Welcome, weary travellers, to your weekly dose of ‘mon! I hope your weekend was loaded with chocolate goodies from the Easter Buneary. It’s time to get serious however, as we delve into the next generation of critters from Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. Shifting from the technical limitations of the classic handhelds to the wondrous Game Boy Advance, these games brought a twinkle to my young eyes, introducing series staples like double battles and passive abilities. The latter added a huge new wrinkle to the metagame, ranging from Earthquake-nullifying Levitation to sheer Intimidation, the likes of which weakens opposing offences.
For me though, the most thrilling thing is that stat changes were represented by fun colours – and that was downright nifty! …I wasn’t a bright kid, you have to realise.
With any new Pokémon game comes a fresh new batch of lizards, insects and whatever kind of abomination Loudred is supposed to be, so it’s time to take a squiz at the five I consider the best! Disclaimer #1: this list is subjective, as I am not (yet) the authority on all things that are awesome in this world. Disclaimer #2: there will be no Gardevoir, so don’t even bother asking. That thing singlehandedly ruined Google image search, man.
Boing, boing, boing, boing, boing, boing, boing, boing…
Watching the adorable springy piglet Spoink bounce around sure is a lot of fun, isn’t it? Hopefully, it’s the kind of thing you enjoy – because if it stops bouncing, its heart stops beating and it DIES. Ever had a hyperactive child who won’t sit still?
‘Stop that ruckus or you’ll be in big trouble, mister…’
I ponder occasionally what kind of life Spoink hopes to live, where only the sweet release of death will end its ceaseless bouncing. Even Tigger would take one look at the situation, ponder it for a brief moment, and conclude that it was a step too far for him. In the best case scenario, a Spoink will reach level 32 and evolve into Grumpig, complete with arms and legs and a fully functioning heart that does not rely on perpetual motion to operate. But just think about it for a minute… getting to level 32 requires a fair amount of battling, and that comes with a lot of risks. What if Spoink faints? What if Spoink is frozen? What if Spoink gets caught in a Sticky Web, held in place with Bind or snatched into the air with Sky Drop? These are all things that frequently happen in a Pokémon battle.
In a world fraught with danger, only the strongest will survive. As a result, I can only assume that every Grumpig that made it is like a jaded, grizzled veteran – complete with shaggy facial hair and a bottle of bourbon. If I could draw, that would be my magnum opus.
What’s better than a giant rock monster? Why, a giant rock monster coated in a layer of steel, of course! Aggron is shiny nightmare fuel that may have been based on the mythical Korean beast Bulgasari, which was known for consuming metallic substances. I was going to say that the fact it eats metal while also being made of metal was ironic, but that looked too much like a pun that I wasn’t willing to commit to.
It goes without saying, but Aggron’s calling card is its unfathomable defence. In its regular form, its base stat is a lofty 180, good for seventh place among all Pokémon. Upon Mega Evolving however, it reaches the pinnacle of 230, a claim that only Mega Steelix (an immense iron snake) or Shuckle (a slug in a rock, I guess) can match.
Equipped with moves like Heavy Slam, it is adept at quite literally squishing its enemies into a fine paste, but it is not all roses and delicious smushed entrails in the world of Aggron. It is not very mobile, and it melts when exposed to high temperatures. I mean, in fairness, most things do. I’m prone to melting if you popped me in the oven, for example, but for Aggron, the abundance of Fire-type techniques out there put it at constant risk. In my case, the solution is as simple as not getting in the oven, and I’m getting much better at that these days.
Congratulations, Trainer! You’ve diligently raised your Nincada to level 20, and it has evolved into a newer, sleeker form. The agile Ninjask should be a useful addition to your party, now all that’s left is to… what’s this? There’s a Poké Ball missing from your inventory, and the once vacant slot in your party is now filled by…
Shedinja is literally the animated carapace of a Nincada, and to merely look into its hollow husk from behind causes you to lose your soul. Considering most trainers command their Pokémon from the rear, it is an OH&S nightmare.
Perhaps the most unique Pokémon in franchise history, Shedinja is fascinating even beyond its curious origins and propensity to gobble up spirits. It has just 1 HP, meaning that anything that connects with it is assured to knock it out immediately. To combat this, Shedinja is the only Pokémon that possesses the Wonder Guard ability, allowing only attacks that are considered super effective to harm it.
With its Bug/Ghost-typing, this means that only five different attack types will do. These types are not uncommon by any means, which will inevitably result in Shedinja’s untimely demise, but it tried its very best – and that’s what really matters. If your children ever complain that life is too hard and they can’t be bothered attempting something, you need only point to Shedinja – HAUNTED BUG SKIN – and tell them that if it can give it a go, so can they.
The poster boy for ‘believe and achieve’, Breloom starts its life as the gross, squat little Shroomish. It’s obtuse and unassuming, and it probably smells bad, too.
Upon evolving, its metamorphosis yields a much more desirable ally; this spritely mushroom/dinosaur/kangaroo/whatchamacallit. Breloom has a high attack stat and not much else to its name, but darn it if it doesn’t just look cool as a cucumber, and even vaguely similar to a cucumber, now that I think about it.
Its access to Spore (which puts opponents to sleep and boasts 100% accuracy) may be its main asset, but it would find much better utility in subsequent games, thanks to its hidden ability: Technician. Any attack that has a base power of 60 or less (in other words, crappy attacks) will have its power boosted by 50%. Once underwhelming moves like the multi-hit Bullet Seed or the speed-crippling Rock Tomb take on a new life when wielded by this clever fungus friend.
TL;DR version: it is a fighting mushroom. This makes it amazing.
Aerial Ace. Endeavour. Double Team. Agility.
Informed Pokémon experts will attest that this moveset has no place in competitive gameplay, lacking a powerful offensive technique, relying immensely on circumstance, and devoid of any kind of cohesive strategy. But my Swellow had it. And my Swellow showed them all.
One of many unspectacular early-game avian Pokémon, Taillow simply refused to leave my side throughout my quest across Hoenn. While his brethren were replaced and upgraded, he seemed to have this intangible quality to stick around. By the time he evolved into Swellow, his place was secured. His sole purpose was to get his ass kicked, respond with Endeavour (a move which gives the opponent as much HP as its user has remaining, which in Swellow’s case, was frequently very low), and hope for the best. There’s something charming about an underdog Pokémon with such moxie, its ability is literally called ‘Guts’.
As an extra bonus, Swellow was also my contest specialist, a non-violent means of competition in which its moveset made a lot more sense. He collected many ribbons over the years. Consider them like the skulls of his contest enemies, and it sounds a great deal more threatening.
That’s three down, four more to go! I hope you revelled in this magical list of top 5 Pogeys from RSE, next week we will delve into the beasts on offer in gen 4, aka ‘There are literally more legendary Pokémon than new Fire-types’. Infuriated Nosepass fans who were promised glory in this article may have a second chance at redemption in the form of Probopass. I promise nothing.
How does this list stack up compared to yours? Reckon it’s feeling incomplete without a single starter to its name? Let me know in the comments! I assure you, I read them all – my psyche feeds upon them like a Shedinja in search of souls.
Want more Pokémon for your Pokémom? (Pokédad doesn’t work in this context)
Now’s as good a time as any to plug my ongoing Pokémon Red Nuzlocke Challenge! Will I survive the deadly battles upon the S.S. Anne, or will my team end up in a watery grave? 12 out of 13 viewers agree, it’s fantabulous! Whoever that one disliker was, I will find you…
Fancy a look at what I thought of Johto’s creatures? Review my top five Pokémon from gen 2 at your leisure! I’ve been told it’s a failure because it doesn’t include Dunsparce, but hopefully you’ll forgive me.