Today, for… some reason… I have decided to try to bridge the gap between Alola and Galar by reviewing all four of the Ice-type regional variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash, Alolan Ninetales, Galarian Mr. Mime and Galarian Darmanitan. This obviously took far too much time and the article is far too long, but I’ve written it now, and if I had to write it, then you all have to sit down and read it; that was the deal, that’s how this works. The Ice type is an interesting choice for regional variations, because real animals also kind of have Ice-type regional forms: as animals move into more extreme latitudes, they have to deal with longer and colder winters, and tend to adapt accordingly. Cold-adapted animals tend to be bulkier than their relatives living in temperate climates, with more compact limbs, thicker fur or feathers and often a white colour scheme to blend in with snow. Adaptation to different climates in Pokémon can be a mixed bag as far as realism goes, and we’ll see multiple different takes on that with today’s four Pokémon. Let’s get started.Continue reading “Regional Variant Pokémon: Alolan Sandslash and Ninetales; Galarian Mr. Mime and Darmanitan”
Today I would like to talk to you about crabs: specifically, Crabrawler and the delightfully named Crabominable (seriously, can we just take a minute to appreciate the wonderful tumbling rhythm of that name?). In the process of writing this piece, I have learned (because learning obscure and not particularly useful zoological trivia is just part of what I do here) that evolution just really likes crabs for some reason, and consequently keeps trying to turn other random animals into crabs with mixed results, a process known as carcinisation. Crabs have apparently evolved at least five separate times, from a variety of starting points (giving rise, surprisingly, to only two Pokémon before now: Kingler and Crustle, Crawdaunt being a lobster). On the basis of this vague half-substantiated piece of pseudo-knowledge, I have decided that crabs are the ultimate form of life, to which all other species aspire. Of course, Crabrawler and Crabominable have the advantage of already being there – so let’s see what the apex of all biological life has to offer the Alola region. Continue reading “Crabrawler and Crabominable”
Single-typed Ice Pokémon do not have a terribly good record on this blog. Black and White produced three of them, and I condemned all three (for different reasons, of course); later on, Glaceon was partially responsible for my coming to the conclusion that we should just be done with Eeveelutions and move on to something else. For some reason Game Freak’s designers seem to have trouble getting past “this Pokémon has ice powers” as the central feature of what these Ice-types are and do. Bergmite and Avalugg… well, there’s something there… let’s take a look.
The Pokédex describes Avalugg, with a group of Bergmite huddled on its back, as resembling “an aircraft carrier made of ice.” This would strike me as a rather uninteresting and honestly pretty silly comparison (which, let’s be honest, would not be atypical for the Pokédex), if not for the fact that there was in fact a time during World War II when the Allied Powers actually tried to build an aircraft carrier made of ice. Well, to be more precise, due to the difficulties involved with working in ice it would have been more of a great big floating mass than a ‘ship’ in the traditional sense, and it wasn’t exactly ice, either; they tried to develop a new composite material for the purpose. Known as pykrete, from the name of the man who first suggested the idea, Geoffrey Pyke, it was a tough, relatively lightweight and extremely cheap construction material made by freezing water mixed with sawdust or wood pulp. The binding effect of the cellulose fibres in the wood makes the ice dramatically less brittle, comparable in strength to concrete, and because wood is a poor conductor of heat it also insulates the ice from temperature changes and makes it melt far more slowly than normal ice. The material is – naturally – far, far cheaper than steel, as well as being naturally buoyant. For obvious reasons, pykrete ships would have been most useful at fairly extreme latitudes, and a low surface area-to-volume ratio is also important (so the ship needs to be very large, preferably with an enclosed design). Several promising tests were conducted and enthusiasm for the idea was high for a while. Eventually though, the Allies started to win the war without it, and thought it was better just to keep doing what they were doing rather than rely on this bizarre experimental material, so the idea’s never really been properly tested (people like the Mythbusters have tried small pykrete ships, which just don’t have the thermal mass to survive above the freezing point of water for long; you need to think big with this stuff). It’s a cool little bit of military history. It’s entirely possible that Avalugg is just an iceberg Pokémon and nothing else, and that the “aircraft carrier made of ice” thing is just a really dumb simile, of course, but personally I think this is much more interesting.
Anyway… so what? There’s a reference in the Pokédex to a cool story about a wacky military experiment, which I like, but where does that leave us? Avalugg, this reference seems to be telling us, is based on what is, essentially, a huge block of ice. As a result, Avalugg is… well, a huge block of ice. Other than a flat top and the fact that it can apparently swim – it can learn Surf – which makes sense since ice floats (though it’s a bit odd that it lives in the mountains), it doesn’t seem to have taken anything from being based on an aircraft carrier, although to be honest I’m not sure what else you could take from that. Maybe a symbiotic relationship with Flying Pokémon – perhaps Wingull and Pelipper come to rest on their backs as they drift across the sea, or maybe land-dwelling Pokémon even spread between continents on the backs of Avalugg? That might have been neat. I’m reminded a little of Geodude, Graveler and Golem, who are living rocks and not much more; that’s not bad in itself because just the idea of a living rock creature or a living iceberg is cool on its own, but I’m also drawn to make unfavourable comparisons with Cryogonal and Glalie, who are basically living ice as well but have a bit more personality to them. Having said that, the Pokédex’s references to Bergmite living in herds are nice, and the idea of a large group of them sitting on an Avalugg’s back is a nice image that ads a bit more to our impression of how these things live. Maybe they bunch up like that for protection while sleeping, or whenever they have to travel long distances, perhaps by water? Avalugg’s art is pleasing enough; it has a sort of reptilian, tortoise-like feel that creates an impression of tremendous mass and slow but overwhelming force, like the millennia-long advance of a glacier. We’re a little short on Ice Pokémon that have tried to convey that sense. Bergmite is a bit odd because it seems to have a body underneath the ice, which vanishes when it evolves, perhaps being completely absorbed into the ice over time somehow. I guess it’s… kind of cute, though, in a weird, bug-eyed sort of way. I wonder whether these things eat? Possibly not, or very little; if their bodies are mostly made of ice they can probably survive on water for the most part. Bergmite, apparently, can repair fissures in their frozen bodies using nothing more than cold air (or, presumably, the water in the air), so even drinking might be unnecessary for them. They just keep going, oblivious to everything happening around them – like a glacier.
Game Freak have tried to make defensive Ice Pokémon before. It doesn’t usually end well, because Ice is almost indisputably the worse defensive type in the game; you get four weaknesses, three of them to very common and powerful attack types, and only one resistance, to Ice itself. That’s not to say an Ice-type can’t do defence; it’s more that only Cloyster and Walrein have ever really been good enough at it to rise above the shortcomings of their element. A defensive Ice-type, practically by definition, has to have some pretty impressive assets to succeed. What does Avalugg have? Well, for one thing, the fifth-highest defence stat in the game, behind Shuckle, Regirock, Steelix and Mega Aggron, and a good deal more HP than any of those four (awful, awful special defence, but hey, who’s counting?). Recover, for another. Being one of the slowest Pokémon in the game makes Recover a bit tricky to time correctly, but it lets Avalugg survive and heal off practically any physical damage that isn’t super-effective, and a good deal that is. Excellent attack power and a solid physical movepool help too. Avalugg’s primary attack is Avalanche, which is only powerful if Avalugg has already taken damage that turn and messes you up a bit if your opponent, say, uses Swords Dance or something, or switches out (it also forces Avalugg to move after its opponent, but that’s something Avalugg will usually be doing anyway), but is otherwise very nasty. Earthquake combines well with Avalanche, giving you at least a neutral hit on everything except for Bronzong, Cryogonal, Shedinja, some of Rotom’s forms, and Surskit. Stone Edge offers a few more super-effective hits. Crunch gives good neutral coverage, which Avalugg has anyway. Gyro Ball is attractive, since its power increases when used by a slower Pokémon against a faster one and Avalugg is one of the slowest there is, but there actually aren’t that many Pokémon who take significantly more damage from Gyro Ball than they do from Avalugg’s main attacks. Any and all of these can mix with Curse to continue building up Avalugg’s defence and power, though I don’t think I’d really recommend that since it isn’t a difficult Pokémon to force out. Unfortunately, if we use Avalugg as something of a tank, capitalising mainly on its physical power, the literal elephant in the room is Mamoswine. Mamoswine lacks Avalugg’s obscene physical defence and ability to heal, but has much more powerful Earthquakes and can use Ice Shard to beat things that outrun it (and really, why doesn’t Avalugg get Ice Shard? It’s made of ice!). There’s no way Avalugg can compete with that kind of power – so what are its support options like?
Rapid Spin is the main option to keep in mind. Even with Defog available as an alternative means to clearing Stealth Rock, Spikes and Toxic Spikes, Rapid Spin is still important if you want to be able to do that without blowing away your own entry hazards, and there still aren’t all that many Pokémon who learn it. It’s an important move to have. Unfortunately, Avalugg’s not really a good Rapid Spinner, since it’s an Ice-type and takes fairly severe damage from switching in while your opponent has Stealth Rock up, which is exactly when you need Rapid Spin. Other than that… well, I guess it can force switches with Roar, potentially ending an attempted sweep from a physical attacker who managed to power up. It’s not the worst Pokémon to use Toxic. That’s… kind of it. Huh. I was sort of expecting there would be more in there. Avalugg’s abilities aren’t great either. Own Tempo makes a Pokémon immune to confusion, which just doesn’t come up often because confusion is such a gamble anyway, but I suppose if you really hate Klefki it couldn’t hurt. Ice Body, which heals the Pokémon every turn during hail, was the staple of Walrein’s defensive strategies in generations IV and V, but now that permanent weather effects are no longer a thing it just doesn’t work so well anymore. What you probably want is Avalugg’s hidden ability, Sturdy. Sturdy makes it impossible to knock a Pokémon out if its health is at maximum, which is slightly silly because if you’re using Avalugg for Rapid Spin you can almost assume it’ll take at least a little bit of damage as it switches in, and in any case, there’s a very clear and threatening line between things that can one-shot Avalugg (special attackers) and things that can’t (physical attackers). On the other hand, thanks to Recover it can get back to full health after being damaged, so it’s not the worst Pokémon to have this ability, and it certainly beats the other two ability choices. Also, bear in mind that Avalugg can learn Mirror Coat as a hereditary move from Corsola, via Squirtle, to reflect back twice the damage it just took from a special attack, provided it survives (which Sturdy can sometimes ensure it will). It’s a risky way to play Avalugg that could easily backfire, but the possibility of turning the tables on special attackers seeking to take advantage of its weakness on that side is extremely attractive.
In order for a really defence-focused Ice Pokémon to work, either the Ice type itself needs to be seriously buffed so that it isn’t such a massive drag, or the Ice Pokémon in question needs a really spectacular unique advantage – an awesome signature move, a perfect stat distribution, a really mind-blowing support movepool, or a cool ability (maybe something really ridiculous like being able to absorb all physical attacks directed at friendly Flying-types – Talonflame and Gyarados, meet your new best friend), preferably more than one of those things. Avalugg… well, Avalugg is a huge block of ice, and it has none of those things. The design doesn’t suggest anything particularly remarkable that it should have, and so it doesn’t get anything. It’s not really bad at what it does, nor is it a markedly uncreative or unoriginal design, it’s just… adequate. It’s one of those Pokémon that makes me feel like it’s missing that little something extra to make it really awesome – maybe a mega evolution somewhere down the road. At the moment, it’s not grievously flawed, just a little bit bland.
I think everyone has a dinosaur phase, right? Mine was… longer and more educationally rigorous than most, put it that way (my parents claim to this day that my first words as a baby were not the traditional ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ but the often tongue-twisting names of dinosaur species). There actually aren’t all that many Pokémon who seem to be based primarily on dinosaurs, funnily enough, although several of the big superstar ones are represented: we have ceratopids (Shieldon and Bastiodon), pachycephalosaurs (Cranidos and Rampardos), sauropods (Bayleef and Meganium, Tropius), and of course the famous birdlike theropod Archaeopteryx (Archen and Archeops). There are also a bunch of Pokémon that are probably influenced by dinosaurs, like Tyranitar, who seems to be a tyrannosaur via Godzilla, Charmeleon, who has shades of a small theropod, Torterra, who owes as much to ankylosaurs as to tortoises, and Bulbasaur, who… well, to be honest I don’t think even Game Freak really know exactly what Bulbasaur is but the –saur suffix definitely strikes a particular note. X and Y give us two more fossils: the brutal tyrannosaurs Tyrunt and Tyrantrum, and these two loveable goofs. I probably wouldn’t have chosen another sauropod, myself – I kind of want to see a hadrosaur – but I’m not about to complain about more dinosaurs, so here we go.Continue reading “Amaura and Aurorus”
All right! One hundred and fifty-five down, one to go! I can do this! Yeah! Go me! I’m awesome! Now, let’s wrap this up, with Unova’s last remaining legendary Pokémon: the glacial Dragon-type Kyurem!
Kyurem is a mysterious and powerful Dragon Pokémon who lives hidden in a crater known as the Giant Chasm, near Lacunosa Town in north-eastern Unova. The people of Lacunosa Town don’t know what lives in the Chasm, but they regard it as a place of ill omen and are afraid to go near it. The town is surrounded by a wall to keep out whatever lives there, and the people of the town normally stay inside their homes at night, since old legends warn of a monster that fell from the sky long ago and takes away people and Pokémon at night to eat them. Their fear is understandable; Kyurem’s hard, almost skeletal visage is not a welcoming sight. As far as I can make out, though, he just wants to lurk in his dark cave at the back of his meteor crater and be left alone. The information we have on Kyurem from the Pokédex seems to suggest that he’s unwell – maybe sick, injured, or just plain old – and can’t control his own ice powers properly anymore. His own body has long since been frozen by his own chilling aura, leaving him a shadow of his former self. So, what was his former self like? The air is thick with speculation. Continue reading “Kyurem”
Ice is one of the more underrepresented elements in Pokémon: the original games had only five Ice-types (Articuno, Jynx, Dewgong, Lapras and Cloyster), single-typed Ice Pokémon didn’t exist until Snorunt, Glalie and Regice in Ruby and Sapphire, and even now, with more than six hundred Pokémon in the game, fewer than thirty of them are Ice-types. Black and White have made two valiant efforts already to expand the number of pure Ice-types but have failed to impress me, producing Beartic and Vanilluxe. Well, third time’s the charm, so they say, so let’s have a look at Cryogonal, the crystallising Pokémon. Continue reading “Cryogonal”
Today’s Pokémon is…
…look, Game Freak, I can’t do this. It’s food; you can’t make me review a food Pokémon. From here it’s a hop, skip and a jump to “oh my god, Soylent Green is PIKACHU; what have you done!?” Don’t you have another Pokémon I could look at today? Like, a better one?
…no, Klingklang does not count.
Fine. Have it your way.
Today’s Pokémon is Vanillite, the… the vanilla ice cream Pokémon. No, for the last time, I am not making this up. It’s not actually made of vanilla ice cream, of course, which would be too far even for Game Freak. You’d have kids slurping up their Pokémon left, right and centre chasing after sugar highs and before you knew it the poor things would be extinct in the wild and bred as a new form of livestock on special farms. In fact, other than being Ice-types, I’m not sure that any aspects of Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe’s behaviour or powers have anything to do with the ice cream thing. Their schtick is that they create snowstorms. Continue reading “Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe”
All right; time to put last entry’s… unpleasantness… behind me! Today I’m looking at a Pokémon based on one of Earth’s most awesome animals: the polar bear, the largest land carnivore of the modern world. Game Freak have rendered this powerful, dangerous creature as…
…a little teddy bear with a runny nose.
Heh. I can never resist an anticlimax. Truth be told, I think Cubchoo’s cute, and if we like polar bears for being the savagery of the Arctic personified, we love polar bear cubs for being cute as buttons. I don’t know whether I’d call him well-designed or not… “cute baby bear” is really easy and Pokémon’s done it before – see Teddiursa – so I guess the uniqueness of Cubchoo’s design is in the weird snot thing. I assume Cubchoo’s nose is constantly runny because it’s one of the classic symptoms of a cold, and he’s an Ice-type, which is… at once almost clever and a little contradictory because no Ice Pokémon would ever actually get sick from being in the cold. Continue reading “Cubchoo and Beartic”