Sunday 21 April 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 3 Part 8 - Spoink line to Swablu line

Spoink’s a really clever little Pokémon design, a good showing of the whole philosophy that ‘simple doesn’t mean uncreative’, it basically reduces a pig down to it’s three most notable elements – it’s snout, it’s fatness and it’s curly tail  and then combines it with a famous pig-based saying (pearls before swine) and a unique twist on one of those elements – making the curly tail a spring. That’s a lot to what can easily to be written off as ‘little cartoon pig’ and it makes Grumpig even more of a boring pile of shit.
Too much? Tough. Grumpig is everything that Spoink isn’t an as we’ve just established, Spoink isn’t just a cartoon pig, so that’s just what Grumpig is and not a particularly interesting or visually pleasant one at that, its’ very much a cartoon pig with a  few exaggerated features and a funny colour scheme, y’know what people who don’t like Pokémon (or later Generations of Pokémon) think Pokémon are? Those things that by and large Pokémon designs aren’t? The only uniqueness about it is it’s black pearls which are so fucking understated they’re barely there, the one in it’s belly isn’t even spherical…unless it’s really dug into its stomach/belly button…this is Pokémon, they’d do that sort of shit…I’mma be right back, checking Bulbapedia….no, none of its Pokédex entries even mention it’s stomach pearl, instead focusing on the ones it keeps on it’s head… Grumpig’s half-a-pearl/deeply imbedded pearl needs to be addressed next Generation please Game Freak, ok?
Spoink needed to evolve, just to put it out of its misery (if you’ve missed it, the defining thing that Spoink is known for is the apparent ‘fact’ that it has to keep bouncing to keep it’s heart beating or else it will DIE, but that fact is taken from the always reliable Pokedex so take it with a Muk sized pile of salt), I just wish it didn’t evolve into something as boring, uninspired and fucking uninteresting as fucking Grumpig.

Spinda is stupid, as a concept it’s fucking daft. I shall now explain why:
In a game that’s sells itself with a heavy focus on collecting and ‘collecting ‘em all’ (I’m aware the slogan was retired but it was still active around Gen 3 and it’s been brought back since) having a Pokémon that you cannot physically collect all of is just counter-intuitive. You can never collect ‘em all because Spinda has randomly generated markings on it’s head meaning that there is billions of possibilities, it’s very nice that handheld hardware got to the point that you could make a Pokémon where each one is truly unique but that’s the exact opposite of the appeal of Pokémon, or one of it’s major appeals at least, it undermines part of the game for me.
Elsewhere however Spinda’s just dandy, it’s another gimmick ‘mon similar to the likes we got in Generation 2 with this little cutie (it’s a sort-of Red Panda apparently) being entirely based around the status ailment confusion, because it’s always spinning and dazed, from it’s abilities to it’s movepool it’s all about confusing or avoiding being confused which as anyone who’s ever played through ANY location that’s filled with Zubats will tell you is very handy. Sadly Spinda is not that great stat-wise and it’s just Normal Type so it’s usefulness is very limited BUT it is cute and it does live it’s gimmick, ever since 3D models were brought in it staggers and wobbles all the time, which is just wonderful, I’d so have one these – it’d never get boring, it would be like having a living funny background event in your home. I just wouldn’t let it anywhere near the coffee table.

Seems harsh but the randomized spot thing is so stupid it’s getting marked down.

I don’t get Vibrava and I’m glad Bogleech made the same observation because I felt like I was alone and just thinking too much about a line of Pokémon - it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Vibrava is just a nice drawing of a cartoon bug, I like it, I actually really like the perfectly diamond shaped elements on it, I know this gen got a lot of stick for looking ‘unreal’ and ‘like toys’ but, well, they’re not real animals and for things like bugs that are segmented and toylike anyway I find it a quite fitting way to cartoonize them. If Vibrava evolved from Yanma I’d be delighted, but it doesn’t, what it does do is sit between two ‘mons that aren’t simply a cartoon version of their basis. Because Trapinch isn’t just a cartoon doodlebug, it’s not even a Bug Type (it’s pure Ground), it’s a thing with parts of its design and lore inspired by doodlebugs while Flygon is a dragon that looks like a bug. This is going to affect the ‘overall’ score for these, because I like all of them individually – I think Trapinch is an adorable little munching machine and genuinely think Flygon is damn cool, I liked it at the time too, it’s just a refreshingly different thing to do with a dragon after we’d had a bunch of western dragons and sea serpents, and a cool Sudowoodo style defines mechanism for the ‘mon (making trainers and Pokémon think it’s a different type) and a fun way to fuck with opponents (for the same reason) and for that reason Vibrava’s cool too, no-one would think this was Ground/Dragon even though it looks like a dragonfly so they totally should (it’s not based on a dragonfly btw, it’s based on an adult antlion with wings nicked from an old episode of Dr Who) – BUT while I do like them individually the line is completely effected by the fact that it’s theme stops dead in the middle for a nice picture of an adult antlion, albeit a really jazzily accessorized one.
See I would have moved on to reviewing Mega Flygon here but IT DIDN’T GET ONE DID IT SUGIMORI?!? Literally every other Gen 3 Dragon Type that could have got one received a Mega, Sceptile was MADE a Dragon type for its Mega but poor ol’ Flygon got the shaft. Why? Because Ken Sugimori got the artist version of writer’s block. There was supposed to be a Mega Flygon but Ken couldn’t think what to do with it, so it was scrapped. This was widely known and humanizes Mr. Sugimori nicely but… why didn’t they just get someone else from the design team to come up with a Mega Flygon? Funnily, this obviously terrible injustice actually made Flygon more popular as fan after fan with ‘wait, YEAH!’ to being told and Flygon has emerged from being mildly popular but overshadowed by Salamence to being a beloved underdog. While made me up because as I said: I liked Flygon before this great wrong. I thought it was a cool Pokémon bug, a cool Pokémon lizard, thus a cool ‘disguised’ Pokémon like Sudowoodo, it had a cool colour scheme with cool markings and IT HAS LITTLE SHOOOOOES, LOOK AT IT’S LITTLE SHOOOOES! IT HAS LITTLE SLIP ON SHOOOOOOOES!  

Cacnea and Cacturne have the same faces! How have I never noticed this before today? Well if we’re being picky Cacturne’s mouth gets bigger while Cacnea’s gets smaller but it’s still the same design, I am not very aware sometimes.
Anyway, cue my squee please:
I like these two, in fact here: I made a diagram of exactly why I like Cacnea:

Anything that simultaneously reminds me of Halloween (well,  a jack o’ lantern), Disney’s old Living Desert AND is a cactus is gonna end up with me liking it, it may seem exceptionally shallow to like a Pokémon because you already like what it’s based on (say: a mammoth) but I think a lot of people do it, if you like dragons you LOVE Dragon Types, if you like birds then Hoothoot and Tailow et all are your favourites, if you heart elephants then you REALLY HEART Phanpy and Donphan and so on and so on, I’m interested in ghosts and obsessed with death so Ghost Type is my favourite and I like old Disney rides, horror and cacti so I LOVE Cacnea and Cacturne.
However, on a more objective side of things, there’s just so much going into these two, so many barely connected but completely understandable influences and elements put into there design. The concept is basically ‘humanoid cacti’ which is just the done thing because cacti are so easy to make look like little humans but Game Freak then bring in all these other elements to elevate their design – for Cacnea we have another plant that’s so often given human features (the jack o’lantern) AND making the little yellow flower on the cactus a crown – for Cacturne it’s another fake humanoid that sometimes had the same plant as its previous stage (a pumpkin) as it’s head (see: Jack Pumpkinhead, for instance) that also looks a but like a tall cactus – the scarecrow. It all makes sense but it’s just so much more than two cartoon humanoid cacti like Final Fantasy or Digimon have and another reminder of why I like Pokémon better.
Cacturne is shit scary by the way, it stands motionless all day in the sun but then, when night falls, it comes after it’s heat exhausted prey and that prey includes HUMANS.  And it really looks like something you’d find creeping behind you, in fact let’s do another diagram for it:

That’s why I like it, but it’s also why would never own one! I would happily own a Cacnea, even though it has pointy whackers for hands and can fire it’s spines at you if you upset up, I wouldn’t want Cacturne anywhere near my town.

I’ve never really noticed how ugly Swablu is, I generally think of Altaria as being one of the ‘beautiful’ Pokémon – so it’s weird that it starts off as such a cooky little bird that looks like it has a big nose. Have you ever read Swablu’s Pokédex entries? It’s a clean freak that likes to land on people’s heads and act like a hat just for its own amusement! Swablu is so cute.
Altaria on the other hand is a beautiful songstress that is randomly half Dragon type, I have no idea why this is so. Bulbapedia posits that it might be based on the giant Peng of Chinese mythology but a) gawd knows why, the Peng is usually depicted as a fish headed bird and b) even if that was true it doesn’t explain why it’s Flying/Dragon and not Flying/Water. I like Altaria and Swablu just fine, they’re birds that have sheep-like cotton coverings that make ‘em look clouds which strikes me as really bloody sensible camouflage as well as a sensible concept for Pokemon but Mega Altaria, Mega Altaria is just having so much fun being a cloud. Sugimori even arranged it’s cotton the way a sensible grown-up uses their bubble bath, I’m surprising it doesn’t have a cloud santa beard, it’s just a lovely little design, not as mental and over the top as some Megas no but so delightful


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