Every generation must have its own common birds, even if Generation V didn’t have a completely new Pokedex with its potential partially squandered by a slew of Captain Ersatz it would have still got an equivalent to the Pidgey line, and if you don’t like Pidove then I think you may be missing part of or your entire soul. It’s such a cute, dumpy little abstraction of a pigeon that captures the complete essence of the bird (to be over dramatic again), complete with that brain-dead but adorable face they always sport.
Tranquill is less perfect but more what I imagine we all imagine pigeons to be like – cos pigeons attack! If you’ve got a sandwich and that pigeon’s hungry (and they’re always hungry) it will dive bomb your ass Fokker-style to get some of that ham and cheese goodness, Trafalgar Square is like running a gauntlet if you’ve got a Ginsters – and pigeons look like they enjoy it too. I bring this up because Tranquill, despite its soothing English name, looks like a mean-ass pigeon who greatly enjoys swooping down on your unsuspecting ass, pigeons ARE in fact as cute as Pidove but we think of them as menaces, and Tranquill looks like that menace. It also has the same haircut Lois Lane had in the ‘40s:
And then pheasants. What else did you expect a pigeon to evolve into? This is Pokémon dammit! Actually I think the connection is the Pheasant Pigeon, I guess Game Freak just decided they were already connected so why not? Though Unfeazent (good name) is clearly a straight-up pheasant, even carrying over the sexual dimorphism with the female Unfeazent in duller colours while the male looks like he’s going out to stand on a float at Pride. Being a more subdued sort of person (read: a miserable bastard) I naturally prefer the lady Unfeazents but she’s not without criticism, she sure does look like she’s shat herself doesn’t she? The Male Unfezent is ok, though I’d’ve been happy if they’d’ve got all the way and made him all the colours, while what we got was more accurate he does look a little awkward with his green and red bits between all the grey and charcoal, but nothing offensive.
Aww Yeah! I love zebras! I had a zebra-print suitcase for years - which is the height of tacky - just because zebras look so cool! But I think the real reason I took to them is that no-one – including the zebras – expect you to ride them. You can just appreciate these super-nifty looking horses without being made to feel like a peon because you won’t mount the thing and make it run in circles.
I’d waited for a zebra Pokémon for 5 generations and I was not disappointed, to stand-in for Ponyta and Rapidash as elemental equines we get two lighting themed Zebras with the nicest markings, when we got PokéZebras I was expecting Liepard, not these carefully thought out white stripes (fun oddity: Zebras are white with black stripes but Blitzle and Zebstrika are black with white stripes), Blitzle’s are nice and clearly show some design intent but Zebstrika’s are beautiful, making it look like it’s covered in striking lightning, my god it looks classy. Well ok, everything about Zebstrika is classy design wise, even the ball at the end of it’s tail, which is drawn to look like a blast of energy! I use it as the Electric type on my team whenever I replay Gen 5 (which is fairly often, honestly) even though I know there are better Electric ‘mons in Black 2 and White 2 (like Magnemite), they aren’t thunderzebras.
Blitzle’s cute, very cute but I don’t have much to say about it and what I do have to say is pretty dumb, mostly I want to tell you about how much I like it’s hair and how I want to flick it’s little stubby tail, an act that would almost certainly get me Thundered into a pile of ash.
Here it is! The gold standard of crap Pokémon names, it’s Roggenrola! I can’t quite articulate why but it goes something like ‘Roggenrola (Rock ‘n’ Roller) is somehow so obvious that you can’t forget it’s obvious, names like Drowzee (Drowsy) or Spiritomb (Spirit Tomb) or Geodude (um, Geo Dude) should be as bad but somehow they allow me to forget they’re just as obvious, Roggenrolla doesn’t’. Buuuut I did say we’re not holding English names against the Pokémon when rating them and we’re not, I just needed to get that off my (HAIRY) chest, Roggenrolla is a shite name, Pokémon Company.
What I’m having a harder time seeing past is my initial disappointment, these are painfully obvious ‘equivalentmons’ - for Geodude, Graveller and Golem as if you need telling – and they felt like such a let-down, such an obvious case of Game Freak copping out, that I’ve never really forgiven them, nor the Timburr and Tympole lines, for it. but I really want to try and move on because the thing is they’re as good as, in fact they might be better than, the Geodude line. All three are far more creatively designed than Geodude and Graveller, who are both awesome and Geodude is undeniably iconic but they’re still faces on rocks with limbs, there’s nothing wrong with that but there shouldn’t be any argument that these three, three living combinations of rocks that approximate living creatures, are more original; especially midvolution Boldore, who looks like nothing but a just that – a combination of rocks approximating a living creature (Gigalith looking more like a conventional dragon or kaiju and Roggenrolla looking like, well, a Bob-Omb) - it doesn’t even have a ‘standard’ amount of limbs (2, 4, 8 etc), just three rocks it can stand on (and it glows). There is also far more of a (logical) flow to their evolution, Graveller and Golem were never designed to evolve into one another, which is why a rock with limbs becomes a turtle meteorite; we were presented with this as fact and told to accept it – and we did, because we had no reason not to and many of us were children – but it’s bloody odd when you think about it. the upside of that is Geodude, Golem and Graveller all have a uniqueness to them, the downside is that if you think about it you go ‘uh?’. That’s not here with these three, their progression from little ball to big monster makes total sense and feels completely natural.
And as monsters and Pocket Monsters they’re all just dandy, Roggenrolla is adorable, Boldore is unique and Giglaith is awesome and they’re all very competent, very well throughout designs.
But they still leave me a little cold, and I still prefer Graveller and Golem…
I know they’re good and I know they’re cool but I just… can’t.
Next up in equivalent slog is Black and White’s Zubat and Golbat, the fluffy fun of Woobat and Swoobat. What did I give Zubat? Because Woobat’s getting the exact same score, like Zubat it manages to be a perfect little distillation of it’s animal, reducing the Honduran White Bat down to its most essential things: a heart-shaped nose, white fluff, little wings and infinite cuteness. Couldn’t ask for anything better.
Compared to Golbat, Swoobat - while delightfully goofy - does show up the dip in creativity that some Pokémon fans are always going on, Gobat was a very unique cartoon bat, it was as much a creature that looked like a bat as it was a cartoon bat, but Swoobat is - the odd thing aside - just a Suigmori drawing of a bat and while it’s a very nice bat it does show that Game Freak are generally more inclined to just draw Pokémonified animals. As least that’s what I would be saying if there any fucking merit in it – Pokémon has always been a mix of Pokémonified animals and creative variations and abstractions of animals from the Rattata line onwards at the latest, you just only notice the difference between the two types of design if you happen to get a directly comparable example like Golbat and Swoobat, lots of Pokéfans could do with learning this please.
Sorry I turned your section into that Swoobat.
Moles in onesies!
It’s time for Gen 5’s equivalents of Diglett and Dugtrio and nah I just hate ‘em.
And not just in relation to Diglett and Dugtrio either, I gave Dugtrio a poor score way back whenever and I stick by that, Excadrill for al it’s flaws is at least a more creative second stage that makes some form of sense, plus Diglett is a Whac-a-Mole so there was always room for a more mole-like mole. I just hate everything about their designs. Excadrill is the real offender, the thing is I like the concept, Excadrill is a transformer:
It puts its hands and the random third of a drill on its head together and when it’s in its drill mode it looks just fine. Its it’s
robot mole mode that stinks, clearly no-one on
the team was a Transformers fan, or if they were all they had as a kid was
Ratchet. I think a lot of the issues with drillmole could have been fixed by
making the third part of the drill it’s head rather than a random piece of
drill on the hood of its onesie, as it is it’s just this big metal dick
flopping about up there, trying to produce a false face but failing because the
real head of the mole is so damned obvious. Maybe if they’d made the real mole
head silver, or drill like, or in any way like a lower jaw? Game Freak are
usually really good with false faces (and succeed with aplomb later in this
Gen), so I dunno what happened here, someone must have had an off day. Then
there’s the onesie look, which just looks silly and awkward, I’m sure it’s
intentional (well, not to look like a onesie, but to look like they’re wearing
jumpsuits) but, well, I think it looks silly and awkward so whether they meant
to do it or not, I still feel the same about making your moles wear one-piece
outfits with HORRIBLE just-slapped-on-anywhere markings plastered on the front
that are, I think, supposed to represent dirty marks? Are you bored with me
bringing this up? Sorry, don’t worry, there’s not that many examples of it in
this Generation if I remember correctly. Overall the whole design just doesn’t
coalesce for me, another design equivalent to getting dressed in the dark.
For Drillbur, just apply all of the above, but without the transformer bit.
Oh, but I suppose I will give Excadrill credit for its use in battle, because apparently it was a good ‘mon to use competitively, especially in ‘sand teams’ where if you called up a Sandstorm weather effect, Excadrill’s Sand Rush ability made it a speedy dispatcher of your enemies, helped by a high number of defences (it’s half Steel type).