Building the Best Pokémon Team (Part 11)
This bumper edition of the now universally famous Pokémon Team piece brings us to the end of the Johto times, before Game Freak ushered in the Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald era with a blaze of trumpets. It is 100% nostalgia talking and it makes me a damn fool, but for me, Generation II of Pokémon brought with them the last truly great games in the series – it’s been, not downhill ever since but it’s been a bit of a lower plateau, and I don’t mean the Indigo one. The villains were still a bit sinister, there was that sense of mystery as the internet wasn’t ubiquitous, and it even bundled Kanto into the bargain. For Generation VIII, Game Freak, you give me a massive Pokémon world with non-linearity, at least 16 badges to earn and maybe even the ability to visit one or two previous regions. Then I just might be interested!
Looks altogether sinister for a Pokémon game, doesn’t it? But that’s what you want, no pansy Pokémon. It’s Fire and Dark type, which is a great start. It’s got devil horns, which is even better. And its Pokédex entry says that Houndoom was Satan’s own dog until it shat furiously all over Hell one day and they couldn’t get rid of the stink for weeks. What, that’s not what it says? Whatever, making up your own Pokémon lore can be a riot.
Seadra wasn’t up to much, and found itself on the cusp of being a forgotten Pokémon altogether, lost even in a sea of other mediocre Water Pokémon. Along came Gold and Silver, and with it, an evolution plus a new Dragon type for Seadra. It suddenly finds itself revitalised as Kimgdra, a Pokémon of real means; like ‘new money’, with all of the power but none of the classless braggadocio. The altogether more badass looking seahorse now has a swagger in his step, telling us all that it’s foolish to try and intimidate a king. He has nothing to step on, mind you, but he’s not the kind of fella you want to meet in the dark sea while swimming at night.
When Donphan showed up in the first Pokémon film, we collectively dropped one in our pants. “I’ve never seen that before! It must be really powerful!” we cried. Quickly, we changed our opinion and wondered why it was Donphan that they chose to include in the film. Probably he was one of Generation II’s earliest Pokémon designs. And they still managed to make it forgettable? Oh dear. It’s a shame because nothing should really prevent you from using an angry elephant in battle – elephants can cause all sorts of damage, ask any Age of Empires 2 player. But Donphan just never seemed to gain popularity, so I’m afraid we shouldn’t make an exception for him here.
I remember knowing the name of Porygon’s new evolution, but thinking that it would be called PORYGONTWO, like Mewtwo. I was chuffed when there was an actual digit in its name, which is unbelievably sad, but true. You’ll remember that the Porygon family have had a vendetta against them after the whole seizure thing. It was nice of Game Freak to throw an evolution Porygon’s way, at least. You’ll probably never, ever see him in any of the actual games, but he’s there. Actually, I’ll forever be indebted to Porygon2 for saving me at a crucial moment at the end of a 15 Minute Melee in Super Smash Bros Melee. Without him flying out of a Poké Ball and killing off some pervading Wire Frame bogeys, I’d probably have been KO’d right at the death. It would have wasted a whole quarter of an hour of my very important life. But I’ll remember that moment with gratitude forever. Thanks, rubber ducky.
It looks mean, despite being a Christmas reindeer. But Stantler’s not gonna do a whole lot for you. Maybe one day we’ll see an episode of the anime where Stantler’s head is being hung as a prize over an ornate fireplace? Or am I just being morbid again? Stantley is a classic example of the type of Pokémon that you come across that isn’t your usual Rattata, so you get it caught straight away, but only after he soaks up 5 of your precious Great Balls. You’ll run into this guy outside Ecruteak City and think “Gosh, better catch this”. Try to use it in battle, though, and you’ll discover that you may as well have thrown your Great Balls at your Rival.
Oh yes, now here’s a chap I’d hang around with all day. When you first happen across a Smeargle, its four moves are all Sketch. You can then use Sketch to copy almost any move in the game, giving Smeargle scope for potentially devastating moveset combos. Its stats are hopeless, naturally, but you can still have great fun with a Smeargle – assuming you keep him protected from the bigger boys. For my money, artsy Pokémon beat the ones that go for intimidation any day of the week.
A pre-evolution for Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan, as well as the next Pokémon on our list. Can evolution branches get any more different? I was a little disappointed when it turned out that Hitmons Lee and Chan were related. It brought to mind an odd idea of incest. Tyrogue looks like a mean little fella, but how does it hold up that massive head of his? It’s almost as big as the rest of his body! Mind you, people ask me the same qestion and I never have an answer. Tyrogue evolves at Level 20 into one of three evolutions: if its Attack stat outweighs its Defense, it turns into Hitmonlee. If the reverse applies, you’ll get Hitmonmuhammadali. But if both stats are the same, you get…
Now what famous pugilist is this madman based off?! Would Hitmongianthaystacks have been too much to ask for? I actually got lucky in that my first Tyrogue evolved into Hitmontop. Topsy here is a cool concept, but gimmickry doesn’t do much for you in real life fights, and I know this from having watched a few rounds in my time. What happens when he falls over?
A Jynx pre-evolution. Christ, what a thing to have to evolve into. Like being tied to the train tracks and seeing a doomtrain hurtle towards you at a colossal speed. Was there really a point? It’s a bit like watching those pageant babies, the ones that get done up to the nines at age 4 and are told to do a catwalk on stage. Organising these events is one of those things that comes under the remit of “bizarrely legal”.
Well, I definitely like its head. Plugs in the UK and Ireland don’t look like that, but I suppose I can forgive Nintendo and Game Freak for not localising Elekid’s head. It evolves into Electabuzz, of course. And in Generation IV, both he and Magmar received an evolution as well. So they went from being single evolution Pokémon to having babies before settling as the middle evolution. Isn’t that odd?
His Japanese name is Bubi. Boobie! Wahahaha! Immature I know, but what more do you want me to say? The only purpose of hatching Baby Pokémon is to fill out more of the goddamn Pokédex that you’ll never complete anyway.
Lucifer himself would be self-conscious about keeping this spawn of evil as a pet. Anyone who’s tried to take on Whitney of the Goldenrod City Gym has probably found their valiant efforts easily dismantled by her vicious Miltank at least once. Bulky in HP and Defense, and with more Speed than you might think. Here’s the dope: a STAB Stomp messes up most opponents off a meaty Attack stat, Attract halves your chances of attacking if your Pokémon is of the wrong gender, and Milk Drink recovers half her HP, foiling your hard work. Finally, and most infamously, Whitney’s Miltank employs Rollout – a Rock-type move whose power doubles with each hit. The power resets if Rollout misses or is interrupted in some way – but a 90% accuracy will never, ever favour you, the worthless human player (ever). Most gamers of the time, let alone rabid Pokémon fans, still wake up screaming about this thing. I know I do.
Sheesh. It’s got the maximum allowable amount of Hit Points by the game, potentially over 700 when most others are a smidge over 300. And its defences have been beefed up from Chansey’s too. When used in conjunction with Skarmory (the infamous SkarmBliss combo), it becomes near unbeatable. Plus it gives a shedload of experience points if you can defeat one in battle. Lastly, Blissey and Chansey sometimes hold Lucky Eggs, which bolster the experience points gained by a Pokémon. Lucky!
When I first happened upon this legendary dog/beast/ferret in the wild, I soiled myself and immediately tossed my Master Ball at it. Actually, what Pokémon to use the guaranteed Master Ball on in this game was a far tougher gaming decision than it was in RBY, assuming you didn’t clone them via the helpful Missingno. This time round, you’re going to have to take your pick of Raikou, Entei, Suicune, Lugia and Ho-oh. I chose Raikou, and got an aggravated looking electro-gerbil for my troubles. He was a faithful companion, sure, but for Electric legendaries of the time, one could hardly look beyond Zapdos.
Like Moltres, Entei was never much of a goer in battle, even despite its legendary status. There’s not much to talk about beyond that, so we turn our attention to Super Smash Bros Melee again, where Entei’s taxidermised body provides the stage for one of the Event Matches in the game. Like most Event Matches, the odds are stacked against you from the start – but these Trophy Matches actually try to fool the player into thinking that it really is a fair free-for-all, and that the AI aren’t all against you. But if you can unleash Entei from a regular Poké Ball in the game, and an opponent or three gets caught in this beast’s ensuing inferno, then the battle will shift quickly in your favour.
Otherwise nondescript until Pokémon Crystal based almost the entirety of its new plot around it. We never really figured out how to pronounce Swee-kun^-^ but that didn’t matter: this fella’s an ethereal beast (or is he a hamster? A possum maybe?) My favourite part of Suicune is the wee soul patch that it has. It affords Suicune a certain level of alternative, almost beatnik respect, wouldn’t you say?
Each Generation has a behemoth of a Pokémon right before or slap bang in the middle of the Pokedex’s Legendaries. They usually have mega stats, evolve at a very high level and tend to be called Pseudo-Legendaries. Dragonite was one, and Tyranitar is Generation II’s equivalent, having evolved from Larvitar and Poopytar. It’s overwhelmingly powerful, with tough typing and defenses. Fighting types foul it up badly, but that’s all. Plus, are you going to send Primeape in against this beast? Godzilla ain’t got nothing on Tyranitar. Even its name ought to be whispered.
The drongos where I come from constantly called it Luigi. I mean, really? Why is Lugia not Water and Flying, anyway? What’s Psychic about it? It’s meant to be the Guardian of the Seas! Plus it’s found in the Whirlpool Caves… I suppose I should be thankful though, since a Water type would give it some superiority over Ho-oh, and us Gold players certainly couldn’t have that. In fairness to Lugia, Aeroblast is a baller of a move. All the great moves have great sound effects, you know?
I know Generation II was already in the works by that time, but it was just amazing when Ho-oh appeared in the anime as early as the very first episode. The Pokédex told us that some Pokémon haven’t even been discovered yet. And by the time you got all 151 Pokémon of RBY (which, if you started in 1998, should be happening anytime nnnnnnnow), you realised that there were indeed more Pokémon just waiting to be unleashed. When we saw Hooo-ouugh on the cover of Pokémon Gold, it was just an incredible moment. How could I not buy that version after seeing the bird from the very first anime episode glaring at me? It’s a rainbow peacock that breathes Sacred Fire, for God’s sake. It even looks a hell of a lot angrier than Lugia.
We end with another bastion of unattainability. Once the boss-eyed Celebi entered the picture, it paved the way for a whole host of cutesy Pokémon with 100 Base Stats across the board. Not an entirely original Pokémon from the start, then, and that’s even including its Grass type. Rare as rocking horse turds as well, naturally. We were too busy running about after the Legendary Dogs and getting the relevant Legendary Bird from Ho-oh or Lugia to even worry about this little onion head. I’m sorry, but you just can’t beat Mew. And I’d definitely take Jirachi over this guy. So that’s a bit of a threadbare end to Generation II – a bit like the manifestation of Kanto in the games, then.
To Be Continued!