Welcome back to Cheese and Pixels’ attempt to assign a letter grade to all 720 Pokémon. Today, we finish the Nidoran family and wade into more mythical waters.
Best Name: As you may recall from last time, none of the Nidoran family have foreign name variants.
I am going to trust my better judgment and not say anything stupid or immature about Nidoqueen’s sandbag bosoms, because I bet she’d claw my face off if I did. There’s definitely some serious mama-bear quality simmering just below the surface. When you’re in a bind, you totally want the Nido family in your corner. Nidoqueen was recently the recipient of not one, but two pretty cool cards in the Primal Clash expansion of the card game, with no attendant Nidoking in sight. That’s right, Nidoqueen is a strong independent marsupial-like creature that don’t need no man. A
The girl gets the top billing, but the guy is cuter, so I guess that’s a fair trade-off. I like the overbite and the sidelong glare, as if he’s about to get into some mischief. Whatcha got tucked away in those big ol’ rabbity ears? A slingshot? A tack for the teacher’s bottom? Seems like the kind of guy who would have to endure a few time-outs and detentions before the message started getting through. Ain’t no Pokémon trainer got time for that! B
Nidorino! Nidday! The Nidmeister! Makin’ copies! Like Nidorina, Nidorino is caught in the middle of a fraught adolescent phase. He looks very sullen, unhappy, uncomfortable in his weird angular body. He has gotten to the age where he thinks purple is a lame color and will say so to anyone within earshot. Yes, Nidorino, middle school is difficult for everyone. It gets better. I’ll give you a conditional B that will be lowered if I discover any terrible poetry you’ve written.
I like Nidoking’s stance. He looks like he is constantly sitting on a dais in deep thought, with everyone crowded around awaiting with bated breath, hanging on the hope of whatever wise words he is meticulously articulating within his mind. He also looks like he has severe back problems. He also looks like one of those dads who’s scarier when he lowers his voice than when he’s yelling. Nidoking looks like a lot of things. And that’s how you get to be the king: you represent a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s good to be the king. A
Best Name: Mélofée (French)
Clefairy inhabits a weird limbo space. It’s both an iconic Pokémon and not. Just about anyone with even casual familiarity with Pokémon can recognize it, but really it’s only got the Mt. Moon thing and the Moon Stone going for it. The Moon Stone is such a Clefairy thing in my mind that I get vaguely weirded out when I learn other Pokémon evolve using one. It seems like Clefairy should really be getting more out of the mind control aspect of its abilities. Clefairy can copy moves and make other Pokémon repeat whatever it does, but there’s no edge to it, no sharpness on those fangs. I’m going to dock it for not doing better work on its brand. GROW YOUR BRAND, CLEFAIRY. C
Best Name: Pixy (Japanese)
This one just always seemed pointless to me. Why does Clefairy need to evolve? Has it not already achieved some Platonic ideal of cute and chubby? What about Clefairy screams “needs to be taller and leaner”? Also, once it becomes Clefable, it doesn’t learn new moves anymore (if I am reading these move set tables correctly). That’s just lazy, man. Make Clefairy do all the grunt work of leveling up and learning moves, then just barge in after getting Moon Stoned and don’t bring anything to the table except, I don’t know, some higher base stats or something? Clefable is a big waste of everything. D-
Best Name: Rokon (Japanese)
Vulpix is a very interesting Pokémon. It is a less masculine choice without being overtly feminine, not that that’s bad at all but I’m trying to remember back to the way I saw things when I was a doofy adolescent male. I think it takes a special kind of person to pick Vulpix over its spiritual counterpart Growlithe. Having a Vulpix says something about that person’s maturity and mindset (ownership of Pokémon Blue over Red notwithstanding). You can party with a Growlithe, but you can walk and have a nice conversation with a Vulpix. Does any of this make sense? I didn’t think so. I was a stupid kid. B
Best Name: English
Talk about exuding cool. Ninetales is a kind of cool I can never aspire to be. I am way too spastic and reactionary to be as cool as a Ninetales. Owning one would not be an accurate reflection of my personality. The world could crumble all around a Ninetales and it would only either smirk or gaze blankly at the chaos. It could silence a room by telling everyone to be quiet without raising its voice. I’m kind of jealous of how effortlessly cool Ninetales is in a way that I’m not with, say, Charizard. When I look at latter-day Pokémon that have a bunch of weird extra lines and ridges, I look back to Ninetales and marvel at how much it does with just a creamy yellowish coat of fur and a bunch of fluffy posterior appendages. Plus, it can pull off white after Labor Day. A
Best Name: Pummeluff (German)
The original diva Pokémon. Jigglypuff is a ‘mon skilled in all the ways of contending, from being cute to cheesing people off—especially the latter. Jigglypuff is one of a select group of characters whose arrival on a scene makes everyone say not “aw, crap” but rather “oh, jeez”. I knew a guy who dominated in Super Smash Bros. Melee with Jigglypuff because he mastered the timing of the Rest attack and knew just when to roll it out to get that precise hit and ruin someone else’s mood. Jigglypuff is a professional poop-stirrer, whether launching Melee opponents into the stratosphere with a well-timed nap or showing up with a microphone at an inopportune moment and lulling everyone to sleep with a song comprising only its own name. There’s something admirably ballsy about a Pokémon that just blusters in and demands everyone pay attention to it and find it cute and interesting. It would be funny if Pikachu and Jigglypuff had a Kermit/Miss Piggy dynamic and/or relationship. Jigglypuff knows you can’t skate by on cuteness alone; you also have to have spunk, and chutzpah. Hey Clefairy, I think I just found your marketing mentor! A
Best Name: Grodoudou (French)
What’s with these floofy fairy types growing up and getting fat and growing body parts they don’t need? And why did you grow Pikachu/Nidoran ears, Wigglytuff? Don’t you remember when you used to be a rockstar, when you forged your own path? You didn’t need to bite anybody’s style. Now you’re stabbing so desperately at relevance that even Madonna is shaking her head at you. Plus, your name just rhymes with your previous stage’s name. If your eyes weren’t so far apart and didn’t make you look like a crazy cat lady, I would talk even more smack about you. You forgot your ROOTS, man. D
Next time: Zubat to Diglett