…it’s an angry mongoose detective…
…that… also kind of looks like Donald Trump?
Yungoos and Gumshoos, as their names and weasel-like forms indicate, are mongeese (this being, of course, the obviously correct plural form of the word “mongoose,” which I will extol and defend beyond all reason). Although they look very like weasels, mongeese, as I only recently learned, are actually not part of the mustelid family (weasels, otters and badgers) at all, but part of an entirely separate branch of the order Carnivora. They are related to cats, hyenas and civets, while mustelids are much closer to dogs, bears and seals. This is probably the reason for Zangoose’s odd species designation “the Cat Ferret Pokémon” – mongeese are to cats what ferrets are to dogs. Zangoose was inspired by the most well-known characteristic of mongeese, namely their aptitude for killing venomous snakes, which Zangoose expresses through her bitter ancestral blood-feud with Seviper. Yungoos and Gumshoos are designed after a very different and much more specific trait of one particular population of mongeese: namely, the saga of their introduction to Hawai’i.
Yungoos and Gumshoos are explicitly not native to Alola – they were introduced specifically to curb the Rattata population, an effort which failed miserably after the Rattata adapted to a nocturnal lifestyle and urban environments. We’ve had a few Pokémon in the past that don’t seem to actually be native to the regions in which we first met them (Eevee is probably Kalosian; Togepi if anything seems native to Sinnoh) but that’s usually not spelled out clearly. Yungoos, likewise, must come originally from some region we’ve never been to yet. There’s a whole story to this, which is that the real-world Hawai’i really does have a substantial population of Asian mongeese. They were imported on purpose in 1883 to hunt the introduced rats that were plaguing the sugarcane crop, after the success of a similar program in Jamaica (the rats in question include both the Norwegian rat, Rattus norvegicus, that arrived in Hawai’i in the late 18th century as a stowaway on European ships, and the somewhat more chill Polynesian rat, Rattus exulans, that had been deliberately introduced by the first Hawaiians over a thousand years earlier as a source of food). These mongeese were an utter failure at controlling the rat population, since rats are mostly nocturnal while mongeese are mostly diurnal, but did succeed in devastating many of Hawai’i’s vulnerable native bird and reptile species. This is what gives us the day-night duality between Yungoos and the Alolan Rattata, Yungoos only being able to evolve during the day and Rattata only at night, while Ilima’s totem Pokémon is a Raticate on Moon version but a Gumshoos on Sun version. It’s also the basis of the adaptations of the Alolan Rattata and Raticate described by the Pokédex.
It’s an interesting idea, building a Pokémon around a story like this, but I’m concerned that it clashes in unfortunate ways with some of the basic assumptions of how the Pokémon world works. Yungoos and Gumshoos clearly did just as poor a job of wiping out the Alolan Rattata as their real-world counterparts – and, we are told, even for the same reason. They are nonetheless thriving, and one of the most common Pokémon species throughout the Alolan islands. Like Hawai’i’s mongeese, they clearly found alternative prey, and presumably quite a lot, since we’re told their appetites are ravenous, though we hear nothing of what that prey might be – native Alolan species like Oricorio and Rowlet? And it’s not clear what, if anything, Alola plans to do about this. In the real world (particularly in places with large numbers of unique species, like Hawai’i or my own home in New Zealand), invasive predators tend to get little mercy. They’re a danger to vulnerable endangered species that exist nowhere else in the world, many of which are also symbols of regional culture and identity. We don’t see any of that side of the story in Sun and Moon. And to some extent that’s fine and to be expected – I mean, it’s Pokémon. What could they do, tell us to catch Yungoos and bring them to Professor Kukui to be euthanized because they’re a danger to rare native Pokémon? Yungoos and Gumshoos are as sapient as any other Pokémon and didn’t migrate to Alola by choice; applying real-world policies on invasive species to them just wouldn’t mesh with a lot of the Pokémon world’s basic rules about Pokémon in society. The problem is that, when you draw attention to this Pokémon being inspired by an invasive species, but get rid of everything negative about that inspiration, the moral of the story seems to be “introducing random exotic predators to fragile ecosystems as pest control works just fine, with absolutely no negative consequences.” That would easily be in the top 5 most dangerously wrong claims Pokémon has ever made, and bear in mind, this is a franchise which would have us believe that all wild animals really just want to be friends with you. I find it deeply troubling, but am not sure how best to resolve it.
Oh, and also, for some reason, Gumshoos has a detective aesthetic? His hunting behaviour is described as “staking out” his prey’s daily routines, and his fur sort of makes him look like he’s wearing a trench coat like Looker’s. I’m not quite sure where this comes from or why it’s in the design. Clearly it needed something else on top of the introduced mongoose story to make it more interesting and Pokémon-ish, and I suppose the detective motif serves as well as anything, but I’m at a loss as to why they went with that in particular. It’s not a reference to any real mongoose hunting strategies, as far as I can tell, nor to any particularly well-known fictional or mythological mongeese. The theme manifests as a sensible enough aspect of Gumshoos’ behaviour, so it doesn’t become too obnoxious, just… really, really puzzling. So that’s Gumshoos’ flavour – interesting but problematic on one level and a little bit puzzling on another, so a mixed bag all around (and just to clarify – no, Donald Trump was not actually an influence on the design). Time to see if his skills match the same standard.
As a cookie-cutter early-game Normal Pokémon, Gumshoos isn’t really allowed to be very good. He certainly tries, though – puts up quite a valiant effort, actually, and does so in a fairly interesting way. Gumshoos’ particular schtick derives from his unique ability: Stakeout. As well as describing his preferred hunting strategy, this ability allows him to hit for double damage with all of his attacks against any enemy switching in. This makes it very difficult to deal with Gumshoos in a normal way, by switching in a counter Pokémon. Between his powerful physical attacks, Stakeout bonus, and passable physical movepool, not all that many Pokémon can feel particularly secure switching in against him. Even Pokémon with really top-of-the-line physical defence capabilities like Hippowdon and Ferrothorn can be stung pretty badly by a poorly-timed switch against Gumshoos. Well, that sounds great, so what’s the problem? The flip side, unfortunately, is that between his lacklustre defences, atrocious speed, lack of any priority attacks, and few resistances, quite a lot of Pokémon with even average offensive and defensive capabilities can afford to just go toe-to-toe with a Stakeout Gumshoos, provided they aren’t weak to Dark or Ground attacks. Even that assumes you can actually get Gumshoos safely into play in the first place, and again, you’ll be hindered there by his average-at-best defences.
Gumshoos’ other two ability choices are similar in concept, in that they both give him ways of increasing his attack power. Of these, Adaptability – his hidden ability – is probably the best of all three numerically, increasing the normal bonus for attacks of your own element from +50% to +100%. With Adaptability, Gumshoos actually winds up having what I think are the most powerful Normal-type physical attacks in the entire game, just barely edging out Slaking, Huge Power Diggersby, and full-strength Regigigas. Let that sink in for a moment. One of these rubbishy cookie-cutter early-game Normal Pokémon can fire off a Return or (gods forbid) Giga Impact more powerful than bloody Slaking’s, and doesn’t even have to live with Slaking’s Truant (dis)ability. Of course, now that I’ve hyped up Gumshoos’ power, I should point out the main problem with Adaptability: it makes Gumshoos extremely similar to Huge Power Diggersby, except clearly worse. He’s slower, has weaker defences and fewer resistances, doesn’t get a same-type bonus on Earthquake, has a much narrower movepool, and only gets the Adaptability bonus on Normal attacks, while Huge Power works with everything physical. Gumshoos almost seems like a reaction to some feeling on Game Freak’s part that Diggersby – his immediate predecessor in the rubbishy early-game Normal-type slot – was overtuned, and that they needed to make sure the next one was significantly weaker. It’s not all bad, because Crunch and Earthquake very neatly cover almost everything that resists Gumshoos’ Normal attacks (this is probably Gumshoos’ biggest advantage over Diggersby: a strong Dark attack that keeps him from being bullied by Ghost-types). High-defence Steel-types that aren’t weak to Earthquake, like Skarmory and Forretress, can just about ignore you, but not much else can. Gumshoos’ third ability choice, Strong Jaw, boosts his biting attacks by 50%. This might be interesting if, say, Gumshoos gets access to Fire/Thunder/Ice Fang from move tutors in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, but at the moment the only important attacks Strong Jaw applies to are Crunch and Hyper Fang. The bonus to Crunch is admittedly nice for dealing with Ghost-types, and Hyper Fang with a Strong Jaw boost does technically have a higher power than a baseline Return, but neither of these things is worth giving up the power of Adaptability or Stakeout.
I’ve been assuming something along the lines of [Return/Crunch/Earthquake/???] thus far because, barring some variation in your choice of Normal attack (Hyper Fang for a hypothetical Strong Jaw moveset, Façade if you’re worried about burns, Frustration if you’re roleplaying as a villain, and Thrash if you’re roleplaying as an idiot), there’s not much reason to do anything else with Gumshoos. There’s some variation in what that last attack can be. Gumshoos gets U-Turn, which is generally a strong move, but considering how hard it is to get Gumshoos safely into play in the first place, and how much damage he can do once he’s there, I’m not convinced that pulling him out again is a great idea. Pursuit is an option to catch Pokémon that try to flee, but meshes badly with Stakeout, since you want to be hitting the Pokémon that switches in, rather than the one leaving. Revenge gives you a Fighting attack, and always going second isn’t a huge deal for Gumshoos, who’s slower than most Pokémon anyway, but the fact that you need to take damage in order for the move to be any good is not appealing (on the other hand, Revenge is a good response to the kind of play that Stakeout invites). You could always just stick in Façade or even Giga Impact as a secondary Normal attack, I suppose. Finally, and I hesitate even to bring this up… Gumshoos does get Last Resort, and with Adaptability this would be one of the most powerful attacks in the game. Last Resort only works if you’ve already used all your other attacks, which isn’t feasible for a Pokémon of Gumshoos’ constitution. You could, however, put together a Gumshoos with just Last Resort and Protect (Last Resort always fails if it’s your only move), use your other Pokémon to take out any Ghost-, Rock- or Steel-types in your way, then go to town. This is not a recommendation; in fact I would characterise it more as a warning, but I’m not going to tell you how to live your life in the precious few days that doubtless remain before you run yourself off a cliff with a crate of nitroglycerine.
I’m seriously unconvinced by any possibility of using Gumshoos as anything other than a sledgehammer, because the stats just aren’t there, it’s a waste of his abilities, and his support movepool is decidedly on the “meh” side, but for the sake of completeness we should run through the options. Gumshoos learns Yawn, which is interesting with Stakeout because it will generally prompt opponents to switch to keep their Pokémon from falling asleep. Taunt exists, but Gumshoos is too slow to use it effectively and in most cases would be better served by just spamming Return. Super Fang halves the target’s remaining health rather than dealing damage normally, and since damage is Gumshoos’ main strength, I wouldn’t generally advise trying it, but I suppose it does offer a nasty surprise for those few Pokémon who are capable of holding themselves aloof from his usual attacks, and it’s not like Gumshoos’ movesets are going to be full to bursting. That’s… about it, honestly.
In summary, Gumshoos strikes me as more than a little one-trick-pony-ish. You can batter your opponents with some incredibly powerful Adaptability- or Stakeout-boosted attacks, but you have almost no versatility; you’re slow, not particularly strong on defence, and have a very predictable choice of attacks. I feel like Gumshoos is one of those Pokémon that’s on the verge of being good (and for evidence of that… well, look at Diggersby), because his strengths are huge; it’s just that his weaknesses are fairly all-encompassing too. The design is interesting, in spite of (even because of?) the detective persona’s sheer weirdness. The attitude that it forces the designers to take towards invasive species seriously bothers me though. In any world that was even slightly more realistic or gritty than Pokémon, you would try to exterminate Yungoos and Gumshoos with traps and poison, as the Hawaiian government does. You can probably make this complaint about a lot of Pokémon, and the games have never really made any effort to construct a Pokémon ecology that would stand up to real scrutiny, but Yungoos draws attention to it in a way that other Pokémon normally don’t, and leaves us with a distinctly worrying, probably unintentional message about invasive wildlife.