Last week, we checked out the six best designed Pokemon of Generation 3. This week were going after the worst.
This article is one in a series we’re calling the Year of Pokemon, which celebrates the beloved pocket monsters and their many games.
While Generation 3 is not the worst Pokémon Gen of the bunch, it is on the weaker end of the scale. Much of that, I'd argue, is the opening of the hardware and pushing the graphical limitations further than ever before for Game Freak. The designs of Generation 1 and 2 were always fairly simple comparatively. Simple in terms of color palette, form, and aesthetics with little in the way of visual flair. Generation 3 overloaded the flair, a trend that would continue as we go forward in time with the Pokémon franchise.
A lot of the weaker designs, unfortunately, get lost in the shuffle. But which are the worst? Well, let’s count down what I feel are the six worst designs of Generation 3.
As always, some ground rules before we begin. First, no legendary Pokémon will be featured here. Second, only one Pokémon per evolutionary line will be mentioned. Finally, the list will combine design aesthetics, competitive viability, and overall impact as part of the criteria of their design.
So here they are, the six worst designs of Generation 3.
Be honest, how many remember Grumpig existed?
I hate to start out any criticism on a Pokémon where the biggest fault it has is how forgettable it is. Unfortunately, I would argue, there is a reason for it. It stems from Grumpig having a bland aesthetic. Purple and Black is a good color scheme, but Grumpig kind of has little going for it other than that.
Part of it is how generic it is as a pig. Sure, Blaziken is clearly a Chicken but what set it apart is how they transported the look of a Shamo Chicken for its use. Grumpig, ultimately, lacks any sort of flair or design philosophy to it. Save for the over-sized curled tail and use of black pearls across its body, there is little to go on.
Fan’s speculate that Grumpig may be a biblical reference, specifically the line from Matthew 7:6 that reads. “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” The primary reference stems from the use of pearls, a motif on Grumpig, that represent wisdom and clarity. To some degree, this makes sense with Grumpig’s singular Psychic typing, but other than this, there is little to go on with Grumpig.
That Psychic typing is also a problem too. Due to the overpowered nature of Psychics in Generation 1, Game Freak effectively nerfed Psychics by adding the Dark type and making Dark-type moves fairly common among Pokémon in the games. Some pure Psychic types can get away with this, Alakazam being the biggest example, due to the extreme distribution of its stats. Grumpig, however, is not so lucky. A good special wall with 110 Special Defense, Grumpig is a fairly bulky defensive Psychic-type. which is an extremely hard Pokémon to use. Psychic-types are better suited for their explosive attack prowess, such as Alakazam. It doesn’t help that other defensive Psychic types have dual-typing to compensate, and while Grumpig has a decent move-pool, it lacks the offensive stats or defensive capabilities to support a team for long.
I could have honestly stuck Gorebyss on here too, but Huntail I always found to be worse as a design and emblematic of a major problem in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: over-designed Pokémon. There are a lot of Pokémon this generation (and future generations, mind you) that will have this problem. Some of the worst offenders are found in Gen 3. Flygon, Seviper, Ludicolo—the list is long for Generation 3. Huntail is perhaps the worst of the bunch from a purely visual standpoint, as it showcases an over-design done wrong.
An eel-like Pokemon with an oversized head, big toothy mouth and orange and blue color scheme just looks awkward and out of place in many ways. Its counterpart Gorebyss is no better really, but the singular pink body is somewhat tolerable, despite the fact she wears a seashell cup for some reason.
Huntail is also underwhelming beyond its visual look. Stat-wise, Huntail pales in comparison to other pure Water-types. Decent Attack and Defense mired by poor HP and Speed, Huntail is a physical bulky-water Pokémon but lacks the movepool to make it effective. Its best stat-boosting move, Shell Smash, is almost mandatory to use in single competition, while its physical movepool lacks much coverage or variety. This makes Huntail predictable and somewhat unreliable, save for very specific strategies that toy with its weaknesses enough to surprise an opponent in battle.
What can you say about Luvdisc that hasn’t been made fun of by now?
To give Luvdisc credit first, it is a surprise pick for battling because it does have very specific moves it can use in doubles to make it work. This falls under the “gimmick” style of competitive playing in truth, but Luvdisc with Swift Swim makes a fair support Pokémon. Part of the gimmick comes with Entrainment, a move that changes the targets ability to the user’s ability.
So the general use is to give Swift Swim to any Pokémon in the rain while using support moves such as Heal Pulse to keep them afloat. This is about all Luvdisc can do, however. It’s certainly not its stats. With a paltry 330 base-stat total and having its only good stat being a 97 in speed, Luvdisc is otherwise useless when it comes to competitive formats of any kind.
Part of this stems from its overall gimmick being its design. Luvdisc only exists in the game to give players access to heart scales. Heart scales are effectively a currency in the Pokemon franchise, used in all the games since Generation 3 to retrain moves to any Pokémon you wish. For competitive players, heart scales are often the only way to access specific moves. This made it an invaluable resource that was only found on wild Luvdisc, who have a 50% chance of carrying one.
So, to put it simply its silly design and entire purpose in the Pokémon games is to be farmed by players.
What makes it worse now is that heart scales are no longer a rare resource, easily obtainable from other methods besides Luvdisc. This turns Luvdisc into a completely useless Pokémon for good, one that is pretty much a visual meme at this point. Bad design, bad gimmick, and bad competitive value all around.
Plusle and Minun
I am cheating here by putting two Pokémon on the list, but if there was ever a reason to, this is it. Plusle and Minun start another trend with Pokémon that I personally hate: “Pikachu clones." I often find myself jaded by the number of pretenders created in the series to remind players of Pikachu.
This tradition is always the same: a small, rodent-like Pokémon that is at least part electric-type. They are single-stage, unevolved Pokémon with middling stats and sometimes similar move-sets between them. To be fair, some of the Pokémon that fit this trend have competitive uses and are well done design-wise. Pachirisu in particular comes to mind.
Plusle and Minun, however, are not that. Another gimmick Pokémon in the form of showcasing double battles, both electric-types are obviously based on batteries that work best due to their Plus and Minus abilities. These abilities give stat boosts to any Pokémon with the opposite ability, attempting to mimic the sort of polarities of positive and negative electrical surges.
A clever concept, to be sure, but one that is impractical on so many levels. Plusle and Minun visually are just mini Pikachus with red or blue motifs attached to them, and their movepools are generic as you get in terms of an Electric-type Pokémon. Even when using the gimmick, Plusle and Minun rarely can do much damage thanks to the mediocre stats they have. The minor differences between them is also negligible to really compensate for any strengths or weaknesses.
This is another trend in Ruby and Sapphire, pairs of Pokémon to help represent the new doubles battle mechanics into the game—Solrock and Lunatone, Volbeat and Illumise, Seviper and Zangoose—each pair has opposing stat distributions, abilities, and even movesets. All of this just to sell the double battles gimmick. Plusle and Minun just so happen to be the most ineffective pairing of the entire bunch, combined with the most boring design to boot.
Swalot is like Grumpig in being mostly a forgettable Pokémon. Like most Pokémon with this problem, part of it stems from a generic design. Swalot is supposedly based on a pseudopod, which is basically a single-celled organism's ability to move. Yes, it’s odd, and while possibly based on a scientific principle, you would never have guessed with its thin moustache and bulbous purple body that was its purpose.
Of course, Swalot can be several things, but what it resembles is a gas bag for poison fumes. Think of Swalot as a marriage between Weezing and Muk design-wise. Both of those evolutionary lines were the premier pure Poison-types in Generation 1, so a Pokémon to remind us of them should be a winner, right?
Unfortunately, Swalot falls short of any expectations of that. Design-wise, it suffers a bit from being a bit odd (the black diamonds across its body are out of place) and awkward at a glance. It is a simple design but is very forgettable in this case due to it not having a strong concept to fall back on. It really is a bastard child of prominent Poison-types and serves the same function as them: a defensive Pokémon.
Like most Poison-types, Swalot is bulky with a large 100-base HP stat and base 83 for its defenses. This in and of itself is not bad, but what kills Swalot further is its lack of a good movepool. Outside of support options such as Toxic Spikes, Encore, and Yawn, Swalot doesn’t have the power to really help it punch through teams. It has boosting moves to compensate, but its below average attack stats and speed really harm any offensive potential. To make matters worse, the Poison types often have an “it” factor that gives them a competitive edge, be it a high attack or defense to work with. Swalot is an example of a middle of the road Pokémon; it has potential on all fronts but is wholly outclassed in terms of moves, stats and design.
I waited to talk about baby Pokémon for Wynaut, because as a concept I am not really a fan of them. Baby Pokémon is another trend that is often added into the series every now and again. The idea for baby Pokémon is mostly cumbersome to me, as acquiring them is difficult. For one, baby Pokemon can be obtained (usually) via breeding. Second, they all tend to share the same move-sets, employing moves such as Sweet Kiss, Charm, Encore, Bestow, and Feint in some combination.
There are a few baby Pokémon that look cool visually—Magby and Elekid come to mind. Others serve a purpose for obtaining, and justifying, evolved forms, such as Budew, Bonsly or Tyrogue. Wynaut, however, is dubious because out of all Pokemon to give a baby form to, its evolved form in Wobbuffet is not high on that list.
Wobbuffet is already an odd Pokémon design. It works as a lure in the same vein as Mawile, but in this case the main body is its black, googly-eyed tail over the blue body. Wobbuffet is also odd as a battler, knowing only four moves naturally and designed to be a “troll” Pokémon thanks to its counter-only moves and destiny-bond.
Simply put, there is no reason for Wynaut to exist.
I’m serious. It's basically Wobbuffet only in miniature form—a massive HP sponge offset by low stats elsewhere and an out of place Psychic typing. The design of Wynaut is based on a Japanese Okiagari-koboshi doll, but other than this visual reference it really has nothing else going for it. Wynaut is easily among the weakest of the baby Pokémon and one of the most unnecessary baby Pokémon in the entire bunch.
And there you have it. For Generation 3, there was a lot of gimmicks and a lack of competitive viability, and the Pokemon above encapsulate the worst of the worst on all those fronts. Even then, Generation 3 has some nostalgic factors to it that make it stand out among other Generations. Generation 4, however … well, we will save that for next time.
Be sure to check out that article, and any future articles in our Year of Pokémon here.