Sunday, 11 August 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews: Generation 5 Part 13 - Legendaries

Fuck it, I'm sticking all of these on one post. 

So there aren’t many Legendry Pokémon I don’t like and the ones I don’t like I usually at least like the legends associated with them, the Swords of Justice (Coballion, Terrakion, Virizon and their later recruit Keldeo, who is placed a bit further down the ‘dex than them after the Kamis and the Dragons as it was an event ‘mon) are a case of that. These are the protectors of Pokémon against man, when the Moor of Icirrus burned due to a civil war between the humans of Unnova, they stepped up and saved the Pokémon there, finding the orphaned Keldeo as they did, they then fought and eventually won against the armies of humans, simply because innocent wild ‘mons were getting killed by the huge war, now it’s said that they’ll emerge again and kick the asses of anything that threatens their own.  It’s exceptionally cool, and a legend befitting a group based on the Three Musketeers and d'Artagnan who are, in case you missed it, all terrifically cool (and why the four are all half Fighting Type, Fighting being the ‘good guy’ type in Pokémon). It’s just a pity I don’t really like them that much as designs.
Virizon (which I thought was a phone company), the equivalent to Aramis, I dislike the least, it has a very sleek, flowing look, a nice pretty colour scheme and LOOK AT IT’S LITTLE SHOOOES! LIKE LITLE BOOTIES! AND THESE BOOTS ARE GONNA WALK ALL OVER YOU IF YOU TRY AND MURDER SOME WILD SEWADDLE! I haven’t made a music reference in ages, that felt good. Anyway Virizon looks like something I’d imagine coming out of a clearing to save the day too. Cobalion (who’s Athos) has a little of that, it certainly has the air and feel of a noble heroic leader and the older, wiser character but it’s design is so bitty, it’s like a cut-and-shunt Pokémon they stuck some things on cover up the joins, I like the head and the high colour thing but from then on down it’s all just things stuck on to an otherwise very plain body with peach shoulder spikes, it’s just so…bitty. Keldeo is alight, it has two forms of course – an Ordinary Form and the gloriously fabulous Resolute Form, it’s ordinary form is perfectly fine though I don’t understand the huge blue eyebrows I don’t mind them, the Resolute form does make me think that Keldeo has just dressed up for pride but that’s nothing to be ashamed of, everyone dresses up for pride, it just makes Keldeo look a little silly, like it’s done itself up to go out rather than like a badass warrior. however it does grow a huge fucking blade for a hole, and unicorns with blades for horns are instantly wicked. A unicorn does feel somewhat less special when you can get a Rapidash so easily and Rapidash looks more magnificent than lil’ d’Artagnanmon here, at least the Legendary Birds look bigger and more powerful than Fearow or Pidgeot. It’s a nice ‘inversion’ of the trio mater concept though, instead of a trio master you get later on, you get a trio student! In Black and White you actually had to have all three of the other Swords and take Keldeo to a certain place so they could teach it its signature move, the rather epic laser-sword technique Secret Sword.
That just leaves Terrakion (the Athos of the group) who I want to say is a disaster of design all over but looking at it, that isn’t true, the problem is it’s head and the really weird, stuck on, orange…things on it’s arms, what do they do? They can’t protect anything? they’re barely attached, they’re just unnecessary. The head I hate, the weirdly human anime face, the horns that looks like someone just drew some shapes and left it at that, none of it gels, none it looks pleasant, it’s just… so awkward and ugly and I hate it and I’ve devolved into Poketuber arguments and I’m sorry but fuck Terrakion’s design choices.

Do you know the trope ‘Author’s Saving Throw?’ TV Tropes defines it as ‘when the creators add [changes] to (or remove [changes] from) a story based on what they've heard from their audience’ it can also be defined as ‘The Therian Forms’. When the Forces of Nature - or the ‘Kami trio’ of naughty boys Thundurus and Tornadus and the more powerful trio master Landorus – were reveasled, fan reaction was… terrible. And I was behind that. Though they do have different tails, moustaches, hair and horns the differences really don’t notice so much because the three overall look so similar, like there was a template and the differences were drawn over it and that ‘template’ approach to a Legendary Trio made them look utterly lazy (and in this case I don’t mind suggesting that someone was being lazy, certainly lazier than the people who designed the other Legendary Trios, though maybe not the person who came up with Latias and Latios, eh?). The template itself isn’t all that great by itself either, feeling very un-Pokémon, probably because they’re so humanoid, these could have come from any anime or RPG, they remind me more of Dragonball than any of the ‘mons series, even Digimon who likes turning it’s cute critters into sexy adult humans and that is something I find very creepy. And they have no bottom halves, just clouds, this is of course completely accurate to how creatures like this are depicted in art both ancient and shat out for cheap fairytale books but it doesn’t help with the whole ‘laziness’ thing, especially as each of the three have the same cloud despite having different powers (one is thunder and lighting, one is winds, one is land and crops) – why isn’t Thunderus’ cloud a thundercloud and Landorus’ a dust cloud, for instance? Their legend was quiet nice though; long ago Thundurus and Tornadus caused so much devastation with their constant fighting whipping us such destructive storms that Landorus was forced to seal the two away, thus Unnova builds shrines to Landorus, already worshipped as a god of harvest, because he put his foot down, well his cloud, well his paw. It’s simple but feels like a real legend, it’s probably based on one (the ‘mons themselves are based on Fujin and Raijin plus Inari).
Then Black 2 and White 2 came out and that Author’s Saving Throw was rolled: turns out the lazy genie designs were the ‘mon’s Incarnate Formes and they had another set, their Therian Formes. No-one knows which came first in-universe but everyone knows that it was a HUGE fucking improvement. Each of the three now gained a unique but similar design (like all the other Legendary trios) that could be activated just by using an item, and each of the three forms looked badass while all retaining the kami face, which sunk them straight into the uncanny valley and that only helped to make them look like genies in another form and like mythical creatures. Being pure Flying Type, Tornadus becomes a huge bird, the phoenix, the thunderbird etc and it’s in my opinion the weakest of the three but when ‘giant moustachioed bird of prey’ is your weakest link you’re doing alright really aren’t you? Storm god Thundurus becomes a storm dragon and a unicorm and a tiger - fuck yeah! Look at that, huge powerful paws, a spiked tail, floating because it’s just that powerful, it looks like how Syndrome felt, it just looks so powerful. Which actually manages to cover up it’s dinky legs and belly button piercing, don’t’ focus on that, kids. And finally Landorus becomes, of course, a land animal becoming a grumpy old tiger that manages to hide the fact that it has silly hair by having the presence and overall feel of something that could maul a Wailord without breaking a sweat. As well as them all having GLORIOUS moustaches, which is a design element I can always get behind, I also really enjoy that they all had their clouds, once an object of scorn, worked neatly into their designs, becoming ‘fur’ or, um, that cloud that lives on the backs of mythical things in eastern culture, I dunno what it’s called, the Legendary Beasts have it too, or it’s just tail feathers. These are just so much better, that said, I do have one issue with the designs:

FOUR sets of man-boobs in one generation? Weird.

A third trio! Fucking hell. What’s Game Freak’s motto? ‘if it doesn’t work then try, try, again, if it does work then do the same’? I guess three extra cool dragons shouldn’t be sneezed at but I’m bloody glad that Gen 6 begins Game Freak’s quality over quantity era. 
Anyway these tie into the legends of the Hero of Truth and the Hero of Ideals, the two warring brothers that many of Unnova’s legends and much of its history tie into: once you see there was one legendary Dragon Type that served the two brothers when they worked together, but as they grew to want different things (truth and ideals) they became enemies and the loyal dragon reacted to this by splitting into box Legendaries: Reshiram and Zekrom who were so evenly matched it eventually caused the two brothers to stop their fighting (though no doubt having their arses kicked by the Swords of Justice helped with that to), until their sons took control of the two beasts and wrecked the region, since then the two have been missing from the world. Big bad stealth dragon Zekrom wound up being the more popular of the two with fans, especially in the west, to the point that it the preference for it is considered a major factor in White Version (where it was catchable and the cover star) selling more copies than Black Version but I like both of ‘em about the same, Reshiram has a very unique, mammalian look to it and a very regal overall feel to the design while Zekrom is equally as unique for a series, there’s no other dragon that looks like the costumes they keep giving characters in the MCU. Yes I am being facetious, haven’t you got used to that by now? Zekrom is sleek, black and badass and a nice counterpoint to the fluffy, regal Reshiram.
But something was left behind when the dragons split! That was Kyurem and what a concept this is – a derelict dragon! A half-broken, Dragon/Ice type waiting in the site of a meteor strike for the person who’ll restore it, and that’s the issue, because Kyurem so cool is that it’s so fucked, it has the same appeal as ruined buildings, abandoned theme parks and zombies, but in Black 2 and White 2 you’re supposed to ‘complete it’ or at least put it in a better state than it is because you can never actually complete the original dragon, despite having all the pieces to do this (all three ‘mons) that’s out of reach, instead you can combine Kyurem with one of it’s trio mates for two far inferior dragons that both look like they were designed by Rob Liefeld. Black Kyurem is Kyruem + Zekrom and has a kind of thuggish, caveman type feel to it that seems a bit odd given how sleek Zekrom is, while White Kyurem is Kyruem + Reshiram (I think you could have probably worked these out for yourself couldn’t you?) and just looks fucking silly, key to that silliness I find is that whoever designed it clearly thought it looked cool, another connection to Rob Liefeld, instead it has a tiny head with a big underbite, streamers and stands like it’s shat itself. And neither of them look or feel complete, Kyruem, while clearly designed to look decrepit, feels more complete than these two, which both feel like what they are, asymmetrical dragons with ice bits stuck on them. I have made one of these once (Black Kyurem, I prefer its more murderous look) and that’s enough for me.
Also have you noticed that they all have naturally occurring jet engines for tails? I like that about them.

Meloetta is pretty much what I wanted Tympole to evolve into, continuing on the ‘made from musical bits’ look to its next step – a little humanoid. And it’s a cute little humanoid too, a sweet little singer (or dancer) with a pair of lovely colour schemes. But there’s really very little about it that makes it feel mythical, Tympole only aggravating this niggling feeling further by being the same concept, but a completely common regular Pokémon. And it certainly didn’t need two forms – it’s Aria Forme (green singer) and it’s Pirouette Forme (brown dancer) – but it is a pretty neat idea (singer or dancer) and it’s not a hassle to do, just use Relic Song and it’ll switch from one to the other, and with Normal/Psychic and Normal/Fighting having such a different set of strengths and weaknesses it can easily be useful in fucking with your opponent, so meh.

So in a generation filled with so many equivalents to the Pokemans of yore, a new version of Mewtwo was inevitable, but the end result ended up being way better that I’d expected: Genesect is a damn cool mechanical-looking bug (our first Legendary Bug Type: Bug/Steel to be exact) and different enough from Mewtwo to have it’s own identity: both are the result of scientists fucking with Pokémon yes but Mewtwo is a genetic horror, a far-too-successful clone of Mew that got out of hand, while Genesect is a cyborg: an ancient Pokémon revived (ala Fossil Pokémon) and augmented by Team Plasma. The difference is important because a) it means they didn’t just ‘do Mewtwo again’ and 2) it doesn’t sound like Game Freak are trying to tell us that Genesect or Team Plasma are as good as or better than Mewtwo and Team Rocket and pissing off older fans: an even-more-powerful clone of a Mythical Pokémon takes a lot more to achieve than using a pre-existing method to brig back an old Pokémon and weaponize it. Team Rocket created, Team Plasma borrowed. But Genesect is still a weaponized Fossil Pokémon with a huge gun on it’s back and an evil, evil face and thus cool in it’s own right. AND I like the whole thing the franchise has been doing by positioning Mewtwo and Genesect as rivals, the anime and the trading card game have both presented them in a ‘the world isn’t big enough for the both us’ rivalry and that’s just cool, you own the derivative nature of Genesect. 
I’m not that mad on it’s Drive gimmick though, you can get four Drives to plug into your Genesect – the Burn Drive, Douse Drive, Shock Drive and Chill Drive – and these change the Type of Genesect’s signature attack Techno Blast (the one it uses in Smash Bros) – to Fire, Water, Electric and Ice Type respectively. Not Genesect’s Type (like with Arceus or Type: Null) but just the type of this one move, that Genesect will never get a STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus) from. With no STAB and so few type choices it doesn’t seem worth my time, I respect it might be useful if you don’t have/want a  Fire, Water, Electric or Ice Type on your team and thus Genesect can give you a bit of extra type coverage but it seems like a lot of effort for not a lot of reward.
But as a design, Genesect is awesome and as a concept Genesect is awesome, so an optional gimmick (you can use it without a Drive) isn’t too much of a detriment, enough to knock it down from a perfect score, but only by one ball

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