Greatness can be as brief, as fleeting as catching lightning in a bottle. Therefore, there is always a considerable risk taken whenever someone attempts to traipse towards their first taste of glory once more. In the case of the Pokémon games, it was only a matter of time before they would roll the dice again on the red-hot franchise – and it paid off in spades. More creatures, more techniques and tactics, even the chance to revisit the towns you first grew to love in the original titles. Pokémon Gold and Silver graced the Game Boy Color (Colour if you speak the Queen’s tongue) at the turn of the millennium, and in much the same way that they delivered all that we had dreamed for and more, I’m hopeful to achieve the same. That’s right, friends… We’re thumbing through the catalogue of Johto beasties and finding the besties; this is my list of the top 5 Pokémon from gen 2.
Disclaimer for you: this is entirely subjective, not rooted in fact in any way, shape or form. If you’re particularly miffed that your darling little Qwilfish didn’t make the cut (spoiler alert: it didn’t), voice your discontent in the comments. Should #TeamQwilfish be trending by the end of the week, I will consider it a raging success.
Meeting your gen 2 starters can be a little bit scary, at first. It’s mildly akin to moving to a new school, only your classmates sometimes breathe fire and live in tiny little balls. In my opinion, Cyndaquil does an admirable job of easing the transition. Like a helpful school chum who will show you around and teach you the ropes, this fiery shrew is equal parts lovable and intriguing. With some sort of combustion system built into its body, it shoots flames from its back that are sure to ruin any furniture it happens to be sitting on at the time.
Its final form is the lithe Typhlosion, who comes complete with a flaming neck collar so gaudy it would make Lady Gaga blush. And sure, it’s pretty nifty in its own right, becoming a key member of my team throughout my journeys in Johto (I gave it the entirely uninspired nickname of Volcano, though nowadays I prefer to call it Ifrit or Ares or Christmas Jonathan), but Cyndaquil’s unassuming demeanour and perpetually sleepy visage makes it far more endearing. Also, I used it to frequently spam Smokescreen, and I’m not even ashamed.
I can just picture the meetings around the Game Freak table those lonely winter nights as they formulated their plan. They had a sheep Pokémon in development, and they needed a couple of ideas for how its evolutionary chain would work. “The next stage will be… bigger, yeah! And a little bit less fluffy, like it was growing up. Good start, team!”
“Then, in its final form: Flippers. You heard me right… Flippers. Oh, and while you’re at it, give it a long neck, to boot. Don’t ask any questions, just send the concept to Ken Sugimori and let him create something magical. …Come on, it’s not that weird, okay? Not like we’re making a Pokémon that looks like a garbage bag or an ice cream cone.”
From humble, woolly beginnings comes the wondrous yellow abomination that is Ampharos. Part lighthouse, part giraffe and occasionally a dragon, it’s all kinds of hideous fun. In much the same way that it isn’t winning any beauty contests, it’s definitely not going to outspeed its foes (a sluggish 55 base speed that somehow decreases to 45 when it mega evolves), but it can certainly lay down the hurt, while also sponging up a few hits along the way.
It was also my premier user of Dynamic Punch, a mighty blow that confuses the recipient. It only has a 50% chance of actually connecting at any given time, so perhaps the true confusion lies in the notion that you took such a risk to begin with.
Oh the places you’ll go, if only you just believe. Smeargle learns only one technique throughout its life, and it learns it again and again, the silly old painting goon. That technique happens to be Sketch, and that has allowed it to become the most versatile Pokémon in the history of the series this side of Mew. The premise is simple: when using Sketch, Smeargle will copy the last technique it saw, permanently adding it to its repertoire. Fancy a nifty Vine Whip? Presto! Smeargle will get it done. Envious of Chansey’s healing Softboiled ability? Never fear, because Smeargle will happily gobble those eggs with the best of them. Eager to make your Smeargle Self Destruct on command? Go ahead, you sicko! Smeargle will combust with pride.
If this all sounds too good to be true, the sad fact is that it kind of is, in a sense. You see, Smeargle might be able to learn any attack it sees, but with base offensive stats of 20 and defences that aren’t much better, it isn’t exactly a fearsome warrior. Its combined base stats add up to a measly 250, placing it on par with such luminaries as Bidoof and Hoppip. So loading up a Smeargle with strong attacks is like giving a cannon to a baby. Fun in theory, but ultimately pointless and most likely to end in tears.
It’s not all bad news though, because Smeargle has found its calling strictly as a support Pokémon, particularly through use of Baton Pass, which transfers its stat modifications to its (theoretically superior) teammate. My own attempt at a Baton Pass Smeargle relied on a great deal of luck, armed with Spore to put its enemies to sleep, Geomancy to boost its stats, and Ingrain to recover damage (and to stop a technique like Whirlwind from cancelling all the hard work I’ve done). It only succeeded very rarely. And when it did, it was absolutely hilarious.
Hello Trapbat, my old friend.
In the first generation of games, Zubat was known as little more than a pest, assaulting you in caves with such frequency, you’d think it was a telemarketer. Its evolution, Golbat, wasn’t much better. So when a third member of the family was revealed, one that could only be created through the power of love, you’d be excused for treating it with apathy at first. But Crobat had something unique, something that gave it a chance in this big bad world. And that thing was pure, blinding speed, to the tune of 130 as a base stat. For perspective; even today, with over 800 Pokémon to choose from, Crobat is the 16th fastest.
And how would we reward it for this talent? Why, by making it even more annoying than the pre-evolutions that had hounded us so. With a moveset of Toxic, Confuse Ray, Mean Look and Fly, Crobat was hard to hit and drained your life away without having to actually deal much damage directly. Like any master plan, it had its flaws. Most prominently, Crobat’s weakness to the mighty electric attack Thunder, or any opponent that could not be poisoned. Or enraged children chucking their Game Boy across the room, and probably taking yours with it, too. LARRY FROM ACROSS THE STREET used FLING! It’s super effective!
But it was the first competitive strategy I had ever implemented beyond the typical 10-year-old’s mindset of ‘all offensive attacks everything will DIE DIE DIE’. And for that, it holds a special, infuriating place in my heart.
Perhaps no Pokémon was more representative of a brand new era in the metagame than Quagsire. Its unique water/ground typing made it completely immune to electric attacks, typically the bane of aquatic combatants. Never mind the fact that this made it twice as susceptible to grass-type moves – it shrugged off lightning bolts like a goddamn boss, and that’s cool however you shake it.
What is Quagsire, exactly? Some sort of newt-type thing, I suppose? Its younger form, Wooper, vaguely resembles an axolotl that’s had its arms lopped off, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. One thing that is clear from looking at its great big smile and beady little eyes, is that it is the epitome of dopiness. There has never been an official ranking of Pokémon IQs, but obviously, this jolly fellow is a strong contender for dumbest of the dumb. It is the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo all rolled up into one, only a lot less repugnant, and nary a single Christmas special to its name (so far).
Speaking of rolling… Though GSC veterans will likely associate the attack Rollout with Whitney and her Miltank (between stiff drinks as they cry themselves to sleep), to me, it’ll always be the signature technique of Quagsire, mine specifically. Sure, there are countless other options for it that are inarguably more effective, but purely on a theoretical level, it is fantastic. It is a grinning blue fool that is rolling right towards you.
Get onboard or get out of the way!!
That’s another generation done and dusted! If history is due to repeat itself, we can look forward to the third generation next week (Nosepass fans! Your day is coming…), and in the meantime your homework is simple. Go forth, catch a Smeargle and create your own marvellous strategy. Bonus points if it involves Splash.
Can’t get enough Pokémon?
Don’t forget, my Pokémon Red Nuzlocke Challenge is still ongoing on YouTube! Featuring the talents of Bulbasaur and the failures of everyone else on my team.
If watching that makes you long for some gen 1 lovin’, check out my first batch of top 5 Pokémon, containing only critters from the good old days of RBY.
If you’re like me and love all of the theoreticals being thrown about, you may have asked yourself how much it costs to feed Goku of Dragon Ball fame? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.