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October 23, 2015

My Top 12 Pokémon

I promised it, here it is. Today, I list my 12 favorite Pokémon species. This means, what, one Pokémon out of 60, perhaps? There are, after all, 720 species (technically 721) out there as of writing. I won’t lie, this was a tough list. I tried to include species from all six Generations, because I believe that every Generation has brought to us a lot of clever concepts and a lot of great species or evolutionary lines.

Personally, I don’t believe that Generation 1 was the best. It’s the most nostalgia-packed Generation, that’s for sure. But I don’t believe that a Generation is better than another, in the grand scheme of things. I'm speaking species-wise, of course; I'm taking out that Generation's games and everything in them that's not directly related to the Pokémon species who appeared in that Generation. You’ll find that my list contains Pokémon from all Generations. There are some Pokémon on this list that I like simply for being cute, others that I like for their rarity, others for their unique gimmick that makes them very interesting to play with, others that I appreciate simply for their backstory or their role in supplementary Pokémon material. Also, I will sometimes include an entire evolutionary line in the list, or a single member of said evolutionary line. Either way, I hope you enjoy this list. Let the countdown begin!

12. The Gastly line (Gastly, Haunter, Gengar)
One of the species with the most drastic changes from one
evolution to the other.
The first ghosts of the Pokémon series, and the only ghosts of the first Generation. That was before ghosts were established as common in the Pokémon universe, so those gaseous critters could be caught only in the Pokémon Tower, in Lavender Town. This was a time where nobody knew what to do with them, really. The first generation was glitched and made them weak to Psychic-type Pokémon when they were supposed to be the player’s sole worthwhile weapon against Sabrina and her team. Even the anime treated them as though there was only one Gastly, one Hanter and one Gengar, and they would do some truly messed-up stuff. Like, oh, I dunno, killing Ash and Pikachu and turning their souls into ghosts? (Fun fact: Dead Pikachu was the first Ghost/Electric Pokémon, long before Rotom was even a thought.) These bizarre episodes also portrayed these three ghosts as too unreliable to be allies. Later Gens would introduce plenty of ghosts to the franchise, so this interpretation of Ghost-types would no longer be accurate by Gen 3. Personally, I never had any problems with these guys. “Yeah, but Nic, you only started playing Pokémon in the third Generation, after the glitch was corrected,” you’ll say. So what? The only thing I dislike about these is that you need to trade the Haunter to get a Gengar, and that’s kind of problematic when you can’t trade at the moment. But at least, Gengar has decent stats and a powerful Mega Evolution (which, in my opinion, is just plain ugly, but if my sole problem is from an aesthetic standpoint, it’s not too bad).

11. Girafarig
Can this giraffe look in two different directions at once?
The Normal type has always been kind of strange. Most commonly paired with the Flying type, hardly ever paired with other types. Let’s see, the later Gens introduced more species that had the Normal type mixed with another (Bibarel, Deerling/Sawsbuck, Litleo/Pyroar, and all the Norrmal-type Pokémon who gained the Fairy type in 2013). However, the precursor to all of them was Girafarig, the Normal/Psychic Pokémon. The main advantage of the Normal type is that it protects against Ghost-type attacks, and Pokémon with that type learn a myriad of moves (including some from the Dark type) that can prove useful. Combinations of Normal with another type result in very peculiar Pokémon. Girafarig always looked odd to me. Seriously. What the Hell is that thing on its tail? And yet, despite that Chain Chomp Poké-reject on their posterior, Girafarig is a cute giraffe. And they’re very useful in battle. Only two weaknesses, no 4X weakness, able to learn Dark-type moves, and pretty good attack stats. Its main downside is its low total base stats total (455), though a well-trained Girafarig can be very strong; however, isn't that the case for every well-trained Pokémon? I remember, back in Pokémon FireRed, I once battled the Elite 4 with a Normal-type team, and Girafarig was one of my star players. And I won. I like this species. Definitely deserve more credit than some people give them.

10. The Deino line (Deino, Zweilous, Hydreigon)
This line proves that evolution is either miraculous or
Ah yes, the Dark/Dragon monsters of power from Gen 5. Also known as the “Goddammit, are you finally gonna evolve??” species; Deino evolves at Level 50, Zweilous at Level 64. This makes it the three-stage species that starts evolving at the latest level (for two-stage Pokémon, the champion is Larvesta, which evolves into Volcarona at Level 59), as well as the species that evolves at the highest level. The main problem with Gen 5 in general was that a lot of Pokémon evolve at much later levels than in the other Generations, and the new Experience calculation method made it a pain to reach the higher levels. Trust me, when you finally got your Hydreigon, you earned it. I like this species because it has the ferocious look of the Dragon-types and the mischief of the Dark-types, and despite being some of the most evil-looking Pokémon out there, they can be just as friendly as any other. The Pokémon-Amie proved that. Deino is outright adorable, Zweilous too, and Hydreigon almost acts like a puppy. The only downside is that for all this hard training, the final evolution is merely as strong as any other semi-Legendary, at 600 base stats total, while one would have expected something better. However, one question remains: How the Hell did Ghetsis get a Level 54 Hydreigon?

9. The Pumpkaboo line (Pumpkaboo, Gourgeist)
Available in just the right size
for everyone!
I like Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist because they have more than one gimmick. The first one, and the best known, is that there are four sizes for both of these Pokémon: Small, Average, Large and Super Size. The difference in size is not always that noticeable in the wild, but you can definitely see it when using the Pokédex’s functions, or in Pokémon-Amie. It also has an effect on the stats, as smaller versions have less HP but higher Speed, while the larger ones have less Speed and more HP. Super Size Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist have cries different than the other sizes, so you can spot them easily; and that’s a good thing, as the chances of encountering a Super Size one in the wild are rather low. Also, these Pokémon have a special attack called Trick-Or-Treating, which puts the Ghost type on the opponent. As a result, the opponent receives double damage from Ghost-type moves! (Well, unless it’s a Normal-type Pokémon, of course…) They’re a pretty cool species, maybe an unconventional choice for such a list, but I really liked the concept.

8. Pikachu
Pika pi! Ka-Pi-Chu!
Well, duh. You were probably expecting it. Being the mascot of the entire franchise, Pikachu gets a favor treatment; along with being a main character in the anime, it’s also prominently featured on merchandise, in games, and in Pokémon X and Y, they actually say their name instead of just making some nondescript electronic sound. Yet Pichu and Raichu still make said nondescript sound… try to make sense of that! Yes, I admit it, I like Pikachu. They’re not common but they’re not extremely rare. They’re not all that strong but, when used efficiently, can be great fighters. You can choose when they evolve. They’re the first walking Pokémon, way back in the first Generation and Pokémon Yellow. Their legacy is one new cute electric rodent in every subsequent Generation (Pichu, Plusle, Minun, Pachirisu, Emolga and Dedenne). And, oh yeah, a Pikachu is officially the strongest Trainer-owned Pokémon in the entire franchise. Red sure had to work a lot to raise his own little rodent to Level 88! You think it’s easy for an Electric-type to train in Mount Silver? So yeah, I like Pikachu, though one could say none of my reasons are enough to make the list. But this is my blog, I make the call.

7. Audino
How could I resist those deep blue eyes?
Audino is a species liked by a lot of people, and for quite a few reasons. First off, they’re cute. Second, they’re the Unova equivalent of Chansey, helping in hospitals as nursing aides. Third, their stats aren’t amazing but they can be taught a wide array of Technical Machines from most types, which can make them very deadly against unprepared opponents. Fourth, they’re team players, so in double/triple/multi battles, they can help and heal their comrades. Fifth, OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire gave them a Mega Evolution that gains the Fairy type, which makes all of these qualities even more meaningful. But their number 1 Reason for existing is as EXP whales. All of us players who got games from the fifth Generation onwards, we’ve all done that: Hunting for rustling bushes to fight an Audino, then beat it and have our Pokémon gain a huge amount of EXP. What’s more, in the wild they only know a few Normal-type attacks, and then some that can heal your own Pokémon. I once used a LV1 Litwick that knew Will-O-Wisp, and I fought a LV55 Audino. The amount of EXP I got was in the five digits. Of course, they’re back in Gen 6, used by a number of high-ranked Trainers in the Battle Chateau, and once again, they sure deliver once they’re defeated! Audino is a great addition to any team, and they’re also great to battle against – though I would shed a (crocodile) tear for each adorable Audino that gets a savage beating for my personal gain. Oh, I’m sorry!- No, not quite.

Audino can kill them with kindness.

6. Hoopa
From nobody to nightmare?
Hoopa is an intriguing Legendary Pokémon that comes in two packages; there’s the Confined Hoopa, a cute 1 foot tall Arabic genie-like critter that manipulates space to steal stuff… and Unbound Hoopa, a 21 feet tall giant with six arms, six ribs, and six prongs. DEVIL! Devil, I say! This was the last officially-released Legendary Pokémon for the sixth Generation (as of writing, Volcanion is still not legally distributed), and boy does he leave an impact. He’s the star of the 18th Pokémon movie, Hoopa and the Clash of Ages (wait… 18=6+6+6!!!), where two Hoopas, an evil one and a slightly less evil one, go at war with each other and pull most other Legendary Pokémon of the franchise into the fight. In battle, Hoopa has the unique attacks Hyperspace Hole and Hyperspace Fury, which both never miss; the Fury version can be used by Hoopa Unbound only. What’s more, Hoopa Confined must be unbound thanks to an NPC who owns a Prison Bottle, and can only remain Unbound for three days. Oh, also, Confined has the Psychic/Ghost type combo, while Unbound has Psychic/Dark. Last but not least, Hoopa Confined has a base stats total of 600 while Unbound has 680. It’s like a very slightly less powerful Mega Evolution that doesn’t go away once the match is over! I love the concept! It’s brilliant! You’d better get one of those, they’re a lot of fun to use.

…what’s that? The Prison Bottle is only in Pokémon OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire? …Fuck!

5. The Lucario line
They'll aura-kick evil in the
freaking face. ...I know that what
I just said made no sense.
There’s no denying that Pikachu is still the overall mascot of the series, but someone from the Diamond and Pearl games has started hogging the spotlight, and that Pokémon is none other than Lucario. Star of a Pokémon movie, very present in promotional material, playable in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and for WiiU and 3DS, and being the first Pokémon we see use the Mega Evolution in Pokémon X and Y, there’s no denying that the Fighting/Steel-type has become very prominent. In fact, an argument can be made that Lucario is another mascot of the series, in a strange way; Pikachu, Mew and Jigglypuff represent the “cute” side of Pokémon, what makes it attractive for children. Lucario would then be the series mascot for another aspect: The Pokémon battles. I like Lucario, but I also like Riolu, who seems like just the right mix between “cute critter” and “battle critter”. Hm, maybe Riolu should be the new mascot. Also, Lucario’s Mega Evolution is stylish and remains contained, unlike other Mega Evolutions that go way too far into exaggeration by adding spikes and dents and dangerous stuff everywhere. Lookingat you, Sharpedo.

4. Snorlax
I called mine Baymax, and it’s been loyal to me ever since I caught in on that bridge on Route 7. Or was it in front of that cave? Or did I receive it from a trade with an NPC while it was in its baby form? Snorlax are one of a kind; when they don’t sleep, they eat. When they don’t eat, they sleep. The lazy ones of the Pokémon universe. But catch one of them, and you’ll see the extent of their power. Snorlax may keep on falling asleep in the worst possible places, but it’s a damage sponge (with very high HP), and its other stats are pretty great too. It’s a giant with impressive strength, and like Audino and Girafarig up there, it can learn a large number of TMs from many Types, although some people will keep two move commands for the Rest-Snore (or Sleep Talk) combo, which allows Snorlax to restore HP and still attack while asleep. The rest? Flamethrower, Crunch, Brick Break, Surf, Psychic, Ice Beam, Solar Beam, name it. But beyond battling, Snorlax are adorable, cuddly animals. Sure, they’re really heavy and they can crush you in every possible way, but there’s something inordinately cute about them. Just look at Snorlax in Pokémon-Amie. I like to picture Snorlax as giants who can be gentle with the kids in everyday life, but who can be fearful opponents in battle. Be on their good side, feed them and let them sleep, and they’ll be your best friend. But when it’s clobberin’ time, they’re ready.

3. The Chespin line
They're mean, they're green, they're fighting machines!
Yeah, I know, the first two don't look mean at all.
Chespin, Quilladin and Chesnaught are now my favorite Starter Pokémon. In Gen 6, Game Freak really upped their game by having three final stage Starter Pokémon with dual types, and both type trios are complementary; Chesnaught the Grass/Fighting soldier, Delphox the Fire/Psychic wizard, and Greninja the Water/Dark… uh… ninja. I chose Chespin at the start of my Pokémon X save file because I knew he would become a badass combatant with a spiky back and a neat goatee. And, although I picked him because of Chesnaught, I also liked how Chespin and Quilladin look, so I had no problem playing with them. And I’m of the kind that keeps his Starter in the team all the way to the end. I found Chesnaught to be extremely useful, in all kinds of situations and against most enemies. The only real downside is that he has a 4X weakness to Flying-type attacks, which are rather common out there. Mine had a set of attacks with four different types (Dark, Fighting, Grass and Rock), and overall great stats. I’ll be perfectly honest, I never understood the hatred towards Starter Pokémon. Sure, they’re “Starters” and you can replace them with other Pokémon during your journey, but I tend to get emotionally attached to them quickly. And they can be great members in your team. Chespin, Quilladin and Chesnaught just so happen to be my new favorite Starter Pokémon. With their versatility, and the great design (how sad that Delphox didn’t get something so great), what’s not to love? I wished more Starter Pokémon were that versatile and useful.

2. Gardevoir
Alright, Gardevoir made the list mostly thanks to Level 30 Psychiatry, the webcomic about an English-speaking Gardevoir who decides to become a psychiatrist in a world where all the game universes have collided. The high intelligence of this species (due to the Psychic type) and their natural empathic abilities would make a Gardevoir perfect for this task - and besides, a talking Pokémon isn't all that farfetched, as the Pokémon anime has shown us. But let’s talk about the games. Upon gaining the Fairy type in Generation 6, Gardevoir gained a whole lot of new resistances (and a weakness to steel…). The species also got a Mega Evolution, which transform their cloth (or skin???) into what looks like a wedding dress. As if the jokes weren’t frequent enough. Still, Gardevoir has good stats, access to a good movepool, great type coverage, and can defend itself against most opponents. (Note that I’m saying “it” since not all Gardevoir are female.) So, all I’m saying is that Gardevoir are some of my favorite Pokémon mostly due to a fanmade work, but does that make my opinion any less valid? Nope, it’s still valid.

Now, a couple honorable mentions before the #1 spot.
Cute. Sings for defense. Dragon
killer. Will Sharpee your face.
-Jigglypuff: I can't resist the cuteness of that one. Coupled with its anime personality, the Smash fighter and its newfound strength against dragons - imagine that, a cute puffball that sings can take down mighty monsters! - there would be everything for Jigglypuff to make the list... well, sorry. I guess it would have been number 13.
-Spinda: A case where I like the gimmick more than the Pokémon, as Spinda has terrible stats, but has a near-unlimited number of possible patterns for the spots on its face. Now that’s what I call unique.
-The Litwick line: Candle/Lantern/Chandelier Pokémon? Ghost/Fire type? Unconventional, sure, but who am I to judge. I like to use this Pokémon, especially against Audino.
-Shedinja: Another gimmick Pokémon that I really like, the one-HP wonder that can be deadly when used correctly.
-The Beldum Line: Because I like robots and Metagross is cool and powerful.
-Greninja: I like it, and I know it’s friggin’ epic with its Protean ability and its other neat talents… but I guess that was not enough for it to go on my list. Sorry!
-Hitmontop: The harder one to get in the Hitmon-Trio, as Hitmontop can only be obtained by raising a Tyrogue at Level 20 and keeping its Attack and Defense equal. Not easy, but feasible. I like this guy’s design, he has good attacks, and he’s dancing in his idle animation. I wonder if people going to parties in the Pokémon world dance the Hitmontop?
-Last but not least, Gyarados: Yes, it’s an awesome Pokémon, and its Mega Evolution is pretty cool too. It’s still a powerhouse, though a lot of Pokémon have since become more dangerous than it. And it’s not all that difficult to get, too. A lot of upsides, but still, I had to limit my list to 12. Or you'd still be reading this tomorrow.

1. Mewtwo
You know that if this franchise wasn't rated G, he
would pull a Scanners on your head.
Be thankful he can't.
Topping the list is a species – or rather, a character – that one would say is already on too many “Favorite Pokémon” lists. Overrated? Yeah, sure, I’ll be the first to admit that. But I’ve always been a fan of Mewtwo. It started with the first Pokémon movie, of course. I mean, I was young, I barely knew a thing about Pokémon (I think I knew it was a game, and I knew there were cards, but I didn’t know much else). The anime, the little of it that I got to see, and the first few films were my introduction to Pokémon, so of course Mewtwo had an impact on my imaginary. Later, I got Pokémon FireRed. I got all the way to the end, into the Cerulean Cave, and caught Mewtwo. Took a lot of Ultra Balls (around 50, maybe), and I remember in my great teenage naiveté that I kept yelling at the screen, in French, “Come on, be caught, I swear I’ll treat you decently, I’ll do that, I promise, I won’t be like those Rocket jerks, I swear, you’ll be the star of my team”… It felt to me like it worked, as I was in the middle of repeating these sentences when it was finally caught. I was stupid back then. I think I’m still a bit stupid today. Later came Pokémon HeartGold, where I also caught Mewtwo. Probably with more ease that time. I had grown as a player, I knew a lot more about the inner workings of these games and winning strategies against this Legend. And now comes Pokémon X, in which I felt it was harder to battle against Mewtwo than it was to catch it. A tough battle, but I had a team to face the powerhouse. I would False Swipe it down to 1 HP, it would heal itself, I’d attack again, until it ran out of PP for Recover, and then catching it would be easy. Yep, years of playing Pokémon served me well. In the end, Mewtwo could be caught in three out of the four games I own, and I caught it all three times.

Basically, Mewtwo represents my adoration of the Pokémon series, as every encounter with him had me at the top of my shape, at the end of my travels. Catching Mewtwo is usually the crowning achievement in Pokémon-catching in one's journey as a Trainer in Kanto (for Gens 1 and 2) and Kalos (Gen 6). And that's the case for a lot of Pokémon players out there.

Mega Mewtwo X
Mega Mewtwo Y
Mewtwo is an icon of the Pokémon franchise, dubbed the “strongest Pokémon of all” at a time where nobody knew any better. And long after it has been proven that, indeed, there are stronger Pokémon than Mewtwo, he makes a comeback with two Mega Evolutions, thus proving its superiority once again. Mewtwo has everything one can ask for: An interesting story in the anime (no matter how much 4kids messed it up for American audiences), a cool design, incredible stats, and it's very fun to use in matches. I also like a few other things about Mewtwo; that it prefers loneliness and remains hidden in caves, away from everyone else, and that the sole Trainer he encounters, the Pokémon Master, is probably the only one in the entire region who can treat it decently. I also like that Mewtwo, in Pokémon-Amie, pretty much wants to be treated like a human. He refuses to be petted on the head, yet likes when his hands are touched. And he can still end up liking you if you put a lot of effort into training him, effectively restoring his faith… isn’t that sweet? Come on, admit it, it's sweet.

Well, this concludes my list. It was a long one, and it was very difficult to write, so I hope you enjoyed. Which are your favorite Pokémon? Do you prefer a Pokémon for its stats, the attacks it can learn, its appearance, or its gimmicks? Don’t be afraid to reply and share.

Next week, if everything goes fine, I should have the opposite list: The 12 Pokémon (or evolution families) I just can’t stand. Then again, weird stuff always seems to happen around Halloween.