Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo

The time has come (largely because I’m running out of anything else) to think about some more legendary Pokémon, namely the so-called “legendary musketeers,” Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo.  These Fighting-type Pokémon have that name because, according to the designers, they are based on the eponymous French warriors of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, the Three Musketeers, though personally I think it would be more appropriate to say that they are, if anything, parallel to the musketeers.  You might be forgiven for not thinking that the connection is immediately obvious (in fact, I’m not convinced anyone could work it out without being told or simply getting very lucky with a wild guess) – both groups have (in brief) an old one, a fat one, and a gay one (Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, respectively), plus an annoying kid who hangs around with them because he wants to join their club (d’Artagnan).  They are also both renowned for swordsmanship – the Pokémon versions only in a figurative sense, in that they all learn Swords Dance and share a signature move called Sacred Sword; despite the name, they fight mainly by goring enemies with their horns.   Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo are, furthermore, motivated by their ideals of duty and justice, which likewise sounds like a reference.  All four of these Pokémon are Fighting-types, probably because that’s the element that’s normally given to Pokémon based on human warriors or martial artists, but these equine Pokémon have been shifted so far from what they’re actually ‘based on’ (like I said, ‘parallel to’ would be a more accurate description) that they have very little in common with all the other Fighting-types.  Every other Fighting Pokémon has a vaguely humanoid or at least bipedal form, with two arms and two legs (Machamp and Heracross are the greatest deviations you get from this pattern), many Fighting attacks require arms and hands and most of them are martial arts or wrestling moves.  I can appreciate the effort at creating a Fighting attack that works for a horned quadruped, but the fact is, it’s not a very good one; horns are for stabbing, not cutting, and the image of these Pokémon trying to toss their heads in such a way as to slash an opponent standing in front of them is ludicrous (and yes, I believe Sacred Sword is supposed to be like a slashing sword, not a stabbing one – notice, for instance, that the Bug attack available to these Pokémon is X-Scissor, not Megahorn, which would also be appropriate).  That’s all I have to say about Cobalion, Terrakion, Virizion and Keldeo as a group: now, let’s tackle ‘em one by one.

Cobalion (the old one) is a proud and stoic Fighting/Steel-type who bears a vague resemblance to an antelope.  His hide is the cobalt blue that gives him his name, and as hard as iron.  Cobalion, like Athos, is thought of as the leader of his troupe and, as such, his defining qualities are his absolute composure and his aura of authority; his stare is said to compel obedience in any Pokémon.  Even his species name is the “Iron Will” Pokémon.  His expression certainly looks stern, but it’s marred by his awkwardly pointy, almost weasel-like face, and what looks awfully like a very thin, wiry moustache (another musketeer reference, possibly, but if so an out-of-place one).  I also have trouble taking seriously any Pokémon whose feet make it look like it’s wearing socks.  Cobalion’s specialty is physical defence, as you might expect from a Steel Pokémon.  Like the other musketeers, Cobalion is very fast, and his attacks pack a decent punch too, but he won’t make a particularly good attacker without Swords Dance – then again, since he does have Swords Dance, you could put together a decent attacking set with Sacred Sword, Iron Head and X-Scissor or Stone Edge.  Personally, though, I would prefer a more defensive approach; Calm Mind will improve Cobalion’s weaker special defence while allowing him to do respectable damage with his own special attacks, Flash Cannon and Focus Blast.  The trouble with this track is that, whereas the physical version can rely on Sacred Sword as its go-to move, a Calm Mind Cobalion would have to rely mainly on Flash Cannon, since Focus Blast is quite inaccurate, and Steel attacks do not make good primary attacks.  Cobalion also has no easy way of healing and few worthwhile support moves (Reflect is nice but with Cobalion’s already excellent physical defence he wishes he had Light Screen instead, and Thunder Wave is normally useful for team support but something as fast as Cobalion doesn’t really need it).  Cobalion’s combination of toughness and speed is unusual, but he doesn’t do much with it that’s very interesting.  He is still a Steel-type, though, with all the useful resistances that come with that.

 Terrakion (the fat one) is, like Porthos, the strongest of the group, a huge bull-like Fighting/Rock Pokémon who can supposedly demolish stone fortifications with ease.  Like Cobalion, he looks the part, with enormous pillar-like legs, thick bands around his ankles and shins that look almost like manacles, and a crown of sharp horns.  His main horns look disconcertingly like floppy ears in the official art, but they’re better-done in the in-game sprite.  My biggest concern about Terrakion is that he lacks the grandeur of a legendary Pokémon.  Cobalion and Virizion are regal in appearance, while Keldeo has the fey traits of other “cute” legendary Pokémon, but Terrakion looks like a simple brute.  It doesn’t help that there are few legendary Pokémon with a muscled appearance to compare him to, but you might look at Entei, for instance, who also possesses prodigious physical strength but still has the otherworldly grace you would expect from an immortal being of tremendous power.  In battle, Terrakion combines the speed he has in common with his brothers with frightening power, which will become only greater if he has time to use Swords Dance, making him probably the most obviously dangerous of the four.  With access to Stone Edge, Close Combat and Earthquake, powerful attacks from three of the strongest offensive types in the game, as well as the option of X-Scissor for dealing with Psychic-types, he can cause severe pain to just about anything that doesn’t give him a wide berth.  Terrakion is not complicated; his purpose is always to murder everything as fast and as brutally as possible, and he is exceedingly good at it.

Virizion (the gay one), whose name seems to come from viridian, a shade of green, is a Fighting/Grass-type who fights with speed and grace rather than power.  He may be the only Pokémon in Black and White (possibly the only Pokémon in the world) who looks even half as smug as Snivy, and that’s saying something.  With feet reminiscent of high boots and fine, tapering antlers ending in neat curls, Virizion is a Pokémon for whom elegance is a matter of no small importance. It’s very difficult to imagine using those delicate horns for a Sacred Sword attack, though, and harder still to picture the slashing whirlwind described by the Pokédex.  This is, as I said, something of a jarring detail for the whole quartet, but Virizion is the one who throws it into sharpest relief, as the analogue to the musketeers’ master swordsman Aramis and supposedly the most agile fighter of the four.  Like his brothers, Virizion makes a perfectly competent Swords Dancer, with Sacred Sword, Leaf Blade and Stone Edge or X-Scissor for attacking, and like Cobalion he can use Calm Mind for a more balanced strategy, though he has certain advantages over Cobalion – Reflect, which all the musketeers have, covers Virizion’s weaker defensive side nicely, and Virizion can actually heal himself by attacking with Giga Drain.  Like Cobalion, though, he must cope with the shaky accuracy of Focus Blast and has no other special attacks to speak of.  Virizion’s greatest strength is his resilience to special attacks, and he can take some fairly strong ones quite comfortably; combined with further special defence boosts from Calm Mind he can be quite hard to damage with energy attacks, so pick your battles and use Virizion where he can do the most good.

Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion are all supposed to have fought against humans in ancient times when a war between two human nations began to threaten Pokémon and their homes.  One of the Pokémon they were fighting to protect eventually became the fourth member of the group, the Fighting/Water-type Keldeo (who can’t actually be obtained in the games, or anywhere for that matter, since Nintendo is officially pretending that he doesn’t exist).  According to the legends, Keldeo was orphaned by a fire during the war and was raised by Terrakion, Virizion and Cobalion.  He looks a little like a unicorn, but his name comes from the kelpie, a shapeshifting water spirit from Celtic myth that normally took the form of a horse and would lure people into trying to ride it before dragging them into a deep lake to drown – an odd link to draw with such a cute and innocuous Pokémon, to say the least.  Keldeo is nothing like a kelpie; instead he is annoyingly similar to Suicune, another four-legged legendary Pokémon who travels the world, dashing at tremendous speed across the surface of the water and searching for pristine lakes and rivers.  Unlike Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion, Keldeo is not particularly well-served by Swords Dance; he is unequivocally better off with Calm Mind since he can’t really use physical attacks properly, and he also has the advantage of his own signature move, Secret Sword, a special attack that frees him from the reliance on Focus Blast that plagues special versions of the other three.  Sadly, he shares their very limited special movepools; aside from Water attacks and Secret Sword, Keldeo doesn’t really have any special attacking options (he doesn’t even get Ice Beam; even Basculin gets Ice Beam, for goodness’ sake).  As a result, it’s actually quite difficult to think of more than one viable moveset for Keldeo (and even filling out one takes some scrounging if you don’t want to resort to Hidden Power; I guess Reflect is always helpful for a Calm Mind Pokémon).  As a legendary Pokémon, Keldeo is very powerful and good at what he does, but he is – if I may be excused the pun – something of a one trick pony.

In the end, the really sad thing about these Pokémon is that they don’t tie into the story.  Their backstory is all about the relationship between humans and Pokémon and how Pokémon can be hurt by the actions of humans, even when they have nothing to do with human conflicts – which is exactly what the plot of Black and White is about.  Virizion, Terrakion and Cobalion aren’t out there fighting for their allegedly firm beliefs, though – they’ve given up on the world and are hiding away in caves (only Cobalion is even accessible; showing him your fighting spirit and bond with your Pokémon will draw the other two out of hiding somewhat), which honestly strikes me as kind of a jerk move given the significance of the conflict with Team Plasma and its direct correspondence to the events that compelled them to fight against humanity in the first place.  Ideas like this would have made things far more interesting if they’d been associated with Reshiram and Zekrom in place of that vague “truth and ideals” nonsense, and instead they’re sitting in a cave gathering dust and moss!  Come on, Game Freak!

I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist!  Give ‘em a head start and release the hounds!

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