Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 1 Part 10 - Voltorb Line to Lickitung Line

Like a lot of long time Pokéfans who are able to think with their brains rather than their arses I grow irritated every time a new generation of ‘mons are revealed and people start pissing and moaning about how uncreative the new generation are, how Game Freak are just slapping eyes on inanimate objects, how they’ve run out of ideas because like a lot of Pokéfans I’m able to recall that Voltrob and Electrode exist and unlike a lot of Pokéfans I know that Voltorb and Exeggcute were amongst the very first 31 Pokémon designed and they are literally just (in-universe) real-world things with eyes slapped on them.
But unlike people who use Voltorb as an example of how uncreative Gen 1 could be, I like Voltorb and actually think it’s very creative, but only if you ‘get it’. Voltorb is a Mimic, a standard type of monster in RPGs dating back to the pen and paper days and it’s the perfect execution of a Mimic in the Pokémon world, in other RPGS a mimic typically looks like what you find treasure or items in (a treasure chest say) and Voltorb is just that – it looks like a Pokéball.
Everything I’ve said is pretty common, in fact it’s just a less funny version of what Bogleech said. Here’s where things veer off the beaten track cos I greatly dislike Electrode. Electrode is that word that fans of this franchise love to throw around – lazy. It is just Voltorb upside down with the laziest of faces drawn on it, it was crapped out during a period of development when the team were knocking out all of the ‘Just Bigger’ or ‘Just Smaller’ evolutions just to give Pokémon who were created before the concept of evolution was around (fully) something to evolve into or from and unlike Muk, Clefable, Pidgeot, Marowak or Starmie nothing feels like an upgrade, nothing about Electrode feels like an improvement, in fact it makes Voltorb’ whole raison d’etre, not to mention it’s main method of attack, completely undermined because Electrode looks fuck all like a Pokéball! 
Electrode may well be my least favourite Gen 1 Pokémon.


When Alolan Exeggutor - the poster child for Alolan Forms in both a negative, neutral and positive way - was revealed and the usual ‘I hate change’ fans reacted there was a lot of talk of how they’d ruined an ‘epic’ and ‘cool’ Pokémon like Exeggutor by making it silly – a more extreme version of my reaction to Alolan Raticate or Alolan Persian – the difference here is that they’re talking bullshit, because Exeggutor was always wacky as fuck and that’s what made it so great.
Let me sum it up for you all, Exeggutor is a chubby PSYCHIC coconuttreeosaur with three goofy faces that throws those goofy faces at its enemies and it evolves from eggs. It’s mad and wonderful and vey, very silly looking. Making it stupid tall didn’t change anything, it just made it able to smash the fuck out of things with its own head. Alolan Exeggutor is, in my opinion, perfecting the joke and I love that everyone who works on Pokémon is totally IN on the joke, even the people who develop the spin offs! Here’s how Alolan Exeggutor looks in Pokémon Go!:

How wonderful is that?
I’ll be honest though, a lot of my reaction to the anti-Alolan Exeggutor rage was actually ‘people REMEMBERED Exeggutor?!?!’ because I did feel that prior to Gen 7 these two had been a bit overlooked and forgotten, even by me, which was a terrible shame really cos they’re so weird and cool. Both date back to the first 31 Pokémon ever created, though they were totally unrelated, with Exeggcute a type of urban Mimic and Exeggutor the purest manifestation of the same sense of humour that gave us Bunny-to-Kaiju transformation and Kaiju mum (it was probably a mimic too) and both are very weird and when given some thought, pretty scary.
Exeggcute freak me out the more of the two I think, though Alolan Exeggutor’s tail-face is pretty upsetting. Exeggcute aren’t hive minds but they are telepathic and able to beat up Crabrawles with it’s telekinesis, it can survive with it’s insides exposed and y’know, they’re psychic seeds that look like eggs that have faces! That crack open to sprout a psychic coconuttreeosaur (that might be 2 stories tall and nut me to death)! They explode to evolve. 

What do you want me to say about Cubeone that hasn’t already been said? Do you want me to talk ab out the dead mother thing? I can I suppose;  according to the Pokedex - which says a lot of shit that can’t be true and a lot more shit that probably isn’t true – that skull on Cubone’s head is the actual skull of it’s mother and every Cubone wears one. That is fucking brilliant and makes Cubone even more lovable – it’s never even had a mum! I must hug the pain away now! And has some basis in reality, as some real-world creatures do die during birth and are eaten by their young. But of course gameplay and story segregation make it confusing and impossible, if you breed a Cubone in the Day Care Centre for instance, the mother Cubone doesn’t die, you just pick it up and put it back in Box 2. So there’s this whole fandom debate over this that includes a bunch of fan theories that tie it to Kangaskhan. I like the one put forward by one blog that suggests that in the wild mother Cubones and Marowak offer themselves up as their baby’s first meal.
Divorced from this Cubone is still darling and the fact that we’ve never seen it’s real face, this:

is as close as we’ve ever got, is neat and adds to it’s spooky nature. Marowak’s kind of boring though and if it wasn’t for Red & Blue’s (and Green’s, and Yellow’s, and FireRed & LeafGreen’s, and Let’s Go’s) story I’d have very little to say about it and very little attachment to it. It makes sense as an evolution, it gets bigger, it gets meaner and its skull becomes one with its body so it’s an improvement but it’s another ‘Just Bigger’ design. But of course it DOES have that role in Gen 1 (and it’s remakes) storylines; it was the Pokémon killed by Team Rocket that’s now haunting Lavender Town’s Pokémon Tower, it’s a tragic mother that was just protecting it’s babies (and Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee have only made this so much better, I squeed) and I wanted to catch that Ghost Marowak SO BADLY.
Seems a lot of people did, because when they gave Marowak an Alolan Form, it was a Ghost Marowak!! And it was glorious! At last I could have my Ghost Marowak yes but as a design, with its dark purple skin, it’s overall dead look and its gorgeous ghostly fire from it’s bone club it was just done so well. And even if it isn’t a reference to Lavender Town (and it so is, Gen 1 pandering is Game Freak’s THANG nowadays) it’s a great idea, Cubone and Marowak are already so closely associated with death, Marowak is – by analysis – a monster that merged with the bones of its dead parent. The fact that some kind of spirit or ghostly energy or presence or remained in it somewhere is so fitting it’s almost obvious! It’s my Pokéfan dream come true, it’s a great design and it makes sense all round, top marks!

Fun fact: Machoke, Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee were all created together at the dawn of Elemental Types and represent three different styles of fighting for the new Fighting Type: wrestling, punching and kicking - It all makes sense now.
Everyone currently working at Game Freak take note: Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan are how you abstract a human form perfectly. Both are clearly humanoid without looking human, both are segmented without looking unnatural and neither is unnecessarily sexy! Hitmonlee is exceptionally menacing, one of the first gen’s ‘objectively badasss’ designs and easily as intimidating as Scyther or Kabutops and the pinnacle of Pokemon’s abstracted humanoids for me, again because while clearly based on a human it’s also not ‘a pokemon human’ in anyway it, instead it’s a very weird, very mythical looking thing. Hitmonchan is a bit cuter and while still cool I like it slightly less, I like it’s random head shape but it looks very much like it’s wearing clothes. As far as I know it isn’t, it just happens to have a flap of skin that looks like a skirt, hands that look like boxing gloves and feet that look like wet suit booties, I think they could have done with making it’s gloves skin coloured like Primeape’s, without the very obvious boxing gloves the skirt and shoes would seem far less noticeable I reckon.
Also Hitmonchan’s Base Set card in the TGC was so broken and I had it really early on (it may have even come as standard in one of the themedecks? I can’t check because Bulbapedia is down as I’m writing this EDIT: it was, it was in the Blackout theme deck) and it won me a lot of game and a lot of hatred.
For Generation 2, the team had a really cool idea with how to use the Baby Pokémon concept. Rather than just giving a Pokémon a little, cuter form to sell the idea of breeding, they would use a baby form to join two previously stand alone but thematically similar Pokemn that already felt related – Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee. This is a great idea, I wish they’d do it more often, I’d love an evolutionary step joining, say, Tauros and Miltank (and Bouffalant too) or Cacnea and Maractacus or for maximum irony points Zangoose and Seviper. To accomplish his they created a neat little Pokémon called Gongu (more on that in a minute) then because they were all suffering from a vitamin C deficiency and went bonkers for a time, they threw out Gongu and created Tyrogue.
I don’t like Tyrogue and I could never figure out why. I now have: I does the opposite of what makes Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee so good and keeps the one thing that hurts Hitmonlee’s design: it’s very obviously a child making it a crap abstraction of a human and it’s very clearly wearing clothes (and tape), the only thing I really has going for it a weird head but one that’s let down by being, again, obviously very child-like. It’s evolution method though is very cool – it evolves into Hitmonchan if it’s defence stat is higher, Hitmonlee if it’s attack stat is higher and if they’re the same it becomes a spinning top Capoeira fighter because it’s balanced. That is some clever shit. Pity Hotmontop (also introduced in Gen 2) is a complete fucking mess. It’s design that I just hate all over, it doesn’t’ fit well with the rest of its evolutionary line, it looks like itsmade from plastic, it looks like a cartoon dog, pick one, they’re all reasons I hate it. And I now resent it even more because we could have got this:

This is the Space World Demo version of Hitmontop and it is great! And if you look you’ll see that it can look ‘right’ up both ways (though it seems like ‘upside down’ to us it is’ ‘right way up’) It’s Hitmonlee levels of menacing abstract humanoid and while a different, more Klasky Csupo art style is evident in it, it’s a lot closer to the flesh and armour of the other three Hitmons than the wooden dog that is Hotmontop. And yes I get it, a wooden look for a spinning top fighting Pokémon makes sense, if Hitmontop was it’s own thing it wouldn’t be an issue, I just hate it for all the other design choices made that I find visually unappealing, but it’s not. What it is is a very good reason to rank each Pokémon in an evolutionary line separately as well as the evolutionary line overall, because the an overall score for this line would not accurately reflect my feelings on the Pokémon within.


Gongu. This. This is what we should have got. it even looks like a mix of Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan, look it has ‘lee’s body and arms and ‘chan’s amour and hands. And it looks like it’s wearing protective head gear (I think it’s actually based on the stick used to strike the gong though, right?). It’s the perfect Baby Pokémon for the task and doesn’t look like an obvious child, it’s a good abstraction, it should have been this. It does have a slight teddy bear look to it thought doesn’t it? I think this was unintentional and can’t decide if its a plus or minus.

Let’s keep the hate flowing! Cos I really, really dislike Lickilicky. I wish I’d found a way to do minus scores on here because Lickilicky deserves one. Now I do feel that we were too harsh on the Generation 4 evolutions of Generation 1 Pokémon – time, nostalgia, fanart, anticipation and expectations all worked together to leave them judged unfairly but I still hate Lickylicky.
It’s not like Lickitung was one of my favourite Gen 1 Pokémon, nor was it something I was clamouring to get an evolution for. I LIKE Lickitung, I find it very hard to believe that anyone could dislike Lickitung; it Is, after all, a big pink lizard squirrel with a huge tongue and an expression of fear, like it’s as scared of its tongue as we all are AND it’s great for rude implications and jokes but it wasn’t like it sat alongside Electabuzz, Mewtwo, Porygon and Primeape as one of ‘my guys’. Honestly the thing I liked most about it back then was the artwork on its card from the Jungle set of Pokémon the trading card game:

Good angle that. I also respect that Lickitung really did need something doing with it to make it a better battler and to drag it back out of obscurity. What it didn’t need though – in my opinion of course – was a spitbag baby. Lickitung isn’t really anything, it’s from the first 31 which were mostly ‘just kaiju’ or nicked from typical RPG enemies (or nicked from just kaiju), it’s nothing but a funny kaiju idea, a Godzilla with a huge tongue. I respect that it may incorporate elements from Akaname as some (including Bogleech) suggest but it’s not like it was a straight incorporation of a legend like Electabuzz, Magmar or Moltres was, it just might have been the origin of the ‘big tongue’ idea. So just by basing it around anything identifiable is a massive step down in creativity for Lickilicky, but Lickilikcy is also a step down in general, it gets a shorter tongue, how is that an ‘evolution’, how is that an improvement? Spit is not a substitute for a prehensile tongue, spit is gross, prehensile tongues are useful.
Seriously spit makes me gag, which I respect is ridiculous because there is in fact spit in my mouth when I’m gagging because of someone else’s spit. Plus I jut don’t’ really like the design on an inexplicable personal level, you know how you just don’t like something sometimes, a taste, an outfit, a design and you can’t really explain why this is, or at least the main reason, it just doesn’t work for you at all? That’s Lickillicky for me, the colour, the markings, the whole design, everything.

It’s Space World Proto version better, meet Nameeru, the wisest of big tunged monster thingeemabobs. It’s still based on something but a wise old sage is better than a spitbag baby if you ask me and it does feel like an improvement over Lickitung, Lickilicky becomes more immature and gets a shorter tongue while this, called Nameeru, gets more intelligent (well I mean it certainly looks more intelligent, not too hard you might think given Licktung’s blank expression but Lickilicky managed to balls it up somehow) and it gets a longer tongue which it seems to have more control over and be even more dexterous. I don’t like the markings much though, it’s that ‘undesigned’ look where it looks like they just slapped the marking so on willy nilly again.


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