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.
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.
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.