I think I would have had a marginally better first reaction to Gen II’s ‘mons (because I wasn’t really following reveals for this Gen) if the first two sets of Pokémon I came across in the wild didn’t have such terrible names - Zigzagoon? Poochyena? Poochy? That seemed like a new low even for a franchise that had Pokémon called ‘Ditto’, ‘Haunter’ and ‘Charmeleon’ < that is just Chameleon with an extra letter in it! Roggenrolla may well have topped Poochyena in the shit Pokémon name Top Trumps though.
Actually, this is a good time to bring this up, though I am bringing up names every so often (like with POOCHYena, seriously?) I’m not, scores wise, holding it against the Pokémon if their designs and English names don’t match, say like with Psyduck not being psychic or a duck, because while there may be some better synergy now (I don’t know for certain) the English names are tacked onto the ‘mons (for the most part) after they’re designed, sometimes years later, they’re not part of the design process so I’m not using it as a stick to beat them with.
Mind you I’d’ve probably still HATED Poochyena, solely because it was completely in that Gen 3 style, especially it’s face markings, but now I’m used to that style and completely over the change (I don’t like change very much) I’m completely indifferent to it as a design, its cute and feisty and as a com mon it needed to be just that, so it’s fine. I also do appreciate that it was the first com mon that wasn’t Normal or Normal/Flying (it’s Dark Type), a nice break in tradition, a nice break in monotony early on and a bit like getting a water pistol instead of a cap gun. Mightyena on the other hand is way cool, its name isn’t much better but it’s a big mean hyenadogthing with kickass black makings that look like either Alice Cooper’s make-up or scars - and the way all of its black markings on it’s back and head join up has just such a nice woosh to it, I would probably have made its tail light grey but really if I’m getting that nitpicky there’s nothing to complain about. And anyway you can always rename ‘em (even if there is only really three choices for that - Banzai, Shenzi or Ed, even ‘Ed’ is still better than Poochyena, the terms ‘pooch’ and ‘poochie’ are not threatening, they’re annoying, they’re what rich fat ladies call their dogs or that horrible character from The Simpsons)
Hey! It’s our arrows!
Continuing on the ‘daft and obvious even for Pokémon’ naming scheme we have the SECOND set of Com Mons for Gen II, one would have sufficed lads. Zizagoon and Linoon live their gimmicks though and I respect that, just about everything on Ziggy is zizzagged including how it walks, while Linoon is so streamlined I wonder if you could hold it without it slipping out of your hands like these weird balloon toy things and it’s head marking is an arrow pointing straight ahead, ever noticed that? Probably because I’ve been using it as an arrow for two generations and one demo’s worth of Pokémon reviews, but you still might not’ve because an arrow perfectly fits with the shape of its head and body so it’s a nice, subtle marking and not some shapes stuck onto a cartoon animal. Think I’m harping on this markings thing too much now? Just you wait.
Also these are apparently good in the competitive scene too, which is good to know, I like the idea of teams of big bad kaiju getting sweeped by adorable com mons with arrows on ‘em.
I’ve said this before but just to repeat myself: few to no Pokémon designs are in fact the result of minimal to no effort, but some sure look like they were don’t they? Cascoon (the purply one) and Silicoon (the bluey one) are the first ‘Pallet Swap Pokémon’ where they’re very similar (in this case they have different eyes and their lines are inverted, so the difference between Voltorb and Electrode, which is either an argument for how different they actually are or further proof of how crap Electrode is) and when their strands of silk aren’t shown (which is all the time in-game and most of the time in the anime) they’re just balls with eyes so these two really look like they weren’t from the fuck giving side of the design team, even if they were noticeably different colours that’d be some help. I suppose you can argue that they’re both cocoons from the same Pokémon (for Wurmple evolves into either, completely at random) so they should look alike and that’s a fair point, in fact I’ll shut up, but they’re still pretty simple and boring considering the last three cocoons we’d had and these don’t even turn into Godzilla .
What they do turn into are two bugs I’m rather fond of, Beautifly (which is a great name for a butterfly) feels like what Butterfree should have been, veering into the weird side of cute that bugs typically occupy rather than the more traditionally adorable cute that Butterfree captured while the predominantly black and white scheme allows the bright colours of a butterflies wings (that thing they’re kind of known for) to really be the focus of the design.
Mothra Dustox meanwhile is rocking that Play-Doh style harder than
anything we’ve seen so far and I do indeed think that Venomoth is the superior
moth here, it’s just more menacing and thus more satisfying to get out of a
cute bug for me. HOWEVER Dustox has the most poisony of colour schemes a Poison
Type could have and is still a cute (and very mischievous looking) big cartoon
bug that looks a bit like a blimp (intentional?), even if it had been done
better about 7 years before it’s still a fun thing. His eyes do look like
gratings though, maybe the real Mothrim is just a Pikachu in a suit?
Oh yeah! Wurmple! Wurmple’s cool, it feels like they took Caterpie and Weedle and smooshed ‘em together, keeping the best of both designs (the cuteness of Caterpiee, the goofy and spikedness of Weedle) and then coloured it like Iron Man. A top idea and very fitting considering Wurmple was in fact filling in for both of them in this Generation’s ‘dex.
Right…so what we have are three Kappa, a type of Japanese turtle goblin, but their water catching heads are lillypads and their designs also incorporate ducks, Mexicans and dancing because the lilypads look like Mexican hats and because Ludicolo is batshit. That’s…that’s a lot, no wonder the outcome is…well…Ludicolo.
Lotad’s a little simple for me, and stylistically more like something from Doug than Pokémon, but I can see the logic in that if a Kappa had adorable babies and more so if a Kappa that looked like Lombre had adorable babies, those adorable babies would probably look something like Lotad. On Lombre: do you know I‘ve just worked out that it’s markings are supposed to resemble a mariachi outfit? With the tight trousers, shirt, waistcoat and hat, its red ‘nose’ is even a moustache. That’s pretty subtle, before I just hated it because all of its markings were angular nightmares worthy of Rob Liefeld, but now I’ve worked that out I STILL think all its markings look like angular nightmares but they actually have intellect, point and slight racial stereotyping behind them.
What do you want me to say about Ludicolo? It’s a mad, dancing duck-kappa-bean-thing that looks like it’s always off its tits with fur that looks like a poncho by way of a pineapple and a head that looks like a fucking oasis by the way of a nacho sombrero, it looks like what Scrooge McDuck would see if he drank cactus juice. OF COURSE I LOVE IT. It’s also the colours of a Lilt can, and I do like me some Lilt, it’s the totally tropical taste. Ludicolo also proves that Game Freak learned from the Jynx scandal, they didn’t learn not to stereotype a whole race of people, just to hide it better under layers and layers of utter madness.
Excuse me a minute
Yes this is another of my favourite evolutionary lines. Seedot is just too cute, it looks like it could and should be in a Mario game and that’s no bad thing as in case you hadn’t noticed, most of the Koopa Troop are exceptionally well-designed little monsters, there’s a reason that Goombas, Koopa Troopers and Spinies are so iconic and merchandise so well. All those lovely circles (we’re back to Seedot now, catch up) it all just flows so nice. It then evolves into two of the most Japanese looking things I’ve ever seen, first the woodland sprite by way of Pinocchio…it has nipples. Nuzleaf has nipples, I’ve never noticed this before and honestly my life has not improved for the noticing. Nipples or not Nuzleaf doesn’t work quite as well as Seedot but Seedot is such a design success if you ask me that that’s not saying much, and I appreciate the Studio Ghibi/Three Wonders feel of it.
Sorry, Three Wonders is an pretty obscure Capcom game, hold on I’ll grab a screenshot:
Shiftry (shifty and tree, just got that) is magnificent, the second coolest Tengu in video games (Mr Karate is the coolest, deal with it) and a wonderful mix of element and design, with the Tengu’s leaf fans (hauchiwa) become the grass equivalent to Scyther’s scythe hands and Kabuto’s blade hands and THIS IS HOW YOU ABSTRACT CLOTHES ON A POKEMON GAME FREAK, see Shiftry’s feet are actually based on clogs (tengu-geta) but you’d never know because everything just looks like one flowing wooden leg and foot, unlike, say, the totally not karate Gi bodies of Sawk and Throh. Of course I suppose you could argue that Lombre is an even better example but Shiftry’s feet look, y’know, aesthetically pleasing.