Victini

…oh, Victini, what did you do to deserve this?  I know there are people who like Victini; I know they exist.  Those people would be best served by turning around, sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting “la la la, I can’t hear you” for the duration of this entry.

Let’s have some background.  Victini is the latest in a long line of “cute” legendary Pokémon.  The Psychic cat Pokémon Mew is the fabled ancestor of all Pokémon.  Celebi is a forest spirit who exists beyond time.  Jirachi is a celestial fairy Pokémon who is only awake for one week in every thousand years, but can supposedly grant any wish in that time.  Manaphy, the so-called prince of the sea, possesses unmatched empathic abilities and can touch the heart of any living thing.  Last but not least, Shaymin, the guardian of meadows, is the personification of gratitude and has the power to harmlessly absorb any poison.  Victini, the newest addition to the group, is the embodiment of victory.  Victini is said to be a source of boundless energy, which he can share with anyone who touches his body.  As such, possessing Victini is supposedly an absolute guarantee of victory.  I don’t just mean victory in battle either; Victini is victory itself and can bring success in any kind of situation with any possible outcome that might be considered ‘winning’.  The obvious problems with this are almost unfair to point out – clearly having Victini doesn’t mean that a player will win every time in Black and White, and he’d be a really silly and pointless addition to the game if it did – so I’ll explain why I think this is a bad idea on a more conceptual level.  The inspiration for Victini is fairly easy to see – dollars to donuts, he’s based on figures like the ancient Greek goddess Nike (yes, like the shoe), the winged human figure who later became the inspiration for Christian iconography of angels.  Now, nike is literally the Greek word for victory; the goddess Nike is part divine being and part abstract concept – you simply don’t win with Nike opposing you because having Nike’s favour is what winning is.  Once a Greek city had her favour they would try to keep it with monuments and temples and things, but it was all but inevitable that she’d fly off somewhere else in the end.  Victory figures in other cultures tend to work in a similar way.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Pokémon are loyal to their trainers, even when it’s not a very good idea.  Victory, by its nature, is capricious and disloyal.  I wouldn’t necessarily mind having Victini exist in the Pokémon universe, but since the point of the game is still (in theory) to finish the damn Pokédex, anything that exists must somehow be catchable, which means you can befriend it.  Catching Dialga and Palkia, the rulers of time and space, in Diamond and Pearl was a similar sort of blow to suspension of disbelief but I actually think this is worse, just because of what Victini represents and how vastly incompatible it is with what Pokémon is about.

The nail in the coffin for me is that I honestly don’t think Victini is all that cute.  He’s obviously supposed to be, and Game Freak always try to give us at least one of these “cute legendary Pokémon” in each generation, but I think they’ve failed this time.  Victini’s weird little fangs and exaggerated ears remind me of a vampire bat, the fact that he has wings on his thighs is just strange, and those eyes… those huge, glassy eyes… Victini’s eyes bother me intensely.  I don’t know that I’d say he looks evil, but he’s definitely not something I’d want to pick up and hug, put it that way.  Finally, his lower body and legs are disproportionate, which wouldn’t bother me on its own, I think – after all, a lot of Pokémon have odd anatomy – but together with everything else wrong with Victini, it’s the straw that breaks my camel’s back.  My one last minor grievance against Victini is the fourteenth movie, in which he plays a major role, and the reason this is a minor grievance is that I must concede the fourteenth movie is not Victini’s fault, as such; it’s more that he’s tarnished in my eyes by association.  I may actually be obliged to watch the godawful thing at some point just so I can complain about it, but I don’t think a Pokémon movie has had a theatrical release in New Zealand since Spell of the Unown (and justly so; I saw Jewel of Life on Cartoon Network at some point last year and it was utter drivel), so don’t hold your breath.

So, as a Pokémon who supposedly brings victory to all who possess him, how does Victini stack up?  Well… poorly.  Victini’s type is Psychic/Fire, which in principle is not terrible; he has more resistances than weaknesses and some of them are quite good, but two of his weaknesses are to Rock and Dark – Stealth Rock and Pursuit, respectively – which means that (in the worst-case-scenario) Victini is vulnerable to moderate damage every time he switches in or out.  Victini follows the precedent of all the other “cute” legendary Pokémon by having balanced, high scores in all of his stats.  This distribution causes most of them to excel in a support role – taking hits for your team and hitting hard in return, often while using various techniques to help their allies like Reflect or Heal Bell.  They don’t really have the power or speed for a full-offense approach.  Unfortunately, that’s all Victini really knows how to do.  He doesn’t learn any boosting techniques like Calm Mind or healing techniques like Recover.  He doesn’t have Mew’s legendary versatility, Celebi’s staying power, Jirachi’s wonderful defensive typing or Manaphy’s two great blessings, Tail Glow and Hydration.  Victini just hits things… and, while he isn’t extremely powerful, he does have an excellent list of attacks to choose from, both physical and special: Flare Blitz, Fire Blast, Zen Headbutt, Psychic, Thunderbolt, Shadow Ball, Focus Blast, Grass Knot, Wild Charge, U-Turn, Energy Ball – all nice options.  Still, Victini is surprisingly lacklustre for a legendary Pokémon; there are better choices out there for most things you might want him to do.  There is exactly one big reason to use Victini: V-Create.  This is Victini’s signature move, which not all Victini know: the one that could be downloaded shortly after the release of Black and White couldn’t use it, but the one that’s available right now to celebrate the release of the fourteenth movie can, along with Reshiram and Zekrom’s signature moves, Fusion Flare and Fusion Bolt (the latter of which, incidentally, is actually very useful).  V-Create (just about the silliest name for an attack ever) is an insanely powerful Fire attack, a full 50% stronger than Fire Blast, but it comes at a cost: using V-Create cuts Victini’s speed, defence and special defence, leaving him wide open for a counterattack.  You should use V-Create anyway because it’s so ridiculously powerful that it remains his strongest option even against some Pokémon that resist it, and it is, as I said, the one real reason to pick Victini as your partner.  Victini is not as much of a one-trick pony as a lot of Pokémon are, but as legendary Pokémon go, he’s not exactly top shelf.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m not really bothered by how strong a legendary Pokémon is, since most of them are fairly powerful by sheer weight of numbers – only the very worst ones would be terrible enough to earn my displeasure on those grounds (I’m looking at you, Regigigas).  Victini is disappointing for a legendary Pokémon, but still strong (I really wouldn’t recommend using him without V-Create though).  What I really care about when judging legendary Pokémon is what they add to the games’ mythology, and in that respect I’m really unhappy with Victini.  The idea of a Pokémon that embodies victory in all its forms is just a bad idea as far as I’m concerned.  It’s not a concept that makes sense given the premise of the games and what we’ve always known about how trainers relate to Pokémon, and personally I think it’s an even worse fit with those ideas than all the other legendary Pokémon, some of which suffer from major issues of scale.

I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist!  Pull off its wings, and let it be tossed off the top of the Celestial Tower!

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