Helioptile and Heliolisk

Helioptile.

Now that I think about it, it’s kind of strange that there aren’t really many Electric Pokémon based on real-world methods of electricity generation; for the most part they just conjure up electrical energy through – one presumes – a similar kind of biochemical process to that used by the electric eel, only turned up to eleven.  Well, either that or magic.  Let’s be honest; for at least some of them it’s probably magic.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Helioptile.

Continue reading “Helioptile and Heliolisk”

Jolteon

Official art of Jolteon, by Ken Sugimori; for Nintendo's is the kingdom and the power and the glory, yada yada yada.Of Eevee’s original three evolutions, Jolteon is the tough guy, the cool kid, the badass.  He appeals to a very different kind of player and a very different style of play to Vaporeon, emphasising speed and power in both his design and his skills.  This kind of variation on the basic form of the Eevee evolutions is part of Eevee’s strength – there’s something for everyone.  In Jolteon’s case, if you need a blazing-fast special attacker with serious attitude, look no further.

Like most Electric Pokémon, Jolteon’s thing is that he can hurl massive blasts of lightning at people.  He is often ill-tempered, prone to volatile swings of emotion, and his electrical charge builds rapidly when he is agitated.  His power is drawn from a rather unlikely source – his fur.  Jolteon’s fur is made up of innumerable rigid bristles that rub together to create static electricity as he moves, charging him up for electrical attacks.  The bristles also help him defend himself – they’re sharp and stiff, and stand out from his body because of the static charge, like a porcupine’s quills.  He can even launch bunches of them at his enemies to skewer them – an ability represented in-game by the sadly useless Pin Missile attack.  As Electric Pokémon go, Jolteon is a little generic, although the static fur is a nice touch to explain the source of his power while giving him a touch of character and some interesting abilities.  It’s just a shame those interesting abilities are so useless.  I’m pretty sure there’s no serious reason ever to use Pin Missile, which is a shame because, like Vaporeon’s Acid Armour, it was almost a signature move once (shared only with Beedrill).  Anyway, the really nice thing about Jolteon’s prickly fur is that the spiky starburst profile it gives him is pleasingly evocative of a jagged lightning bolt, or the crash of thunder – a neat way of working his element into the design without actually scribbling lightning bolts all over him.  Overall, I’m not terribly excited about Jolteon’s visual design, but it’s appropriate, it works, and it plays to a very different aesthetic to Vaporeon’s – sinuous and dynamic, harsh rather than elegant.

 This beautiful sparkling Jolteon is brought to us by Shiropanda (http://shiropanda.deviantart.com/).

I mentioned last time, in relation to Vaporeon, that one of Eevee’s alleged themes is adaptation to the environment – her plethora of evolved forms supposedly reflects the development of features to cope with or exploit particular aspects of a variety of habitats.  It’s a fitting enough theme to build around Eevee, since she’s supposed to be inspired by the workings of real-world evolution, which is really all about adapting to different environmental conditions; some organisms work well in one habitat, some in another, but it’s meaningless to talk about one being ‘better’ or ‘more evolved’ than another – just like Eevee’s evolutions.  The adaptation thing was written into the Pokédex in Gold and Silver, and probably wasn’t actually on the designers’ minds when they originally created Vaporeon, Jolteon, and Flareon.  This is probably why Jolteon and Flareon, quite clearly, aren’t associated with any specific habitat at all.  I can’t blame them for this, naturally, but I can make some suggestions for fixing this and bringing them in line with what seems to be Eevee’s theme now.  What kind of environment would suit Jolteon best?  Well, he can run extremely quickly, so it would make sense if he were adapted for wide open spaces; that rules out forests, hills and mountains.  Eevee and all of her evolutions sport long, broad ears which make me think of a jackrabbit or a fennec fox, who use their large ears to help dissipate excess heat and cope with life in desert climates; none of them (except, for obvious reasons, Glaceon) would look out of place in a tropical or subtropical climate, and Jolteon in particular, with his stiff, straight, bristly fur, doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned with heat retention.  Perhaps most importantly, Jolteon’s primary means of attack, his lightning, is charged by the build-up of static electricity, which is much slower and weaker in humid conditions.  Jolteon seems to be a Pokémon adapted for a hot, dry and relatively flat climate, somewhere like central Australia, or the Mojave desert in North America.  Given that this is supposed to be a theme for Eevee, I’m going to look at all her other evolved forms in the same way when we come to them, and figure out which environments they seem to match.  For now, though, let’s talk about Jolteon’s in-battle abilities.

 A pair of young Eevee trying to keep up with their Jolteon parent; a little slice of adorableness by Sapphireluna (http://sapphireluna.deviantart.com/).

Jolteon’s greatest asset, the thing that sets him apart, is his speed.  Most Electric Pokémon are fast, but Jolteon is a blur of motion; in Red and Blue, he drew even with Mewtwo and Aerodactyl, outrun only by Electrode.  Even today, only a few more Pokémon can claim to be faster: Accelgor, Ninjask, and Deoxys, with Crobat just managing to keep up with him.  His excellent speed makes him rather good at sniping opposing Pokémon with his spectacular Thunderbolts, and also makes him one of the better choices for taking advantage of a rare move that all of Eevee’s evolutions have in common: Baton Pass.  This has given Jolteon a nice little niche since Baton Pass was introduced in Gold and Silver, and remains one of his most useful skills today.  He doesn’t have a whole lot of buffs to pass – Agility, Charge Beam, Substitute and maybe Work Up are pretty much the extent of it – but his Thunderbolts are frightening enough that he can usually get the free turn he needs to pull it off, and his absurd speed ensures that he doesn’t stay in play any longer than he absolutely has to.  Jolteon’s main weakness is that, like most of his siblings, he suffers from a rather small offensive movepool, which is what keeps him from being a really top-class sweeper despite having perfect stats for it.  Any Ground-type with halfway decent special defence will stop him in his tracks unless, heaven help you, you have time to breed a Jolteon with the right Hidden Power element (and even then it’s not exactly airtight; Swampert, Gastrodon and their ilk murder you if you pick Ice, Landorus and Gliscor if you pick Grass).  If you’re going to rely mainly on a single attack type, though, Electric is one of the better ones to be stuck with, and, thanks to Platinum, Jolteon can learn Signal Beam and doesn’t have to worry about Grass-types either.  Shadow Ball is Shadow Ball, but it helps with a few Pokémon, mainly Ghost-types and Ground-types.  Jolteon is relatively frail, and shouldn’t be expected to take much abuse, especially not from physical attacks, but with a bit of judicious switching and Baton Passing to keep him out of harm’s way, you should be able to nail a good few Pokémon with some Thunderbolts.

 I love this one.  This is by Chaoslavawolf (http://chaoslavawolf.deviantart.com/); I think it really captures Jolteon's energy and dynamism.

This is basically the core of Jolteon’s skillset, but he has a few other moves worth mentioning.  Volt Switch, Black and White’s great gift to Electric-types, lets a Pokémon attack and then immediately switch out, avoiding the opponent’s counterattack, and is especially effective on a fast Pokémon like Jolteon, but many Jolteon are likely to have Baton Pass anyway, and you don’t really need both; they serve a similar purpose.  Fake Tears might be interesting – catch one of those big Ground-types switching in to wreck their special defence, and they might feel less confident about eating a Shadow Ball and have to switch right back out again.  Jolteon learns Thunder Wave, but doesn’t benefit much from it since he outruns everything important already, and isn’t tough enough to pull team support duty.  Wish, likewise, is an excellent move but ill-suited to Jolteon’s capabilities.  The final nice thing about Jolteon is his ability, Volt Absorb.  In much the same way as Vaporeon’s Water Absorb, Volt Absorb negates Electric attacks and converts their energy into health, healing Jolteon by 25% of his maximum HP every time he takes one.  This is significantly less useful for Jolteon because, unlike Vaporeon, he can’t take many hits anyway and may not survive long enough to heal up, but it does still let him switch into Electric attacks with impunity, which is very useful for a frail attacker.  His Dream World ability, Quick Feet, is interesting but ultimately not worth much.  It gives him a speed boost whenever he’s paralysed or poisoned or what have you – but, being Jolteon, he’s already so fast that this isn’t likely to do much for him.  The biggest advantage to it is that it negates the massive speed penalty connected with paralysis, which makes Jolteon all but useless.  However, a Jolteon with Volt Absorb is immune to the most common and effective paralysing attack anyway (Thunder Wave) so in the end Quick Feet is a dubious choice.

As you may have gathered, what I like best about Jolteon is how very differently he handles compared to Vaporeon.  This is another of those themes I’m going to keep harping on throughout this series, and will probably talk about in some detail in the final entry on Eevee, so keep it in mind.  For now, I’ll just say that Jolteon works.  He’s not really my style, but he’s a very fun Pokémon to use, and won’t disappoint you – and, you have to admit, he’s pretty badass.

The Top Ten Worst Pokemon Ever, #6: Plusle, Minun and Pachirisu

This isn’t fair.
 
I already did these ones.  I did them while I was talking about Emolga.  It isn’t FAIR, damnit!
 
…ladies and gentlemen; Plusle, Minun and Pachirisu.
 
Just for clarification, these three aren’t part of an evolutionary family.  Plusle and Minun seem to be different forms of one species, and Pachirisu is completely separate and wasn’t even introduced in the same game.  Plusle and Minun probably deserve to be a bit lower on the list and Pachirisu probably deserves to be a bit higher, but I’ve lumped them together because I hate all of them for the same reasons, namely: a) they’re increasingly annoying rehashes of Pikachu, and b) they suck.
 
What, you need more?
 
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Pikachu’s pudgy yellow face is the emblem of the absurdly successful Pokémon franchise and is widely recognised even by people who barely know what a Pokémon is.  He has almost certainly made Nintendo more money than any other single Pokémon, and he can be summed up as “cute rodent with electrical cheek pouches,” so the obvious thing to do was make more cute rodents with electrical cheek pouches, right?  So obvious, in fact, that Plusle and Minun barely seem to be a different species from Pikachu at all.  I think they’re supposed to be based on rabbits, while Pikachu is traditionally described as a mouse, but all three are depicted so stylistically that that they ‘meet in the middle,’ so to speak.  Plusle and Minun are distinct from Pikachu in that they are frightfully unsuited to combat; instead they dedicate themselves to encouraging their partners (Plusle and Minun were released in Ruby and Sapphire, the generation that introduced the concept of double battles, and are shamelessly dedicated to promoting the new battle format).  There’s no word on how this would work outside of the context of a team of Pokémon under the command of a trainer – what do Plusle and Minun do in the wild when they’re attacked?  Pair up and cheer for each other?  In fact this is exactly what happens when you face pairs of trainers with Plusle and Minun in Ruby and Sapphire – they stand there and cast Helping Hand on each other, but neither of them actually does anything.  As for Pachirisu… her squirrel design, I think, represents at least an effort to distance her from the older Pokémon, and her habit of gathering loose fur into electrically-charged balls and keeping them amongst the berries she stores in her nest (presumably as a deterrent to thieves like Rattata) is, admittedly, a clever way of linking the squirrel concept to her Electric element.  As admirable as the attempt is, though, it’s missing the point; Pachirisu still isn’t a new idea, but an old one that they’ve dressed up.
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As far as battle goes, Plusle and Minun can be treated as exactly the same Pokémon.  Minun is slightly tougher and Plusle slightly more powerful, but the differences are small and their movepools are almost identical.  You can actually attack with Plusle and Minun, using the decent coverage provided by Electric attacks alongside Grass Knot and the power boost offered by Nasty Plot, but they’re so comprehensively outclassed by Raichu, who has Focus Blast and superior stats in every area, that it just stops being funny.  What Raichu can’t do is use Baton Pass.  Plusle and Minun can’t make very effective use of Nasty Plot (or, for that matter, Agility) but I’m sure there’s another Pokémon on your team that would love to have one of those effects passed to it.  Again, if you really want to set up another Pokémon in this way, it’s hard to understand why you wouldn’t use a Pokémon that’s independently competent, like Ambipom or Mr. Mime (yes, I just called Mr. Mime “competent;” that’s what happens when you spend a couple of weeks thinking about the worst Pokémon in the game).  Their passive abilities, Plus and Minus, are just painful.  Pokémon with Plus and Minus give each other special attack bonuses in double battles, which was incredibly awkward when Plusle and Minun were the only Pokémon who had them.  In Black and White, many additional Pokémon gain these abilities through the Dream World and you can get the bonuses by using two Pokémon with the same ability; it no longer has to be one of each.  However, all of them are weak to Earthquake, which is popular in double battles because it can hit both opponents at once.  Any doubles strategy that relies on using two Pokémon together who are both weak to Ground attacks is… inadvisable.
 
Plusle and Minun are bad, but Pachirisu is a whole new level of stupidity.  She’s quite fast and has decent special defence, but the good news ends there.  Although Pachirisu does, strictly speaking, learn attacks, you are likely to do more damage by simply picking her up and throwing her, so I would not advise actually using them, with two exceptions.  The first is Super Fang, which slices a Pokémon’s remaining HP in half, no questions asked, and was once exclusive to Raticate, Pachirisu and Bibarel.  Watching Pachirisu go for an unsuspecting Pokémon’s throat with Super Fang was amusing until Heart Gold and Soul Silver handed out the attack to all and sundry via a move tutor.  Now it’s just sad, but she should keep using it anyway because it’s the best she’s got.  The other exception is Volt Switch, and you should use that not because Pachirisu is likely to hurt anything with it but because it will let her switch out after doing damage.  With careful use of this technique, you may be able to get through a match without Pachirisu suffering a horrendously painful death, and that, let’s be fair here, is the best you can hope for.  The other moves Pachirisu should use are Thunder Wave and Light Screen.  These moves are not particularly useful to her, but they are comparatively unlikely to get her killed.

Avanii's (http://avanii.deviantart.com/) less stylistic depiction of Plusle and Minun looked odd to me at first - they're almost catlike, don't you think? - but I'm beginning to like it more and more.


The main problem I face in trying to ‘fix’ these three Pokémon is that I don’t honestly believe they should be fixed.  Their entire concepts are flawed from the ground up and making them worthwhile seems an insurmountable task.
 
Challenge accepted.
 
To start with, I’m declaring that Plusle and Minun survive in the wild by forming symbiotic relationships with larger, tougher Pokémon.  They typically pair up with Pokémon that are strong physically but cannot jump or climb, often ones with poor eyesight, and use their agility and keener senses to help the larger Pokémon find food and avoid danger.  In fights, they cast showers of sparks at enemies to slow them down, disrupt their attacks and make them easier to target.  Plusle seek out slow, bulky partners like Sudowoodo or Donphan and use their superior senses and quick, accurate Thunderbolts to thin out groups of small predators, while Minun prefer more aggressive partners such as Breloom or Absol and focus on creating electric fields to protect them from strong attacks.  When a Plusle and a Minun meet in the wild, they often encourage their partners to become friends as well, which can lead to some… unusual groups of companions.  Older Plusle and Minun whose partners have no offspring often ‘adopt’ young, weak Pokémon of other species, so that they will one day grow into strong partners for their own offspring.  I bring this up out of a vague terror that I have no choice to evolve these two, and in my desperation for an idea that will avoid turning them into Raichu 2.0, I am tempted to ditch the electric mouse thing (or rabbit, or whatever generic rodent they’re supposed to be) and evolve them into electric kangaroos with a nurturing, maternal streak; as long as we keep our focus on the partnership theme and make sure they stay light and agile, we should be able to avoid stepping on Kangaskhan’s toes too much.  They probably need a few extra goodies in their movepools… let’s see, Minun deserves Reflect and maybe Amnesia so he can buff your defences more effectively; Plusle can have Work Up so she can help your mixed attackers shine and… let’s say Taunt so she can lock down support Pokémon.  To finish off, Plus and Minus need to be… y’know, useful.  In a double battle, Plus adds about 10% of Plusle’s special attack and speed to her partner’s, while Minus does the same for Minun’s defence and special defence (note to self: make sure Minun’s evolution has a physical defence score that doesn’t suck).  What’s more, those same bonuses are added to any Pokémon Plusle or Minun Baton Passes to, absolutely free!  They can buff their allies with Baton Pass even if they don’t have a spare turn to use Nasty Plot or something, and your team will love them for it.
 
There!  I did it!  I-
 
…oh, gods, Pachirisu’s still there, isn’t she?
 
Hmm.

Okay, even I have to admit that Fusiana's (http://fusiana.deviantart.com/) Pachirisu is pretty badass.We know she’s a hoarder; that normally implies a good memory and possibly intelligence (likewise my theory that those balls of charged fur are a trap for Pokémon trying to nick her stuff).  Going with that idea, I think I want Pachirisu to evolve into a kleptomaniac squirrel, maybe an Electric/Dark dual-type: change her colour scheme, but maybe keep the general ‘cute’ aesthetic because I imagine her gazing up at you adorably when you catch her stealing things.  These Pokémon have lived around humans for centuries, and although they are notorious as spies and pickpockets their presence is tolerated because they make useful errand-runners, and are highly proficient cleaners thanks to their bushy tails (historically they were best-known as chimneysweeps – I’m looking for an “1800’s English street urchin” feel, but trying to avoid being too blatant about it).  They mainly steal food but have also developed a liking in modern times for portable electronics and batteries, which they hide in nests scattered all around their territory.  It’s normally impossible to find all of one’s hiding places without capturing her and getting her to lead you to them.  Super Fang already makes Pachirisu a nightmare for defensive Pokémon, so we may as well play to that and give her Taunt.  How useful Torment, Snatch and Switcheroo would be for her is debateable, but let’s toss them in anyway (and, of course, she’ll need Thief for thematic reasons).  Also, for some reason Pachirisu doesn’t get Wish; she’s heavily defence-oriented and needs to be able to heal herself, and there’s no reason she shouldn’t have it, so let’s add that.  Lastly, her current abilities, Run Away and Pickup, actually have no in-battle effects at all.  I can’t think of anything to do with Pickup at the moment, but it makes sense that Run Away should allow Pachirisu (and the other Pokémon that have it) to escape from trapping techniques like Mean Look or Fire Spin, instead of only allowing them to escape from wild Pokémon without fail.

 
There; victory is mine!
 
I am never looking at any of these Pokémon again.
 
EDIT: I must have forgotten when I wrote this that Black and White did actually add an in-battle effect to the Pickup ability: if Pachirisu’s opponent uses a consumable item like a berry, she’ll run and snatch it (or a copy of it, or something)  for herself, assuming she isn’t holding an item already.  Can you say “absurdly situational”?