Vaporeon

Official art of Vaporeon, by Ken Sugimori; all hail Nintendo, etc.Eevee’s enigmatic and mesmerising aquatic evolution, Vaporeon is not only the form of choice for players who are fans of elegant, beautiful Pokémon, she’s also one of the most dependable of the seven, with surprisingly good defensive skills and useful support powers.  Personally, I think she’s one of the better-designed Pokémon of the original 150 – kind of a hard act for the other six to follow, but hey, it’s not her fault she comes first in the Pokédex, so let’s see what makes her tick.

Vaporeon is an Eevee who has adapted to life in the water – her fur has been replaced by smooth, shiny skin, her fluffy mane with a webbed frill, and her puffy tail with a long, sleek dolphin-like one.  People who have seen just the tail have apparently been known to mistake Vaporeon for a mermaid.  Vaporeon is more than just an aquatic-adapted Pokémon, though.  She can actually control water to a degree that few other Water-types can match, can predict the approach of rain, and can even dissolve her own body into water in order to move unseen (this ability is represented in-game by the Acid Armour technique, which is not quite a signature move, but is restricted to only a handful of Pokémon who have similar powers, like Muk and Cryogonal).  The official explanation for how Vaporeon does this strikes me as a little bit suspect – apparently her “body’s cellular structure is similar to the molecular composition of water,” which is fundamentally absurd on a number of levels – but I’m willing to chalk this one up to the Pokédex being written by ten-year-olds who don’t know any better.  I’m tempted just to call it “magic” and move on, but then again, I suppose if all living things are mostly made of water anyway, it’s not all that impossible for Vaporeon to be able to flood her system with water in such quantities that she appears to dissolve into the water around her, even while the solid structures of her cells actually remains intact.  At least, it’s no more impossible than any of the other stuff that Pokémon do on a daily basis (actually, I think that in order to do this Vaporeon would need to have rigid-walled cells like a plant’s, in order to stop all her cells from bursting with the osmotic pressure… but let’s face it; now I’m just using fancy words to sound clever). 

 An adorable leaping Vaporeon, by Michelle Simpson (http://michellescribbles.deviantart.com/ - if you like what you see, she does commissions).

Vaporeon succeeds at her design goals in a number of ways.  Her aquatic characteristics are smoothly blended with the basic Eevee shape she evolves from, resulting in something that isn’t just a rehash of a real water animal, the way so many Water Pokémon are, but a new and elegant combination of attributes.  Her unique water powers are also a neat point of difference from the zillions of other Water-types out there, even today with so many more to compete with than when she first took the stage.  She also fits very well with an aspect of Eevee’s design that developed a bit later, something I’m probably going to come back to a few times in this series: the idea that Eevee’s split evolution is all about adapting to the environment.  As far as I can tell, this idea isn’t present in Red, Blue or Yellow version, or the early seasons of the anime for that matter, where the presence of radiation from the elemental stones is all that’s necessary for any change.  Obviously, in the games, the stones prompt the change; there’s no question of evolving your Eevee into a Vaporeon by getting her to spend a lot of time in the swimming pool.  I do like the possibility that Eevee is able to grow in so many different directions because she’s evolved to be adaptable to many different environments, though.  Jolteon and Flareon, notably, aren’t good fits for the idea.  I can’t blame them for that, clearly, since they were designed before anyone ever suggested that adaptation to the environment was key to Eevee’s growth.  It is a nagging little inconsistency, though, which I’ll address as I move on through this project.  For now, it’s just good to note that Vaporeon fits the pattern so nicely, as an aquatic Eevee.  Moving on, then; Vaporeon is a very well-designed Pokémon, but how does she measure up in a fight?

A quick aside on the Eeveelutions’ stat spreads – all seven of them have the same absolute values for their six stats, just rearranged.  They all have three stats that are average to poor, one that’s very good, one that’s excellent, and one that’s amazing.  Vaporeon’s particular specialty is endurance; she has a ridiculous amount of hit points, enough to compensate for her poor physical defence (especially with a bit of focussed training), as well as a good special defence score.  What’s more, Black and White gave her (along with most of the other Water-types in the game) one of the nicest gifts a special tank could ask for – the ability to burn physical attackers with Scald, crippling their offensive capabilities.  Vaporeon’s support movepool is not wide – mostly, she can force switches and occasionally put things to sleep with Yawn, or kill them slowly with Toxic.  If you want to boost her physical defence (or someone else’s, by way of Baton Pass), there’s always Acid Armour, but using defence boosts is generally just begging to take a critical hit in the face.  The real kicker is Wish.  All seven of Eevee’s evolutions get Wish, a healing spell that kicks in one turn after it’s used, potentially allowing other Pokémon on the user’s team to receive the healing in place of the user.  Vaporeon, however, is by far the best at it, because the amount healed by Wish is equal to half of the user’s maximum HP – and Vaporeon’s HP is massive.  She can deliver some of the strongest Wishes in the game – surpassed only by Wigglytuff and Alomomola – making her brilliant for giving a wounded Pokémon a second bite at the apple, or helping a healthy Pokémon to switch in with impunity by healing any damage it takes as it comes in.  The other side to Vaporeon is what makes her so much better than Alomomola; unlike the sunfish Pokémon, she can actually fight.

 A more realistic take on Vaporeon, by Ruth Taylor (http://ruth-tay.deviantart.com/ - she has more Pokémon fanart in the same style, and it is glorious), drawing inspiration from wolves, turtles and otters.

This is where another brief aside on the Eeveelutions in general might be a good idea.  Just about all of them have very poor offensive movepools.  Most of them have a powerful attack from their own types, plus Shadow Ball and Signal Beam, two fairly weak attacks from fairly weak elements.  None of them are suited to all-out assault.  Vaporeon, however, has one major advantage over her brothers and sisters: almost all Water Pokémon have power over ice as well.  What’s more, Water/Ice is actually a fairly strong combination.  Between Scald, Ice Beam, her excellent special attack, and Toxic, Vaporeon is pretty dangerous for a defensive Pokémon.  Most Pokémon with strong special defence that don’t mind Toxic can still ignore her fairly safely, but unlike Alomomola she isn’t just an invitation for a hyper-offensive Pokémon to jump in and start setting up, and if she’s in trouble, she can always drop a Wish and switch out.  The icing on the cake for Vaporeon is her choice of two wonderful abilities.  Her Dream World ability, Hydration, allows her to heal instantly from status problems during rain, which isn’t really as brilliant for her as it is for some of the other Pokémon who like to use it, since its major benefit is one-turn Rests, and Vaporeon relies heavily on Wish for healing anyway.  Water Absorb, on the other hand, is wonderful; by converting incoming Water attacks into a source of healing, it gives Vaporeon opportunities to switch in for free against some of the most common attacks in the game (Surf and Scald) as well as bonus healing, which a defensive Pokémon will always appreciate.  All in all, Vaporeon did very well in the great lottery of Pokémon, with everything she needs to back up her excellent stats.  Ever since Ruby and Sapphire introduced Wish and Water Absorb, she’s had an easy life; before then she was a fairly unspectacular but still above-average Water-type.  Some Eevee forms, despite having equally high stats… did not do so well.

As a matter of personal taste, Vaporeon isn’t actually my favourite Eevee evolution – that honour goes to Espeon – but as an objective assessment of her design and powers, I’m rather tempted to say that she is the ‘best’ of the seven.  Again, a hard act to follow, since it seems that, for some of the others, I’ll be talking partly in terms of how they fail to measure up to Vaporeon.  Still, at least she was a good beginning, her position among the original trio helping to establish Eevee as the universally adored Pokémon she is today.

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