The Top Ten Worst Pokemon Ever, #7: Spinda

…great.  I’m only four Pokémon in, and Spinda’s already shown up.  Well, let’s get this over with…
 
Spinda is a crazy-eyed dancing midget panda, and that is yet another phrase I never imagined I would one day have to use.  Although Nintendo will never admit this because their name is built on being family-friendly, Spinda lurches through life in a state of perpetual drunkenness.  His movements are erratic, halting, and unpredictable, and in battle he relies mainly on stumbling around the attacks of his bewildered opponents as they try in vain to comprehend his demented tactics.  Despite appearances, Spinda actually maintains perfect mental clarity throughout his seemingly random dance; whether he moves like that on purpose to confuse his enemies or his thought processes are simply too warped for other Pokémon to follow is open for debate.  Much like Delibird and Castform, Spinda was designed as a gimmick Pokémon, and his gimmick is in his physical appearance: no two Spinda, the Pokédex confidently informs us, have exactly the same pattern of spots.  I don’t really think this is that interesting, but I… suppose it’s nice that they went to the effort of writing a little sequence of code to randomly generate four and a half billion different patterns of spots for Spinda to choose from… and then went to the effort of mentioning it in every Pokédex entry they ever wrote about Spinda, just so no-one would forget how clever they’d been… and then went to the effort of moving directly on to the next Pokémon in the Hoenn ‘dex, because the spot gimmick was obviously so awesome that Spinda didn’t need anything else, like an evolution…
 

 
…please kill me…

Seriously, though… this thing about the spots isn’t clever.  In the real world, that’s the norm, not the exception (giraffes, cows, cheetahs, penguins; the list goes on), and until I’m told otherwise I’ll assume that it’s the norm for Pokémon with spots as well (yes, Game Freak, I know that the sprites for other Pokémon don’t have four and a half billion different personalised spot patterns to choose from, but they don’t show other physical deviations like scars either – that doesn’t mean they aren’t there).  It’d be a lot more unusual if we’d been told that all Spinda have exactly the same pattern.  It still wouldn’t be particularly interesting unless they’d invented a fun reason for it, mind you, but it would at least get an eyebrow raise out of me.  I might be harping about Spinda’s spots rather excessively, but I think that as mature adults the important thing for us to remember here is that HE STARTED IT!

Norikumi (who has a great deal of brilliant Pokémon fanart at http://norikumi.deviantart.com/) shows us what Spinda does for fun: be ridiculous.

If Spinda’s peculiar fighting style intrigues you, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that his support movepool is incredible.  Trick Room, Encore, Baton Pass, Calm Mind, Work Up, Trick, Wish, Fake Tears, Icy Wind, Hypnosis, Rapid Spin and Disable are all open to him, a list that contains a number of useful utility powers with applications in both aiding teammates and crippling the opposition.  Powerful Normal attacks like Return add offensive options to his repertoire.  Shadow Ball and Psychic are on offer if you want him to use special attacks, Rock Slide and Wild Charge if you want him to use physical attacks, and Sucker Punch for hitting stuff before it kills him.  If you’re prepared to get a Spinda from one of the older games, even more options open up.  Dream World Spinda have access to a very powerful combination indeed: Spinda’s Dream World ability, Contrary, reverses all stat changes applied to him, while Superpower, a devastating Fighting attack, cuts both attack and defence when used – a Contrary Spinda will actually get stronger and stronger each time he uses it.  Now for the bad news.  The bad news is that Spinda’s stats are awful.  He can’t take hits, he can’t dish them out, and he can’t even run away very fast.  Those support moves are nice, but if Spinda wants an opportunity to use them he needs to either outrun something or scare it off, and he doesn’t have the speed for the former, the firepower for the latter, or the bulk to take a hit when he fails.  To make things worse, Normal is just a painful type; Spinda’s primary attacks will never be super-effective, and his solitary resistance (actually an immunity) ensures that almost every Pokémon in the game will have a move capable of exploiting his brittle defences.  By virtue of his huge movepool, there are probably several ridiculously specific combinations of support techniques that only Spinda can pull off, but in any single role he’s almost certainly outclassed several times over (Espeon is a better Calm Mind-Passer than Mr. Mime, who’s better than Girafarig, who’s better than Spinda… you get the idea).  No-one wants a Rapid Spinner with Wish badly enough that Spinda becomes a better option than just picking independently useful Pokémon.
 
Part of the problem with Spinda is that his iconic powers focus on confusion.  Assuming your Spinda doesn’t come from the Dream World, he can have one of two confusion-related abilities: Own Tempo makes Spinda immune to confusion, Tangled Feet allows him to dodge attacks more effectively while confused, and his signature move, Teeter Dance, confuses all the other Pokémon currently in play (so in a double battle, that’s both of your opponents and your partner).  The reason this is part of his problem is that confusion is not something serious players use.  Like sleep, confusion has a variable duration that limits its effectiveness, but unlike sleep, confusion only disables an afflicted Pokémon half of the time, and can be cured just by switching out.  Facing an opponent who relies on confusion is a pain, as anyone who has ever set foot inside a cave in the Pokémon universe will attest, but relying on confusion yourself pays off only sporadically, and there are other strategies that offer a much more predictable return on your turns and moveslots.  When confusion is used in serious play, it’s normally stacked with other effects that can deny an opponent’s turn: paralysis and flinching (neither of which Spinda can use effectively).  Because confusion is an unusual tactic, abilities that defend against it are, at best, situational.  Spinda’s flavour is all about confusion, though… and I want his strategy to be the same.

Okay, this... this is not what I had in mind at all, but it's AWESOME.  A lot of people who do Spinda evolutions seem to focus on the dazed/drunk aspect, and Spindrunk here, by Shinyscyther (http://shinyscyther.deviantart.com/), was by far the most hilarious one I found.Unlike Sunflora, there’s no reason Spinda shouldn’t evolve, so we have plenty of latitude to change his movepool, abilities, stats, and even type.  Spinda has two abilities that are worryingly situational at best, so I think the most straightforward thing to do is change them for new ones that fix Spinda’s main problem (the fact that confusion, compared to the five primary status effects, is simply not very debilitating) by imposing additional penalties on confused Pokémon while Spinda is in play.  Confusion represents a failure of a Pokémon’s strength of will, which is commonly connected with special attack or special defence, so I want one ability to automatically weaken both of those stats when a Pokémon becomes confused while Spinda is in play (the penalty stays in place after the confusion wears off, or if Spinda switches out, and can be triggered by self-induced confusion such as Petal Dance causes).  This ability is geared at making it impossible for a confused Pokémon to do anything but switch out to shake off the penalties.  For the other, let’s take the opposite route: confused Pokémon cannot switch out while Spinda is in play; they can only stay in and suffer.  If Spinda uses Baton Pass to switch out to another Pokémon, the confused Pokémon stays trapped (the same way Mean Look used to work and inexplicably no longer does), but only as long as it stays confused.  Spinda’s evolution should have strong defences so he can switch into some attacks without the benefit of resistances, and high speed to be able to fire off a Teeter Dance before being attacked, but his damage potential should remain low to encourage him to keep to his customary support role.  Likewise, his offensive movepool should not be notably expanded (his enormous support movepool should be enough for anyone once he has the stats to back it up).  As for flavour… Spinda’s evolution has spots that, impossibly, seem to move.  In fact, when researchers look at a photograph, it has no spots at all… but when the photograph is held up next to the real Pokémon, the spots seem to mysteriously reappear.  The light-twisting properties of its shimmering fur can cause people to see what they expect to see, rather than what is really there, and its form appears to distort subtly as it moves, causing headaches in anyone that tries to focus on it.  Other Pokémon who lock eyes with it feel compelled to imitate its unsteady, lurching walk, dazing them and limiting their movements, but however erratically this Pokémon walks, it always seems to reach its destination as quickly as if it had gone in a straight line.

 
I’m not sure what Spinda’s evolved form should look like (personally I want it to defy all attempts at nailing down its exact appearance, but there’s got to be something for the artwork and sprites), but I think that flavour and abilities like this are the way to go.  This little jerk should be able to bamboozle you just by looking at you, and then do what he came to do and be gone before you even know what’s happening.  As is, he simply fails not only to do that, but to do anything useful whatsoever.  I get that Game Freak thought the spot thing was cool (well, no, actually that’s a lie; I don’t get it at all, but let’s pretend that I do for the sake of argument) but it doesn’t mean that Spinda shouldn’t also be a powerful Pokémon – there is no such thing as too much awesome!

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