Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 2 Part 5 - Unown to Dunsparce

Ok, I have no issue with Unown in concept or principle – I have no problem with Pokémon who are created primarily for world building like, say, the regional fish; in a game whose tagline was ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ I have no problem with introducing a Pokémon who plays up to the collecting aspect or collecting appeal; I have no problem with ‘gimmick’ Pokémon. I don’t have any problem with Unown as a design either, they’re supposed to represent each letter of the alphabet (plus two punctuation marks) but none of them (except maybe the ‘N’ Unown but that looks more like a ‘Z’) look explicitly like letter, the one up there is the F Unown for instance. If you took someone completely ignorant of Pokémon and showed them some Unown, there’s an excellent change they wouldn’t guess ‘they’re letters’, this is nice design work if you ask me: unobvious and un-tacky, a very satisfactory way to execute something that’s pretty kiddie and could, frankly, have come out looking like something from Sesame Street instead they look old and otherworldly, exactly what they should look.
I also like the concept of the Unown, these ancient things haunting the Ruins of Alph (or the Solaceon Ruins, or the Mirage Cave or the Tanoby Chambers…) that are quite probably the source of an ancient language. That’s cool shit.
My problem with Unown (you knew that was coming surely?) is their uses in game - or lack thereof. Yes they’re worthless in battle, knowing only the random move Hidden Power, a move they seem to have been included partly (or entirely?) to promote, but that’s not what I mean; what I mean is that no Pokémon game has never given a satisfactory reward for collecting all of its Unowns, Game Freak seem to be so pleased with their ooky letters that they seem to think simply having them all is reward enough. It isn’t. In real life completing a set is a good reason to collect, in a video game we expect a different outcome and Game Freak has never given us this, the biggest rewards we usually get are *gasp* the chance to catch two more of the poxy things (the aforementioned punctuation). With all 28 forms being the same type and knowing only 1 same move (and never learning any more) catching all 28 of ‘em is thus solely for it’s own sake and fuck that, there’s all kinds of ways they could have been used – for instance (just thought of this) they could have been used to open the locations for the Legendary Golems instead of those braille puzzles everyone detests, you could have had to have taken Unown spelling ‘Ice’ ‘Rock’ and ‘Steel’ there to open the doors to the Golems, which would have tied nicely into them being an ancient language. 
But nope, getting those exclamation point and question mark Unown is a far better reward.

This is another one of those Pokémon where everything’s been said before over and over to the point that I feel there is no point. To suggest that Wobbuffet is the breakout star of Gen 2 is to wildly understate things, though it did partially become a breakout star because of what a bastard it is, which is not the usual technique.  Right lets run through it all – Wobbuffet is very unusual and very likable as simply a design - it’s effectively the wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube man of Pokémon with all the madness and charm that comes with that. I think it’s actually a very Gen 3 design to the point that I often get it mixed up and think it IS a Gen 3 ‘mon, hopefully when we et to Gen 3 you’ll see what I mean about the likes of Wobuffet, Dunsparce and Smeargle. It’s popular/well known for three reasons 1) being funny in the cartoon 2) being a bastard to fight against, it learns only four moves (plus three more if you evolve it from Wynaut), all of which are themed to returning the damage you’ve dealt it and then some, this plus a high health stat and an ability that prevents  you from switching mean’s it can wipe out an entire team with ease, which is particularly bad if you’re playing a ‘Nuzlocke’ run where you, amongst other things, don’t use a Pokémon after it’s fainted. If you’re ‘nuzlocking’ wild Wobbuffet become happy blue serial killers 3) it has an intriguing mystery in-universe about its tail – which has eyes – that lead stop an intriguing fan theory that the tail is the real organism and the blue bits are a wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube decoy.
Got all that? Not, well just search ‘Wobbuffet’ you’ll be told about three things over and over in so many different ways until you, like me, wonder what you can possibly say. 
I ADORE Wobbuffet: I love its design visually but I also love the fact someone took the time to work out how to make a punching bag theme work in totality within the constraints of the gameplay and battle system of Pokémon rather than resorting to giving it one unique move like Sketch and or Present. I think that’s clever design and this is one of the things that doesn’t get brought up so much. And I think Nuzlocking is a bit silly, especially how seriously some players take it, so the petty part of me enjoys Wobbuffet solely for fucking with these people who put a bunch of arbitrary rules onto the games to make it for difficult for themselves then get cross about things that fuck with this completely voluntarily way of playing. And I like it cos it was funny in the cartoon and because of it’s fascinating tale lore, just like everyone body
Wynaut is a post-Gen II Baby (a Gen III one to be precise), but as it allows Wobbuffet to have another move without ruining its gimmick I shall not be calling it ‘completely pointless’ just ‘mostly pointless’, it also loses all the weird charm of Wobbuffet by being a cute dog thing in a game filed with cute vaguely canine things.

Ah mate, Gen 2 had SO many single stage Pokémon and I loved all of them and I’d forgotten how much I loved all of them. This makes a little more sense in context I think, remember I said Johto’s Pokédex was the ‘New Pokédex’ and was just an expanded version of Kanto’s? Which makes sense with Gold & Silver being direct sequels, so adding a bunch of non-evolving ‘flavour’ Pokémon to it makes a lot of sense also, especially when you consider that a lot of single-stage evolutions (like Chansey, Scyther, Magmar and Onyx) were becoming part of an evolutionary line in this new ‘Dex. It needed more one offs.
However up until now, all of those one-offs we’ve looked at have got some love in later generations, Girafarig is out first Gen 2 non-evolver to have stayed a solo act (no I’m not counting Unown, it had 28 different forms!) – when it was one of them that needed that love the most! Let me explain: Girafarig is cool, it’s a very strange way of doing a Pokémon Giraffe and it’s Normal/Psychic because it’s half one thing and half another, all very good and I love the designed feel to its markings. Never really been quite sure about that random white splodge on its head mind you. However, we need to talk about this: GIRAFARIG ISN’T A PALINDROME! AND IT BUGS ME! See that’s part of what Girafarig is based on, but it’s not the same thing both ways, one end is clearly different from the other because one end is a Chainchomp that acts as an attack butt for the main giraffe. That is very different from a giraffe and completely at odds with the whole palindrome thing and what’s worse is that it was originally a proper palindrome:

From the Space World ’97 demo of course, but we’ve had art of this version of Girafarig for a while now, since about 1997 itself I think. Look at that, that’s an animal palindrome, it does the same thing as Girafarig does now, only it fits its theme. There’s only one solution, Game Freak needs to give Girafarig a cross-generational evolution that’s basically that old version of itself, where it involves into a true palindrome and becomes Psychic/Dark (or something), bringing it back into the fan eye, making it better competitively and making it stop bugging me!

Well this is odd. Back in the earliest days of Gold & Silver, Girafarig was going to evolve from a pair of conjoined ghost twins. I actually like these little guys, at the time there was only the Gastly line and Misdreveaus and thus these feel very much like they fit the then-current style of Pokémon ghosts lovely (even though they were going to be Dark/Normal, as was Girafarig, lord knows why they changed it when the back end just screams (or chomps, I guess) ‘Dark Type’) but I’m glad this idea was dropped, even in a franchise that today has things like pearls becoming eels and guinea pigs become mammoths and little cosmic balls that become lions and bats the idea of a giraffe evolving out of two blobs of dark energy and this just being a normal run-of-the-mill ‘mon is just so baffling and jarring that my brain can’t handle it.

It’s a pinecone suicide bomber – of COURSE I like it.
One of my weird quirks? I really like pinecones. When I was small we used to collect them at service stations (particularly Fleet) on the way back from holidays and paint them gold and silver for our Christmas Tree, this is something of a treasured memory for me – probably because travelling with my mum’s side of the family (with whom I used to do this with) was a fucking nightmare otherwise, pinecones represent that feeling of all the tension falling away to me. BUT Pineco is a little more than just a pinecone that explodes, it’s one of those seemingly simple ‘mons that in fact take in elements from all over the case, in this case Pineco throws in things drawn from hand grenades (it’s signature move being Explosion) and bagworms (it’s Bug typing etc), so it’s not actually a pinecone suicide bomber it’s a bagworm suicide bomber that rocks camouflage. It also really looks like a face without being one, it’s very easy to see faces in things but it’s quite difficult to design something where people can see a face without giving in and just arranging all the things in a face shape, the call of anthropomorphising is just so strong in humans.
Forretress is cool too but in a slightly less tangible way, it just has an air of general coolness about it I guess. It’s a strange thing to be sure – a rocky looking clam that hides a mysterious creature – cool stuff and as far as I’m concerned Cloyster done right (it doesn’t look a vag for a start) and I really hoppe that Bogleech is right and it’s based on those little beetles in the nuts because that would just make me like this thing even more, as it is Pineco is one of those ‘mons that I’m never in a hurry to evolve, not because the evolution is bad but because it’s just not quite as charming as what I’ve already got – the Pikachu/Raichu inner debate that a lot of people have, I guess.



Oh god it’s just so loveable isn’t it?
Pokémon’s tsuchinoko (it’s a Japanese cryptid, sort of like a fat snake Bigfoot) is just the cutest little what-the-fuck, it’s actually quite a Gen 3 style design I think but it’s a very pleasing one, everything just flows nicely into each other and it’s such a lovely set of sickly colours. You know what it looks like? It looks like what Tim Burton would design if you asked him to make a Pokémon, I bet Tim Burton loves him some tsuchinoko (or he would if he knew about them).
Dunny needs an evolution, it needs to be competitively viable, it has its followers and it’s fanbase has grown a lot since the days of being one of the most forgotten and baffling Gen 2 additions, but it needs some love now Game Freak.


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