I’m back from Italy and on the home stretch, with only three more Pokémon to go, so let’s check out today’s, the second of three Pokémon that still don’t officially exist according to Nintendo (and therefore have no official art; the pictures I’m using here are by Xous54 and are closely based on the in-game sprites): the enigmatic Meloetta.
Meloetta is a dainty humanoid Pokémon with powers related to music. Her arms and hands, as well as part of her headdress, are shaped like musical notes, and her wavy hair is reminiscent of a musical score. She can influence the emotions of people with her song, helping them to achieve the right state of mind for composing music, and could well be based on the Muses, the ancient Greek goddesses of inspiration, or possibly on less ancient interpretations of the same concept. There were traditionally supposed to be nine Muses, but Meloetta has only two forms (I’m not particularly bothered by this, incidentally; nine forms would be interesting but it would have been difficult to achieve enough differentiation between them to make it worthwhile), which are related to the two main ways humans can participate in music: song and dance. In her “Aria” form, Meloetta’s hair is green and flows out behind her, while in her “Pirouette” form, her orange hair is wrapped up around the top of her head like a turban and her skirt blows up around her like a ballerina’s tutu. Meloetta can switch from her Aria form, in which she is a Normal/Psychic dual-type, to her Pirouette form, in which she is a Normal/Fighting dual-type, by using an attack called Relic Song, a technique she forgot long ago but which she can remember with the help of a musician in Castelia City who will also tell you Meloetta’s story. Her songs and dances were both known for inspiring joy in days gone by, but at some point Meloetta became depressed by all the sorrow in the world and forgot the tune of her Relic Song, probably quite recently in historical terms (the mother of the musician seems to have heard it first-hand, so probably within the last fifty to one hundred years – could be a veiled reference to the second world war, but let’s not get too speculative here). She also forgot how to dance, since she can’t switch to Pirouette form without knowing Relic Song.
The odd part of this story is the mention of the disappearance of a pair red shoes from somewhere in the world at the same time as Meloetta forgot her Relic Song. The musician doesn’t actually say that the shoes belonged to Meloetta, but since he doesn’t say who they did belong to or where they were lost, we’re left with assumptions. Meloetta doesn’t have red shoes in the game (presumably because she never found them again), they aren’t mentioned in her Pokédex entries, the musician doesn’t offer any further explanation of the shoes’ significance, and it’s hard to see what red shoes have to do with… well, anything. I’ve heard suggestions that it’s a Wizard of Oz reference, which… raises more questions than it answers. More sensible is the idea that the shoes are from Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, The Red Shoes, which is about shoes that force their wearer to dance, but it’s also about the vanity and selfishness of a spoiled young girl and how she eventually learns humility, so any connection to Meloetta’s story is at best vague and superficial. I suppose it will make more sense after Nintendo stops trying to pretend that Meloetta doesn’t exist, which will probably coincide with the release of another one of those godawful movies that I’m going to have to watch someday. Red shoes aside, the idea that certain species of Pokémon have, whether by chance or by intent, been guiding the development of human culture, possibly for a very long time, is an interesting one and it’s nice to see a concept that embraces the idea as wholeheartedly as Meloetta does. I’ve mentioned in the past that Pokémon who look particularly human annoy me, and I stand by that position with regard to Meloetta; she’s too human-looking for me to think of her as a cute Pokémon. The musical notes are a nice touch but her art isn’t otherwise very interesting. The concept is still fun, though – so let’s look at the in-game execution.
Meloetta’s Pirouette form differs from her Aria form in preferring physical attacks to special attacks, being faster and more physically resilient than the Aria form, and being far less resistant to special attacks. This is all straightforward enough. Meloetta suffers from some of the same issues as Darmanitan does – namely, you can train a Meloetta who prefers to fight in her Aria form, and you can train one who prefers to fight in her Pirouette form, but it’s very difficult to train one who can do both effectively, and downright impossible to come up with a set of four attacks that works effectively in both states, especially since one of those attacks has to be Relic Song. It doesn’t help that Relic Song is not an exceptional attack anyway – it’s not too weak to be usable, and it will sometimes put its targets to sleep (10% of the time, increased to 20% by Meloetta’s Serene Grace power, which doubles the chance of triggering an attack’s secondary effects) but this is still hardly top-tier stuff. Moreover, although Meloetta’s special attack stat is excellent, if you’re using Relic Song at all, you probably will have trained your Meloetta for physical attacks, not special ones, so Relic Song will be even weaker than it otherwise might be. Finally, if your opponent happens to switch in a Ghost-type, it will fail completely since Relic Song is a Normal-type attack, and your Meloetta will be stuck in Aria form. The advantage is that your opponent won’t know what kind of Meloetta you’ll be using until after your first attack, and might switch in the wrong Pokémon to deal with it. The corresponding disadvantage is that, since Meloetta changes back to Aria form if she switches out, you may need to use Relic Song more than once in a battle, and after the first time your opponent will know what you’re up to and will effectively have a free turn every time Meloetta comes out. All that said, Pirouette Meloetta has some strong points – no other Fighting Pokémon is as fast as she is, and only four are stronger. Her Close Combat attack is a thing to be feared, and she has powerful secondary attacks to back it up in the form of Return, Stone Edge and Acrobatics. Shadow Claw is weak, but Ghost attacks combine well with Fighting attacks, so it’s worth a thought, and U-Turn is normally useful for its side effect (switching you out after the damage is done) and it would make a decent alternative to Relic Song on Meloetta’s first turn, but remember that Pirouette Meloetta hates having to switch out. Aria Meloetta doesn’t have to deal with all that, and she can throw together worthwhile special attacking sets with Psychic, Hyper Voice, Calm Mind, Thunderbolt, Focus Blast, Energy Ball or Charge Beam (those last two are particularly effective with Serene Grace). The problem is that Aria Meloetta doesn’t stand out amongst Psychic-types nearly as much as Pirouette Meloetta does amongst Fighting-types; she’s not fast enough to have a clear advantage over Pokémon like Alakazam, Azelf and Starmie in the offensive stakes, and she doesn’t have the support movepool to beat out the more defensive ones like Sigilyph and Gardevoir. Relic Song is what makes Meloetta unique, and frankly it doesn’t do a very good job of it.
If anyone remembers why I decided Darmanitan didn’t deserve to exist, you will have figured out what’s coming and why – in Meloetta, Game Freak have presented us with a Pokémon that has a unique and mechanically interesting ability, but implemented it in such a way that you’re really better off ignoring it. If you do choose to ignore it… well, I’ve made a lot of Meloetta not really standing out amongst Psychic-types, but she is still a legendary Pokémon (and, as a Normal-type, immune to Ghost attacks), so don’t be afraid to go nuts with her once she’s released if you happen to like her; her raw stats are too powerful for her to fail completely. I know I don’t normally judge legendary Pokémon on their mechanical traits, but this isn’t really actual weakness so much as bad design… besides which, again like Darmanitan, Meloetta has fairly interesting flavour but nothing (yet) which makes me think that she was just too exciting to leave out.
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let it be swept up by a tornado in Kansas and dropped on a witch’s head!