Scatterbug, Spewpa and Vivillon

Scatterbug.
Scatterbug.

I didn’t really intend to leave these Pokémon so late, but I kind of forgot about them for a while, and here we are, with only one other set left in the Central Kalos sub-region.  It’s not like I forgot they exist or anything like that; I think I just assumed I must have done them already.  By contrast, I regularly forget that Mothim exists.  It used to be an oversight, but now it’s become a matter of principle.  Butterfly and moth Pokémon are one of the stock design types like Normal Bird, Normal Vermin and Electric Rodent; at least one appears in every region aside from Johto, and the rapid caterpillar-cocoon-butterfly succession originally seen in Butterfree (and paralleled by her vicious opposite, Beedrill) was repeated by Beautifly, Dustox, and now Vivillon herself.  Years ago I declared Beautifly and Dustox the joint third-worst Pokémon of all time on a combined assessment of their nonexistent battle capabilities and the highly derivative character of their designs, which borrow a great deal from Butterfree and Venomoth.  Game Freak’s decision to come out with yet another of these things represents, to my warped psyche, something of an invitation to a grudge match.  Let’s get to it.

Continue reading “Scatterbug, Spewpa and Vivillon”

The Top Ten Worst Pokémon Ever #3: Beautifly, Dustox and Their Associated Spawn

Why?  Just… why?

I understand that they like their Pokémon templates – things like “rodent-based Normal-type trash” and “Grass-Fire-Water starter trio.”  I know I spent most of last year complaining about it non-stop, but I understand.  I do.  It has to be comforting to have something in your game that you know will work the way you expect it to work, so you can go and innovate somewhere else without worrying too much about the basics.  I get it.

To design exactly the same Pokémon and act like no-one was ever going to know, on the other hand; that… just… look, it isn’t even that I don’t understand how they weighed up the pros and cons of what they were doing; it’s that I can’t actually comprehend what the pros were supposed to have been in the first place!

But that isn’t the worst part.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Wurmple, Silcoon, Cascoon, Beautifly and Dustox, a family of Bug-types native to Hoenn.  Wurmple is basically Caterpie and Weedle shoehorned into a single body; every single characteristic of his design is shared by one of the two.  That’s… pretty much all you need to know.  Wurmple evolves into either Silcoon or Cascoon, based on factors which are randomly determined and impossible to predict or influence.  This is sort of a troll way to evolve, if you ask me, but it’s far from the worst (*cough*Vespiquen*cough*).  Silcoon and Cascoon themselves are, likewise, basically Metapod and Kakuna, except round and largely featureless.  There’s a bit in Cascoon’s Diamond version Pokédex entry which I initially thought was interesting, stating that the inside of Cascoon’s shell is very hot because all of its cells are working so feverishly towards its evolution, but then I found out that this same factoid was originally from Kakuna’s Sapphire version entry, so it’s official: the designers are completely shameless.  The one genuinely interesting thing about either of these Pokémon is that Cascoon apparently remembers every opponent it ever faces and every injury it ever suffers while waiting to evolve, so that it can get revenge when it finally does.  This doesn’t really tie in to what Dustox is like at all, though, so… eh, whatever.  Silcoon evolves into Beautifly, who is Butterfree, except that she makes no sense.  I guess I should elaborate.  Apparently Game Freak were, let’s be fair to them, aware of what people would think when they met Beautifly (this is also, I assume, the reason Beautifly’s art is so much more naturalistic than Butterfree’s) and decided to tell us that she actually has a brutal dark side; Beautifly is a savage hunter who will drain her prey’s vital fluids through her proboscis!  However, they spend just as much time talking about how Beautifly is a pollinator, which means, pretty unambiguously, that her main food source is nectar, not the blood of the innocent (exactly the same as Butterfree).  To top it off, the whole “she looks beautiful but actually she’s a vicious blood-sucker” thing was also done in the same set of games by Gorebyss, who pulled it off far more effectively.  Now, Dustox, to his credit, is not Beedrill.  Unfortunately, he is Venomoth.  Everything Dustox does – nocturnal behaviour, attraction to bright lights, scattering toxic powder, radar senses – was attributed to Venonat and Venomoth first, except for his irritating habit of swarming in brightly lit cities and devouring all the foliage he can find.  I admit that this is an interesting ecological detail and just the sort of thing I like, but it’s too little, too late for a Pokémon that is blatantly a cheap rip-off of a far more awesome pre-existing design.

But that isn’t the worst part either.

 

If you really want to use Butterfree, you can.  She has poor stats in everything except for special attack and special defence, coupled with one of the most awful type combinations in the entire game (Bug/Flying), but she does get one of the most useful abilities, Compoundeyes – a substantial accuracy boost to all of her attacks, including Sleep Powder.  A 97.5%-accurate sleep attack is nothing to sniff at.  I mean, if that’s really your thing you should probably just use a Pokémon that learns Spore, but if you really want to use Butterfree, you can.  Beautifly, on the other hand, has poor stats in everything except for special attack and attack (which she doesn’t use), coupled with the same awful type combination, and has abilities that are far less helpful in comparison.  Beautifly has a decent special movepool.  Pretty much all of her attacks are resisted by Steel-types, but otherwise she has impressive variety: Bug Buzz, Air Slash, Shadow Ball, Energy Ball and Psychic.  This is what she’s got.  Let her enjoy it.  Dustox has similar options (swapping Air Slash for Sludge Bomb) but minimal firepower; his focus is on defence and special defence.  Unfortunately, with his low hit point total, he fails at this even more comprehensively than Beautifly fails at offense. His support movepool basically consists of Light Screen, Toxic and Whirlwind.  If you’re going to use Dustox, you should probably get one from an older game so he can learn Roost and Giga Drain, because his low stats and unhelpful typing are quite enough for him to worry about without having to rely on weather-dependent healing from Moonlight.  Black and White have been very kind to both Beautifly and Dustox by giving them Quiver Dance (a.k.a. special sweeper in a can), which boosts speed, special attack and special defence all at once.  However, Beautifly is too slow and too delicate to get a chance to use it in the first place, while Dustox is too wimpy to do a respectable amount of damage anyway, and Steel-types in general still laugh at both of them.  The Dream World mocked Beautifly and Dustox mercilessly by giving Beautifly the Rivalry ability (when facing an opponent of the same gender, she does more damage with physical attacks – which she doesn’t really use anyway) and Dustox the Compoundeyes ability (even though he doesn’t learn a single attack that is less than 90% accurate).

But even that isn’t the worst part.

 Beautifly using Silver Wind, by Pearl7 (http://pearlsaurus.fc2web.com).

The worst part is that now I have to save them.  And since it is an iron law of Pokémon design that nothing ever evolves more than twice, further evolution for either of them is out of the question; no ifs, no buts.

Fetch me a case of Bitter Poffins and four bottles of twelve-year-old Max Elixir.  It’s going to be a long night.

The easiest thing to do would have been just to use Butterfree and Beedrill, because even though they’re pretty bad, at least they aren’t rip-offs as well.  That would be a cop-out though.  Leavanny and Scolipede proved that it isn’t impossible to do this concept in a way that’s different and fresh.  I can’t exactly do a complete redesign, though, because that would be missing… whatever vaguely-defined point I’m trying to make here.  I do have… one idea.  It’s a little trippy, but sacrifices must be made; this is Beautifly and Dustox we’re talking about, so here we go.  Butterflies traditionally symbolise the human soul, right?  I can work with that.

 Dustox using Toxic, by the same artist.

Beautifly is now Bug/Psychic and Dustox is now Bug/Ghost (with appropriately adjusted movepools, and matching colour schemes; I wouldn’t change them radically, but give Beautifly a more vibrant and surreal palette and Dustox a darker, more sinister one).  I know I made a bunch of uncomfortable noises about retconning things like this when I was doing Sunflora, but, well, desperate times and all that.  Wurmple are found in all the usual forest-type places where Bug Pokémon like to hang out, but adult Dustox are associated with Mount Pyre and Beautifly with Sootopolis City and the Cave of Origin.  In general, Beautifly are ‘active’ – they’re feisty and can be aggressive if provoked, but are also playful – while Dustox are ‘passive’ – they prefer to avoid fights and spend a lot of their time zoning out.  Their presence stirs up corresponding emotions in people and Pokémon, and they grow healthy and strong by spending time with people whose personalities match their own.  I would fold Silcoon and Cascoon into a single Pokémon, and have them split off at the final stage instead – that way, we can say that the determining factor in the split is the kind of emotions that the Pokémon is surrounded by in its cocoon stage.  Like many real-world moth species, Dustox do not eat after reaching adulthood (the mass defoliation mentioned in the Pokédex is a result of the soporific aura emitted by large groups of Dustox causing trees to prematurely shed their leaves as they do in Autumn).  Beautifly can and do consume sweet liquids for enjoyment or for quick bursts of energy, but both species are believed to live primarily off the psychic emanations of humans and Pokémon.  I could go on, but I need to give them some actual toys.  Quiver Dance is sure nice for Beautifly but she’s still hamstrung by her slowness and frailty.  In keeping with the flavour I have in mind for her, I want to give her an ability that doubles her speed, analogous to Medicham’s Pure Power (call it Blinding Speed or something) and a signature move, Energy Flare (a powerful Psychic attack that often reduces a target’s special defence).  Dustox gets one too, Energy Drain (a Ghost attack that converts damage to health for Dustox, like Giga Drain), as well as access to Reflect, Sleep Powder and Stun Spore.  For an ability… I want to give him Dragonite’s Multiscale (if you’re at full health, attacks that hit you do half damage), because, hey, moths have scales!  Both of them get Aura Sphere too, because it fits and it will help.  That’s… a lot of very cool stuff.  I doubt it’s cool enough to get them into the élite, but at least the other Bug-types will stop laughing at them.

I warned you it was going to be trippy.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to polish off the last of my Max Elixir and pass out in the bath.

The Top Ten Worst Pokémon Ever, #4: Kricketune

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.

There is astonishingly little fanart of Kricketune on the internet, which I am tentatively taking as evidence that I'm not the only one who thinks he looks unbelievably stupid.  Instead, here's Naoyo Kimura's illustration of Kricketune from the Next Destinies expansion of the Pokémon TCG.

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.