This one is tricky; I’m not sure whether to love it or hate it… Today I’m looking at Stunfisk, the trap Pokémon, a flat-bodied bottom-dweller with a penchant for frying anything unlucky enough to step on him. My first thought was that Stunfisk is pretty clearly based on a perfectly ordinary flatfish like a flounder or plaice, but with added lightning because everything is better with lightning (kind of arbitrary, but also fun). I have since learned, however, that there are actually fish, called stargazers (so named because their eyes, like a flounder’s, are on the tops of their heads), which behave in more or less the same way as flounders – they spend most of their time half-buried on the seafloor, waiting for prey to stumble across them – but can also produce electrical current in much the same way as an electric eel. I’m not sure whether that counts for Stunfisk or against him; on the one hand it suggests there’s less actual invention going on in the design, on the other hand stargazers are a comparatively obscure family, and an interesting one at that. I shall seize the opportunity, as I did in Alomomola’s entry, to point out gleefully that Stunfisk supports what I said way back in June when I was whining about Basculin – that there’s no need to design Pokémon using boring, generic fish when there are so many wonderfully bizarre ones out there. At any rate, although stargazers behave like flatfish their bodies aren’t actually flat, so they can’t be the sole inspiration for the design; there’s a bit of flounder mixed in. The name, I am convinced, is derived from that of the most diabolical fish in the world, the stonefish, which shares Stunfisk’s fondness for murdering anything that steps on it, albeit with poisonous spines rather than by electricity. So far I’m at least amused by Stunfisk, but not yet satisfied. I do love the implied sadism of the wicked grin he gives whenever he shocks someone (which is exactly the expression we all know stonefish wear at the moment they stab you) partly because it brings some expressiveness to that otherwise bland face of his. However, it also highlights that very blandness. This is my real problem with Stunfisk; he’s… well, flat, if I may be forgiven the pun. His art is overly stylized, almost ‘cartoonish’ (if I can even say that when talking about Pokémon); the only visually striking element, for instance, is the exclamation mark on his back. Pokémon designs don’t have to be completely naturalistic, no, but that one detail annoys me. All that said, Stunfisk is not a terrible Pokémon; he doesn’t offend me in the way that some past designs have. To try to put my finger on exactly what I feel is wrong with Stunfisk, I would have to say that he feels unfinished, and in every possible sense; he feels almost like he’s waiting for an evolution. He wouldn’t bother me nearly so much if he were just the juvenile form of a two-stage sequence.
Since I’ve mostly been bashing Stunfisk so far, I should perhaps be nice to him for a bit. If nothing else, Stunfisk wins points for a unique type combination, Ground/Electric, simultaneously gaining favour for being an aquatic Pokémon that dared not to be a Water-type (there are too many of those anyway). As type combinations go, Ground/Electric is so-so. Its four weaknesses, three of which are quite dangerous ones, are balanced by four resistances, only one of which is particularly useful, and a handy immunity to Electric attacks. Stunfisk’s resistances are important to him because he’s built as a tank; he’s incredibly slow but also has great all-round defensive scores, so his role is mainly to take hits and counterattack with the strongest attacks he can come up with. Thunderbolt and Earth Power are obvious choices there to represent his own elements, and they’re solid attacks that combine fairly well in most respects, but they leave Stunfisk with a worrying blind spot for Grass-types, and he can’t really get rid of it without wasting a move slot on a Poison attack (good for killing Grass-types, and nothing else) since he doesn’t learn Ice Beam. The good news for Stunfisk is that, as an aquatic Pokémon, he can learn a few Water attacks, and one of those is Scald – a boiling water attack that can burn its targets. Pokémon that suffer from burns have drastically weakened physical attacks, which Stunfisk will appreciate since that’s his weaker side defensively. Water attacks are also generally a safe bet when you suspect your opponent is about to switch since relatively few Pokémon resist Water. Stunfisk has some nice disruptive options too – Thunder Wave to cripple Pokémon that rely on speed, Yawn to force them to switch out to avoid falling asleep the next turn, and, of course, the old standby, Toxic. Stunfisk is almost unique among Ground Pokémon in being essentially a special tank; most are physical – the only Ground-types that are really similar are Gastrodon (who’s not as tough) and Claydol (who’s not as strong). His sheer resilience is likewise unique among Electric-types; outside of legendary Pokémon, only Lanturn, Magnezone and Ampharos are even in the same league. Unfortunately, beyond some impressive numbers and the sheer joy of being the only Electric/Ground Pokémon, Stunfisk hasn’t really been given all that much; his attacks aren’t particularly eye-catching and so far he’s only useful if you desperately need his particular combination of resistances… and I haven’t even gotten to his real problem yet.
Stunfisk’s real problem is healing. Simply put, he’s no good at it. Like all Pokémon Stunfisk can use Rest, but like most Pokémon he finds it difficult to justify going to sleep for two turns to get all of his energy back. He is one of the few Pokémon that can still learn Sleep Talk in Black and White, so he can keep fighting in his sleep if you really want him to, but that will only leave him with two slots for actual attacks (few are the Pokémon that can pull this off). Game Freak have kindly allowed Stunfisk to have Pain Split, a faux-healing technique that combines the user’s HP with the target’s and divides it evenly between them. However, there are two major reasons Stunfisk should never use Pain Split. The first is that Stunfisk has a huge HP stat, and because of the way Pain Split works, he’s much less likely to get a good deal out of it than, say, Spiritomb. The second and far more head-deskingly frustrating reason is that Pain Split is a hereditary move for Stunfisk, which he gets through cross-breeding… and so is Earth Power, which is one attack Stunfisk absolutely needs, and he can’t get both from the same father (Gastrodon, by way of contrast, is lucky enough to have Recover). The final point I need to make here is that Stunfisk’s passive abilities are terrible. Static sometimes paralyses Pokémon that touch him, which is… okay, I guess, but it’s unreliable and most Stunfisk will probably know Thunder Wave anyway. The alternative, Limber, is absolutely dreadful. What good could immunity to paralysis possibly be when you’re already one of the slowest Pokémon in the game and immune to the most common and effective paralysing attack (Thunder Wave) anyway? For that matter, why does Stunfisk even have Limber? Nothing about this design even remotely suggests that he’s especially flexible! For heaven’s sake, Game Freak, why not give him Water Absorb? It would solve two of his problems at once by replacing a common weakness with a useful immunity and granting him a source of healing, and it would actually make sense because he’d no longer be an aquatic Pokémon with a weakness to Water!
You know what? Now that I’ve had a close look at Stunfisk, I don’t know why I was ever unsure whether to love him or hate him! Gods, this thing is dumb!
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let it be pan-fried with butter and garlic and served with a wedge of lemon!