Today on Pokémaniacal I’m looking at Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man, a Marvel Comics superhero who made his debut appearance in 1963 and has since-
…I’m sorry, I seem to have wandered into the wrong blog. Normally I do Pokémon stuff.
Oh, really? Huh.
*Ahem* Today on Pokémaniacal I’m looking at Golett and Golurk, the automaton Pokémon. These two are based on golems (as distinct from Golem, the evolved form of Graveler), humanoid guardian creatures from Jewish folklore originally associated with the city of Prague, which have since worked their way into a number of high fantasy settings as the magical equivalent to robots. Nowadays golems can be constructed from just about any material you care to name, the more outlandish the better, but as Ground-types Golett and Golurk seem to follow the original in being made primarily out of clay. They are likewise believed to have been created by ancient people to act as protectors (goodness knows how the things are still around after all this time). So far, so good. As more astute readers will have guessed by now, I am convinced that Golurk is a great big Iron Man reference, for three reasons which I will describe in order from least to most blatant. First, it has an ability called Iron Fist and naturally learns some Steel attacks, including Iron Defence. These are perfectly fitting and sensible things for Golurk to have; even on a humanoid Pokémon with an artificial appearance they don’t mean much on their own. My friends think that its entire body looks metallic, like tarnished bronze, and that Golett and Golurk look more like Ghost/Steel Pokémon than Ghost/Ground ones; personally I disagree (the shape and smoothness of Golurk’s torso make me think of glazed pottery; I think its body is primarily ceramic), but I digress. Second, the Pokédex explains that “removing the seal on its chest makes its internal energy go out of control,” which sounds an awful lot like a reference to the… glowy blue sciency thing… in Iron Man’s chest. Third, and to my total astonishment, Golurk can fly. The Pokédex explicitly notes that it can fly (at the speed of sound, no less… normally I would be annoyed by this since Golurk is actually rather slow, but in this case it’s easy to imagine it flying like a rocket – all speed and no control – while being slow and clumsy on the ground, where he does most of his fighting) and, in fact, he can actually do that: in the games he can learn Fly and take you from town to town. In summary, we have a flying humanoid protector with an artificial appearance, a power source in its chest, and a couple of metal-themed abilities. I hate pop culture references, but I will grant that, if I am looking at what I think I’m looking at, Golurk is remarkably restrained about it (compared to, say, Gothitelle), so it doesn’t get in the way of what this Pokémon is actually about. As for how well the “constructed guardian” thing actually hangs together… well, I’ve always suspected that Sigilyph was something like this, thousands of years in the past, but that’s entirely speculation on my part. Golurk clearly is intended to suggest that humans had some part in its creation, which raises interesting questions about where Pokémon come from, how they related to people long ago, and what place Golett and Golurk have in the world now. This is a concept you could do a lot with. Their art is nicely done too; Golett is weirdly cute, Golurk looks strong, inscrutable, almost sinister, and the spiral motif and the mysterious glow that pours from their insides add a little extra life to the designs and remind us that, although they were created by “ancient science,” the division between science and magic may be a little vague here. In short, I think these are really well done.
Golurk is not by any means a remarkable Pokémon in battle, but it gets the job done – and that job is bashing things. Hard. Its type, Ghost/Ground, is unique and confers a fantastic three immunities (to Normal, Fighting and Electric attacks) but also multiple common weaknesses (notably to Surf, Ice Beam and Pursuit). Golurk’s strengths are its mighty physical attacks, its fairly solid defences and its ability to hit all Pokémon for at least neutral damage with a combination of Ghost and Fighting attacks. Its flaws are its regrettable lack of speed and the aforementioned multiple common weaknesses (which, together, make it rather easy to kill if you’re not careful with it), as well as the anaemic Ghost-type attack it has to work with, Shadow Punch. Golurk’s Iron Fist ability makes all punching attacks 20% more powerful, but Shadow Punch is so terrible to begin with that this only pushes it up through the floor and into the bottom of the barrel. The good news is that Golurk’s other type provides it with a tremendously powerful Earthquake, such that although most Water Pokémon will destroy it fairly easily one-on-one, few of them are entirely comfortable switching in against it. Rock Slide or Stone Edge, depending on whether you prefer power or accuracy, compliments Earthquake, and you can round out your Golurk with Hammer Arm, which is dangerously strong after the Iron Fist bonus (yeah, it makes you slower when you use it; who cares? Golurk outruns, like, three Pokémon that actually matter anyway). Alternatively, you could teach it Rock Polish to make it faster, although I don’t think I’d recommend it; that kind of strategy is incompatible with Hammer Arm, which is one of Golurk’s major selling points, and Golurk is easy enough to scare off that you’ll probably have to switch it out and loose the speed boost before too long anyway. Its other cool trick is Iron Fisted Focus Punch, which can dish out astronomical amounts of Fighting-type damage, but because Focus Punch always goes second and fails if you take any damage, it more or less demands that you use it with Substitute, which uses a portion of your health to create a dummy that absorbs attacks for you, thus protecting you while you focus. Several Pokémon can do this, and even with Iron Fist Golurk isn’t the strongest, or the toughest. Whatever role you want Golurk to take, his biggest draws are his unique typing, those lovely immunities that come with it, and Earthquake; although almost every respectable physical attacker can learn it, very few (six, by my count, one of them a top-level legendary) can produce one stronger than Golurk’s.
It really is a shame Golurk doesn’t learn Thunderpunch; an Iron Fisted Thunderpunch would have most Water-types running in terror. It’s also an incredible shame that there are no decent physical Ghost-type attacks; that sounds like a contradiction but since there are indeed Ghost-types like Golurk that animate physical bodies (and have been since Banette in Ruby and Sapphire) we do in fact need one. Given that, Golurk would be a wonderful Pokémon despite its glaring vulnerabilities (and they really are bad). As is, it’s underwhelming. Perhaps one day it will be given that missing piece it needs, but until then I’m prepared to wait. Golurk is a unique Pokémon with a fun design that provokes some fascinating questions. Apparently it’s the work of the same guy who was responsible for Vanilluxe; if he thinks he’s been forgiven, he’s got another thing coming, but I guess it’s a start.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!