Building the Best Pokémon Team (Part 1)
Nintendo are one fierce, unrelenting juggernaut of a corporation. And like all fierce unrelenting juggernauts that I know and have sometimes gotten romantically involved with, they love coin. And lots of it. Pokémon has been such a remarkable money-spinner for them, which may be the distressing reason why there are a gillion Pokémon games and only about 3 F-Zero games. Still, hardly fair is it?
At time of me beginning to write this piece, we’ve got 807 Pokémon (I think) to consider. And by the time I’m finished, there’ll probably be nineteen hundred of the buggers. It’s a bit like that dubious fact about Chinese people walking past and forming an infinite line thanks to their sheer numbers and rate of reproduction – you’ll never see the end as long as you live.
Such a large complement of monsters to choose from, and isolating the right ones and crowbarring them onto a six-man team (or six-woman team or six-Jigglypuff team) is a pretty tall order that’ll take heaps of analysis. Luckily, you have me on hand to help you with it.
Do keep in mind, unfortunately, that like professional sports, I don’t place much stock in stats and boring figures and all that. I’m far more likely to recommend a Pokémon to you if it can cause devastating forest fires, ream entire cities with one bolt of lightning and drown your enemies with a terrifying tsunami. The golden rule of life: numbers are for dweebs.
In this case, we will be looking at every fully-evolved Pokémon and a few Pokémon that either used to be at their final evolution, baby Pokémon or Pokémon notable for other reasons (namely seizures and cartoon pornography). It’s necessary to cull the unevolved chaff for my own sanity and for your own time. Plus, there’s only so many ways you can describe a ruddy Weepinbell before running out of steam for Victreebel. And if I wrote a bio about Poliwhirl and then just described Poliwrath as a ‘bigger, angrier Poliwhirl that throws its weight about a bit more,’ you’d want your money back.
We go, of course, in National Dex order, starting from the first generation which was programmed on the back of a fag packet. And, while I pretend to be knowledgeable about the Trading Card Game and other sidegames past Gen 1, really I’m just taking desperate guesses, so hold onto your neckbeards before sending in angry letters. Please do enjoy.
Let’s be honest: only the scrubs picked Bulbasaur as their starter. Most of the sheep picked Charmander so that they’d soon have Charizard, which is fair enough. Enticed by Blastoise’s cool cannons (and also his ability to demolish the aforementioned chav-owned Charizards), I picked Squirtle, along with many other trainers for the same reason. Venusaur does evolve from Ivysaur quicker than the other two, and it’s an evolutionary line best suited to the first two Gyms of RBY. But do yourself a favour and leave this salad bowl well alone.
With the importance of HMs (Hidden Machines) in getting through Kanto, it wasn’t uncommon to see poor fools outfit their Charizards with movesets of Fly, Cut, Strength and maybe Fire Blast, which makes for ruddy awful reading. But Charizard’s real claims to fame are twofold: first, its status as a rare and highly sought after Pokémon card back in the day. 120 HP and a move dishing out 100 damage, which is Little Boy and Fat Man territory, and it’s red and shiny too. Never mind the fact that the card’s energy requirement meant that Ninetales was actually a better bet. And Charizard’s second moment of glory, the unruly one belonging to Ash in the anime. The ungrateful swine – doesn’t he remember how life went for him as a Charmander, when his little tail’s flame nearly went out? Either way, seeing Charizard temporarily obey Ash in a fight to the finish against Blaine’s Magmar over a volcano was box-office stuff. Charizard did become obedient eventually, when he was encased in ice by an alpha-male Poliwrath and Ash spent the night hammering the ice away. And then, having done all that, Ash released him.
In the words of Macho Man Randy Savage: Ohhhhhhh yeeeeaaaah! Now we’re talking. A big beast of a turtle with two cannons coming out of its shell and a meaty defence? Superb. He even gets a newer, bigger and shinier cannon when he Mega Evolves. Remember Mega Evolution? Well, since I never drugged my own Blastoise with Rare Candies, it became naturally strong enough through normal battling to take down many other Level 100 Pokémon by itself. Does that just go to show that ‘roids don’t work? Perhaps not, but I still got great wins out of this fella in the schoolyard. And since 1998, I still have that Blastoise.
Most Bug types evolve early, and Butterfree and its friend Beedrill are the ur-examples of this: Butterfree will emerge from the lowly Metapod as low as Level 10. After that, its use is limited. Still, I remember crying profusely when Ash had to release his Butterfree, for whatever reason he chose to do so. The mating season, I think, or maybe Gary bullying him into it. This wretchedly emotional episode came after he tried to get rid of the poor wee bugger on the doomed St. Anne liner as well. That boy’s discarded more Pokémon than I’ve had hot dinners, and yet, Pikachu remains…
You probably know about type matchups in Pokémon. For example, one of the simplest being that Water type moves are super-effective on Fire type Pokémon. Well, Beedrill here is a Bug Pokémon, which is uncommon enough. It even has two decent-but-not-great Bug moves, which is rarer still. It has a Mega Evolution, very rare indeed. Here comes Beedrill to turn the tables! And… he gets swatted down, due to his Base Stats being lousy. No wonder Psychics ran away with it in Generation 1. Future generations saw little change for Beedrill’s fortunes, thanks to those stats still being lousy. Mega Evolution gave it more stingers and needles and sharp-bits, but that still wasn’t enough. Which is just as well, really, because despite its name, Beedrill has far more in common with wasps or hornets. Which, as we know, are two of God’s ghastliest creations.
It may look so basic and non-fantastical that it’s almost not even a Pokémon, but the Pidgey line are three stone-cold classics. They’re the earliest examples of the generic Normal/Flying type bird Pokémon, coming even before Fearow. As such, it’s the perfect type to throw the vastly useful HM Fly onto. Fun fact: as a young lad, I called mine ‘AND SHAGME’ so that the game would say ‘Go! AND SHAGME’. Pretty witty, eh? I wasn’t even fully sure what a shag was, I was only going off what Austin Powers said. I thought it went in the woman’s belly button, and had no idea why people would even bother. Of course, I could only put one space in the name because the limit for Pokémon nicknames was 10 characters. All of this aside talk kind of suggests that Pidgeot isn’t cut out for stern competition. Well, that’s hardly a surprise. A hairy brown pigeon goes up against a marauding, fire-breathing dragon. Who wins there, d’you think?
Lookit dem teeth! A favourite of the nefarious members of Team Rocket, Raticate is the evolution of the depressingly common Rattata. They’re some annoying old stains alright, Raticates. They have Quick Attack to get the jump on even your fastest Pokémon, thereby wasting a few precious seconds of your time. Then there’s the surprisingly powerful Hyper Fang. Finally, there’s Super Fang, a move which takes away half of your HP. Yes, it’s that much of a nuisance. Cool move though. But Raticate is just far too common and unsophisticated Pokémon, thereby making it one for losers only.
If you remember Pidgeot from 40 seconds ago, then Fearow is just a worse version with an even worse look. At least its pre-evolution Spearow was cool. Remember when a load of vicious Spearows chased after Ash and Pikachu in the first episode of the anime? They weren’t messing about – they wanted him dead. But Fearow is just not up to this level of sadism, and so it passes by undetected. Oh well!
Kind of cool with those crazy sort of shamanic patterns it sports, and snakes are always notable. But its Poison typing and poor movepool means it can just about forget battling. This was the Pokémon Jessie used in the anime – I say ‘was’ because apparently, Jessie eventually released it. I know it’s good to keep things fresh, but still, what kind of sacrilege is going on here? It makes me think of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, with Pikachu as Screech and Jigglypuff as Mr. Belding. At least Meowth is still kicking. And the anime is still going strong, by the way.
Now here’s one Pokémon we probably won’t ever see the back of. When it came time for the Pokémon games to be given their own anime series, it was decided that Ash needed a Pokémon to travel along with – something that wouldn’t be able to talk as such, but would still be a character with certain personality traits. Such a Pokémon would have to be cute, of course – no danger of it being a Gyarados. They almost picked Clefairy, but went with Pikachu instead. Hard luck for the pink blob, but his loss is the gain of Lasses around the world. And now, having come out on top, Pikachu is surely the most recognisable Pokémon there is. And in the games’ later generations, equipped with the Light Ball, Pikachu actually isn’t that bad in certain battles. If you don’t believe me, then you’ve never tried to take down Red’s Pikachu in Gen 2. In my runthrough of Omega Ruby, I had a Pikachu with a dress that battered just about all comers with a really strong ice move. That’s right, a Pikachu in a blue farmgirl dress, something that I wanted to hate with every fibre of my being, became a mainstay on one of my teams. And of course, in the anime it seems like he can beat anyone on his day in true Roy of the Rovers fashion. Really, the only time I hate Pikachu is when he batters me in Smash Bros and then delivers a high-pitched taunt afterwards. Now that is how cartridges get frisbee’d and discs get snapped.
But maybe Pikachu can’t beat everyone. Yes, Pikachu’s absolute mauling at the hands of Lt. Surge of the Vermilion City Gym will go down in anime lore (a suitably big deal) as one of its finest moments. Just a pity that Pikachu learned Agility and somehow turned it around, as if that would ever be good enough to take down Chad-chu here. It wasn’t the first liberty the anime took, and it definitely wouldn’t be the last. In-game, Raichu was Surge’s last Pokémon and had a fairly meaty level (in Pokémon Yellow, he had only that Raichu). But catching a throwaway Dugtrio in the nearby Diglett’s Cave enabled any player to make short work of him. And Dugtrio is hardly a contender among top-class Pokémon. My dainty blue dress Pikachu aside, I think we can all agree that the sooner the entire Pikachu line are killed violently, the better for all concerned.
A version exclusive… for those silly enough to buy Pokémon Blue. Actually, it’s not a bad Pokémon to battle with. And it does look cool, which is always worth some currency, particularly among schoolchildren. Sandslash’s problem, unfortunately, is that it quickly becomes outclassed by rockthrowers like Golen and bonethrowers like Marowak. It made an appearance in Pokémon Snap’s Valley level. It just stood there and stared at you… and stared… and stared…
Everyone had a Nidoran in RBY of some description, whether male or female. Even after genders came into the Pokémon universe, Nidoran♂ and Nidoran♀ were kept fully separate. So Nidoqueen here is the female variant of what’s dubbed the Nidoroyalty. And it’s not as good in battle as Nidoking, nor does it look as vicious. To be honest, it hardly even looks female. A shame for itself and for gender equality, but Nidoqueen is almost completely outshone by her husband.
A big purple behemoth. Well, it would be, if its Ground/Poison type didn’t put it in chains as regards battling. Still, its massive size, large attack power and 8-bit cry makes it a fearsome enough creature. Until you learn that it stands just four foot tall. If it can’t even get a Tinder date, what makes you think it can batter opposition Pokémon? Anyone would have imagined Nidoking as a hulking behemoth of at least ten feet, but no. Danny DeVito towers over him. Years ago, for some reason I’ve long forgotten, a friend traded me his level 100 Nidoking. This Nidoking went on to do the bizzo for me multiple times in the dreaded Pokémon Stadium, despite its height deficiencies. A wonderful gesture, from him and I still have that Nidoking as well.
Clefairy’s evolution, provided you have a Moon Stone spare. It’s a kind of… bulky… pink… puffy… blob, of some sort. It’s good in battle, possibly because it allegedly comes from the moon. So, the Moon Stone make at least a bit of sense here. Still, you can see why they chose Pikachu as the mascot Pokémon instead of this fella’s pre-evolution, Clefairy: could you imagine a tough-as-old-boots Clefable kicking ass and taking names like the Raichu we were just looking at? I think not. Sometimes you have a loser, and their father is a loser too. Clefairy lost out to Pikachu, and I’m afraid it’s all thanks to Clefable’s faulty genes.
To Be Continued!