Well, in any list of the dumbest Pokémon of all time, the bugs were bound to put forward a representative sooner or later. Today I’ll be looking at the musical cricket Pokémon, Kricketune, and his significantly less irritating younger sibling, Kricketot. I have always had a soft spot for Kricketot, ever since I caught one shortly after starting Diamond version for the first time. Kricketot is a tiny, brightly-coloured beetle who communicates by knocking his antennae together to make sounds like the chimes of a xylophone. His physical appearance is suggestive of a rotund little man in a neat waistcoat and shiny shoes (he’s supposed to remind you of a conductor), while at the same time including no aspects that are actually out-of-place on a beetle Pokémon. Kricketot isn’t an especially clever design and there’s not much to say about him, but he’s cute and reasonably well done. He’s also very difficult to train since (on Diamond and Pearl anyway) he knows no attacks other than Growl and Bide, and can only damage other Pokémon by waiting for them to hit him first. You won’t have to put up with this for long though; like many Bug Pokémon, Kricketot evolves very rapidly… into Kricketune. I always hoped he would evolve again, but he never did, the little jerk. I kept him around for a while because I needed a Pokémon who could use Cut, and eventually ditched him for a Parasect when I got far enough in the game to receive Pokémon from Leaf Green. So… why do I hate Kricketune so much, anyway?
I can think of only one word to describe Kricketune’s artwork: obnoxious. It’s difficult to articulate why Kricketune’s artwork is so offensive to me; maybe on some level my mind rebels against the idea of an insect with facial hair. I honestly don’t know how the designers managed to make Kricketune’s moustache look as pasted-on as it does; I would have thought you’d have to try to make something fit the rest of the Pokémon that badly. The fact that his distended belly reminds me of a starving third-world orphan doesn’t help his case. I understand that it’s not that easy to convey “this Pokémon is based on a violinist,” and making his body physically resemble a lute wasn’t a bad idea in principle, but I have to wonder about the quality control that was involved in the execution. His flavour isn’t actually terrible; the idea of a violinist Pokémon isn’t much of a stretch when you start from a cricket, but they’ve chosen to run with it and make Kricketune a musical genius capable of composing new tunes on the fly. Apparently there’s even a village that holds contests of music for Kricketune, which is actually kind of interesting. Again, the idea of a violin-like body, complete with internal sounding chambers, isn’t a problem in and of itself; it’s a fun way of expanding on the fact that a cricket’s own body is literally his instrument. It’s more that I’m just a tiny bit FLABBERGASTED that no-one ever spent a few moments just looking at Kricketune and thinking “…maybe this isn’t working quite how we planned.”
I am prepared to accept that someone at Game Freak once believed Spinda and Delcatty had the potential to be decent Pokémon. I am prepared to accept that they may have dramatically miscalculated the importance of a Pokémon’s movepool in comparison to its raw stats. I am prepared to accept, in other words, that the positions they currently hold in the ranks of the most mind-blowingly incompetent Pokémon in the game are the result of a terrible, terrible mistake.
I am prepared to accept no such thing with regards to Kricketune.
Kricketune has it all. Lacklustre attacks, mediocre speed, cardboard defences, unhelpful abilities, and a grand total of perhaps nine or ten genuinely useful techniques. This Pokémon is not here for us to use. He is here for us to laugh at, poke, step on, and ultimately set on fire. In theory, Kricketune is a Swords Dancer (that is to say, this is the role at which he fails least horribly), setting him up to be compared with the other Bug-type Swords Dancers who came before him: the infinitely superior Scyther and Scizor. Kricketune’s physical movepool isn’t actually much worse than Scyther’s; they can both choose from X-Scissor, Brick Break, Night Slash and Aerial Ace, which is pretty solid in terms of type coverage but leaves them relying on some comparatively weak attacks, holding them back from being really effective top-tier Swords Dancers. The difference between Kricketune and Scyther (well, besides the fact that Scyther is better at everything because of his higher stats) is that Scyther has a bunch of useful support moves and can keep his opponents guessing. Kricketune… has Taunt, I guess, so he can stop big defensive Pokémon from weakening or disabling him, but that just draws attention to his massive vulnerability to… y’know… attacks. He can slap away another Pokémon’s item with Knock Off. Lots of other Pokémon can do that too, but I guess it’s fun. He can use Perish Song to… fail to achieve anything whatsoever, since he has no way of trapping opponents in play long enough for the song to kill them, and he’ll eventually be forced to switch out too (assuming you don’t want Kricketune to die, which, I will grant you, is something of a stretch). Finally, he can use Sing to be slightly less ineffective and put things to sleep, or alternatively, to spend a couple of turns failing to put things to sleep because Sing is dreadful. Finally, to make sure there was absolutely no doubt that Kricketune was an inferior version of Scyther, Game Freak went and gave him exactly the same abilities. Once Kricketune has been badly injured, he will almost certainly die too quickly to notice that his Swarm ability has amped up his Bug attacks, like X-Scissor. If that doesn’t appeal, Kricketune’s Dream World ability is Technician. This is actually a really awesome ability and, together with Bullet Punch, is a pretty big contributing factor to the massive popularity of Scizor. Technician powers up several weak attacks, which are often the ones with the best secondary effects (like Bullet Punch, which always hits first). Kricketune has precisely two moves worth using that benefit from Technician: Bug Bite (this basically becomes a slightly better replacement for X-Scissor) and Aerial Ace (which does help Kricketune with his type coverage… I guess).
An exhaustive list of the reasons Kricketune sucks would fill an entire entry on its own, but those are the highlights. Now, as usual, it’s time for me to prove my worth and explain what I would do with him if I ever had the chance. Besides brutally murder him and decorate my home with his entrails.
I’ve had trouble coming up with a good way to improve on Kricketune’s flavour, because most of my hatred against him is directed at his art and I find myself having to admit I probably couldn’t do better. Getting rid of the moustache, or at the very least making it more wiry to better suit an insect body, seems like a no-brainer. I’m tempted to suggest exaggerating the violin shape of his body and making the whole thing more stylistic, because the attempt to compromise between a naturalistic design and the instrument concept is what’s created this unearthly teardrop-shaped body, which just doesn’t work at all. Also, change the eyes. Kricketot’s eyes have black irises and white pupils. Kricketune’s eyes have black irises and blacker pupils. Kricketot’s look bright and Kricketune’s look dead. I know it’s small, but it bothers me.
One of the odd little things that bug me about Kricketune (no pun intended) is that his evolution from Kricketot involves a shift in inspiration from a xylophone (a percussion instrument) to a violin (a string instrument). As I tend to do when I run into something about a design that I don’t quite get, I’m just going to go with it. Kricketune needs to evolve, as everyone in the Top Ten does, but why stop at one evolution? Let’s split his evolutionary path into an entire damn orchestra! I want a huge grasshopper with a wooden exoskeleton. He makes his music when wind blows through a long hollow tube that passes into his thorax and out through his abdomen. His wooden body is filled with holes like a flute or clarinet, and he uses his six legs to ‘play’ himself like one while he uses his wings to keep aloft. This one is a Bug/Grass-type, but can also use wind attacks like Air Slash, Hurricane and Whirlwind, as well as Earth Power (I’m tempted to let him have Quiver Dance as well to make up for Bug/Grass sucking so badly). I want a big, bulky goliath beetle-type thing, who can rear up on his hind legs and beat his carapace like a drum with his front legs; I think Bug/Ground would work with this one, with lots of powerful physical attacks like Earthquake, as well as – of course – Belly Drum. As long as I have the opportunity to play around with type combinations, I want a Bug/Water type, since that’s unique (well, unless you count Surskit) – a swimming beetle, with long oar-like arms like a water-boatman’s, the pipes of a water organ lying flat along his back (these double as water-cannons, of course), and a manic grin on his face. I’m thinking of him as a mixed attacker, with powerful physical and special options (Bug Buzz, X-Scissor, Surf and Waterfall, of course; then maybe Ice Beam and Cross Chop), plus possibly Agility. Finally, I want a conductor for the orchestra; a Bug/Psychic-type similar in appearance to Kricketune (bearing in mind the changes I wanted to make earlier), but with brightly-coloured butterfly or moth wings, and maybe hands positioned part-way down his scythes (a little like Gallade’s). He is the rarest of the group, and although he still has Kricketune’s violin-type music, his main role is to direct communities of the others in battle, performance, and day-to-day life, focussing on support techniques like Reflect, Baton Pass, Wish and Encore.
I may have gone slightly overboard there. The multiple evolutions were probably not, strictly speaking, necessary and getting them to make sense was, I admit, something of a stretch. I think it’s best that we all agree to blame Kricketune and move on together. I’ve only got three entries left now, and the end – my horrible, gibbering end – is in sight.