I have a long history of bitter feuds with gimmick Pokémon – Pokémon apparently designed to show off some manner of unique mechanic. This is not because I have problems with the gimmicks themselves; things like Spinda’s seven zillion and one unique spot patterns or Chatot’s ability to interact with the DS’s microphone (an ability now obsolete, incidentally) certainly add something to those Pokémon. The trouble is that often the designers appear to think that one gimmick is all it takes to produce a finished design and that these unique Pokémon don’t deserve anything else, with two results: 1) their combat abilities generally border on ‘completely unsalvageable’ and 2) the gimmicks are often the only interesting thing about them. It is therefore with no small amount of trepidation that I go into my analysis of Furfrou, the show poodle Pokémon, whose main distinguishing feature is his broad selection of fur trims, which can be styled in Lumiose City’s fantastically popular Friseur Furfrou salon. Is that all there is to Furfrou? Is it worth the attention Kalos gives it? Can we find anything else to like about him? Will I make it through this entry without suffering an aneurysm? Tune in to find out… right now!
For the people of Kalos, and of Lumiose City in particular, owning a stunningly coiffed Furfrou is among the most vital aspects of the elusive and wondrous state of being that is True Stylishness. Lumiopolitans (for so I have arbitrarily chosen to call them) are ardent connoisseurs of style in all its manifestations – stylish dress, stylish battling, stylish transportation, stylish personal grooming, even stylish diet – and there is no other channel by which their respect and adoration may be more quickly won or lost. The exquisitely stylish tourist can expect to be admitted to exclusive establishments and offered choice discounts; the unkempt hitchhiker… can not. One of the qualifications for the life of style is having a well-groomed Furfrou, and one of that life’s benefits is access to ever more exclusive and extravagant cuts and dyes: an ordinary customer will be offered only the frightfully plebeian ‘Star,’ ‘Diamond’ and ‘Heart’ trims, while those who have demonstrated their superior taste can request ‘Pharaoh,’ ‘Kabuki,’ or ‘La Reine;’ the truly elegant, as a badge of their absolute class, can have their Furfrou done in the coveted ‘Matron,’ ‘Dandy’ and ‘Debutante’ styles – these last three appear to have had the fur on their heads somehow pressed into a variety of crisply-outlined hat shapes. It goes without saying that trainers sporting lesser Furfrou trims should be regarded with haughty disdain, reserving true respect for those whose Furfrou are maintained in the highest of styles. Take careful note, however: be cautious when dealing with the trainer of a ‘Natural’ Furfrou. Such a person may be an utterly philistine no-hoper who wouldn’t know stylishness if it walked up and offered them a designer handbag, or they may be may be an ultra-classy fashion ninja making a richly satirical comment on the nature of mainstream Kalosian style that operates five or six degrees of irony beyond anything you can even comprehend, much less mimic (much like Jim the Editor’s appreciation of certain rap artists). Be sure to observe carefully the shape and tint of the individual’s sunglasses before jumping to any conclusions.
So, as you might have guessed, what persuades me to tolerate Furfrou’s gimmick – even though all nine styles look utterly ridiculous – is that it makes a lot of sense in the context of Kalos’ broader themes. It’s silly and pretentious, just like the Kalosians; Furfrou, unlike Spinda and Chatot (to stick with the examples I used earlier), is a part of the underlying atmosphere of the region in which X and Y take place. They’re the French, turned up to eleven; of course they have an otherwise-useless Pokémon based on a poodle whose complicated fur styles act as an esoteric status symbol for his fashion-conscious trainers. It would almost be unrealistic to expect them not to. Furfrou himself is not all that interesting, particularly when you consider that his most unique power is apparently the ability to sit still and be groomed by human hairdressers in a variety of increasingly frivolous ways – I think that needs to be put out there. Kalos’ cultural obsession with him, though, is at least amusing, and apparently goes back centuries, since Furfrou were traditionally used as the bodyguards of the Kalosian monarchy. Honestly I have trouble imagining any of the available styles as appropriately imposing royal bodyguard attire (well, except maybe the Pharaoh…) and am compelled to wonder whether Pyroar might have been a more appropriate choice, though perhaps ancient Furfrou trims were a little more imposing. I think this is probably a reference to Louis XVI, the king who was deposed by the French revolution, who had a particular fondness for poodles and is actually credited with responsibility for the creation of the first miniature breeds. He is unlikely to have used them as bodyguards, although I confess that the mental image of the King of France staring down the Third Estate from behind the protection of a pair of savagely yipping miniature show poodles does fill me with a curious shade of joy. I can find little to like about Furfrou as a Pokémon; he’s really rather generic. He makes a neat cultural fixture though.
Despite much anticipation and speculation by players prior to the games’ release, Furfrou’s various trims have no effect whatsoever on his battle qualities: all Furfrou are pretty much the same (in spite of the Pokedex’s groundless assertion that Furfrou become more agile when their fur is kept trimmed). This is rather a shame, because Furfrou could do with some extra tricks, as we’ll see. As a Normal-type, he fights an uphill battle for relevance; having only one weakness is nice, but one immunity and no resistances isn’t exactly ideal for a defensive Pokémon, which is what Furfrou tries to be. This might have made a sensible effect for different trims, actually; give each style one or two associated resistances (or even immunities) to bulk out his somewhat lacklustre resistance profile and allow players to tailor their Furfrou (literally) to the needs of their teams. Jim wants to give Furfrou a ‘Hair Strike’ (like an Air Strike but with hair… or something) attack that shakes off a cloud of loose hairs, which then turn rigid and fly at the target like Jolteon’s Pin Missiles; different coat styles would give the attack different elemental properties. Because of Furfrou’s support predilections, I’m more inclined to want something in the fashion of Secret Power, with constant type and damage but variable secondary effects. Anyway. As it is, Furfrou’s principle assets are high speed, good special defence, and a lovely ability – Fur Coat – that roughly doubles his normally weak defence (just watch out for Mold Breaker Pokémon like Haxorus, who will shred Furfrou’s luxuriant coat like tissue paper… I mean, Haxorus can also do that by, y’know, being Haxorus, but you get the idea). Furfrou’s physical attack stat is passable but no more, so ideally you’re going to need to find one or two solid support options to mix in if you want Furfrou to contribute.
Furfrou’s staple attack will probably be the Normal type’s universal go-to, Return, unless you want to try to flinch-spam stuff to death with Headbutt and Thunder Wave. Sucker Punch is good for getting the drop on really fast Pokémon, and also gives Furfrou something to do against Ghosts, though it can be a trifle inconsistent since it will only work against opponents who are about to use direct attacks. Electric damage is useful but Wild Charge, with its unwelcome recoil, is not a great attack; probably a better option is U-Turn, eternally valuable more for the free switch it entails than for the actual damage it does. Furfrou doesn’t get a lot of support options, but considering that his greatest strength is not dying, we should take a look. He’s one of the few Pokémon with access to Cotton Guard, the most powerful physical defence buff in the game, so if you want to really work with that ability and turn him into a total brick wall, you have the option – it’s not a brilliant option, mind you, since a great physical wall ideally should be able to switch into physical attacks at will, but if you have the opportunity to set up, Furfrou will be damn hard to take down (unless, y’know, something wildly implausible like a critical hit happens). Packing Toxic to capitalise on that survivability might be your best option for actually hurting things – alternatively, carry Thunder Wave to sting the special attackers who will inevitably switch in to bypass Furfrou’s monstrous physical defence. The trouble is that Furfrou doesn’t have any rapid healing moves, so any damage he takes tends to stick. A Rest/Sleep Talk set could be interesting, though status moves tend not to mesh well with those. If you have someone else to set up Stealth Rock and the like on Furfrou’s behalf, Sleep Talk would allow Furfrou to bypass the negative priority of Roar and use his high speed to shuffle opposing Pokémon through your entry hazards without giving them a chance for reprisal. It’s a bit of a ridiculous strategy, is complicated by the fact that Furfrou’s not that fast, and isn’t even a terribly unusual thing to be able to do, but I’m running out of ideas here (and, in fairness, few Pokémon as fast as Furfrou can match his toughness). If you’re feeling particularly brazen you could even try Swagger and trust in Furfrou’s ridiculous hair to protect you from any boosted attacks that get through the confusion effect. This is not a good idea, but again, I’m short of them at the moment.
Furfrou’s special movepool is actually a lot more appealing than his physical movepool, but he just doesn’t have the stats to back it up. A Charge Beam set, including Surf, Dark Pulse and Grass Knot, would allow him to boost up to potentially viable levels and would certainly bring a surprise factor to the battle, but his initial special attacking power is just so lacklustre that it’s hard to see why you’d bother, and it’s also unfortunate that Furfrou has no strong Normal-type special attacks. Snarl is an odd choice, but will lower the target’s special attack as well as doing Dark damage, and might be a good way to take special attackers by surprise if they switch in on you. That’s… honestly about it; I think I’ve covered practically every useful thing Furfrou can do. For a Normal-type, his movepool is almost obscenely small. Perhaps move tutors in the next sixth-generation game will give him a new set of tricks, but I’m not holding my breath…
So that’s Furfrou – a Pokémon who tells us more about Kalos than he does about himself. As walking, breathing accessories go, Furfrou isn’t bad, but he suffers from a severe lack of ability to… like… do things, and that comes through when you try to use him in battle. I have trouble understanding why any self-respecting monarch would pick Furfrou, of all Pokémon, as a bodyguard (other than having a totally unashamed preference for style over function, which… in fairness is probably exactly what the reason was), and that’s a problem here. What makes this Pokémon suited for that, either in the past or today? Does their plethora of classy trims have any connection with this ancient role? Do I even care? No. No I do not. Next!