is a nice fit with his design but no more useful for him than it would be for anyone else. He learns Recover but doesn’t have the defences to make use of it. He’s fast enough to be a sweeper but I’m not sure he’s powerful enough or learns enough attacks – then again, a set of Bug Buzz, Giga Drain, Focus Blast and maybe U-Turn would be far from terrible. He’s the fastest Pokémon in the game that learns Me First, a technique which mimics a damaging attack the target is about to use, at 150% of its normal power, if you’re fast enough to go first (yes, you are) – that still requires that you be able to predict what your opponent is going to do, though, which can be tricky. Accelgor can, in theory, put things to sleep with Yawn, but there’s a delay before Yawn takes effect that may cost him. He learns Baton Pass but no moves of note that he could pass. He learns Spikes, but doesn’t have the defences to stick around for long to lay several layers (although, with U-Turn or Baton Pass, he could lay a single layer and then be gone, only to return later to plague your enemies). With the fastest Encore in the game, Accelgor is also good at locking down defensive Pokémon, who’ll be stuck using only one move; unfortunately for him, Encore isn’t what it used to be and lasts only 3 turns rather than the 4-8 turns it would last in Diamond and Pearl. Again, I… really am stumped by Accelgor. He has such an eclectic array of strengths and powers that I’m certain he’d be extremely powerful in the right hands, but he’s far from user-friendly.
I went into this intending to judge these Pokémon together, since they’re joined at the hip, as it were, but the more I think about it the more I realise that I like Accelgor a whole lot more than Escavalier. Escavalier’s probably stronger, I’ll give him that, but Accelgor’s much more unique, and is actually good at the things he says he’s good at. Shelmet needs more detail because he’s very dull as-is, and I think he deserved a better partner for that fascinating evolution, which in itself could have used a bit of work, but in comparison to existing Pokémon, I think Shelmet and Accelgor, at least, are worth keeping.
I hereby affirm Accelgor’s right to exist! Let Escavalier be sacrificed that its friends might live!