Despite the fact that I haven't actually played a Pokemon game in a solid decade, I still maintain a pretty healthy interest in everyone's favorite modern-day digital cockfight simulator. Nowadays, though, I tend to enjoy them for their aesthetic value, and with the release of the "Black" and "White" versions last week in Japan, there's a whole new crop of Pocket Monsters for me to critique.

And brother, this time they are all over the place. So today, here are the highlights from the 156 newest Pokemon!

I'm not going to lie, folks: For the past few generations, the starting Pokemon have been pretty weak. Admittedly, it's hard to top the original three options -- especially Bulbasaur, who is awesome -- and I know you all love Mudkip, but let's be real here: Turtwig has a stupid name and is trying so hard to be Squirtle that it's embarrassing for all of us, and Treecko? Treecko? You think you can follow up a dinosaur made of trees with something that looks like it should be selling car insurance and I won't notice it's stupid? Get that weak mess out of my Pokedex.

Pokabu, however, is off the chain.First of all, he's a pig made of fire, which is both awesome, and probably means that he is constantly accompanied by the smell of sizzling bacon. Second, he is adorable! Look at that cute little guy! Not only does that make me want to hug him and be his best friend, but it's also an evolutionary advantage: When you're something that almost certainly smells like sizzling bacon and you spend most of your time on the road with an itinerant ten year-old, you should probably be cute enough that they won't want to make you breakfast.

The best thing, though, is what he evolves into:

Pokabu is a pig made of fire that evolves into larger pigs made of fire that are also pro wrestlers. He is an adorable fire pig that evolves into Big Van Vader. That is fantastic. He's clearly the best one of the 5th Generation starters to pick, and considering that he's up against something that looks like a cross between Ra's al-Ghul, David Bowie and a Snake...

...that's saying something.


And speaking of awesome evolutions, we have Dokkora, a fighting-type Pokemon who literally carries around a gigantic wooden post that he uses to beat other Pokemon into unconsciousness. Guys. That is hardcore.

And it gets even better once he evolves into Dotekkotsu, which I assume happens when you convince Nurse Joy to give you a syringe full of anabolic steroids:


Apparently you can fit a Bowflex in a Poke-Ball. Not only does he do some serious upper-body bulking -- gaining some truly disturbing bulging veins in the process -- but he also manages to find A GIGANTIC STEEL GIRDER TO HIT THINGS WITH.

Now, I've had my difficulties with Pokemon's version of evolution before (for the purposes of this game, I'm more of a believer in Intelligent But Completely Insane Design), but even though I'm willing to accept that nature had a vacuum that could only be filled by a bird version of Santa Claus, I can't get around the fact that this game is asking me to believe that a piece of wood evolved into metal.

Of course, the simple explanation is that it's not actually a part of him, but again: There's probably enough trees around that Dokkora could fashion himself a two-by-four pretty easily, but is there enough construction going on in Kanto that any 'roided-up animal can saunter over, grab an I-Beam, and use it to beat other animals senseless? Then again, considering that the economy in the Pokemon games seems to be entirely made up of pet battles and bicycle sales, there probably are a lot of unfinished construction sites. Well-played, "Pokemon Black."

On the off chance that you thought the "Black and White" era had done away with the Pokemon design team's occasional reliance on the "screw it, just look out the window and make a Pokemon out of whatever you see" school of design, don't worry: Yabakuron is a fine representative, as it is seriously a trash bag. One seriously wonders how well a garbage bag could possibly stand up to being beaten with a girder and/or shocked by lightning shot out of a yellow rat's face, but hey, maybe it gets tougher once it evolves into...

...a larger and far more disgusting heap of garbage. Oh well, if this fighting thing doesn't work out, at least it can have a backup career giving advice to the Fraggles.

Of course, as critical as I am of the "look around" school of design, I've got to admit that it does occasionally produce pretty brilliant stuff. I mean, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think that a candle that evolved into a lamp that then evolved into a chandelier (that is actually named Shanderaa) is pretty fantastic, especially since they are all also made of ghosts.

Ghost chandelier evolution. That's science, folks.

No, your eyes do not deceive you: Those are definitely Gothic Lolita fighting pouty cat/bird monsters. Oh, Japan.

Of course, it's also nice to see that the world of cosplay will have something new to aspire to once Snorlaxdressamania eventually dies down.


And finally, my favorite of the new batch: Goruggo, a ten foot tall ghost robot that you can call forth to smash your opponents, which is truly the fondest dream of every child. Honestly, considering that the entire premise of the game is that you wander around getting into trouble and then make other things fight your battles, I'm surprised it took this long for the designers to make the connection to the grand tradition of Gigantor and Johnny Sokko.

But there's also something I didn't notice until I enlarged the sprite for this article: The yellow gash on his chest and the orange piece of metal bolted across it combined with the fact that he actually is a "ghost" type gives me the impression that Goruggo is totally a Giant Ghost Frankenstein Robot Monster.

And that tears it. I am totally buying this game.

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